Letters to the EditorNews

Light Sentence for Driver Who Killed Cyclist, and More Letters From Readers

Invest in Infrastructure

Under the terms of the CHIPS Act, Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act, Georgia and Georgians currently have the opportunity to benefit from billions of dollars of federal funds, tax credits, rebates and other benefits across a very broad spectrum of governmental, business and individual activities and purchases. Our members of the state legislature, representatives and senators in Congress, and local officials have vital roles to play in making sure that Georgians are fully informed concerning these programs and able to take maximum advantage of each and every one.

These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits and individuals to modernize and update our infrastructure and our households, produce clean, cheap energy and equip Georgia to attract cutting edge businesses and good paying jobs. Consider just one example: Georgia can receive $1.3 billion in federal funds for broadband expansion to areas lacking access to this essential service, a fundamental 21st century need unmet for many years.

Our elected officials, working across partisan lines, must put Georgia and Georgians first. They must prioritize familiarizing themselves with the long list of programs available to Georgia and Georgians and facilitate Georgia’s efforts to harvest this rich and ripe crop. It is time to go for the gold.

Bruce Menke


Will MAGA Fight Fentanyl?

The opioid epidemic once was one of the few topics that brought Republicans and Democrats together. Now our country’s fentanyl crisis has become a political weapon.

As overdose deaths climb, conversation about fentanyl has become more politicized and less aligned with reality, especially when Republicans talk about its connection to the Southwest border. Republicans conflate the flow of illicit fentanyl from Mexico with the country’s migration crisis, which isn’t accurate. Although the majority of fentanyl is from Mexico, the vast majority comes through legal ports of entry.

President Biden is urging Congress to provide $800 million to fight fentanyl trafficking and counter the deadly substance being illegally imported from China. Will House Republicans like our Rep. Mike Collins honor their word, meet their responsibility to avoid a government shutdown, and act on life and death priorities like fighting the fentanyl crisis? Or will they break their promise and choose to shut down the government, hurting our economy, undermining our disaster preparedness, and forcing our troops to work without getting their paychecks all to appease their MAGA friends’ demands for a baseless impeachment stunt?

At least in the past, a number of congressional Republicans have agreed with President Biden and Democrats that fentanyl is a top issue. The DEA, Border Patrol and Homeland Security need the anti-fentanyl funding Biden is seeking.

We’ve all experienced government shutdowns and their negative consequences. Will our MAGA representatives vote, for once, to put people first over their extreme ideology?

Peggy Perkins


The Other 9/11

I learned about [Chilean dictator Augusto] Pinochet in the ‘80’s, through copies of The Nation I put aside to read from the stack of periodicals I had to check in at UGA’s main library. That’s also where I learned about Amnesty International, and joined several letter writing campaigns on behalf of political prisoners. But I didn’t know about the 9/11 of 1973, or about Victor Jara, the Chilean poet brutally killed by the right-wing regime. And I’m glad to know that Chileans now observe the day as a rededication to democracy. Thanks for this article on “the other 9/11.”

Kathryn Kyker


Driver Who Killed Cyclist Got Off Light

I was shocked to learn of a plea deal that allowed the man who killed Athens cyclist Jim Jones in 2022 to get off with two years of probation and a small fine.

According to police investigators, Luke Harrison Waldrop hit Jones from behind on Tallassee Road near Westchester Drive around 11 p.m. on Mar. 3, 2022, as Jones was cycling home from his job as a security guard. The speed limit where the crash occurred is 35 miles per hour, and it is a straight section of road sitting between two traffic lights spaced a little over 1,000 feet apart. Both men lived nearby on Vaughn Road. 

Two months later, an Athens grand jury indicted Waldrop on charges of first-degree homicide by vehicle (punishable by three to 15 years in jail), driving under the influence and reckless driving. It would seem prosecutors had a good case, as friends say Jones was a “real” cyclist known to commute home at night with retina-scorching red blinking tail lights. As the location was a well-lit city street and not some dark blind curve on a country road, the charge of reckless driving seemed appropriate, and one could reasonably assume Waldrop was quite inebriated if he failed to see or pass Jones responsibly.

So, I’m utterly bamboozled by District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez’s signature on a document dismissing the original charges. Instead, she let Waldrop plead to the lesser misdemeanor charges of second-degree homicide by vehicle and “improper passing of a bicycle.” Even then, my research into Georgia sentencing guidelines shows Judge Lawton Stephens could have given Waldrop up to 12 months in jail, but he didn’t.

What it says to me is that our justice system and society don’t think cyclists’ lives have any value. Jim’s friends and loved ones would disagree. A longtime member of the Athens cycling community, Jim was someone of staggering intellect and a colorful member of such groups as the Society for Creative Anachronism. The life of his partner of over three decades has been destroyed by his loss.

I understand that human beings make mistakes, but records show Waldrop was bailed out of custody within hours of the crash. He’s literally not spent a single day in jail for taking a person’s life. That’s not right.

We can build bike lanes like we’ve just done on Prince Avenue, but until we mandate driver education for how to safely operate vehicles around cyclists and put some real teeth into the punishments for those that don’t, then the death toll is only going to keep rising at a time when we’re supposedly trying to promote environmentally friendly transportation alternatives.

Jim’s death and the complete lack of any justice for him have left me heartsick.

Ian Slack


Clarifying HPC’s Role

There is a very obvious misunderstanding about what exactly the Athens-Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) actually does, and this could not be more obvious than in the Sept. 20 news article “Commission Upholds Short-Term Rental in Historic District.”

We do not have the authority to approve short term rentals, basement apartments or garage apartments. We use design guidelines to determine if the exterior architectural design of the project submitted before our commission is appropriate to the district or not. The HPC is specifically directed in the municipal code that we are neither to consider the interior use of a property nor the zoning use (e.g. short-term rental) when making a design decision.

Heather M. Fletcher
Chair, ACC Historic Preservation Commission