Here are the top 5 BEST and WORST things that happened in local government for Athens, Georgia in 2019.
Help me stick around through 2020!
➜ Become a Patron: https://patreon.com/athenspoliticsnerd
We have such an important year in politics ahead of us, but first, I thought we should look back for a moment on 2019. I’m gonna do a best of / worst of list for our local government, here goes!
Let’s start with the top 5 worst things that happened in local government in 2019.
Top 5 WORST
#5 are all the problems at our jail.
I covered the audit of the Sheriff’s Office back in May, which revealed some major issues, especially at the jail. That makes it so important for Sheriff Ira Edwards to address these concerns, and how he plans to solve them, as he seeks re-election in May. Likewise, his challenger will need to come up with a solid plan for reform himself.
Moving on to #4: The disaster at Animal Control.
You may have heard about how the county euthanized over 30 cats and kittens when they didn’t need to, and then they spread misinformation about it, and made it into an even bigger mess than it already was. That being said, after this was all made public, with some pressure put on them, the county turned this around beautifully. And they’re gonna conduct a full audit to find out what happened and why. But still, this was a disaster and the fourth worst thing that happened this year.
#3: We’re getting into it now! Let’s talk about the Taylor Saulters settlement.
An overly aggressive cop thinks he’s John Wayne and hits someone with his car?? Yeah, then we paid him $250,000 dollars, because obviously, he was the victim here, am I right? This was a terrible decision, the commission should have fought this lawsuit tooth and nail.
Moving on to number 2, which is all those Police shootings.
ACCPD shot 6 people in 2019, killing 5 of them. That’s way more than a normal year. In fact, the last time anyone was killed by police here was all the way back in 2010. What could possibly account for this? It’s a statistical oddity, but weird events do happen, and these incidents are all so different. It’s hard to see any kind of pattern, except maybe the pattern of suicide by cop. Chief Spruill has implemented a new policy and will make sure a second police officer is present and armed with a generally non-lethal weapon like a taser for all of these confrontations in the future.
Alright, we’ve come to the #1 worst thing that happened in local government this year: the School Board Dumpster Fire! Sort yourself out, School Board! How has this become so toxic? I honestly don’t understand it. Just sort it out, please!
But now on to some much better stuff! These are the top 5 BEST things in local government for 2019!
Top 5 BEST
#5: Fare-free for seniors
Athens Transit stopped charging kids under 18 a few years ago, and this year, seniors 65 and up now get fare-free rides as well! People with disabilities, too, no longer have to pay for riding the bus.
#4: The End of Cash Bail (for local ordinances)
The commission doesn’t have the authority to do the same for state and federal cases, but this is a great start, and it can help to put pressure on the state government to also do the right thing. I interviewed Mokah Jasmine-Johnson and Commissioner Tim Denson about how they got this done back in June.
Okay, my #3 best thing for 2019 might surprise some people – it’s the North Athens Project! The mayor and commission swooped in and bought Bethel Homes this year, taking it away from some developers who were eyeing the area. They might have displaced everyone living there… to put up another apartment complex or something. That’s not gonna happen anymore! In fact, Bethel will be completely rebuilt. So, this project is great news for residents of Bethel, and also great news for affordable housing in Athens in general.
#2 is the 100% Athens Resolution!
The mayor and commission have committed themselves to helping Athens transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035. Sooo… that’s only 15 years from now, but the funding has already been locked in! There’s almost $16 million dollars for renewable energy in SPLOST 2020, and it was put there by the same group who pushed the commission to sign the resolution in the first place – 100% Athens. Congratulations! These people are amazing!
And now for the best thing that happened in 2019! The victory for immigrant rights! The commission did play an important role here, but the group who really made this happen is Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens or DIA! Through the commission, they got the police department to change their policy around arresting people who drive without a license. The commission also worked with DIA to pass a resolution in support of the Latinx community in August. They did that because undocumented people have been living in a state of fear, this year more than ever, with terror attacks targeting them, and with ICE actively hunting for them. So, how did they respond? I would probably go into hiding myself, but that’s not what they did. Instead, members of DIA stood up and advocated for themselves and for their community, and they won! To cap it all off, after this huge win, they turned around and organized the biggest Latinx fest ever in downtown Athens!
On to 2020! You might want to subscribe, hit that red button to keep up with the mayor and commission in Athens every month. I’m also hoping to interview every candidate running in the local election that’s in May. So subscribe, and stay informed. And to help me do this work, you can contribute on my Patreon page where you can donate a few dollars every month, and I’ve also got a PayPal for one-time contributions. Those links are in the description below. Have a happy new year, everybody!