Every year, APN reviews the top 5 best and worst news stories we covered (or should have covered) that year. Since my focus is on local government and to a lesser extent the state government, that’s the focus of the lists below as well.
Here are the top 5 worst, and then the best, things that happened in local and state politics this year, in my opinion:
Top 5 Worst
Dishonorable mention: Too many traffic fatalities
There were 24 people killed by cars and other vehicles in Athens in 2021 (another fatality happened after the publication of the linked Banner-Herald article, which lists 23), making it “the most dangerous year on the roads locally in recent memory.” The trend of elevated traffic fatalities started during the coronavirus pandemic and it will likely continue into 2022. So be careful out there! You could also consider taking Athens Transit instead of driving. It’s free, and over 60 times safer for passengers than driving a car.
#5 – ACC Commissioners invite gerrymandering of commission districts
Summary: Three commissioners voted no (or abstained) on approving a new set of commission district maps, thereby inviting the state legislature to cut Athenians out of the redsitricting process entirely.
#4 – The disaster in the ACC Auditor’s office
Summary: The ACC Office of Operational Analysis is completely empty going into 2022 and someone has to take the blame for it. While it’s not really his fault, at the end of the day the buck stops with Mayor Kelly Girtz.
#3 – Kemp signs voter suppression bill, rolls back bail reform, fails to expand Medicaid
Summary: Here’s a list of some of the worst things that happened in the state legislature:
#2 – Homelessness and low wages endemic while housing costs skyrocket
Summary: Athens has experienced a major problem with homelessness this year which has been compounded by a lack of affordable housing and the low wages paid by most employers, even those who should be serving the public interest.
#1 – Deaths from coronavirus continue to mount
Summary: COVID-19 remains as devastating as ever as our hospitals and healthcare workers have been stretched to the breaking point. This problem isn’t going away anytime soon and we should act like it.
Top 5 Best
#5 – Police Oversight Board established
Summary: Civilian oversight of police is on the way, but will it mean anything? The fight isn’t over yet.
#4 – Airbnbs and VRBOs taxed, Paid parental leave granted
Summary: It’s only fair to mention the good things that Republicans in the state legislature sometimes do, if I’m going to list all the bad things. Here’s why taxing Airbnbs is important, and for paid parental leave, I’ll do something I rarely do — thank a Republican by name.
#3 – Anti-discrimination ordinance passed, commission established
Summary: Efforts to fight discrimination are underway in Athens.
#2 – The Linnentown Resolution
Summary: The Linnentown Resolution was a huge deal. It’s the first attempt at providing reparations for the effects of white supremacy in the entire state of Georgia.
#1 – ACC Commissioners pass the most progressive budget in history
Summary: Commissioners passed a transformative budget for fiscal year 2022 in June but it didn’t get the attention it deserves in my opinion. Like Biden’s Build Back Better plan, there’s so much packed in it that I feel most people don’t realize how good it actually is. Let’s go over the pieces one at a time:
Onward to 2022! It should be an exciting year, hopefully with less COVID (crosses fingers). Either way, at least we’re sure to see a ton of political ads this year, I can’t wait!
Happy new year, everyone!