Every year, APN reviews the top 5 best and worst news stories we covered (or should have covered) that year. Since our 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 the opinion of APN’s editor:
Top 5 Worst
Dishonorable mention: Mayor Kelly Girtz refused to recognize the firefighters’ union
In December, Girtz was brave enough to announce that he was vetoing recognition of the firefighters’ union in a room packed with firefighters and their supporters. Girtz chose the more efficient and less costly option for the government that he leads, and from a certain perspective, it’s hard to blame him. But nevertheless, this was a missed opportunity.
#5 – Mariah Parker resigned as commissioner, causing chaos (and an unnecessary lawsuit)
Summary: When Mariah Parker stepped down suddenly as commissioner this year, they caused east Athens to lose representation for months. That brought an enormous amount of constituent distrust to the surface, resulting in a lawsuit.
#4 – UGA and the Board of Regents entrenched themselves on the wrong side of history
Summary: After burying Linnentown, UGA and the Board of Regents decided to keep digging.
#3 – Petty commissioners and corrupt state legislators toyed with our democracy
Summary: The commission’s ideological makeup will change quite a bit next year. This isn’t happening as the result of any democratic process, but instead because corrupt state officials wanted it that way.
#2 – Housing costs continued to spiral out of control
Summary: The housing crisis deepened this year, almost to a breaking point. Commissioners tried all kinds of solutions but just aren’t equipped to make a real dent in any problem of this magnitude.
#1 – Rapacious investors exiled poor tenants for profit in the name of Jesus
Summary: Despite numerous acts of real-estate gluttony, unthinking cruelty and inhumane treatment inflicted upon their neighbors for profit, some Florida “pastors” still apparently believe that they’re doing the Lord’s work.
Top 5 Best
Honorable mentions: Cannabis decriminalized / ACC Democrats forgive $1.5 million in local medical debt
Summary: The commission instructed police to give a $35 fine for those caught with small amounts of cannabis and the ACC Democratic Party raised $5,875 to forgive over $1.5 million in local medical debt.
#5 – Downtown was greatly improved, including Clayton Street
Summary: The frenzy over the “blue noodle” overshadowed the completion of a MAJOR renovation effort on Clayton Street and top-notch upgrades throughout downtown.
#4 – Prince Avenue is now safer for everyone
Summary: Public safety advocates had been pushing for decades to limit the number of car lanes on Prince Avenue. This year, it finally happened!
#3 – Library workers won their fight for $15
Summary: Wages at the ACC Library have always been extremely low. In fact, they had been among the lowest in the country. But library workers started organizing and succeeded at getting a $15 an hour wage floor in place this year!
#2 – Athens showed up for LGBTQ equality
Summary: The local government made dramatic strides on the Human Rights Campaign’s equality index and installed rainbow crosswalks as Athens showed up big time for the first ever Pride Parade through downtown Athens.
#1 – Athens disburses American Rescue Plan funding and helps Warnock win re-election
Summary: Raphael Warnock’s runoff win in early 2021 opened the door for the passage of the American Rescue Plan which has brought badly needed funding into Athens — $57 million worth (and more). The ACC Commission started to disburse that money this year as Athens voters turned out to help Warnock — the first and only Black Senator to represent Georgia — win re-election.
Happy new year, everyone!