Athens GOP Comes Out in Farce as Commission Finalizes Requests

Bonus video! This is a follow-up to my last one. It’s about requests that the Athens-Clarke County Commission made to the state legislature. These requests did eventually include driver’s licenses for undocumented residents and living wages for UGA employees, but the list did not include mandatory gun registration.

You can watch the first in this series here.


This is Athens Politics Nerd, keeping you up to date on the important local news.

I’ve got a bonus video for you today.. an update on what happened at the special called session on September 10.

If you watched my last one, you know that the commission could not agree on their list of requests to the state legislature. Their list this year included some apparently controversial things like mandatory gun registration and driver’s licenses for undocumented residents. The commission couldn’t come to agreement at their normal voting meeting, so they decided to push the decision back a week.

That gave the public another chance to comment on these hot-button issues. And oh my, did we get some good comments.

Athens GOP Member #1: “I would like to go on the record tonight and commend Commissioner Denson! Your proposition has done more to ignite the Republican party in Clarke County than anything we’ve been able to do.”

The thing that enrages Republicans the most… is being welcoming to immigrants. Think about that. But this is great news. As progressives, we’re not doing things right if we don’t make some people mad in the process, especially racists.

Athens GOP Member #2: “I’m not going to register my guns. And I think that it is so hard for the ordinary, conservative citizens in this town to work with most of you. Not all of you, because all of you are not liberals. Some of you are conservatives, or try to go that way.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! But, of course, all of the sitting commissioners are Democrats. I know some of them have fundraised for Republicans in the past, but I mean they’re all definitely Democrats.

Senator Bill Cowsert: “Jerry, we were happy to see you at the Republican party meeting last night.”

Athens GOP Member #3: “And one day I woke up and said “I have no way to protect my grandchildren, should someone burst in here unlawfully, criminally.” I have no way to fight, no way to protect myself. I find that unreasonable, and amazingly and alarmingly unacceptable for anyone. I think about in the Roman days in the coliseum. Do you know what they did to those people, they brought to the.. to the..people who were against the government? They brought into the coliseum. They made them defenseless and brought in lions! They could not fight, they could not win.”

Gun control is like Roman slaves being fed to the lions, it all makes sense to me now!

Athens GOP Member #3: “This gun notation here is unbelievable to me.

I went to a gun range, to practice. And I burst into tears. I burst into tears because I was aware of the power, the power behind that weapon I had in my hand.”


Athens GOP Member #4: “I would challenge this commission to factually do some research and find out how many gun deaths have been prevented, or mass shootings have been prevented by these measures. I would that probably very few if none.”

Someone making an evidence-based argument! That’s what I’m talking about, let’s do this! Okay, so maybe she just isn’t aware of the example of Australia. That country passed a strong gun control law, including mandatory registration, in 1996, and mass shootings dropped from 13 in the 18 years before to just one after. Gun homicides dropped by 59% and suicides by 65%.

So, I’ll assume that your mind is now changed and we can carry on with this video.

Athens GOP Member #5: “I think that the people who are not responsible, they are not going to get gun permits, they’re not going to get training, they’re not going to be responsible. No matter what you all do, it’s not gonna work, as far as keeping the guns out of bad guys hands.”

She’s right. Why pass any law when the criminals will just ignore it? Why do we even have laws anyway?

Athens GOP Member #5: “I am concerned that like if somebody kicks in my door. What am I going to do? If I don’t have a gun, if I don’t have some kind of protection? I don’t have any way to protect myself! What do you all expect me to do? I would like to hear what you have to say about that.”

Sarcasm aside, it’s true that we are all fragile creatures. We’re all vulnerable. In all seriousness, I recommend thoughts and prayers. I recommend that you pray on it and talk about your worries with a loved one, a priest or a counselor.

I’m focusing on the right wing comments, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Many people at this meeting spoke in support of gun control and of driver’s licenses for the undocumented.

Commissioner Jerry NeSmith: “We’re not setting policy by this, we’re not writing ordinances by this. We are asking our state delegation to consider this. And I think you can pick out the ones they will and won’t consider.”

Why is Commissioner NeSmith smirking at the idea that the body he sits on might be ignored? This comes after he continued to refuse to allow mandatory gun registration on the list of requests. On the other hand, he was okay with the idea of banning assault weapons, so that was added and the final gun control item looked like this.

Commissioner Parker then addressed the request to allow undocumented residents the ability to apply for driver’s licenses, and she gets the APN Best Comment Award for the night for her remarks.

Commissioner Mariah Parker: “Weeks ago, mere weeks ago, we looked folks in the eyes as they walked up to this podium and tearfully testified to us the fear that they experience every single day doing simple things like taking their kids to PTA meetings, driving to church on a Sunday morning, and we promised them that we were going to protect them. We promised them that we were going to what was needed to do to make sure that they feel safe in our community. And I want to make sure that tonight, we hold good to that promise by actually making good on the ask they made of us, the plea they made of us to insure that they get driver’s licenses, so that they can operate in society as the productive and hardworking individuals that they are. I was really asking everyone tonight to remember them, to remember those looks on their faces as they tried not to cry as they told us about their experiences, and know that they’re actually counting on you, and I believe that you all can do the right thing.”

Commissioner Wright backed down and allowed the four items that she had previously taken off back on the agenda. But don’t be misled. She was clear that she did not support these items and was allowing them back on only so other commissioners could make the request. If she felt more freedom to vote as she saw fit, these items would not have stayed on.

The final vote on these items was unanimous.

Clerk of Commission Jean Spratlin: “Eight yes, zero no.”

Later that day, the commission met with our state legislators and passed along the requests…which were promptly ignored.

Senator Bill Cowsert: “There are a lot of things you’ve talked about that are changes to state law that aren’t specific to Athens, and so I’m taking that as constituent feedback of your opinions.”

And we all know how much Senator Cowsert cares about constituent feedback.

Senator Bill Cowsert: “your opinions.”

I’m sure he’ll get right on these items.

Senator Bill Cowsert: “As I’m reading this list, there are no local legislation requests for us here that’s specific to this community that we could pass.”

Well, that was fun. See you on the next one. Um… oh yeah.. remember to like and subscribe and stuff.

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