Athens News

Local News for Athens, Georgia

Athens Politics Nerd covers local news for Athens, Georgia with a focus on politics and actions taken by the mayor and commission, the legislative branch of our local government.

Anti-Gay preacher wins $25,000 settlement in lawsuit against ACCPD

Athens Pride 2019
Photo from the 2019 Athens Pride Festival, courtesy of Athens Pride.

May 19, 2020: The mayor and commission have agreed to pay Adam Bishop, a right-wing evangelical preacher, $25,000 to settle a lawsuit against the Athens-Clarke County Police Department. Bishop was shouting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric through a megaphone at attendees of the 2019 Athens Pride Festival when two ACCPD officers escorted him outside the festival area. Read more…

Athens Transit wins $9 mil COVID-19 relief grant

Athens Transit busMay 7, 2020: Athens Transit will receive a federal grant of more than $9 million to fund operations and capital expenses for the coming year.
Read more…

Businesses may reopen but commission asks Athens to stay home

COVID-19 virus particleApril 22, 2020: Despite Governor Brian Kemp’s recent order allowing some “non-essential” businesses to re-open, the mayor and commission voted on Tuesday to extend the local emergency declaration here in Athens.
Read more…

Election date pushed back to June 9

"I'm a Georgia Voter" stickersApril 9, 2020: The state primary and local election has been delayed to June 9 by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger out of concerns about COVID-19. The Presidential primary was also delayed, and it will now also be on June 9.

Board of Elections shouldn’t have hired second attorney to defend use of paper ballots, ACC Commission says

Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections OfficeApril 7, 2020:  Attorney Bryan Sells handed Athens a $23,618 bill for representing the Board of Elections in a hearing of the State Elections Board. However, this was not approved by the commission ahead of time and some commissioners did not want to pay him. Read more…

Commission Asks Landlords to Waive Late Fees for Rental Payments, Urges Flexibility

House for rentMarch 31, 2020:  At their meeting on March 31, the commission unanimously passed a resolution calling on local landlords and mortgage holders to take a number of steps in support of tenants and homeowners who may be affected by the current economic shutdown.

Nurses in Athens at ‘Crisis Capacity’ for Protective Equipment

N95 respiratorMarch 27, 2020:  Nurses at both hospitals in Athens are reporting a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but are not yet receiving hazard or crisis pay. Read more…

Athens Transit is now Fare-Free (until April 7)

Athens Transit busMarch 18, 2020:  All Athens Transit services will be offered free of charge until April 7, as part of the local government’s response to COVID-19. Buses will run on their normal weekend schedule, 7 days a week, while UGA is out of session. Read more…

Commission Declares a State of Emergency in Athens

March 16, 2020:  The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission declared a state of emergency due to the growing threat of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus). They banned gatherings of 10 or more people in bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments (not including employees) for the next three weeks, beginning tomorrow, March 17 at 5pm, and ending on April 7 at 5am. Read more…

ACC COVID-19 Information and Resources

March 13, 2020:  The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGov) is continuing to take steps to respond to the unprecedented coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation to help stop the spread of the disease while ensuring essential government functions. COVID-19 information and resources.

The State Elections Board Orders Return to Voting Machines

The Georgia State Elections Board at a hearing in Athens on March 11March 11, 2020: The State Elections Board voted unanimously to order Athens to cease and desist exclusively using paper ballots during the Presidential primary, and to levy a fine of $2,500 to help cover their legal expenses. Read more…

ACC Board of Elections Switches to Paper Ballots

"I'm a Georgia Voter" stickersMarch 3, 2020: The ACC Board of Elections has voted 3-2 to switch to paper ballots even as early voting for the Presidential Primary has already begun. The move goes against the advice of County Attorney Judd Drake, and may cause a lawsuit against the county. The state elections board will hold a hearing on March 11 at 10:00am at the Georgia Center in room K-L to determine the future of the election in Athens.

Commission Signs Agreement with Classic Center Authority

February 18, 2020: The ACC Commission approved a 37-page agreement with the Classic Center Authority regarding several downtown development projects, including a 5,500-seat arena, at a special called session on Feb. 18. The vote was originally scheduled for Feb. 4, but commissioners delayed it to to ensure that their expectations regarding living wages and renewable energy would be met. Read more…

Kristall Barber Named New ACCGov Animal Services Director

January 31, 2020: Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Manager Blaine Williams has named Kristall Barber as the new Director of the Animal Services Department. Her first day will be March 2, 2020. “Kristall has a wide variety of experience in both field services and animal shelter operations that will be extremely valuable to Animal Services,” said Williams.

Voting Rights Panel Discussion at Cine

January 28, 2020: ‘Suppressed: The Fight to Vote,’ a documentary by Robert Greenwald about voter suppression in the 2018 election in Georgia screened at Cine in Athens, Georgia on January 28, 2020. Afterward, a panel discussion was moderated by Deborah Gonzalez, former district 117 state representative and current candidate for District Attorney in Athens.
Watch here…

Protest Against the Biomass Plant In Colbert, Georgia

January 9, 2020: The Madison Clean Power Coalition held a protest outside the biomass plant in Colbert, Georgia on January 25, 2020. Over 60 people were present to demand that the plant stop burning creosote-treated railroad ties. Watch here…

Hayley Banerjee named new Director of Housing and Community Development

Hayley BanerjeeDecember 9, 2019: Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Manager Blaine Williams has named Hayley Banerjee as the new Director of the Housing and Community Development (HCD) Department effective immediately. Banerjee has served as the Interim Director of the Department since April 2019, when former Director Deborah Lonon was named as an Assistant Manager.

National EMS Misled Officials About School 911 Call

Barrow Elementary schoolDecember 4, 2019: “National EMS, the private ambulance company serving Athens, made false statements to the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission, police and fire departments, and an oversight committee regarding an emergency call from Barrow Elementary earlier this year, a Flagpole investigation found.” Read more…

Commission Delays Vote on New Downtown Historic District

a shadowy figureDecember 3, 2019: The ACC Commission delayed their vote on a new historic district to protect the west-end of downtown. Why? It may have had something to do with a lawsuit threatened by an old friend stepping out of retirement. Read or watch here…

Demond Means Out as Superintendent

Demond Means
(Photo/Austin Steele, info@austinsteelephoto.com)

December 3, 2019: Demond Means, Superintendent of Clarke County Schools, is leaving after a chaotic meeting of the School Board.

“The board took no vote on Means’ departure. It’s unclear if he is resigning, being fired or—most likely—negotiating a buyout.”

You can read the whole Flagpole article here.

Commission Approves Design for Firefly Trail Bridge

Murmur trestleNovember 5, 2019: The mayor and commission met to discuss the future of the famous Murmur trestle. They also had another intense debate on the Prosperity Package.

Read more…

SPLOST 2020 Approved by Voters

November 5, 2019: Voters approved SPLOST 2020 by 78%-22% in a referendum today with a 12.5% turnout. Every precinct in Athens approved SPLOST by a 2:1 margin or more.

Read more…

Krystle Cobran Appointed First Inclusion Officer for ACC Government

October 18, 2019: “Her work on inclusion initiatives and background in the law gives her a unique and valuable perspective as we continue to make Athens-Clarke County a welcoming and inclusive community for all residents and visitors,” said Manager Blaine Williams.

Georgia Power Asks to Nearly Double Base Fee

October 17, 2019: Georgia Power is set to nearly double their base fee, required for all customers regardless of how much power we use.

The increase would have to be approved by Public Service Commissioners like Tim Echols, who attended this town hall meeting.

SPLOST 2020 Referendum Begins

SPLOST 2020 referendum startingOctober 14, 2019: Voters head to the polls as early voting begins on the SPLOST 2020 referendum. Early voting is Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at the Board of Elections office downtown (155 E Washington street) until November 1. Election day is Tuesday, November 5.

What’s in the project list this time? Find out here.

John Q Williams for Sheriff Campaign Kickoff

John Q Williams speaking at his campaign kickoffSeptember 28, 2019: ACCPD Sergeant John Q Williams officially kicked off his campaign for Sheriff at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Athens.

Watch the event…

ACC to Redevelop Bethel Homes

Bethel midtown villageSeptember 27, 2019: Mayor Kelly Girtz announced that the unified government intends to redevelop Bethel Homes with $39 million of the $44 million earmarked for affordable housing in SPLOST 2020, should it be approved by voters.

The commission will vote on this plan at their next meeting on October 1. Read more…

David Fluck Asked to Resign

September 16, 2019: David Fluck, Director of the ACC Central Services Department, was asked to resign in the wake of ongoing public outcry over conditions at the county animal shelter. A recent mass euthanization was completely unnecessary, according to animal welfare organizations.  Read more…

Commissioner Herod Not Seeking Re-Election

September 10, 2019: Commissioner Andy Herod has announced that he is not running for re-election, paving the way for a progressive in District 8. Herod, a professor of Geography at UGA, was first elected in 2006. Read more…

AT&T Workers on Strike!

August 26, 2019: AT&T workers and members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) have decided to strike in protest of AT&T’s unfair labor practices. With AT&T refusing to negotiate, it seems the strike may last for quite a while. Watch interview with an AT&T technician.

Commission Resolves to Support the Latinx Community

Mayor Girtz, arms outstretched, reading a resolution in support of the Latinx community.August 20, 2019: The commission passed a formal resolution supporting the Latinx community and condemning Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Watch or read more about this resolution here.

Are For-Profit Ambulance Providers Putting Georgia at Risk?

National EMS logo next to a stack of $100 billsJuly 30, 2019: Despite continued reassurances by both hospitals, public safety advocates continue to call for National EMS response time data to be made public. APN interviewed EMS whistle-blowers Sam Rafal and Bob Gadd in the course of creating this report on EMS in Athens. National EMS refused to be interviewed by APN.

Commission Approves the SPLOST 2020 Final List

ACC Mayor and Commission at City Hall

July 18, 2019: The ACC Mayor and Commission approved the final project list for SPLOST 2020 in a special called session on Thursday night. The Classic Center Arena made it to the final list, after a last minute attempt by Commissioners Link and Parker to remove mention of it. Learn more.

Deborah Gonzalez Announces Candidacy for District Attorney

Deborah Gonzalez

July 11, 2019: Deborah Gonzalez, former state representative for district 117, has announced her candidacy for District Attorney of the Western Circuit (including Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties). She is running on a platform of ending mass incarceration and smart justice.

Learn more about Deborah Gonzalez.

Ted Terry Joins Race for US Senate

July 10, 2019: Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston, GA has joined the race for US Senate against David Perdue. He will first face off in a Democratic primary against Teresa Tomlinson, former mayor of Columbus.

Read the AJC article here.

Post Office Stops Mail Deilvery to Bethel Homes

Bethel homesJuly 10, 2019: The US Post Office has stopped delivering mail to Bethel Homes in downtown Athens citing safety concerns due to a “rash of crime.” No mail carriers have actually been harmed. Mayor Kelly Girtz has asked for mail service to resume, but for now, residents will have to get their mail from the post office on Olympic Drive. [UPDATE: Mail delivery has resumed!]

Read the Athens Banner-Herald article here.

Immigrant rights Groups Protest Mayor and Commission

Members of Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens speak at a mayor and commission meetingJuly 2, 2019: Members from Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens and the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition protested the mayor and commission at their meeting on July 2nd. They are calling for an end to the practice of arresting people who drive without a license. Some other Georgia counties, such as Cobb, have already stopped this practice.

Watch the video here, for this story and other happenings at the meeting.

ACCPD Shoot 23 Year Old Assailant Dead

July 2, 2019: Athens-Clarke County Police shot Aaron Hong, a 23 year old Athens resident, dead on Monday after he rushed them with a knife and tried to grab the officer’s gun in the resulting struggle. Officers received only minor injuries. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) was called to investigate.

View the video of this incident here.

Josh Edwards Named New Assistant Manager of ACC Unified Government

Assistant Manager Josh EdwardsJune 26, 2019: Manager Blaine Williams named Josh Edwards as the new Assistant Manager for Athens-Clarke County. This is the second most important executive position in local government. Edwards comes from Durham, NC, where he served as Assistant Budget Director of Strategy & Performance.

Superintendent Means Addresses Resignation of Chase St Principal

Superintendent Desmond MeansJune 25, 2019: Superintendent Means was “surprised” by Principal Neher’s resignation after her performance review said she had “more than fallen short in meeting his expectations,” as reported in the Flagpole.

Wayfair to Create More Than 500 Jobs in Athens

Wayfair logoJune 20, 2019: One of the world’s largest online destinations for home goods, will create 500 jobs and invest more than $8 million in a customer support facility in Athens.

Seniors and those with Disabilities now ride Athens Transit FREE!

An Athens Transit bus, turning the corner.June 20, 2019: As reported in the Red & Black, Athens Transit is offering rides to Seniors (65+), those with disabilities and county employees free of charge, starting on July 1. The commission provided the funding for this program in part to help them meet the county’s renewable energy goals. Athens Transit is in the process of switching to hybrid buses.

Mayor and Commission update

Mayor and commission meeting chamber, local news overlaid

June 4, 2019: The mayor and commission ended cash bail for local ordinance violations. They also banned smoking in sidewalk cafes, made some generous lease agreements and passed the 2020 budget,  Watch now.

Athens Commits to 100% Renewable Energy!

100% Athens logo (renewable energy initiative)

May 21, 2019: The mayor and commission committed to achieving 100% clean energy by 2035. The plan will be achieved through energy efficiency, increased renewable energy output and purchase of renewable energy certificates.

Mayor and Commission update

Woman speaks at a mayor and commission meeting

May 7, 2019: At this month’s meeting, the mayor and commission decided to wait on building sidewalks and crosswalks in the West Broad street area. First, they will ask the people living in this area to weigh in on the proposals. They also expanded the vehicle program for ACCPD and approved a pocket neighborhood on Clover street.

Audit Committee Mulls Over Report on Sheriff’s Office

Clarke County Sheriff's Office badge

May 1, 2019: An audit released in April shows that the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office is suffering from poor morale and ineffective leadership, particularly at the jail. The mayor and commission’s Audit committee is waiting on sending the report to the full commission until they hear the Sheriff’s response.

UGA Faculty Release Report on Baldwin Hall Controversy

Baldwin Hall at UGAApril 24, 2019 The Faculty Senate of UGA’s Franklin College released a report highly critical of UGA’s handling and reburial of the human remains found under Baldwin Hall. The report says that UGA failed to consult the public on the reburial site and that they intimidated faculty. Learn more about the report.

Roundabout Proposed for Hancock and Broad

Design for a roundabout at Hancock and Broad

April 16, 2019: The mayor and commission considered a new design for the intersection of Hancock and Broad street. Georgia DOT may pay for a large portion of the project, if approved locally. Read more about why roundabouts make for safer intersections here.

 

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