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Local Govt & Politics

    Local groups are planning to take to the streets to protest President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration aimed at securing funds for a wall along the border with Mexico.  On Monday — Presidents Day — protesters will stage a demonstration outside the Atlanta field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Ted Turner Drive.  The protest is part of a national movement organized by MoveOn to push back against Trump’s emergency declaration. Trump made the announcement Friday after signing a spending bill passed by Congress, which did not include as much money as the president wanted for the border wall. The president acknowledged that he will almost certainly face a legal challenge to the declaration, while experts pointed out that Trump’s move is unprecedented.  MoveOn called the move “an illegal power grab from an unhinged man to push his racist, dangerous policies.” Primarily organized by the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, the Atlanta protest is set to take place at the ICE offices because ICE “would be charged with patrolling this ridiculous wall,” GAFSJ Executive Director Janel Green told AJC.com. Green said she expects at least 200 people to attend. A coalition of nearly a dozen other community organizations is joining the noon rally. 
  • Local groups are planning to take to the streets to protest President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration aimed at securing funds for a wall along the border with Mexico.  On Monday — Presidents Day — protesters will stage a demonstration outside the Atlanta field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Ted Turner Drive.  The protest is part of a national movement organized by MoveOn to push back against Trump’s emergency declaration. Trump made the announcement Friday after signing a spending bill passed by Congress, which did not include as much money as the president wanted for the border wall. The president acknowledged that he will almost certainly face a legal challenge to the declaration, while experts pointed out that Trump’s move is unprecedented.  MoveOn called the move “an illegal power grab from an unhinged man to push his racist, dangerous policies.” Primarily organized by the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, the Atlanta protest is set to take place at the ICE offices because ICE “would be charged with patrolling this ridiculous wall,” GAFSJ Executive Director Janel Green told AJC.com. Green said she expects at least 200 people to attend. A coalition of nearly a dozen other community organizations is joining the noon rally.  
  • Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced a proposal Wednesday that would authorize his office to pursue Medicaid waivers to give the state more flexibility in using federal health care funding, The Associated Press reports. Governor Kemp joined WSB Radio’s Scott Slade Thursday morning to discuss the plan. LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW:
  • Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams publicly put her support behind Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum at a Monday night stop in Duluth on her statewide “thank you” tour. Abrams, a Democrat and former state house minority leader, has been touring the state with her new voting rights group Fair Fight Georgia after a close loss to now-Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2018 election. While she won Gwinnett County by 14 percentage points, Kemp won by a razor-thin statewide margin. She cited issues including malfunctioning machines and hours-long lines at Snellville’s Annistown Elementary School in Nov. 2018 as examples of alleged voter suppression that occurred in Gwinnett County. The county’s election processes were challenged by Democrats including 7th Congressional District candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall by fewer than 500 votes. Since his win, Woodall has announced he will not run again and Bourdeaux has said she will run again for the seat in 2020. RELATED | How the Georgia race for governor came down to the wire MORE | Carolyn Bourdeaux to seek 7th District seat after razor-thin loss Bourdeaux’s campaign challenged the county’s rejection of more than 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots over issues concerning signatures and incorrect birthdates. A judge later ruled that the county had to accept some of those ballots. As Gwinnett’s March 19 transit referendum approaches, Fair Fight Georgia will be engaged with county elections officials in order to “make sure everyone gets a fair vote,” Abrams said after a speech in a Duluth hotel ballroom. “We can get MARTA in Gwinnett County if we can have a fair election in Gwinnett County,” Abrams said. The referendum would use a 1 percent sales tax to bring MARTA service into Gwinnett County. That would extend heavy rail into Norcross and expand bus service across the county. Abrams said the expansion of MARTA into Gwinnett is necessary to provide economic and educational opportunities for young and low-income county residents. “We can’t talk about economic opportunities if people in Gwinnett can’t get to college,” Abrams said in her address to a crowd of 400. “Economic mobility requires actual mobility.” Abrams is the most prominent Democrat to come out in support of Gwinnett’s transit referendum. Because of ethics rules regarding referenda, many elected officials have been reticent to voice their opinion on the issue. As Abrams spoke Monday night, many in the crowd implored her to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. She insisted that she has not yet made up her mind, but will come to a decision about the race at some point in March. Shannon Bryan, 41, of Lawrenceville, was hopeful Abrams would step back into the political ring. “I hope she beats the socks off David Perdue,” Bryan said. Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and InstagramStay up to the minute with breaking news on Channel 2 Action News This Morning
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has joined other newspapers in dropping a syndicated cartoon after a Sunday strip contained a profane message to President Donald Trump. Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said Wiley Miller’s comic, “Non Sequitur,” will be replaced starting in Tuesday’s newspaper. “Obviously, this does not meet our standards,” Riley said. “We apologize to all of our readers, and we’ve personally reached out to every single subscriber who’s contacted us.” He said that the comic was removed from Sunday’s upcoming edition, even though the comics section had already been printed. Riley added that Miller’s work will never again appear in The AJC. “We were dismayed and disappointed when we learned of what had happened,” Riley said. “One of our first steps was to remove the comic from our ePaper, and like some other newspapers around the country, we immediately canceled the comic.” Miller says the profane message about Trump was an accident. But as of Monday afternoon, three other newspapers had dropped the cartoon, said John Glynn, spokesman for Andrews McMeel Syndication, which distributes the comic to more than 700 newspapers. Glynn said that Miller’s status with the company hasn’t changed. Miller said in a statement through the syndicate Monday that the language was included by error. “I now remember that I was particularly aggravated that day about something the president had done or said, and so I lashed out in a rather sophomoric manner as instant therapy. It was NOT intended for public consumption, and I meant to white it out before submitting it, but forgot to. Had I intended to make a statement to be understood by the readers, I would have done so in a more subtle, sophisticated manner.” But that sentiment doesn’t exactly square with Miller’s tweet Sunday afternoon saying “some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg” and goading others to find it by linking to the cartoon. When asked to explain the discrepancy, Miller said through the syndicate spokesman that he knew it was too late. The syndicate released a public apology Monday: “We are sorry we missed the language in our editing process. If we had discovered it, we would not have distributed the cartoon without it being removed. We apologize to Non Sequitur’s clients and readers for our oversight.” The company described Non Sequitur on its website as “Wiley Miller’s wry look at the absurdities of modern life,” adding that the cartoon is “a hit with millions of fans” since starting in 1992. Wiley won the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award in 2013, putting him among other winners “Garfield” inventor Jim Davis and “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz. Although he is a native of California, where he was an editorial cartoonist for two newspapers, Miller’s location on Twitter is listed as Chattahoochee Hills, which is in southern Fulton County. The AJC reported that Miller lived in Georgia in 2016, when he held an $85-a-plate dinner at Serenbe to “discuss political cartoons and how this medium is used to make a statement especially in this year’s crazy election.”
  • State Rep. David Wilkerson has become the first Democrat in recent memory to chair the Cobb County legislative delegation. Wilkerson’s unanimous election came a week after a dramatic rift among Democrats delayed officer elections and threatened party unity. Democrats narrowly seized the majority from Republicans on the delegation after 2018’s suburban ‘blue wave.’ “We worked that out,” Wilkerson said, referring to a walk-out by House Democrats at the previous meeting after fellow Democrat and State Sen. Michael Rhett appeared to challenge Wilkerson for the top position. Wilkerson struck a conciliatory tone Friday, saying that constituents may not see a lot of changes now that Democrats have taken control of leadership positions. State Rep. Michael Smith was elected vice chair and State Rep. Teri Anulewicz became secretary. “We’ve always worked together as a delegation,” Wilkerson said.  He did promise a “very thorough transit discussion,” as well as efforts to address concerns over voting access in Cobb. 
  • A former DeKalb County commissioner faces more questions from a federal grand jury about her time in office, Channel 2 Action News is reporting. “The new subpoena demands campaign and banking records for former commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton going back to 2012,” Richard Belcher reported. Sutton’s attorney confirmed to Channel 2 that she had recently be served with papers. He said state and federal authorities were targeting Sutton, who was also subpoenaed in 2017, because she filed a lawsuit challenging the makeup of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. The Georgia Supreme Court sided with Sutton last year, and the Ethics Board has been dormant ever since. The Georgia Senate recently approved a bill that would change how board members are appointed and allow them to get back to work. Sutton has not been charged with any crime, but the latest subpoena suggests she is still under investigation, Belcher said. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution could not reach Sutton for comment. In 2014, an AJC investigation found that Sutton paid her then-boyfriend $34,000 in public dollars, most of it for political advice during her first two years in office. That same year, the Ethics Board investigated complaints that Sutton had used her county purchasing card for personal expenses. While that investigation was pending, DeKalb voters in 2015 approved changes to the Ethics Code that allowed private groups to appoint members to the Ethics Board. Sutton filed a lawsuit saying those changes were unconstitutional, and the investigation of her actions was put on hold. Barnes left office in 2017.
  • The landlord of three troubled South Cobb apartment complexes is facing up to $85,000 in fines and potential jail time over what residents call “uninhabitable” conditions. Cobb spokesperson Ross Cavitt confirmed the landlord, Kerrison Chin, had racked up 85 county citations and has a history of being uncooperative with code enforcement. A Cobb Magistrate Court hearing is scheduled for March 7. Chin could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Carter Clayton, said he could not comment but confirmed that his client resides in Canada. The three complexes—Kingsley Village, Parkview and Hunters Grove Apartments—are all located near Riverside Parkway, not far from Six Flags amusement part. Residents who gathered for a press conference Thursday described leaks, mold, rodents as well as broken flooring and appliances they said the management refused to replace. Monica DeLancy, founder of the Riverside Renters Association, an advocacy group for tenants in the community near Six Flags, and a parent resource specialist with Cobb County Schools, said the apartments kept coming up in discussions with the community about unsafe housing. She was particularly frustrated that the magistrate court had twice rescheduled Chin’s hearing after residents made an effort to show up for it. “The same court, when the tenants go in there for eviction, they’re only given seven days to either have the money or move out,” DeLancy said. “They’re not given continuation. They’re not given time to review their case. But code violators get a reset.” Nandi Jackson, 25, said she is a disabled Navy veteran and a resident of Kingsley Village who pays $900 a month in rent. She said she lived without a working shower for more than a month and that her sink leaks every time she or her neighbors flush the toilet. Jackson said the property manager has ignored a court order to move her to a better unit, and threatened her with eviction when she refused to pay rent because of the problems. “This is depressing,” she said. “Every day I wake up I cannot believe I live here.” Jackson said she is saving to buy a house and can’t afford to break her lease, which would cost $1,800. Several other residents said they depend on federal assistance, which the building manager told them was paid late this year. The residents blame the partial government shutdown. Now, they are being assessed for late fees they cannot afford. One resident, who declined to give her name because she is receiving homelessness assistance, called the building “nasty” and “uninhabitable.” She said the government agencies and non-profits that subsidize housing aren’t doing enough to pressure landlords over living conditions. “These programs that exist are paying slumlords with no questions,” she said. “My stove hasn’t worked in a week.”
  • A mixed-use development south metro leaders hope could become a retail and residential destination for the area around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport could break ground this summer. Airport City, a 320-acre development in College Park that will include offices, single family homes, greenspace and coffee shops, is close to an agreement with its first developer, said Shannon James, chairman of Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, who made the announcement Thursday at a meeting of the Atlanta Airport Chamber. He did not disclose the developer.  College Park is in the final stages of contract negotiations with a residential developer for homes at the project, he said.  “You’re getting exclusive information,” he told the audience at the Georgia International Conference Center. If all goes well, construction could begin third quarter of this year, he said. The Alliance, a business group focusing on promoting development around Hartsfield, has joined forces with South Fulton and Clayton counties, cities in the two counties and a raft of business groups to boost economic development south of Interstate 20. Leaders from the different bodies argue that growth in north metro Atlanta has hit its ceiling. They are trying to lure developers who could bring housing and retail on the south side of the city. “The southside of Fulton County is the future of the metropolitan area,” Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts told the group.
  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Kennesaw State University Cheerleader against Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and former lawmaker Earl Ehrhart.  The plaintiff, Tommia Dean, was one of five cheerleaders who took a knee during the national anthem at a college football game in the fall of 2017 to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans. The protest attracted the attention of Warren and then-State Rep. Ehrhart, who said publicly that they found it unpatriotic. They also took credit privately for pressuring the school’s president at the time, Sam Olens, into keeping the cheerleaders off the field during the anthem at subsequent games, according to text messages first published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Last year, Dean filed a lawsuit against Olens and other officials, including Warren and Ehrhart. The suit alleged that Warren and Ehrhart had violated her constitutional rights out of racial and political animus.  Judge Timothy Batten dismissed the complaint against Warren and Ehrhart in an order issued Thursday. The ruling does not affect the case against Olens and several other KSU officials, who are still defendants. Batten wrote that Dean did not provide the court with enough to conclude that Warren and Ehrhart acted against the cheerleaders “for any reason other than perceived disrespect to the flag.” “Because the Court rules for Defendants on the issue of § 1985(3) animus, it declines to address the First Amendment issue,” the order said. “The Clerk is directed to drop Ehrhart and Warren as parties to this case.” Cobb County defended Warren in the case, with county attorneys spending 161 hours on it. Outside attorneys estimated the cost of the work between $40,000 and $80,000 and some taxpayers took exception to their funding of the sheriff’s legal defense.  Warren thanked the county attorney in a statement on the dismissal.  “Everyone as an American citizen does have the right to protest for what they believe in, but we also have the right to disagree and stand up for what we believe in,” Warren said.