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    Fulton County, Georgia’s largest, certified its election results on Tuesday. The county said 424,991 Fulton residents voted in the mid-term, the largest midterm participation this century. That equaled a turnout of 60.4 percent of the voting-age population.  The numbers were led by early voting, which totaled 224,998, said Rick Barron, the county’s director of elections and registration. That eclipsed voting the day of the Nov. 6 election, which totaled 180,086 people.  A total of 17,913 people voted absentee by mail.  “The early voting this time was close to a presidential (contest), Barron said. The news comes just a day after U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg  on Monday ordered the state to review provisional ballots to make sure none are improperly rejected and to delay certification of the midterm until Friday.  Fulton received 3,549 provisional ballots, 1,555 of which were rejected, Barron said. A total of 972 of the rejected votes were tossed because they were from “out of county” voters while 581 were from people who were not registered.  Two people who attempted to vote could not prove citizenship.  “We can’t count ballots that are voted out of county,” Barron said.  He said some voter registration drives on college campuses failed to turn in applications, leaving some would-be voters unregistered.  Barron said he did not think any of the judge’s ruling would affect Fulton’s count, but said he did not think this is the last he would hear about it.  “I’m sure because of that ruling we’ll get questions this week,” he said. 
  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has signed an executive order rejecting any future ICE detainees from being held in the Atlanta City Jail. She is explaining her actions in a news conference at City Hall.  WATCH LIVE COVERAGE BELOW.
  • A proposed deal for practice soccer fields and a corporate headquarters for Atlanta United FC would cost DeKalb County an estimated $12 million, 41 acres of government land and tax considerations, according to a pending agreement. The $30 million soccer complex would be built near the intersection of Interstate 285 and Memorial Drive, behind the DeKalb Jail. In exchange, the team owned by Arthur Blank would build a 3,500-seat stadium, three outdoor practice fields and a corporate headquarters. Additional fields and an indoor training facility could be built later. Ownership of the land and facilities would revert to the county after 30 years. The proposed agreement, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday, is scheduled for a vote of the DeKalb Commission on Tuesday. The $12 million contribution from the county includes an estimated $7 million paid to Blank so the county could locate its parks department in new offices in the stadium. Another estimated $5 million would be required for demolition and land preparation. In addition, Blank won’t have to pay property taxes, and all permitting fees for the soccer complex would be waived. The county would pursue funding for a pedestrian walkway from the complex to the Kensington MARTA station. Blank would pay the county 15 percent of revenue for naming rights and branded events held at the complex. The fields and the stadium could be used by the county when they’re not needed by Atlanta United, which will begin its first season in 2017. Atlanta United will share space with the Atlanta Falcons for its games in a new downtown stadium, which is under construction.
  • Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is calling for “restraint” in ongoing unrest in Baltimore and defended Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s handling of protests that quickly turned violent this week.Parts of the city erupted in chaos Monday night amid tensions over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died on April 19, a week after he sustained injuries during an arrest. An investigation into his death is ongoing. His death highlights an ongoing national discussion about policing tactics in minority communities.Rawlings-Blake has since faced criticism for her handling of the protests and ensuing riots, with some saying she was too slow to ask Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for military back-up on Monday.Reed, speaking to reporters after an event on Tuesday, expressed sympathy for Gray’s family and defended Rawlings-Blake.Reed said he knows the Baltimore mayor well, describing her as “competent, capable and passionate” individual. The two, who traveled to Panama together with Vice President Joe Biden in recent years, exchanged text messages Monday evening, he said.“I think that everybody in the country and everybody who cares about the people of Baltimore should encourage restraint and I think that we should leave it to local leaders to manage and handle,” he said, later adding: “I think they need to be given the time and space to work through what is clearly a very, very difficult time.”Reed said Atlanta has faced its own set of difficult civil protests, such as the Occupy Atlanta movement in Woodruff Park that lasted for several weeks in 2011.But none in recent years have resulted in the scenes that played out in Baltimore on Monday, when some of the protests turned violent. Several police officers were injured during the riots. Cars were burned and stores were looted.Reed said that unlike other cities, Atlanta has long benefited from the work of local civil rights icons including Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and C.T. Vivian.“I think that certainly influences the way that protests are handled in our city,” he said. “While I don’t deserve the credit for it, I think our city has shown an ability to navigate through pretty difficult times.”
  • MARTA maps out the route it hopes to take up Georgia 400 to extend rail service to Alpharetta.   Any expansion of rail service is years off, but MARTA's board approved the preferred route after input from residents.  It crosses SR 400 not once, but twice, to reach Alpharetta.   The first crossover will be above the North Springs Station south of Spalding Drive.  The second crossing will be above the Chattahoochee River, although the exact spot has not been selected.   MARTA has yet to secure funding.  The agency estimates heavy rail would cost two billion dollars.  A cheaper option might be to run rapid transit buses along the same route.   MARTA is considering other potential expansion projects include heavy rail along I-20 East and a light rail line from the Lindbergh station to Avondale.  MARTA General Manager Keith Parker tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the priority project is the one that secures funding first.  
  • A planned addition to the new Avalon development is looking to attract even more business to Alpharetta.  The proposed $100 million hotel would include a 74,000-square foot conference center.  David Belle Isle, mayor of Alpharetta tells the Atlanta Business Chronicle it would keep his city as the center of economic development in  north Atlanta.  It's just another addition to Alpharetta, which has already begun a revitalization of its downtown area.  The city council must still figure out how to pay for the boutique hotel. It'll vote on raising its hotel-motel tax later this month.
  • Packed with passengers and freighted with local and national expectations, Atlanta’s streetcar made its inaugural trip Tuesday as scores of political and community leaders cheered. The trip along Auburn Avenue to Woodruff Park downtown took less than five minutes. But its duration belied the sizable aspirations the trip represented. Atlanta officials are betting the $98 million project will reinvigorate tourism and encourage business investment along the route. Nationally, President Barack Obama’s transportation legacy hinges in part on his ability to move the nation toward rail. Atlanta’s streetcar is one of the first completed projects in that effort. Scores of invited guests packed the cars elbow to elbow for the trip, and several hundred people gathered at Woodruff Park for an official ribbon cutting. Check back for updates.
  • A judge today rejected a request to bar Fulton County from collecting money from a recent 17 percent property tax increase – a victory for the county in its ongoing battle with critics who say it spends too much.Senior Cobb County Superior Court Judge G. Grant Brantley did not rule the tax hike is legal. But he declined to order Fulton to refrain from collecting about $1,300 in additional taxes that six current and former state lawmakers owe because of the tax increase.The judge did not explain his ruling. But the decision could indicate Brantley thinks the county is more likely to prevail in the litigation.That’s a setback for the lawmakers, who claim Fulton violated a 2013 state law that prohibits the county from raising its property tax rate until 2015. They’ve asked the judge to prohibit the county from collecting the new taxes and to declare the tax hike illegal.Fulton officials have argued the General Assembly overstepped its authority when it capped county tax rates until next year. They say the tax hike is needed to protect funding for Grady Memorial Hospital and popular services like libraries and senior programs.The tax increase will cost the owner off a $275,000 house an extra $140 a year. But with property values in some areas rising fast, some taxpayers are seeing much larger increases.
  • Some Fulton County judges say they don’t have to comply with county travel policies, and they’re willing to jail two Fulton officials to make their point. Fulton officials have asked the judges to provide more documentation to justify some travel expenses, and they’ve withheld reimbursements until the judges comply. The judges say they don’t have to, citing new state laws that give them greater control over their own budget. Now Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan has ordered County Manager Dwight Ferrell and Finance Director Patrick O’Connor to show why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating a recent court order to reimburse the judges. She’s threatened to incarcerate them if they don’t. A hearing on the contempt issue scheduled for Sept. 2, and a courtroom discussion of procedural matters in the case is set for Monday. The showdown is the latest fallout from a flurry of new laws aimed at limiting the authority of Fulton County government. County officials also are in court defending their recent decision to raise property taxes, which critics say violates a tax cap approved by the General Assembly last year. Tusan declined to comment on the issue because it’s a legal matter pending in her court. Superior Court Administrator Yolanda Lewis declined to answer questions, including whether the judges believe the county’s travel reimbursement procedures are burdensome. Lewis issued a statement saying Superior Court is “working collaboratively to resolve this matter with the assistance of the county manager and finance director for Fulton County. No further comment will be offered at this time to allow the collaborative process to move forward expeditiously.” Fulton officials declined to discuss the spat with the judges in detail. County Commission Chairman John Eaves said he believes the dispute is “resolvable.” Ferrell and O’Connor did not respond to requests for comment.
  • A judge has ruled the group that holds the title on the building at Peachtree and Pine Streets in Midtown Atlanta where hundreds of men, women and children bed down nightly can start the court process to evict the Task Force for the Homeless because it had not made a payment in years. Fulton Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall said in an order Friday that the removal process could begin, but his order did not say that eviction was imminent or even certain. The matter of whether the shelter can continue to operate is far from resolved. For years, the Task Force for the Homeless — led by Anita Beatty — has been at war with the city, Central Atlanta Progress and some of the business community because hundreds of homeless mill around and sometimes spill over into neighboring properties, vandalize and break into cars, businesses and homes nearby. Beatty has accused city officials and CAP of a campaign to cut off donations because they want the homeless out of sight. Once the large donors were dissuaded from helping the Task Force, it became impossible for the charity to pay its bills, including hundreds of thousands of dollars it owned the city for water, she said. The Task Force claims donations that once totaled as much as $1.7 million a year dropped to around $200,000, because the Atlanta business community had poisoned its reputation with donors. Without the Peachtree-Pine shelter, Beatty says, the homeless she serves will have nowhere to go. As many as 650 men, women and children sleep at the shelter each night but there are far more when the weather is bad or it’s cold. Over the years of the dispute, opponents of the shelter have insisted that no one will be left with nowhere to go if the Peachtree-Pine Shelter is closed. Richard Robbins, the attorney for Ichthus Community Trust, said the lender planned to “pursue dispossessory like any other owner in the state. If they (Task Force for the Homeless) want to fight it, they can fight it. However, they have to pay rent in the meantime. “This is not kicking out the homeless,” Robbins said. “It will be evicting the Task force. If the Task Force is evicted, we will transition the homeless to other shelters. If they don’t pay rent, they have to leave and we’ll bring in someone else to run the shelter.” Attorney Steven Hall, who represents the Task Force, said the charity will resist eviction efforts. “We have been fighting for years over the manner in which title was obtained and a foreclosure was conducted,” Hall said. “We’re hoping this will mean the court will hear all issues at one time and we will get a final answer.” The Task Force for the Homeless got into financial straits after it borrowed $900,000 in 1997 to make repairs on the building that it owned at the time. Ichthus bought the note in 2010 for just over $781,000 and soon began the removal process, which stopped, started and then stopped again because of legal issues.

News

  • With more states imposing “safer at home” and quarantine orders because of the coronavirus, families and friends are searching for ways to stay connected. Sure, the telephone works, but more people are using video apps for face-to-face contact. It’s a good way for older citizens to connect with grandchildren without worrying about coming in contact. While hugs may be precious, people are becoming more aware of staying isolated. There are plenty of ways to connect. Here is a look at 12 video-chatting applications: Zoom: This app appears to be geared toward business, but families can use Zoom too. Users initiating a meeting are taken to a virtual room that looks like a table in a conference room. Personal groups of up to 100 people can meet online for free. Business options include packages for sale that allow up to 1,000 participants. Facebook Live: Viewers can connect in real-time from their cellphones, computers and even through their television set. FaceTime: This app, though the Apple store, allows users to make video and audio calls to groups of up to 32 people. FaceTime is available on Apple products including iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Facebook Messenger: Similar to FaceTime, Messenger allows free video calling around the world for individuals or groups of up to six. It can be used on cellphones, tablets and computers. Skype: This app has been around for a while. Skype can accommodate groups of up to 50 people worldwide, It can be used on computers, mobile devices, XBox One and even smartwatches. WhatsApp: More than 2 billion users take advantage of the WhatsApp. The mobile app works on Android and iOS platforms, making it a good choice for people with friends owning diverse types of devices. The free app allows groups of up to four users per session. Tango: You know the old phrase. It takes two to Tango, and this app restricts video contact to two people. This free app is good but only two! The free app is good for video calling one other person at a time. You can also make voice calls, send messages and play games using Tango. Google Hangouts: This app is free in its basic form. Google Hangouts allows up to 10 participants at a time. You can even video chat through your Gmail accounts. Instagram: Up to six people can video chat at once via Instagram. Houseparty: This video chat app is owned by Epic Games, which developed Fortnite. Houseparty allows people to play video games or test trivia skills through its interface. It is available through Android, iOS, MacOs and Chrome. Snapchat: With Chat 2.0, Snapchat users can use a full, featured video chat service. Snapchat is free to use, but can chew up a lot of data time. It is recommended to connect to a wireless network before making your call. Viber: The Viber app is good for international calls and one-on-one video calls. Calls between Viber users are free, but a fee will apply for calling people without the app.
  • Tom Coburn, a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma known as a conservative political maverick, died after a battle with prostate cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 72. Coburn retired from the Senate in 2015 after being diagnosed with cancer. He served two terms from 2005 to 2015, KOKI reported. “Oklahoma has lost a tremendous leader, and I lost a great friend today,' U.S. Sen. James Lankford said in a statement. “Dr. Coburn was an inspiration to many in our state and our nation. He was unwavering in his conservative values, but he had deep and meaningful friendships with people from all political and personal backgrounds. He was truly respected by people on both sides of the aisle.” In the Senate, Coburn was the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and also served on the committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Intelligence. From 1995 to 2001, Coburn represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A family physician, Coburn was a member of the Committee on Commerce, where he sat on the subcommittees on Health and Environment as vice-chairman, Energy & Power, and Oversight and Investigations. Coburn was also selected co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2001. Services for Coburn have not been announced, KOKI reported.
  • Florida senior citizens who live in a downtown Orlando high-rise flickered the lights of their apartments Friday in a show of support for the doctors and nurses who are trying to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. Residents of Westminster Towers flickered their apartment lights at 9 p.m. to show support for the medical professionals working at Orlando Health. “Tonight, we flashed all of our lights to show our thanks to the hero health care workers at Orlando Regional Medical Center as they work hard to treat the sick and keep us safe from COVID-19,” Westminster Towers said on Facebook. “Thank you.” The display could be seen from the hospital campus, which is near the apartment building. “Thank you (Westminster Towers) for lighting up the night and our hearts,” the hospital network said on Facebook. “We’re all in this together.”
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia climbed to 2,366 Saturday as the state’s death toll reached 69. Since Friday evening, the confirmed number of Georgians who have died as a result of COVID-19 increased by four, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Health officials also confirmed an additional 168 cases since the 7 p.m. update. Of Georgia’s overall cases, 617 people remain hospitalized, a rate of about 26%, according to the state’s noon figures.  Fulton County still has the most cases with 373, followed by DeKalb with 240, Dougherty County with 205, and Cobb with 181.  As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases across the state was fewer than 1,000 Since Friday evening, Fulton has 26 new cases, while DeKalb has 21 more and 18 more people tested positive in Cobb. Four counties also reported their first cases, including Murray, Walton, Jenkins and Pike.  » MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany A total of 11,051 tests have been conducted so far in Georgia. About 21.4% of those returned positive results. On Friday afternoon, the DPH started releasing data on where people died. Dougherty County leads the count with 13 deaths, followed by Fulton with 12, Cobb County with eight, and Lee County with five. About 2.9% of Georgians who have tested positive for the highly contagious disease have died. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. As numbers spike across the state, Gov. Brian Kemp is urging Georgians to stay home and practice social distancing. At a town hall broadcast Thursday evening, Kemp told residents to heed directives to avoid more restrictive measures, such as a statewide stay-at-home mandate. » RELATED: Kemp urges Georgians to heed virus warnings but balks at drastic steps Bars and nightclubs remain closed across the state, many public gatherings are banned, and the elderly and medically fragile are ordered to shelter in place. » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis Many metro Atlanta cities and counties have issued their own stay-at-home orders to residents, shutting down nonessential businesses and imposing curfews. » MORE: DeKalb County issues stay-at-home order Speaking on CNN Saturday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said metro Atlanta’s hospitals are already nearing capacity.  “...We are a large urban city in an even larger metropolitan area, so on a good day our hospitals and our ICU beds are at a premium,” she said. “What people have to realize is strokes don’t stop, diabetes and these things that send people into our emergency rooms, these things continue. It’s stressing our health care system and you add this pandemic on top of it and we have a real problem of it brewing right here in Atlanta.” » RELATED: Bottoms: Stay home so others ‘have an opportunity to simply live’ Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.
  • He has been a prominent face during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings. Now, Anthony Fauci’s face is prominently featured on doughnuts in a New York shop. According to WHAM-TV, Donuts Delite, in Rochester, introduced the sweet treat Monday as a tribute to Fauci, 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a doctor for the National Institutes of Health. Nick Semeraro, owner of Donut Delites, said his employees have made “thousands” of doughnuts, the television station reported. “We wanted to find a way to cheer up the people in our neighborhood,” Semeraro told CNN. “We noticed Dr. Fauci on (television), and we loved his message and how thorough he was, and how he kept everyone informed during the crisis... so we wanted to give back and say thanks.” The shop printed Fauci’s face on edible paper and put it on top of a buttercream-frosted doughnut, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. Fauci’s image was then encircled with frosting decorated with red, white and blue sprinkles, the newspaper reported. “Right now, we’re selling over 100 an hour at least,” Semararo told WHAM. “We had no idea they would blow up like that. “It just started as a tribute,” Semararo told the television station. “It started as a thank you. It’s sticking, and I think it’s great. People are stuck at home and what’s happening is, it’s starting conversations. Whether they pick it up for someone, it starts that thinking outside of the box and giving back.” Semararo said he would continue to make the doughnuts as long as there is a demand. “I never met a guy that worldwide (who) is so loved,” Semeraro told CNN. “And a month ago, we never knew his first and last name... His political agenda is medical. It’s facts ... the American public needs facts now.”
  • The chief executive officer of Texas Roadhouse restaurants said he is giving up his salary and bonus so the chain’s front-line employees can be paid during the coronavirus pandemic. Wayne Kent Taylor will begin donating his checks from the pay period beginning March 18 through Jan. 7, 2021, Market Watch reported Wednesday. Louisville Business First reported Taylor’s total compensation package in 2018 was $1.3 million with his base salary being $525,000. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas Roadhouse said it is also suspending its dividend in an effort to conserve cash during the pandemic, according to Market Watch. Texas Roadhouse, a publicly traded company based in Kentucky, employs more than 56,000 workers and has 563 locations in the U.S. and internationally, the website reported. Taylor, 63, founded the chain in 1993, opening his first restaurant in Clarksville, Indiana, USA Today reported.