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Local Politics

    Brookhaven has outfitted its new Tesla with all the gear and gadgets it would need to operate as a fully functional police cruiser. Now, it’s time to put it to the test. The previously owned 2015 Tesla Model S, which the police department bought for $45,000, is set to hit the track for the first time Tuesday morning at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, Brookhaven spokesman Burke Brennan said. Now that the car has been outfitted for police use, the facility will test whether the luxury five-door is viable as a patrol car. That means putting it through the rigors any other police car would go through: a precision cone course, figure-eight exercises, breaking and steering, said John Hutcheson, a spokesman for the GPSTC. » READ MORE: Brookhaven police use confiscated funds to buy Tesla for $45K “It’s something that we've never done with an all-electric vehicle,” he said, adding that the GPSTC is “eager” to watch the Tesla accelerate down the high-speed track and see how the it performs.  The Teslas are renowned for speed, with most models capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. Hutcheson said the testing should only take one day. He clarified that the GPSTC is not a regulatory agency and only facilitates training and testing for law enforcement. The department would use it to respond to routine calls and do day-to-day patrols. If the Tesla doesn’t get the all-clear, the department could still use it for educational purposes. “Having it be a first-responder vehicle is a question mark,” Brennan said. When Brookhaven bought the Tesla using confiscated funds, it had about 22,000 miles on it. The police department has spent the last several months outfitting it with everything it would need to fit in with the rest of the cruisers. Some of that was difficult because Teslas are fully electric and designed differently than standard police car models, like a Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Suburban, Brennan said. If its transformation is successful, the Tesla could set the groundwork for Brookhaven — or any other agency in the state — to implement an all-electric fleet of police cruisers. “We are always looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment, improve our air quality and conserve resources for future generations,” Mayor John Ernst said in a statement in March, when the Tesla purchase was announced. News of the buy was met with online skepticism by some metro Atlanta residents who questioned why a police department spent tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury car. Brennan said the city has not heard of any other police department on the East Coast that is testing an electric vehicle for use as a patrol vehicle. Police departments in Los Angeles, Denver and Fremont, California have added Teslas to their fleets, according to Electrek. Tesla’s main factory is located in Fremont. Follow DeKalb County News on Facebook and Twitter  In other news:
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday unveiled a citywide affordable housing plan, putting into action one of her central campaign pledges – to invest $1 billion in public and private funds to combat rising housing costs and the displacement of longtime residents. The 43-page document – called the One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan – offers a menu of policy proposals. They range from finding ways to use existing public dollars and land as an incentive to attract private sector investment to changes in zoning, expediting redevelopment of vacant and blighted properties, developer incentives, and the creation of a housing innovation lab. Supporters called it the most comprehensive housing plan of its type in the city’s history. But in order to make the proposals a reality, the effort will test Bottoms’ ability marshal the resources of the city, state and federal agencies, as well as local businesses, developers and nonprofits. She will also have to convince the City Council to pass legislation such as zoning changes that might risk running afoul of neighborhood groups. In the hours after the unveiling, critics of the plan said it was short on details housing advocates said they’d expect for a document presented 18 months into the mayor’s first term. One prominent housing expert said he fears the city’s plans will take too long to deploy and potentially miss the current economic expansion only to face the headwinds of a potential recession. At a press conference before a ceremonial groundbreaking for Creekside at Adamsville Place, a 147-unit affordable rental development in southwest Atlanta, Bottoms said the document would serve as the framework for how the city deploys $1 billion in public and private funds and create or preserve 20,000 affordable units by 2026. “Rents are going up in around our city, but the increase in wages is not keeping pace,” Bottoms said. “There’s a growing gap in what people can afford and what people make.” The city has enjoyed a booming economy and a development surge primarily focused on luxury housing. That’s put a squeeze on renters and homeowners who have seen their property taxes soar. Meanwhile, city agencies failed to fill the gap in new affordable housing development. The 13 initiatives and 45 other items will require dozens of pieces of legislation, which Bottoms told reporters would be drafted as necessary. The city and related government bodies control some 1,300 acres, some of which could be used for new development. Bottoms said she would push the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) to redevelop 300 acres of former housing projects into mixed-communities, something she said would create 2,000 new affordable units. AHA has largely remained on the sidelines during the economic boom, mired in leadership turmoil and lawsuits. The agency also lacks a permanent CEO, a role Bottoms told reporters is a priority to fill. Other changes could come to zoning and building codes for more flexibility for unique multi-family housing and construction processes. Bottoms also said her administration would explore expansion of inclusionary zoning, which requires developers set-aside a percentage of new rental units as affordable. “The reality is that no city has gotten this right, and in true Atlanta fashion, I truly believe we will be the first to get it right in terms of the affordable housing challenge across this country,” Bottoms said. ‘Not a moonshot’ Sarah Kirsch, executive director of Urban Land Institute of Atlanta, applauded the plan. She said the plan builds on recommendations of HouseATL, a leadership group that presented more than two dozen proposals to the city last year. “This is not a moonshot, this 20,000 units,” Kirsch said. But echoing astronaut Neil Armstrong, she called it “a giant leap” for affordability in the city. Though Atlanta likes to tout its quality of life and affordability to industry, rising rents have squeezed residents as wages for many have stagnated. Dan Immergluck, an affordable housing expert and a professor at the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University, said he was unimpressed by the plan. “There’s too few details, no firm dollar commitments on different proposals,” he said. Immergluck said Bottoms is right to want to use local, state and federal dollars to attract private sector resources. But unless the mayor finds significant sources of local funds, Immergluck said she won’t be able to leverage the public dollars very far. He also said AHA’s land should be used to create far more than 2,000 new units. New construction is needed, Immergluck said, but city could add units faster by creating its own housing voucher program. As a candidate for mayor, Bottoms also left many housing advocates with the strong impression she would seek mostly new local revenues to build the $500 million in public dollars for her $1 billion housing pledge. On Monday, Bottoms said she always stated that she intended to use existing dollars to attract private investment while pledging to find new government funding. The document discusses potential future housing bond programs and exploring potential fees that other cities have enacted to help finance new affordable housing. Alison Johnson a member of advocacy group Housing Justice League, said she wanted to hear more from the mayor about how she plans to keep longtime renters from being displaced. Johnson said that the mayor’s anti-displacement efforts mainly focus on protecting homeowners from rising property taxes. In some neighborhoods, particularly south and west of downtown, more than 80 percent of residents rent, Johnson said. “How are those people going to be protected?” she asked.
  • Two New York-based agencies reaffirmed Cobb’s Aaa credit rating this month and upgraded the county’s financial outlook from “negative” to “stable” thanks partly to a tax hike passed last summer. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings both said the county appears to be in good financial shape, despite a low funded pension ratio of 51.6 percent.  “The revision of the outlook to stable from negative reflects the county’s sizable surplus in fiscal 2018, largely due to a tax rate increase,” Moody’s said in a statement. “The outlook also reflects the county’s strong tax base growth, driven in part by the county’s proximity to Atlanta’s large, diverse and growing economy, leading to healthy increases in property tax revenue.” Chairman Mike Boyce, who spearheaded the tax hike, touted the latest reports as vindication and said the increase put the county on solid footing going forward. In a follow-up conversation, Boyce acknowledged the challenge posed by the pension fund. But, he said, the county had taken responsibility by committing to a 30-year plan and adopting more realistic assumptions about investment returns and the life expectancy of pensioners. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We’re not happy where it’s at,” said Boyce. “The key thing is that the rating agencies understand why we are where we are and it’s not because we’re doing any shenanigans with the numbers.” Cobb is preparing to vote on its next budget and millage rate at the end of July. Commissioners have proposed keeping the millage rate the same. The first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at the county government building on Marietta Square. 
  • A lawsuit filed by College Park against Clayton County involving airport alcohol sales tax revenue can proceed toward trial, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday. The case now returns to the trial court in Fulton County. In its lawsuit, filed in 2015, College Park has contended it was not receiving as much tax revenue from alcohol sales at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as a 1983 law entitled it to collect. The airport is owned by the city of Atlanta but some of its concessions sit in both College Park and unincorporated Clayton County. College Park has claimed the county owes it about $2.5 million from alcohol taxes collected over the past 35 years. In Monday’s unanimous ruling, the state high court said the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity does not bar the city’s claims against the county, as Clayton County lawyers had contended. Under Georgia law, sovereign immunity prohibits lawsuits against the state without the state’s consent. This case involves a dispute between two political subdivisions of equal standing, Chief Justice Harold Melton wrote for the court. “Neither entity retains a superior authority over the other that would prevent it from being (haled) into a court of law by the other.”
  • The state’s judicial watchdog on Wednesday filed ethics charges against Atlanta Municipal Court Judge Terrinee Gundy, accusing her of chronic tardiness and absenteeism — and then covering it up. The charges against Gundy were brought by the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigative panel in a filing before the Georgia Supreme Court. They are the culmination of a lengthy JQC investigation of Gundy, who has been a city judge since 2013. Efforts to reach Gundy, 45, were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, Frank Strickland, declined to comment on the allegations. The nine charges filed by the JQC allege varying degrees of misconduct by Gundy. These include failing to provide required hearings to at least six defendants, resulting in them being unlawfully incarcerated, as well as making false statements to the commission, which is a possible felony under state law. From September 2015 through February 2018, Gundy also failed to show up to work on time, the charges allege. For this reason, she violated the judicial canons of ethics by failing to fairly and efficiently dispose of cases before her because she repeatedly arrived at the courthouse after she was supposed to be presiding over cases in her own courtroom, the filing said. Gundy also disabled or removed an audio-visual recording system at the courthouse to conceal her tardiness, the charges allege. And she told the court’s operations manager to stop producing “case count” calendars to further conceal her improper absenteeism, the charges allege. Once the JQC opened its investigation, Gundy made false statements to the commission, both in written responses and when she appeared before the commission’s board, the filing said. Former JQC chairman Lester Tate, who has also represented judges under investigation by the commission, said the ethics charges are a serious matter. “Anytime you have a judge against which charges have been filed by the JQC, it’s a big deal,” Tate said. As for the judicial canons of ethics, he said: “It’s more like the Ten Commandments rather than a specific legal statute.” Gundy’s case now proceeds to a three-person hearing panel of the JQC chaired by Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney. If the panel finds Gundy violated judicial ethics rules, it can recommend punishment ranging from a reprimand to removal from the bench. The state Supreme Court will have the final say on the matter. Richard Hyde, the JQC’s vice chairman said the “charges filed allege various acts of misconduct by Judge Gundy and speak for themselves.” The JQC filing was signed by Ben Easterlin, the commission’s director, and attorney Fani Willis, the former Fulton County prosecutor who headed the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating case. City taxpayers funded $56,000 of Gundy’s legal defense, before Atlanta City Attorney Nina Hickson wrote a letter to Strickland saying it was improper under state law to use public money to pay for a private legal matter. Jeremy Berry, who was hired as city attorney by Reed, is the person who approved the use of public money for Gundy’s legal bills in a March 2018 letter to Strickland that did not mention Gundy by name. The letter said Strickland would be paid $600 an hour “in the matter of a Judge.” Hickson became city attorney after Berry resigned. Not included in the charges against Gundy is nearly $10,000 of public money spent on glass sculptures; a party hosted by former Mayor Kasim Reed, with whom she had a personal relationship; and luxurious stationery, including gold-sealed letterhead. One of the $600 glass sculptures was engraved to read: “Mayor Kasim Reed, Flame of Excellence.” Reed appointed Gundy to the bench. About $2,500 of the spending went for tickets handed out to people invited to the after-party for Reed’s Masked Ball, an elegant social event hosted by the mayor to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. “We need them on the fancier side, as it’s for a city event,” says an Oct. 30, 2017, email from Gundy’s assistant to the account manager for the printing company. The Municipal Court is a $20 million operation, funded through the city budget. The spending documents reviewed by Channel 2 Action News and the AJC show that neither Gundy nor any member of her staff sought approval for any of the purchases, nor do they indicate that anyone in the city’s finance department signed off on them. Among the new charges against Gundy, who draws an annual salary of $182,000, is that she threatened to fire a court security officer if he failed to secure seats for her and her family at the 2018 mayoral inauguration. She also allegedly used “profane language … in a hostile and abusive manner” to fellow Municipal Court Judge Christopher Ward, the filing said.
  • A 10-year-old girl credited with saving her younger sister from drowning was honored by the Chamblee City Council on Wednesday, along with a police sergeant who helped administer CPR to the 3-year-old. Jayla Dallis received a citizen’s lifesaving award, as well as a gift basket, for her heroics on May 15 when her sister Kali began to drown. Kali had jumped into the shallow end with a small pool float around her waist, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. When the float tipped, she became trapped with her feet in the air. Then her body slipped out of the tube, and she went under. Surveillance footage, which later when viral nationally, shows Jayla jump into action. She had just gotten out of the pool when she turned around and saw her sister’s body underwater. She leaped into the water and pulled Kali out. Jayla and other family members began to administer CPR on the young girl. Chamblee police Sgt. Ed Lyons, a veteran officer and the father of a 6-year-old girl, had also arrived and began to perform CPR until Kali began breathing again and was taken to the hospital. Police Chief Kerry Thomas called the saga a “very touching situation.” “I want to reiterate that if it wasn't for the fact that she jumped in the pool and pulled her sister out of the pool and immediately began CPR, then the chances of her survival would have been a whole lot less,” Thomas said during the meeting. Kali was released from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite after two weeks in the hospital, and attended the meeting with her family Wednesday evening. Lyons also received a special lifesaving award for his professionalism and quick response to the scary situation. “If it wasn't for them doing what they did, I wouldn’t have stood a chance of having anything to do,” Lyons told the AJC. “They did something extraordinary.” Jayla has also been honored by DeKalb County and her school, Huntley Hills Elementary School. When she grows up, she wants to continue her lifesaving heroics and be an Atlanta police officer. Follow DeKalb County News on Facebook and Twitter  In other news:
  • A West Georgia man is out as a jailer for the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office after antifascist activists in Atlanta exposed him and another man as leaders of a Norse pagan group with numerous white supremacist ties. Brandon Trent East is at least the third Georgia law enforcement officer to lose a job over suspected ties to extremist groups in the past year. East submitted his resignation last month after being “doxed” by the left-wing anonymous collective Atlanta Antifascists. It was that or be fired, East said. He had worked in the Bremen jail, about 45 miles west of Atlanta, since January. “The sheriff told me he could either terminate me or have me resign,” he said. “That way my file is sealed or something. I just chose to resign. It seemed like the more dignified thing to do, since it really wasn’t much of a choice anyway.” East’s resignation is the latest victory for Atlanta Antifascists in its vigilante campaign to unmask people with white supremacist connections and force them from positions of public trust. In 2017, the group campaigned to have a high school English teacher in Fayetteville dismissed after their research tied him to numerous racist and antisemitic comments online. The group has sustained a campaign against a John Marshall Law School student for his alleged connections to alt-right organizations and distribution of “white power propaganda” in downtown Atlanta. In 2018, two Spalding County jailers were fired from their jobs after the group exposed social media posts by the men expressing sympathy for Hitler and the American neo-Nazi movement. Also last month, the group targeted two employees of Chatham Emergency Services in Savannah for their alleged associations with white supremacist and far-right organizations. ‘Religion for white people’ Although he resigned, East said he does not consider himself a white supremacist. “They call me things like a Nazi or a white supremacist. I’m neither of those. I’m just a guy who is proud of my heritage,” he said. In a press release, Sheriff Eddie Mixon said East had committed “numerous policy violations,” including membership in “subversive” organizations, that made his continued employment untenable. Research first published by Atlanta Antifascists revealed East and his high school friend, Dalton Woodward, were the organizers behind Ravensblood Kindred, a group of modern Norse pagans with numerous connections to white supremacist groups and individuals. Those connections include an affiliation with the Asatru Folk Assembly, a larger pagan fellowship criticized by hate group watchdogs for its racial rhetoric. Mark Pitcavage, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said that while all modern Norse pagans are not white supremacists, the type of “neo-folkish” paganism practiced by the Asatru Folk Assembly is attractive to racial extremists. “White supremacists promote the idea that Norse paganism is the religion for white people,” he said. “It is, in their minds, a warrior religion, which they contrast, in their minds, with pacifistic Christianity.” Both East and Woodward are soldiers in the Army National Guard, which has opened separate, ongoing investigations into them. East is a non-active duty member of the Alabama’s 167th Infantry Regiment, a historic unit which saw battle in both world wars and protected civil rights protesters in the 1960s. Woodward has been on active duty with the Georgia National Guard in Afghanistan. His unit is returning home from a six-month stint overseas. Michael Weaver, a “pro-white” activist in Georgia with a long association with various white supremacist groups, decried the fact that East lost his job. Weaver said he doesn’t know East or Woodward, but he said the campaign against them is part of an underground war between the far right and far-left “antifa” groups like Atlanta Antifascists. “If simply you disagree with people’s point of view, (antifa groups) are going to call their job up and get people fired,” he said. Nonetheless, Weaver said having sympathetic people in law enforcement and the military is part of the strategy for extremist groups. “If you plan to win any kind of fight, you have to have people in power,” he said. FBI warnings Shannon Weber, a freelance researcher who has studied the rise of paganism in the far right, said the FBI has issued several reports in recent years warning about efforts to root out white supremacists from the military and law enforcement. Any connections between pagans associated with Asatru Folk Assembly “should be taken extremely seriously,” she said. A survey last fall found 22 percent of service members reported seeing signs of white supremacy or extremist racial ideology. That figure was higher among racial minorities. “Any time a person with white supremacist beliefs has access to institutional power via police or military, they constitute a threat to marginalized groups, especially communities of color, Muslim and Jewish communities, and LGBTQ people,” Weber said. While East has denied being a white supremacist, his own actions, both online and in the real world, raised suspicions. Earlier this year, East opened an account on VK.com, the Russian answer to Facebook, where he described his political views of “Monarchist” and joined a fascist coalition called the White National Alliance. While he was at it, he also became a fan of “Miss Hitler 2019,” which — much as it sounds — is an online Nazi beauty pageant so outrageous that even VK, a haven for white supremacists, took it down. East’s association with the White National Alliance may be the most damning. According to its online manifesto, the alliance claims to fight against “our racial enemies” and includes a number of racist skinhead organizations with names like “Aryan Terror Brigade” as coalition members. East had seen the jailer job as a way to get into law enforcement. According to his application, obtained through an open records request, he had been a security guard at Floyd Medical Center in Rome immediately before being hired by Haralson County.
  • It was a doggone good weekend at metro Atlanta’s public animal shelters. A period of free dog and cat adoptions at Fulton and DeKalb county’s shelters proved successful in curbing serious overcrowding at the facilities, with hundreds of animals finding new homes. » PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Heartwarming free pet adoptions stem from stark reality in shelters LifeLine Animal Project, the organization that manages animal services for Fulton and DeKalb, said there were over 1,000 dogs and cats in its facilities near the beginning of the month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week. During the promotion from June 7 to 16, a total of 807 animals were adopted: 560 dogs, 246 cats and one rabbit. “Both employees and volunteers were crying tears of joy over the weekend, as some of our longtimers and overlooked animals finally went home,” said Karen Hirsch, a spokeswoman for LifeLine. About 475 of those animals came from the Fulton shelter, 265 from the DeKalb location and 68 from the Dog House and Kitty Motel in Avondale Estates. LifeLine initially said its goal for the promotion was to get 100 animals adopted. The weekend ended up being so busy, staff members were unable to take breaks, so some volunteers supplied them with meals, Hirsch said. The adoptions were completely free last week, including spaying/neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. It was about a $300 value, LifeLine said. The facilities were overcrowded in part because of a rise in intake that usually happens at the beginning of every summer, Hirsch said. Normally, the Fulton and DeKalb shelters receive about 30 animals a day, but that can rise to as high as 60 during the summer. “Since the shelters aren’t really built to hold that many animals, we work as hard as we can to get every single animal placed,” she said. The Fulton shelter, built in 1978, was designed to house no more than 120 animals, but had about 380 dogs and cats last week, Hirsch said. Also, as a public entity, LifeLine cannot close its doors and turn away people who want to drop off a dog or cat. In Fulton’s case, the shelter is also woefully undersized. There were eight dogs to a kennel and, with no space designed for cats, the felines were stacked in a separate trailer, the AJC reported in May. County commissioners agreed to spend a quarter-million dollars to find a site to build a new shelter. They estimate they’ll spend $25 million on the project. LifeLine has also committed to minimizing the number of animals who die in its shelters, which led to more dogs and cats needing homes. The year before LifeLine took over, about 40% of the animals that came into the Fulton shelter were adopted. The other 60% were either euthanized or died of other causes. Last month in Fulton, 90% of the animals were adopted or placed with an animal rescue group, Hirsch said. That lifesaving rate in DeKalb was 95%. There’s no time limit for how long an animal can stay at the shelters. The LifeLine website says it only euthanizes an animal when it is medically necessary or “when an animal behaviorally is not safe in the community.” In other news:
  • The MARTA Board of Directors on Thursday approved a timeline for the agency’s $2.7 billion expansion in Atlanta. Under the plan, MARTA would launch two bus rapid transit lines and other bus improvements by 2025. But more expensive light-rail projects such as the Atlanta Beltline and the Clifton Corridor would come years later. And the full light-rail network envisioned in the plan would not be completed until after 2040, though some segments would come sooner. Atlanta Beltline advocates expressed their displeasure with the timeline at Thursday’s board meeting. They want the full Beltline built by 2030. “It’s unacceptable,” Matthew Rao of the group Beltline Rail Now told the board. “I’m glad you’re committed to move forward. I urge you to move forward faster.” MARTA officials say the plan is subject to change, though the agency would need additional funding to speed up some projects. “I see this as a beginning,” MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker told the audience. “Clearly, as circumstances change, whether it’s new funding coming along, our ability to get federal funds, we will have to react to that, and sometimes quickly.” In 2016 Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax for transit expansion. Last fall MARTA approved a project list that includes 29 miles of light rail, 13 miles of bus rapid transit lines, the renovation of existing stations and other improvements. Thursday’s vote lays out an initial timeline for those projects. Among other things, it accounts for expected cash flow from the sales tax, the status of various projects and the desire to distribute improvements equitably across the city. Under the timeline:MARTA would launch a Capitol Avenue/Summerhill bus rapid transit line and the first phase of its North Avenue BRT line by 2025. The agency would launch three arterial rapid transit lines and renovate Bankhead station by that same year. Also by 2025, construction would begin on an extension of the Atlanta Streetcar east to the Beltline, the renovation of Five Points station and a new transit center at Greenbriar Mall in southwest Atlanta. Meanwhile, planning would continue on other light-rail projects, including the southwest and northeast segments of the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor from Lindbergh station to the Emory University/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention area. Some projects — including the Clifton Corridor — will require additional local funding. If that funding were to materialize, it could move up the timeline for those projects. In a written statement, Emory University called Thursday’s decision “an additional step” toward making transit available for tens of thousands of employees, students and health care patients who visit the area each day. “Understanding that MARTA and the city must balance many needs, Emory will continue to push for making transit to the Clifton Corridor a top priority,” the statement said.
  • The DeKalb Branch of the NAACP is holding its 2019 Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 15, at the Mall at Stonecrest. The family-friendly event will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes vendors, entertainment and workshops geared toward African-American audiences on topics like veterans affairs, healthcare, economic development and civic involvement. The event is being held in conjunction with Atlanta Sports City, which is developing a sports and entertainment complex at the mall. Juneteenth celebrations mark the day that slaves in Texas learned about the Emancipation Proclamation that granted their freedom. Officially, that date is June 19, 1865, roughly two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the document into law.  This essentially marked the end of legal slavery in America. African-Americans nationwide celebrate Juneteenth with parades, community festivals and other events that highlight black culture.  Related | 5 facts about Juneteenth, which marks the last day of slavery Related |Questions raised about status of Stonecrest’s Atlanta Sports City

News

  • A man said his pain medication and a broken back door are what led to his 2-year-old son wandering onto a busy Florida highway. Jacob Krueger, 25, and the child's mother, 28-year-old Yajaira Tirado were both arrested on neglect charges after their son was found on the highway around 10:30 a.m. Monday with a dirty diaper and bug bites covering his arms.  'I'm sorry,' Krueger said after walking out of jail Tuesday. 'I didn't mean for it to come down to this.' Krueger explained that he and Tirado are on medications for conditions that he said kept them asleep during the ordeal. He also blamed a broken door at the home they rent as why his son was able to escape. >>Read: Toddler wearing dirty diaper, covered in bug bites found crossing highway, police say; 2 arrested When asked why there wasn't any attempt to fix the door to prevent an incident like this, Krueger said, 'There's no way. Doesn't matter if I tried doing something to it.' Krueger went on to deny a responding deputy's claim that his home was littered with broken bottles and smelled like feces. >> Read more trending news  'I love my child. I want the best for them (and) don't ever want to hurt them,' Krueger explained.  Officials said they had been to the home in 2018 for another case of child neglect in which Tirado was arrested after a 1-year-old and 2-year-old were left at the home alone, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.  Deputies said the toddler found crossing the highway was placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Tirado remains in the Volusia County Jail.
  • The Democratic presidential primary debates begin Wednesday with 10 candidates going head-to-head in Miami as the 2020 presidential election season gets underway. >>Read more trending news Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and seven others will likely face questions on border security, health care and climate change on the first night of the two-night event. >>Jamie Dupree: Warren leads Democrats into first night of 2020 debates Here’s what to know about and how to watch Wednesday’s Democratic debate.  When and where is the debate being held? The debate will be broken up into two nights with 10 candidates on the stage to debate each night. The debates will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Who will be on the stage on Wednesday? Here is the lineup for Wednesday’s debate: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey  Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts  Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas  Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii  Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota  Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington  Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio  Where will they stand onstage? The candidates will stand from left to right in this order – de Blasio, Ryan, Castro, Booker, Warren, O’Rourke, Klobuchar, Gabbard, Inslee, Delaney.  Who will be asking the questions at the debate? Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate. Holt, Guthrie and Diaz-Balart will moderate the first hour, with Holt, Todd and Maddow asking questions in the second hour. How can I watch the debate? NBC is sponsoring the debate, but it will be shown on all three major networks and on cable news channels. It will stream online free (without requiring an account with a television provider) at NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, and Telemundo's digital platforms. What time wil it be on? The debate will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Where can I watch the livestream? Here is the livestream link of the debate from YouTube Live coverage: Come back here beginning at 7 p.m. for live coverage of the first night of the debate. 
  • Police arrested a woman who allegedly tried to kidnap a couple’s children in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday morning. Police said Esther Daniels, 26, tried to grab a stroller with a child in it before being fended off by the child’s mother. She then picked up one of the couple’s other children and walked away, but the father took the child back from her, Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said in an emailed statement. >> Read more trending news  An officer responded a few minutes later and found Daniels in a frenzied mental state, Chafee said. She then allegedly ran toward a nearby family and had to be restrained by the officer, Chafee said.  Daniels, who lives in Kansas, eventually calmed down and was escorted to the police precinct in a wheelchair, the statement said. She was checked out at Grady Memorial Hospital before being taken to the Clayton County Jail. Daniels was charged with kidnapping and obstructing an officer. Her bond has not been set.
  • A Virginia man and woman are facing homicide charges after their 2-month-old daughter died from cocaine and heroin intoxication last year, authorities said. According to WDBJ-TV, police on Tuesday arrested Eugene Chandler Jr., 27, and Shaleigh Brumfield, 26, of Danville, on felony homicide charges in the baby's November 2018 death. Officials also charged the pair with child abuse and neglect, the news station reported. >> Read more trending news On Nov. 24, Danville police and emergency crews responded to a report of an infant who couldn't breathe, according to court documents. The child, identified as Marleigh Rain Chandler, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, the Danville Register & Bee reported. While searching the family's home, investigators discovered evidence of drug use, including marijuana and drug paraphernalia, WSET reported. The Western District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, which revealed that Marleigh died from 'acute heroin and cocaine intoxication in a setting of co-sleeping,' officials said. Chandler and Brumfield were booked into the Danville City Jail, where they are being held without bond.
  • When the first Democratic presidential primary debate kicks off Wednesday night, Kirkland Dent will be watching. Dent, 28, a medical librarian at Mercer University in Macon, has been trying to keep up with the sprawling Democratic field aiming to unseat President Donald Trump — “I can probably name 80% of them,” he said. But he is looking forward to seeing them in action. “I’m curious about what their goals are, what issues they want to tackle.” So are Judy Hauser, Michael Murphy-McCarthy and John Chastain. They are among about a dozen Democratic and independent voters in Georgia who have agreed to take part in an informal focus group organized by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss the 2020 Democratic primary race. The AJC checked in with them for the first time ahead of the debates Wednesday and Thursday in Miami, the first opportunity many voters will get to see the candidates answer questions for a national audience. THE LATEST | Georgia Presidential candidate visit tracker MORE | Democratic presidential hopefuls emphasize Georgia’s big role in 2020 For the most part, the Georgia voters said they have been paying some attention to the race but want to know more. That’s true of Democratic voters nationally, too. According to a poll released this week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, only 35% of Democrats who are registered to vote say they’re paying close attention to the campaign. The size of the field doesn’t help, and most of the Georgia voters who talked to the AJC said they are eager for it to thin out a bit. The debates, which will feature 10 candidates on stage each night, won’t give the contenders a lot of time to make their case. “It’s going to be really, really hard to stand out in that big a crowd,” said Murphy-McCarthy, who lives in Peachtree Corners and works in IT. “It will be easier to fall down than to stand out.” Dent said a number of candidates have stood out for him so far: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. But he’s open to being surprised by lesser-known candidates. “It’s important for our generation to start paying attention a lot more,” he said. RELATED | Biden reverses stance on Hyde abortion amendment at Atlanta event MORE | Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law targeted by Democratic presidential hopefuls Chastain, 73, lives in largely Republican Cherokee County. “If I say I am a Democrat, it’s like I have the plague,” he joked. He said he’s very interested in the Democratic primary race and wants to hear candidates get specific at the debates. “I’m looking for some action plans,” he said, “I want to know what they are going to do, not just getting Trump out.” He’s retired and said health care is a top issue. Hauser, a registered nurse from Buckhead, wants a candidate who can win. “We need someone who is going to be able to take on Trump and his mouth,” she said. She said she likes Biden but is also interested in Buttigieg and Harris. Biden, she said, “has very good core values. Yes, he’s made some mistakes, but who hasn’t?” His age doesn’t bother her. “I see him as a one-term president that will bring this country back on even keel,” she said. Murphy-McCarthy, 51, said he’s been impressed by Warren but says he’s open to the others. “I’m OK with somebody coming out of nowhere,” he said. DEEPER COVERAGE | Which Democratic candidates have raised the most in Georgia PHOTOS | Top Democratic presidential contenders campaign in Atlanta Howard Giambrone of Coweta County is an independent who has mostly voted for Republicans in the past, but he is considering a Democrat in 2020. It won’t be Bernie Sanders or Warren, who he says are too liberal. He said he is looking for a candidate who is fiscally responsible, supportive of the military and has what he considers a moderate view on immigration. Giambrone’s wife is from Colombia and he doesn’t like Trump’s immigration policies. “I want to strengthen the border but make coming here (legally) less difficult,” he said. So far he thinks Biden and Cory Booker are possibilities. What can the candidates say to win him over? “I want to hear fresh ideas and get away from trashing Trump,” he said. William Black, 38, is a housekeeper in Jones County. He said his top issues are race relations and global warming, and his favorite candidates so far are Sanders and Biden. He isn’t too worried about the size of the field. “They will weed themselves out,” he said. He’s happy to see the enthusiasm. “It’s good for the Democratic Party that there’s that level of interest of people who want to change the country.” How to follow Democratic presidential debates NBC will host the first Democratic presidential debates Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 9 and concluding at 11 each night. Each night will feature 10 candidates. The debates will be broadcast by NBC News and also appear on MSNBC and Telemundo. Telemundo will broadcast the debate in Spanish. They also will stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms. NBC News will also stream the debates live and in full on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • A 58-year-old man is behind bars after police said he raped a child nightly over a three-year period. According to the Jackson Sun, William Paul Godwin of Parsons, Tennessee, was arrested Sunday and charged with 12 counts of child rape, as well as one count of continuous child rape, authorities said. >> Read more news stories Godwin is accused of forcing the girl into sexual intercourse nightly beginning in fall 2012, when she was 5, the Sun reported. The victim said the rapes continued until summer 2015, according to court documents. Godwin was jailed on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court July 8, WBBJ reported. Read more here or here.