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    The MARTA Board of Directors Thursday approved plans for a Clayton County passenger rail line that supporters hope will transform commuting on the south side of metro Atlanta. The line would stretch 22-miles from MARTA’s East Point Station to Lovejoy, via Jonesboro. If all goes well, construction could get under way in 2023, with service beginning in 2027. The board also approved plans for a new bus rapid transit route from Southlake Mall to College Park Station. And it agreed to continue studying other transit options for Clayton County. The moves are the latest fruit of Clayton voters’ 2014 decision to join MARTA and pay a 1-cent sales tax for transit expansion. And they’re another sign that – after decades of stagnation – transit expansion is gaining steam across metro Atlanta. “Since first expanding to Clayton County three years ago, MARTA service has changed the lives of thousands of residents,” said board member Roberta Abdul-Salaam, who represents the county. “This continued expansion shows a strong commitment to community and economic development for one of metro Atlanta’s fastest-growing areas.” The board picked commuter rail as the “locally preferred alternative” for its planned high-capacity transit line in Clayton County. It’s a key step in the process of obtaining crucial federal funding for the project. The Clayton rail line would be comparable to commuter railroads found in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle. Commuter rail features diesel-powered trains that could be bigger and faster than MARTA’s existing electric rail vehicles. The trains can seat up to 1,000 passengers, compared to 500 for MARTA’s existing trains. And commuter trains average 35 mph to 45 mph, vs. 30 mph to 35 mph for the existing ones. The line would parallel existing Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, using the same right of way – reducing construction costs, which have not been determined. MARTA must still negotiate an agreement with the railroad, which has declined to comment. The MARTA Board also agreed to upgrade bus Route 196 to bus rapid transit. The line carries some 3,800 passengers on an average weekday between Southlake Mall and College Park Station. When it’s upgraded, buses may operate in an exclusive lane or get priority at stoplights to speed up service. Finally, the board agreed to continue analyzing transit options for other busy corridors, including Tara Boulevard. MARTA has operated local bus service in Clayton County since 2015. Ridership has grown substantially since then. CEO Jeffrey Parker said MARTA is “incredibly excited to take this important step in fulfilling our promise to Clayton County of first-class transit, economic opportunity and community development.”
  • Gwinnett’s delegation to the state Legislature had its annual meeting with county officials on Thursday morning — the first major gathering of the county’s elected leaders since last month’s historic election that tilted local power toward Democrats. In a wave that in one way or another was expected, Democrats turned Gwinnett’s delegation on its head in November. The party converted a five-seat deficit into a nine-seat advantage with the party now holding a 17-8 advantage in its delegation of state lawmakers. Members of the newly empowered party said they plan to work with their Republican colleagues and try to find common ground, but that doesn’t mean they won’t push a progressive agenda when they can. Or that they’re not already making plans. “Of course, now that we are in power, we’ve got to govern,” said Rep. Pedro Marin, a Duluth Democrat who is now Gwinnett’s longest-tenured legislator. “We’ve already been meeting and we’ve got some ideas about what we have to do.” Having a majority on a local delegation can be largely symbolic. That’s especially true for Democrats in Georgia, where Republicans still hold a significant advantage in both the state House and Senate. But being in control will give the party more sway on issues that directly impact Gwinnett. Legislative delegations can make changes to the way things operate in their communities by championing local legislation about specific issues in the county. Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, said he hopes to push measures that would expand the size of Gwinnett’s county commission and its school board.Democrats and other advocacy groups have criticized the current structure of Gwinnett’s governing bodies. Four district commissioners and a countywide chairman currently represent the county’s more than 900,000 residents. The school board has five members. Litigation has also been filed alleging that the way both local bodies’ districts are drawn dilutes the potential influence of minority voters (though that claim may have lost some urgency in November, when a total of three people of color were elected to the commission and school board). Marin pitched a bill regarding expansion of Gwinnett’s governing bodies in the legislature’s most recent session, but it went nowhere. The county’s Republican-led delegation had no real interest. “I think what people will see more so now,” McClain said, is legislators “being more responsive, and people being more taken care of, instead of things.” Chuck Efstration was one of just a few local Republicans who won reelection this year. But the representative from Dacula was optimistic that little would change, at least functionally. “We’re going to have an outstanding working relationship … that is not bogged down by partisan affiliation,” he said. Gwinnett has been a Republican stronghold for decades, but the last few election cycles have made clear that the county is now up for grabs for either party — if not distinctly left-leaning. Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016’s presidential election, and Democrat Stacey Abrams bested Gov.-elect Brian Kemp by more than 14 points in last month’s contest. Two Democrats will be joining the five-member Gwinnett County commission in January. They’ll be the board’s first Democrats in more than 30 years. Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash, a Republican, said the priorities that county officials presented to Gwinnett’s legislative delegation on Thursday were little different than they’ve been with her party in control of the state delegation over the last several years (or decades, for that matter). Most issues the county government deals with are less political than practical, she said. “I don’t start with the idea that just because we’re different political parties means that we can’t work together,” said Nash. “…We’re gonna try to keep focusing on what we think is important for the community, and I have no reason to believe any of the newly elected officials want to do anything other than that as well.”
  • This report has been updated to more accurately reflect the nature of Mann’s charges. When DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann pleaded guilty to charges last year after an episode where he allegedly exposed himself to an Atlanta officer, it threatened his law enforcement certification and ultimately his job. But a year-and-a-half later, with the state police oversight agency having decided to take away Mann’s law enforcement license, he still serves as sheriff. He has appealed the decision by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T.) to revoke his certification. The state appeals process is moving so slowly that the prospect that Mann could serve out his term and face re-election in 2020 without a resolution seems increasingly possible. A spokeswoman for Mann said he will not comment about his appeal of the P.O.S.T. council’s decision. While his appeal is pending, his status remains unchanged. Esther Panitch, an Atlanta attorney who is not connected to the case, said she was surprised to hear that Mann’s case was still unresolved. “There is no reason it should take this long if somebody is in office who has admitted guilt in a crime,” she said. There are multiple levels to the appeals, and Mann is entitled to due process, said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. “It would be no different than ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in any other case,” Norris said. Mann’s ordeal started in May 2017 when Atlanta police charged him with public indecency and obstruction of an officer. An Atlanta officer accused him of exposing his genitals late one night in Piedmont Park then running away to evade arrest.  The episode was another blow to DeKalb government’s image, and Gov. Nathan Deal suspended the sheriff for 40 days. As he was returning to work, Mann worked out a plea agreement in July 2017 that required him to admit guilt to obstruction and a charge of prohibited conduct. He agreed to a $2,000 fine and 80 hours of community service. Mann was also barred from entering any park in the city of Atlanta for six months. In September 2017, the POST Council voted unanimously to revoke Mann’s law enforcement certification, a requirement under state law for elected sheriffs. A letter in his case file from Attorney General Christopher Carr criticizes his conduct. “The sheriff’s behavior demonstrated a lack of respect for law enforcement and for the office Sheriff Mann holds,” Carr wrote. “Sheriff Mann’s flight from Officer (Sherrod) Snell in the park and in the surrounding neighborhood could have placed the lives of the pursuing officer, himself and other citizens at risk that night.” The case was far from over. Mann met with a POST hearing officer in March in hopes of reaching a settlement that allowed him to keep his certification. He wasn’t successful, and the initial decision was upheld. Mann elected to appeal to an administrative law judge at Georgia’s Office of State Administrative Hearings. But the case can’t proceed in court until Carr’s office sends in the file, which hasn’t happened. Katie Byrd, the attorney general’s spokeswoman, said his office won’t comment on the pending appeal or offer any timetable for when Carr will move the case forward. Data from POST indicates that Mann may be a high-profile example of a process that is known for dragging along. Ryan Powell, the council’s deputy executive director, said that over the past three years POST has recommended that 2,414 law enforcement officers have their certifications revoked. Of those, 319 were appealed. Most appeals are handled within three months, Powell said, but it can take longer if attorneys ask for more time. “It also takes a considerably longer time if the case is forwarded to the Attorney General’s office for a hearing,” Powell said in an email. “If the case is forwarded to the AG’s office, it is not uncommon for the case to take several years before being heard.” If Mann disagrees with the administrative judge’s decision, his appeals could transfer to a higher court. He was elected sheriff in a 2014 special election, then won a full term in 2016. While his appeals have been pending, Mann has remained active in his role as sheriff operating DeKalb’s jail and overseeing a force of deputies. According to state records, Mann oversees roughly 700 certified deputies and jailers. If his certification is still intact in 2020, he will be eligible to run again. Panitch said Georgia citizens should not have to wait years to see if officers accused of wrong-doing are allowed to continue working. “If there is such a long wait for law enforcement officials to be evaluated, it makes me wonder how many others are waiting for an appeal,” she said. “And is that wait harmful to the citizens of this state?”
  • As Georgia’s next top elections official, Republican Brad Raffensperger promises to defend broad voter-registration cancellations and strict voting requirements that have fueled accusations of widespread disenfranchisement. Raffensperger, the winner of Tuesday’s runoff for Georgia secretary of state, will continue the work of his predecessor, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp. Democrat John Barrow conceded to Raffensperger on Wednesday. While voter fraud is rare in Georgia, Raffensperger emphasizes election integrity over easy access to voting. He plans to cancel registrations of inactive voters, as Kemp did when more than 1.4 million people were removed from the state’s voting list starting in 2012. “Making sure we keep the voter list up to date so it’s clean, fresh and accurate, it’s very important,” Raffensperger said. “Ten to 15 percent of Georgians move every year. Just in four short years, your list could really start becoming dirty, and I think this is a recipe for open doors for voter fraud.” Georgia laws already prevent fraud by making voters show photo ID at their polling places, officials said. Raffensperger said he will uphold high identification standards before Georgians can cast a ballot. But he’ll also likely face prolonged legal battles over Georgia’s elections. At least 12 lawsuits over voting rights, voting machines and registration processes are pending in federal and superior courts. Over the past few weeks, several judges have issued orders to count more absentee and provisional ballots, and to extend vote-counting deadlines to ensure legitimate ballots aren’t discarded. The most sweeping court challenge will attempt to overhaul the state’s elections after thousands of voters reported obstacles such as purged registrations, canceled ballots and long lines. “Yesterday’s election proved once again why Georgians deserve a fair fight. From precincts with no voting cards to voters who just yesterday received their absentee ballot, we know that this runoff was also subject to our state’s gross mismanagement of our elections,” said Fair Fight Action CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo, who was Democrat Stacey Abrams’ campaign manager in her run for governor. “Fair Fight will continue to push Georgia to fulfill the most fundamental promise of democracy — the right for voters to have their voice heard and their vote counted.” Raffensperger’s supporters said they’re disgusted by court fights over an election system that works well for most Georgians. “These questions have been real late to come up,” Lynne Byrd said Tuesday outside the Dunwoody Library precinct. “It’s a lot of nonsense.” Another Dunwoody voter, Joe Thibadeau, said he wants to maintain strong photo ID requirements so that only U.S. citizens can vote, which was a theme of Raffensperger’s campaign. “I think there’s fraud. I’ve always felt that,” Thibadeau said. “Every vote should count, but we should follow the rules.” Barrow accepted defeat Wednesday, saying Raffensperger’s 57,000-vote lead was too large to overcome even though thousands of absentee, provisional and overseas ballots could still be counted before election results are finalized. A federal judge last week ordered that absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday be counted. “Though the outcome was not what we had wanted, what we’re working for is more important than ever: elections that are as fair and as accurate as they are secure,” Barrow said. “In these polarized times, that may seem like a never ending struggle, but it’s a struggle that’s always worth the fight.” Barrow’s backers said they want fair elections that make it easy for all eligible voters to participate in democracy, without encountering government hurdles such canceled registrations and closed precincts. County election officials have closed 214 precincts across the state since 2012, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Those kinds of things are systematic, to make it as difficult to vote as possible,” said Patrick Blackburne, a Dunwoody voter who supported Barrow. Raffensperger said he wants to ensure legitimate voters can cast their ballots. And while he plans to continue regular voter registration cancellations, he has said he supports sending emails or text messages to inactive voters before they’re removed from voting lists. His first priority will be replacing the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that leaves a paper trail to ensure accurate results. The Georgia General Assembly will consider bills next year to buy a statewide voting system at a cost of $20 million to more than $100 million. “We’ll have up-to-date, cyber-secure voting machines with a verifiable paper audit trail,” Raffensperger said. “What are the good systems out there that are cyber-secure, move voters through the line, very efficient and very accurate?” Raffensperger said he won’t decide which voting technology is best until each is fully vetted, but he likes a system called ballot-marking devices. Touchscreen machines are used to print paper ballots and prevent human errors. Another option is hand-marked paper ballots, which voters would fill out manually and then insert into optical scanning machines.
  • A redo election for a North Georgia seat in the state House of Representatives remained unsettled Tuesday, with just three votes separating the two Republican candidates. The repeat election between state Rep. Dan Gasaway and challenger Chris Erwin was ordered by a judge because dozens of voters received ballots for the wrong districts in the original May 22 Republican Party primary election. Erwin led Gasaway after all Election Day votes were reported, but provisional and overseas ballots were still pending. It’s unclear how many of those ballots were outstanding. They could still be counted if they’re received by election officials by Friday. The incomplete vote count Tuesday night was 3,516 for Erwin and 3,513 for Gasaway. Gasaway trailed Erwin by 67 votes in the first Republican primary election. No Democrats ran for the state House seat, meaning whoever wins Tuesday’s second Republican primary election will become the district’s representative. House District 28 covers all of Banks and Stephens counties, as well as about half of Habersham County.
  • Republican candidates appeared to hold onto two powerful Georgia offices in runoffs Tuesday, but ballots were still being counted for secretary of state and Public Service Commission. Republican Brad Raffensperger declared victory over Democrat John Barrow in the race for Georgia secretary of state, one of Georgia’s most powerful government positions with responsibility for elections, business registration and professional licensing. “I want every Georgian to know I’m going to be fighting for them. I am going to make sure elections are clean, fair and accurate, and that’s my No. 1 priority as your next secretary of state,” Raffensperger said. “I’m very humbled and very honored to have won this race tonight.” Raffensperger held a lead of more than 57,000 votes, but about 72,000 absentee ballots were still outstanding as of Tuesday night. Those ballots will be counted if they were postmarked by Tuesday and received by election officials by this Friday. Barrow didn’t concede the race. “This has been a highly contested election,” Barrow said. “However, all of the absentee votes have not yet been counted. ... Therefore, in order to make sure that every voice is heard, we need to make sure that every vote is counted. I'll wait for the remaining ballots to come in — and for them to be counted.” In the race for Public Service Commission District 3, incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton was leading Democrat Lindy Miller, a businesswoman and former Deloitte executive. Eaton is seeking a third six-year term on the regulatory body. The Associated Press called the races for both Raffensperger and Eaton on Tuesday night. The campaign for secretary of state focused on voting rights and integrity following complaints about voter purges, malfunctioning voting machines and long lines. The winner will take over the job previously held by Republican Brian Kemp before he won last month’s election for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Raffensperger, a state House representative and engineering firm CEO, emphasized fighting voting fraud, which is rare in Georgia in part because voters have to show photo ID. He would uphold regular voter registration cancellations and strict voter ID laws to ensure only U.S. citizens can vote. Barrow, a former U.S. congressman and attorney, would push for changes in Georgia elections to ensure fairness and accuracy. He said it shouldn’t be so easy for Georgians to lose their right to vote after more than 1.4 million registrations were canceled since 2012, often because they hadn’t participated in a recent election. Both candidates support replacing Georgia’s electronic voting machines with a system that includes a verifiable paper trail, but they disagree on the best option. Raffensperger favors using touchscreen machines to print ballots to avoid human errors, while Barrow supports hand-marked paper ballots to directly reflect voters’ choices. The Public Service Commission race has focused on the viability of Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle and diversification of the state’s energy mix. The hotly contested election attracted outside money to boost the candidate’s visibility in the election, with a Washington-based pro-nuclear power group injecting more than $1 million toward an advertising campaign supporting Eaton. Miller called the last-minute donation an attempt to “buy the election.” The PSC is tasked with regulating investor-owned electric and natural gas companies operating in the state. It decides how much in rates these companies charge their customers and also approves the state’s energy plans. Besides the two statewide runoffs, a redo election for the Georgia House of Representatives was held in North Georgia. The second election was no clearer than the first, with Chris Erwin holding a three-vote lead after Election Day votes had been counted. But absentee ballots can still be added if they’re returned before the end of the week. Erwin appeared to win the original May 22 GOP primary election over state Rep. Dan Gasaway of Homer by 67 votes, but a judge ordered a new primary after dozens of voters were given the wrong ballots. Erwin is a construction company’s business director and a former Banks County school superintendent. No Democrat ran in the general election, so the primary winner will fill the legislative seat. House District 28 covers all of Banks and Stephens counties, as well as about half of Habersham County. Staff writer Anastaciah Ondieki contributed to this article.
  • Proponents of psychedelic mushrooms in Oregon received good news from the state’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, who approved language last week for a ballot measure to legalize them, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. >> Read more trending news  If passed, the measure would reduce criminal penalties for the manufacture, delivery and possession of psilocybin, which is the hallucinogen contained in psychedelic mushrooms, OPB reported. In a tweet, members of the Oregon Psilocybin Society said it will begin gathering the 140,000 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot for the 2020 election. On its website, society members asserted there is more evidence now that the drug is safe and can be used in treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and even drug addiction. The federal government controlled use of mushrooms during the 1970s, OPB reported. 
  • Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor who was the lightning rod for the voting controversy during midterm elections in Florida, was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, the Sun-Sentinel reported.  >> Read more trending news  Snipes, 75, was replaced by Peter Antonacci, 70, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. Antonacci will serve for the remainder of Snipes’ term until a replacement can be chosen by voters in November 2020, according to Scott’s office. In a statement, Scott cited “misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty” as the reasons for suspending Snipes, who said she was resigning Jan. 4. >> Who is Brenda Snipes? “After a series of inexcusable actions, it’s clear that there needs to be an immediate change in Broward County and taxpayers should no longer be burdened by paying a salary for a supervisor of elections who has already announced resignation,” Scott said in a statement. Former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes in 2003, WPLG reported. Snipes could not be reached for comment. Antonacci deferred questions to the governor’s office, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Antonacci grew up in Hialeah, Florida, and earned urban planning and legal degrees from Florida State University and the FSU law school, WPLG reported. 
  • Gripping scenes have played out along the U.S.-Mexico border since President Donald Trump ordered troops there ahead of the approaching caravans of migrants, some of whom ran toward a border fence Sunday amid clouds of tear gas fired by U.S. immigration authorities. And Georgians have had front row seats for the action on both sides of the border. Among the 5,600 troops are scores of servicemen from Georgia’s Fort Stewart. Deployed to Texas and Arizona, the Fort Stewart-based 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters unit is flying federal immigration officials around in Blackhawk helicopters. Troops from the Fort Stewart-based 90th Human Resources Company, which is part of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, are providing human resources support for the effort at the border.  Further, a Marietta-based Georgia National Guard helicopter crew with four troops is doing reconnaissance and surveillance in the Rio Grande Valley. They are taking part in a mission that predates Trump’s decision to send active duty troops to the border. One of the Georgia Guardsmen, Lt. Col. Jason Ellington, estimated his crew has helped federal immigration authorities locate 50 migrants who have illegally crossed the southwest border since last week.  “It’s been pretty busy,” said Ellington, whose crew is expected to return to Georgia in mid-December. “There are people sometimes in ones and twos and sometimes in thirties and forties coming across the border, either walking across, swimming across, rafting across, you name it.” Meanwhile, Atlanta-area immigration attorneys and volunteers are rushing to the Mexican side of the border. Sarah Owings, an Atlanta-based immigration attorney, arrived in Tijuana Wednesday to provide free legal help for the asylum seekers. She said a shelter there was holding 4,000 people. “People don’t really know what is going on and how it all works,” she said. “So we try to make sure they understand what the law says and that way they have some idea of whether or not they have a case for asylum.” Half of likely U.S. voters support sending U.S. troops to the border to block illegal immigration, according to a national Rasmussen Reports poll conducted in late October, while 42 percent disagree. Troops from across the nation are now erecting fencing, barbed wire and vehicle barriers and providing medical care on the U.S. side. The military’s mission — it has cost taxpayers $72 million so far — is supposed to end Dec. 15. But the Pentagon is now considering keeping troops on the border into January, The New York Times reported Thursday. Trump ordered the troops to the border in the days leading up to the midterm congressional elections, while warning, without evidence, there were criminals, gang members and “unknown Middle Easterners” in the caravans. His critics argued the caravans include women and children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. The president, who has also called the caravans an invasion, defended the use of tear gas at the border, saying the authorities were “being rushed by some very tough people.” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued a statement this week saying some of the migrants threw projectiles at U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials as they tried to breach border fences. “We’re here to provide additional resources to CBP, but we’re not here in a law enforcement capacity,” Maj. Sean Stapler, an operations officer for Fort Stewart’s 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters and a veteran of four deployments to Afghanistan, said in an email. Mary Bauer, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, visited with migrants, including children, in Tijuana this month. She visited to gather research for a pair of lawsuits aimed at thwarting the Trump administration’s restrictive asylum policies. “I just heard so many terrible stories that led people to come and to do their best to access the asylum system, often without success for lots of reasons,” said Bauer, who is based in Atlanta. “They have fled persecution. And the shelters were all full.” “People did not have safe places to stay,” she added. “Lots of people were hungry.” Ariel Prado of Atlanta was heading to Tijuana Thursday to educate asylum seekers about their legal options. “There are so many people in Tijuana right now. And the way the federal government has set it up — they have generated a backlog,” said Prado, a program manager with the Innovation Law Lab, a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants and refugees.
  • MARTA will beef up staffing and security for the SEC Championship as it continues to prepare for the larger national spotlight of the upcoming Super Bowl. Saturday’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will serve as a test for MARTA, which made changes after the debacle that followed last January’s college football championship game. Hundreds of fans were stranded at Five Points Station until nearly 2 a.m. “We are committed to delivering outstanding service not just to our daily riders but the tens of thousands of people who will use our system during major events such as the SEC Championship Game and the upcoming Super Bowl,” said MARTA General Manager Jeffrey Parker. Here’s a look at how MARTA plans to make things easier for fans attending the big game: Trains will run every 10 minutes between the Lindbergh and Airport stations on north-south lines, as well as between King Memorial and Ashby on east-west lines. MARTA will deploy “transit ambassadors” to the Dome and Vine City stations adjacent to the stadium, as well as to end-of-the-line stations at North Springs, H.E. Holmes, College Park and Indian Creek. They will greet riders and assist them with directions and Breeze Card purchases. Other employees will help load and unload trains and prevent platform overcrowding at the Dome, Vine City and Five Points stations. In addition to the usual vending machines, MARTA employees will sell Breeze Cards at numerous stations. Bathrooms will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at numerous stations. Previously, they closed at 7 p.m. The MARTA Police Department will supplement its uniform patrol division with other officers during the game. It also will use more than 10,000 security cameras to monitor the transit system. MARTA’s preparations for big events have become a matter of intense interest since the problems following January’s game, which also featured Georgia and Alabama. Fans described a chaotic scene at Five Points, the hub of the MARTA system, as northbound trains failed to depart, even as more fans arrived from the stadium. Some fans searched in vain for MARTA employees who could provide information and control the crowd. It took more than an hour to clear the station. MARTA later said medical emergencies at other stations prevented the trains from leaving, but short-staffing, poor communication and ineffective crowd control exacerbated the problem. The agency has vowed to be ready for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl. “This year, we have seen tremendous success during the Peachtree Road Race, MLS All-Star Game and dozens of other events, and this football game is a great opportunity for MARTA to continue providing the service and support needed to move large crowds of people safely and efficiently through our city,” Parker said.

News

  • A co-founder of the Shepherd Center died “peacefully” Monday morning, the hospital confirmed. James Harold Shepherd Sr., 90, was a fourth-generation Atlantan who helped found the private nonprofit hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury treatment and research, hospital spokeswoman Jane Sanders said in a news release. Shepherd, who had five siblings, started Shepherd Construction Company with his brothers, and his family oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of interstate highways in Georgia and several surrounding states in addition to thousands of miles of city and county streets since 1949, the release said. In 1973, Shepherd sustained a spinal cord injury in a bodysurfing accident, which helped motivate him to found the Shepherd Center along with his wife, Alana, their son, James, and Dr. David F. Apple Jr., the release said. The center opened in 1975.  “He wanted to be here, talk to people, to be around the hospital and watch as it grew,” said Julie Shepherd, his granddaughter, who is a case manager at Shepherd Center. “He often talked about how proud he was of Shepherd Center. His construction career had been rewarding in one way, but he was even prouder of what they’d done here (at the hospital) and the lives they’d changed.” The Georgia General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to designate a section of Peachtree Road in Buckhead to be renamed J. Harold Shepherd Parkway. A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church at 3434 Roswell Road. 
  • President Donald Trump's intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Despite his brash stance, they believe the turmoil has left him increasingly vulnerable as he gears up for what is sure to be a nasty fight for re-election. Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a 'witch hunt' and insists he will survive the threats. But a shift began to unfold over the weekend after prosecutors in New York for the first time linked Trump to a federal crime of illegal hush payments. That left some of his associates fearful that his customary bravado is unwarranted. For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation, which would be a felony, could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship with him when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the Russia investigation. 'I'm sure there's going to be a lot more that's going to come out from the Southern District (of New York) and from, at some point, from the Mueller investigation as well,' Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber's incoming No. 2 Republican, said Monday. 'What they're implying there, obviously, is something I assume at some point the president will have an opportunity to respond to.' Thune continued: 'Campaign finance violations are something that ... they are serious matters, but obviously it depends a little bit on how it gets treated.' As the legal drama plays out, political challenges that could threaten Trump's re-election are piling up. Republicans are still coming to terms with their drubbing in last month's House elections and looking for someone to blame. The departure of John Kelly as White House chief of staff has set off a disorganized search for a replacement who could stay in the job through the 2020 campaign. After Trump's top choice, the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers, passed on the job, few of the remaining candidates have political experience. Also, Democrats will soon take control of the House of Representatives, wielding subpoena power and potentially exploring impeachment proceedings. Meanwhile, financial markets have been jittery, in part because of Trump's trade wars and concerns that higher borrowing costs could ultimately trigger a recession. Facing pressure from Mueller and an impending onslaught of Democratic investigations, Trump could hew even further to the right, catering exclusively to the base of voters he is concerned about losing, according to a Republican close to the White House who has consulted on the early re-election efforts. That instinct would echo the president's double-down, scorched-earth response to the crises that hit his 2016 campaign, including the Access Hollywood tape about forcing himself on women, and could make it harder to woo the independent voters or disaffected Democrats he may well need. Could Trump face a primary election challenge from within his own party? He doesn't seem concerned. The president is eager to unleash his re-election machinery and begin to collect pledges of loyalty from across the GOP to quell any hint of an insurrection, according to a campaign official and a Republican familiar with the inner workings of the campaign but not authorized to speak publicly. The Trump team has discussed the possibility of a challenge from someone such as outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. A week after the midterm elections, Kasich traveled to New Hampshire for a public speech and private meetings with prominent Republicans. Flake, who has tangled repeatedly with Trump, isn't making any personal commitment, but his feelings about a challenger are clear. 'Somebody needs to run' against Trump, he said Monday. 'I hope somebody does.' While some Democrats eying the White House are expected to announce campaigns in the first few weeks of 2019, a Republican challenger could move more slowly, according to two GOP operatives who have been involved in hypothetical discussions about taking on Trump. Waiting until early spring, for example, could give Republicans time to assess whether Trump will be weakened by Mueller's investigation or a downturn in the economy. One leading House Republican said the situation surrounding Trump remains volatile and has urged colleagues to wait for the Mueller report, which some believe could emerge early next year. That Republican, who demanded anonymity to assess the situation candidly, has urged fellow GOP lawmakers to not defend the indefensible but to also not believe every charge. The lawmaker expressed hope that the special counsel's findings come out sooner rather than later so there will be more time before the 2020 elections. For all the private and not-so-private party worries, many close to Trump predict he not only will survive the Russia investigation but will be re-elected in two years. They point to his remarkable ability to shake off scandal, the sway he continues to hold over his base of GOP voters, the fear his Twitter account has instilled among many Republican elected officials and what they believe is the lack of top-shelf talent among Democrats who could face him in 2020. Echoing the president, they contend the special counsel has come up empty-handed in his efforts to prove Russian collusion and is ready to settle for a campaign finance charge they believe is minor and will be ignored or not understood by most voters. The president has said the lesson of the 2018 midterms is that Republican candidates abandon him at their own peril. And the Republicans who remain in Congress after that election aren't likely to back away from him. 'Remember that the Republicans who are left have won in fairly solid Republican, Trump districts,' said moderate Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring. 'So he is very popular with the base. I would not think that they would want to distance themselves or have any fear of associating with him.' ___ Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Fram at http://twitter.com/@asfram
  • Officials from Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana are still figuring out how much damage an agitated naked man caused Sunday to its Dayton residential re-entry facility. >> Read more trending news   The naked man, who police haven’t identified, spent more than four hours on the roof of the organization’s Gettysburg Avenue facility after he disrobed and burned his clothing, officials said. The man, who was a resident at the center, also stabbed himself several times with a sharp object and wrote “Pig for Life” in his own blood on a wall, witnesses and police said. The man is expected to face criminal charges, possibly including felony vandalism after he damaged multiple cameras, windows and other equipment, police said. “This certainly was an unusual and very out-of-the-ordinary Sunday afternoon for us,” said Nicole Knowlton, vice president of communications for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana. At about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, staff at the Volunteers of America called police after a resident climbed a chain-link fence and managed to get onto the roof of the facility, located at 1931 S. Gettysburg Ave. The facility provides programming and treatment to help ex-offenders integrate back into the community, Knowlton said. The organization has four half-way houses in the state, including the Gettysburg facility, which can hold about 120 people. >> Related: Naked man on top of Dayton building causes disturbance for more than 4 hours The man shed and then burned his clothing, police said. He jumped from rooftop to rooftop while naked. He stabbed himself with a sharp object and smeared blood on the top of the one-story building, officials said. Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana locked down the facility and restricted where clients could go for their safety, Knowlton said. The man broke two security cameras, six windows, some wiring and the fans of the heating and cooling units, Knowlton said. Officers lined up mattresses on the sidewalk below the roof to try to cushion a potential fall. Authorities used a ladder truck to eventually retrieve the man. Knowlton said she believes he remains in the hospital.
  • A polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border is letting go of the sprawling building where its members worshipped, in the latest sign that the sect run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs is crumbling and losing control of the community it ruled for a century. The group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, now has nowhere to gather for worship services after the nearly 53,000 square-foot (4,900 square-meter) building was taken over last week as part of government-ordered evictions that have taken away about 200 homes and buildings from members who refuse to pay property taxes and $100-a-month occupancy fees. The meetinghouse with capacity for several thousand people is valued at $2.8 million and sits on about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in the remote red rock community, on the Arizona side of the border. The building has a stage, a church-like setup for services and classrooms for religious education but has not been used for at least six months, Jeff Barlow said Monday. He is the executive director of a government-appointed organization that oversees a former church trust that has properties in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The FLDS doesn't have a spokesperson to comment about the development. The sect is experiencing a major leadership void with Warren Jeffs serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides and his brother Lyle Jeffs serving nearly a five-year sentence for his role in carrying out an elaborate food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial. Members have said they have been worshipping at home on their own. The lack of local leaders meant nobody stepped up to take responsibility for the building when Barlow's organization warned an eviction was imminent, said Christine Katas, who lives in the community and serves as an intermediary between Barlow's organization and the FLDS. Rank-and-file members don't believe they have the authority to do so, she said. 'It's very sad for the FLDS. I've seen people cry over it,' Katas said. 'Both sides are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Everybody wishes there was a different outcome.' The evictions have led many FLDS members to take refuge in trailers around town or move away, while former members have purchased the homes and buildings and moved back. Group members don't believe they should have to pay for what belonged to a communal church trust that the state of Utah took over more than a decade ago amid mismanagement. The evictions are part of the shifting demographics in the sister cities of about 7,700 people. Non-sect members last year won control of the mayor's office and town council in Hildale, Utah and nearly did the same in municipal elections in Colorado City. The town government and police are being watched closely by court-appointed monitors after a jury found past town and police leaders guilty of civil rights violations. Sprawling homes that used to belong to Warren Jeffs have been converted into beds and breakfast and sober living centers. Members of the group still consider their leader and prophet to be Warren Jeffs, even though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the eviction of the meetinghouse. Barlow said the board of the organization he runs, called the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, will meet on Jan. 5 in a public meeting to discuss what to do with the building, constructed in 1986, Barlow said. One possibility is converting it to a civic center, though that would likely require seeking grant funds, he said. The UEP board will make the final decision.
  • The 2018 college football bowl season kicks off with the fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The game will feature champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences. In a rematch of the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the North Carolina A&T Aggies will go head-to-head with the Alcorn State Braves.  Starting at 11 a.m., Channel 2 WSB-TV presents a live half-hour program, “The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Countdown.”  Channel 2 anchors Fred Blankenship and Carol Sbarge host the pregame show for this event. Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein will break down the strategies of both teams, the players, coaches and each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  Following the countdown will be a special edition of Channel 2 Action News at 11:30 a.m. with weather, game day traffic and news of the day. At noon, the battle for the championship begins. In addition to the game, organizers will host the first annual “A Celebration of Service.” The service project will bring together “The Divine 9” Greek letter organizations to collect food donations that benefit Hosea Helps. Other attractions include a special fan experience and the ultimate HBCU Greek homecoming tailgate. MATCHUP Alcorn State (9-3, 6-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) vs. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). TIME/LOCATION Saturday at noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Pregame coverage starts at 11 a.m., followed by the game at noon. TOP PLAYERS Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson has thrown for 2,079 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 960 yards and nine touchdowns. North Carolina A&T is led by veteran QB Lamar Raynard and a running game that's averaging close to 200 yards on the ground per game. NOTABLE The Braves are back in the Celebration Bowl for the first time since the inaugural game in 2015. Alcorn State is led by coach Fred McNair, the older brother of the late Steve McNair, who was a star quarterback for Alcorn State and in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The Aggies are back in the Celebration Bowl for the third time in four seasons. North Carolina A&T beat Grambling 21-14 last year to give the MEAC a 2-1 edge in the game over the SWAC. LAST TIME North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State 34 on Dec. 19, 2015. BOWL HISTORY The Braves are in the Celebration Bowl for the second time. The Aggies are in the Celebration Bowl for the third time.