Sunday Reads – May 22, 2022
Early voting is over, and while lots of Georgians voted early, it wasn’t that impressive in Coastal Georgia. Less than 10% of U.S. House District 1 voters took advantage of early voting. So, if you are a loyal Election Day voter, you’ve got two days to figure it out. Here are some updates and requested diversions to occupy your morning.
Money and campaigns
After the Georgia General Assembly spent a good bit of its energy on school-related topics, we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a fair amount of money coming in for community-based Board of Education seats this year. This year’s Savannah-Chatham school board race is an example of the monetary waterfall. In late campaign finance reports, one political action committee, Parents for Public Choice, has given more money — $87,000 — to its candidates than some others had to spend overall. The Current’s editor in chief, Margaret Coker, broke down the PAC money to see who is heartily supporting the candidates.
In Savannah-Chatham, the board seats are nonpartisan, so next Tuesday’s vote will determine who takes office next January. Runoff elections, if needed, will be June 21.
Driving into 2025
While other Georgia officials may be driving Rivian electric trucks in a few years, you can bet the popular vehicle in Coastal Georgia will be a Kia EV. Hyundai and Gov. Brian Kemp formally announced the long-reported $5.54 billion investment for an electric vehicle factory and a battery plant for the 2,900-acre megasite in north Bryan County, minutes away from Effingham, Bulloch and Chatham counties. It’s expected to employ 8,100 and be running in 2025. The project is the straight-up result of years of hard, local work from the Savannah Economic Development Authority, the Savannah Harbor-I-16 Joint Development Authority, Bryan County, Savannah and others. Without the early work, the state wouldn’t have had a strong incentive to buy the land last year.
The reports preceding the announcement momentarily drew the area’s attention from the raging political landscape, but the formal gathering couldn’t escape it. As Gov. Kemp was about to take the stage at the project site, his gubernatorial rival and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin landed in Savannah for a quick, vociferous attack on Kemp. The visit’s timing and the short 24-mile drive to the megasite announcement couldn’t be ignored. Reporter Craig Nelson was at the Palin appearance as well as earlier campaign appearances by candidate Kemp the previous day and has a few highlights.
Rainy days and state coffers
- States and rainy day funds: We hear a lot about how financially healthy Georgia is following the pandemic, but it’s not alone. The Pew Charitable Trusts crunched the data on state fiscal health for all 50 states. Here’s what it shows: Georgia has 62.2 days in rainy day funds, better than the national median of 34.4 days. It sits in the top dozen states for savings. Our northern neighbor, South Carolina can cover 74.2 days, 20% of its total spending. Check out the data for that as well as state tax revenues, percentages coming from federal funds, employment, personal income and more. It’s always good to see these things for yourself.
Textbooks, ‘divisive’ content and teachers
The nonprofit, nonpartisan education news site Chalkbeat posted a terrific dive into what’s happening in Tennessee as well as in other states where state laws have empowered citizens to challenge teaching materials. This summer, teachers across Georgia will be reworking their lesson planning to meet new state restrictions on what and how they discuss racial and gender topics. In one Tennessee county, only 1/3 of all complaints on 31 texts came from parents of students in kindergarten to 5th grade. The rest came from community members whose students are older or have no children in the district at all. The Chalkbeat report shows a snapshot from that county and then explains the complaints, the common points of discomfort and what’s happening in various places across the nation. One other note: Education Week has a perspective piece this week about the recent grocery store mass shooting and how it relates to new restrictions on classroom discussions of racism. You can read it here.
That orange circle….what is it?
We’ve added a feature to let you know when we’ve posted something new to The Current – click on the orange button at the bottom right of your web page to allow us to notify you when something new is happening. You’ll get a small note in the top of your screen letting you know what’s new each time we post –– it’ll come in handy if you are following elections results this week. The feature is just one piece of technology we’ll be rolling out to let you navigate the news and information you want. Open a story you want to read, click it and see how it works!
Your second cup: Paying back disaster aid
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, thousands of residents were left with homes damaged so badly they couldn’t live in them. Repairs took years to complete with money many didn’t have. One federal program offered them grants to elevate their homes to avoid the next watery storm, and contractors helping with aid signups assured residents the money could be used for much needed repairs. Now the state, pushed hard by the federal government, is suing 3,000 home owners to get the money back because they didn’t use it to raise their homes. After all the years to get home, many face losing their houses. A ProPublica partnership with The Times-Picayune, NOLA.com, WWL-TV reports on residents who are reliving the nightmare of losing their homes again, except this time to the state.
Check in Tuesday night for primary results and more updates at thecurrentga.org
Chatham’s nonpartisan school board president candidate Roger Moss has cash from Republican-leaning groups, while Tye Whitely has the endorsement of Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization. Who will win?
Perdue, Palin told supporters in Savannah they could still beat Gov. Brian Kemp, while a few miles away Kemp touted the state’s largest economic development deal
Georgia law bars teachers from discussing nine so-called divisive concepts, including that the United States is inherently racist, that a person should be discriminated against because of their race or that an individual bears responsibility for misdeeds committed by others of the same race.
After Hurricane Katrina, struggling homeowners said, they were told not to worry about the fine print when they received grants to elevate their homes. Now the state is going after them because they did exactly that.
It’s time to do your homework on candidates. In Georgia, nonpartisan races like school boards and judicial positions are final in the primary, unless there’s a need for a June runoff. Partisan races will choose the final two candidates to face off in the November General Election.
Dunbar Creek was where about 75 Igbo people decided to rebel against the slavers who had taken them on the three-month voyage from West Africa to St. Simons Island. The place where that happened is called “Igbo Landing” by many.
A new research project at Georgia Southern seeks to fill in the gaps surrounding maritime history as it pertains to the experiences of African Americans.
Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.