Sunday Reads — June 12, 2022
Welcome to a new week! Early voting for runoff elections opens Monday. These are votes left from the May 24 primary that include state and local candidates who deserve your careful consideration just as much as they did last month. Voting time is short and during business hours at your county elections boards, so plan ahead or set your calendar now to vote on June 21. In the meantime, meet our interns and test your flag knowledge in time for Flag Day.
DA decision and a challenge
In one of her more public decisions, Chatham District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones declined to charge a Savannah police officer who killed a man at a traffic stop last summer. After a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report was finished in November, Cook Jones announced her decision Tuesday in a press release. She may have more of these calls to make: Savannah police have struggled with a spike in shootings of civilians, with four such events just this year. There were five total police shootings in 2021, including Maurice Mincey’s in July. On Friday, Mincey’s family and the Racial Justice Network held a press conference to say the DA’s decision was wrong and to request a federal investigation into Savannah’s police-involved shootings. Read reporter Jake Shore’s coverage of the announcement and the neighborhood reaction. On Friday, reporter Olivia Scott and visual journalist Jeffery Glover talked to the representatives for the RJN.
Education fallout from Covid continues
- Child care workers and Covid: A new study brings us more chilling news about the pandemic’s toll. Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news service focused on educational policy in the US, presents new research that examined the death rates among 155 million working Americans across 46 states. It offers the clearest picture to date of the toll that the first year of the pandemic took on American educators — and the disproportionate impact on child care workers in particular.
- Less education data, lower baselines: According to a presentation on the state Department of Education website, Georgia will report less education data to the federal government for the third year in a row. It won’t collect data to create an overall report card for ranking districts or schools. The data was often used to determine which schools need special attention and support. Data on student attendance, college and career readiness, and closing achievement gaps between different groups of students also will not be reported. According to the documents, Georgia will use the 2022 data as a baseline instead of pre-pandemic averages.
Five journalists arrived Monday to spend their summers at The Current — they’ve already brought more energy and ideas for our crew. Part of our nonprofit mission is to encourage the next generation of journalists, and we’ve got a great start on that thanks to the generosity of our donors who helped us raise matching funds for their work this summer. Let’s meet them:
- Jeffery Glover, a student at Savannah State University and U.S. Army veteran, comes to us through a fellowship at the Emma Bowen Foundation. A Beaufort, S.C., native, he’s working to hone his skills as a visual journalist.
- Kate Griem is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a student at Harvard College. She is a staff writer for the Harvard Crimson magazine and her work has appeared in City Limits and Teen Vogue. Her internship is made possible by the Harvard Institute of Politics’ Summer Stipend Program. She’ll be working to hone The Current’s social media strategy.
- Olivia Scott is a Savannah resident and a student at Mercer University. She is majoring in journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She’ll spend her internship helping to launch a social media engagement program to reach more young adults who are interested in Coastal Georgia politics.
- Nick Sullivan is a 2022 Honors College graduate of the University of South Carolina. He was the managing editor at his college paper, The Daily Gamecock, before going on to investigate topics such as healthcare and capital punishment while interning with the projects team at The State. He is a Dow Jones News Fund data journalism intern.
- Sonia Chajet Wides is a student at Amherst College from Brooklyn, N.Y. She is Managing News Editor at The Amherst Student. Her work has also appeared in Teen Vogue. Her summer internship is made possible by the Charles Hamilton Houston Internship Program at Amherst College. She’ll be working to build The Current’s social media strategy and to assist environmental coverage.
One more thing: Careful readers will remember that we welcomed Jake Shore to The Current this month. Jake’s a corps member for Report For America, a national service organization formed to restore local journalism across the country. Earlier this year, “60 Minutes” aired a segment on the crisis in local news that featured Report for America and the deeper problems caused as the ranks of local journalists wither. That segment will be shown again at 7 p.m. Sunday night on CBS or you can watch it any time online at https://www.reportforamerica.org/60minutes/. Check it out for a look at a solution designed to fight misinformation in our world.
Health evaluations lag delays justice
A new story from nonprofit Georgia Health News/Kaiser Health Foundation reports on the incredible delays in the criminal justice system for people arrested on nearly any charge and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. In Georgia, 368 people who have been deemed incompetent sit in local jails waiting to get treatment to stand trial, according to the state. More than 900 are waiting for just the first step in the process, a “forensic evaluation.” The state has lost a third of staffing for facilities through the pandemic and those awaiting court-ordered checks are clogging facilities without any hope of movement. It’s costing them due process, time and treatment help and it’s taking a toll on the taxpayers who foot the bills for county jails and courts. One expert calls it an “obvious constitutional problem” that needs legislative attention.
Be a flag expert by Flag Day (Tuesday)
Reader James Toedtman has a fun hobby: He researches history quizzes for holidays. He’s sent us this Flag Day quiz just in time for Tuesday’s celebration of the 145th anniversary of the Continental Congress’ adoption of the stars and stripes. Take it here.
Your second cup: Walkable cities, more housing
Are parking decks and car-centric development policies causing the shortage of affordable housing? New research says yes. They cite evidence that mandatory parking-space minimums for development raise the cost of housing when denser, walkable areas encourage small businesses to thrive in close-knit neighborhoods. In some cases, one parking space can add as much as $60,000 to the cost of a house or apartment. A story from Stateline looks at the research, the experiments in various cities and the potential effects of rebuilt neighborhoods and positive impacts on climate change from fewer carbon emissions and less pavement. Could better mass transit, bike paths and sidewalks make housing more affordable? See what you think.
A local Savannah official, whose district the shooting occurred in, was shocked to find out the news of no charges against the officer: “we hire and fire people to protect and serve the community.”
Mainor questioned the DA’s decision made following the investigative report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, issued last November.
The study, which examined the death rates among 155 million working Americans across 46 states, offers the clearest picture to date of the toll that the first year of the pandemic took on American educators — and the disproportionate impact on child care workers in particular.
Data on student attendance, college and career readiness, and closing achievement gaps between different groups of students will not be reported.
Long wait for justice: People in jail face delays for mental health care before they can stand trial
In Georgia, 900 people deemed incompetent wait for first evaluation, 368 sit in jail awaiting trial.
Test your knowledge of the U.S. flag’s history.
Eliminating minimum parking mandates could encourage compact, climate-friendly communities that address severe housing shortages by making it easier, safer and more affordable to live and work without a car.
Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.