Sunday Reads — Aug. 7, 2022

Good morning — we’ve got a mix today ranging from a breach of the Voting Rights Act to Bigfoot. Let’s go!

judge gavel
Credit: Unsplash

Judge: PSC votes violate Voting Rights Act

On Friday, a federal judge ruled that the state’s current system for electing members of the Georgia Public Service Commission violated the Voting Rights Act. A lawsuit filed in 2020 challenged the setup that requires a statewide vote for all PSC seats even though they serve specific districts requiring residency requirements for commissioners. Plaintiffs said the system diluted the vote in majority Black, and often Democrat, districts. District 3 is a majority Black area and its voters had consistently voted for the Democrat in races since 2010, but their votes were consistently overridden by the statewide preferences. Now the races for PSC districts 2 and 3 will be removed from the November ballot until a new method to elect commissioners is submitted to and approved by the court. The Current’s Mary Landers explains the ruling and what’s next.

The Savannah Fairgrounds property sits dormant since the city purchased it in 2016.

Fairground project loses local partner

In the continuing saga of development planning for the old Savannah Fairgrounds site, former state representative and developer Craig Gordon is no longer part of the group selected to develop the property off Meding Avenue in the Tatemville neighborhood. The 66.5-acre site was purchased by the city for $2.9 million in 2016 and there seemed to be some forward motion last October when a developer and plan was OK’d for the city-owned property. Savannah Agenda’s Eric Curl outlined the current situation in a story last week.

Gordon raised concerns about P3 Partners after learning one of the company’s founders had been indicted in 2021 and that P3 wouldn’t pay a local design firm for their work on the early project presentations. He also was concerned that a group lined up to assist in the financing had lost its nonprofit status. Gordon outlined his doubts in a letter he sent to the city in March. In the meantime, P3 has responded that it couldn’t provide clarifications immediately but would do so “in the very near future” and they planned to continue the project. Savannah City Manager Jay Melder says he expects to have plans in place by November and a groundbreaking in October 2023 for the development that would include a production studio, recreation areas, housing and mixed-use retail.

Georgia monkeypox rates continue to rise. The state ranks 5th in the number of cases.

Monkeypox starts to spread

Georgia’s generally happy to be included in the top of national rankings, but here’s a dubious one: The state sits at No. 5 for monkeypox cases as of Saturday with 596, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The viral illness is now a national public health emergency. The independent nonprofit MedShadow Foundation summarizes the threat: “In previous outbreaks, children have often been the main ones to contract the virus. This time around, the outbreak seems to be concentrated in adult males who report having sex with other males, though some women have also tested positive for the disease. The virus is spread by close contact, but not exclusively sexual contact, with infected individuals.” Testing and vaccines are available through county health departments and you can find information on that here.

Coastal counties earned more orange and red this week as Covid cases rise again.

In other news, Coastal Georgia’s Covid case numbers continue to climb, bringing each county into higher risk designations. Liberty County, which has a high vaccination rate, tops the coast with higher case rates, as well, in this week’s Georgia Department of Public Health report. Experts remind us that most case numbers are underreported because some symptoms are mild and not always recognized and home testing doesn’t always allow for reporting a positive case. With schools starting across the area, it’s good to be vigilant and take precautions to protect yourself and those around you.

Have your views on Bigfoot and/or climate change evolved in the past 2 years?

Considerable: Do believe?

Data points to ponder:

Conspiracy theories and Bigfoot: A July data dump by Civic Science finds more Americans are willing to believe in conspiracy theories than they were in 2020. Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) of us now believe aliens have visited humans on Earth, 13% believe Bigfoot is real, and 9% believe the Loch Ness Monster is real. Each of these percentages rose from the 2020 surveys. The link takes you to a full breakdown of data by age and region. (Civic Science is a real company that collects and provides data to consumer brands to help with development and marketing.)

This summer’s weather fuels more concern about climate change: Civic Science published findings last week that indicate the extreme droughts and heat this year in the U.S. have more Americans noticing change. While the numbers showing concern overall are lower this year (60%), more people say they have noticed a difference in their own weather compared to past years and are concerned about it (63%). Fewer respondents in the Northeast are “very concerned” about climate change in their area — but that’s also the region where people don’t believe so much in Bigfoot.

Low temps in July were in the high 70s. This abnormally hot low temperature is five times more likely because of climate change. Credit: Climate Central

Speaking of heat…

This year’s heat and drought are part of a clear wave of long-term change in Georgia affecting everything from crops to construction materials. Public radio station reporters at WABE in Atlanta, including the station’s Molly Samuel and Emily Jones of Grist, are building a package of stories on the more prolonged and extreme temperatures’ effects in Georgia. Samuels also has a story this week describing how the Inflation Reduction Act the U.S. Senate is focused on this weekend could be a boon to consumers who want to add solar power to their houses or buy an electric vehicle.

rolls of Georgia voter stickers
These “I’m a Georgia Voter” stickers need homes.

Don’t sit on the sidelines

If you know someone who’s moved to the area, will soon turn 18 or just hasn’t registered to vote, please share this link with them. The Current’s Nick Sullivan put together a breakdown of frequently asked questions and answers about voter registration in Georgia. If you are registered and you have questions, this FAQ will likely help you, too. Deadline to register is Oct. 10, but why wait?

road signs against house
Neighbors opposed to a planned sober living community posted signs in Lowndes County.

Your second cup: Navigating fear

As Georgia and its residents continue to struggle with the wide gaps in mental health treatment and the accessibility of other services that support success for individuals and families, a story last week from Georgia Public Broadcasting brought forward one of those fissures: Fear. In southeast Georgia’s Lowndes County, a nonprofit housing group wants to build a small “sober community” where recovering addicts can rebuild their lives. The challenge: Sober living communities have little oversight and rural neighbors see the “halfway houses” as untrustworthy. The shortage of transition spaces leaves few options for people to recover from addiction in a supportive environment. Read about the hurdles one group faced to provide much-needed help.

Savannah fairground negotiations continue after local partner leaves

A local partner in the development group approved to develop the city owned fairgrounds property is no longer involved in the project after raising concerns about one of the majority stakeholders. This story also appeared in Savannah Agenda The partner, Craig Gordon, raised concerns in a March 1 letter addressed to City Manager Jay Melder about the […]

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FAQ: What to know about voter registration in Georgia

First-time and returning voters alike should know how to register and update their information before Georgia’s Nov. 8 midterms. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

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Residents fight sober living community for addicts rebuilding lives

Residents in rural South Georgia are adamantly fighting a zoning request — a faith-based nonprofit called Redeemed Living wants to build cabins for men in addiction recovery on 23 acres of local farmland. But the neighbors don’t want them living next door.

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Georgia COVID-19 daily statistics

Today’s cases, change, deaths, hospitalizations, testing, vaccination sites and tracker

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Climate bill could benefit Georgia consumers, towns

It includes incentives for clean energy manufacturing like solar panels and batteries, both growing industries in Georgia. And there’s money for agriculture and forestry, which are already big here.

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It’s hot. Is that normal or is it climate change?

Do you think hotter daytime temperatures in Georgia are due to climate change? A new tool shows why warmer nighttime weather is even more worrisome.

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This information compiled by and reported by The Current's staff. We use this credit line when information requires aggregation, compilation or organization from various staff and/or official sources.