Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Sonia Richardson, the co-host of the Real Spill talk show and owner of Paradise Pineapples, serves her classic drink in a fresh-cut pineapple to a customer. The Glynn County Tigers hosted Brunswick’s Juneteenth celebration at Selden Park on June 17, 2023. Credit: Kailey Cota/The Current

‘Path we have traveled’

Coastal Georgians observed Juneteenth over the three-day weekend, marking the national holiday with cookouts, cultural events, and other gatherings as they commemorated the end of slavery after the Civil War.

The mood of the observances ranged from the celebratory to the somber. Some partied. Others pondered the nation’s often cruel and oppressive treatment of its Black citizens.

Still others noted the irony of a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery as efforts intensify across the nation to stop part of that history from being taught in public schools, The Current’s Kailey Cota, Audrey Gibbs, Jabari Gibbs, Sarah Harwell, Caelen McQuilken, and Caitlin Philippo write in a series of dispatches from up and down the coast.

Crowd gathers before the grand opening of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Center at Armstrong Center. Credit: Justin Taylor/For The Current Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Speaking yesterday at ceremonies to mark the grand opening of Georgia Southern’s new Gullah Geechee Cultural Center on its Armstrong campus, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said America avoids and discounts the history of its Black citizens at its peril, Philippo reported.

The center gives us “every opportunity not to be ignorant or unknowing of the path we have traveled to get here,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s opponent in this fall’s mayoral election, Kesha Gibson-Carter, struck an edgier political tone in her remarks at Juneteenth Fine Arts Festival at Forsyth Park on Sunday.

“We are not free until the people you send to local government who look like you actually represent you,” Gibson-Carter, alderwoman at-large on the Savannah City Council, told the crowd.

“We’re not here to negotiate. We’re not here to collaborate. We’re here to take what is rightfully ours,” she continued.

“Until we arrive at what freedom truly represents – in our banking system, in our health care system, in our university system, in our school system, at the county level, at the state level, at the city level – until we do right by you and until we achieve what freedom really and truly looks like, we need you to keep standing up and hold us accountable.”

Gov. Brian Kemp Credit: GPB News


In ways great and small, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has sought to put political distance between himself and former President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Kemp stepped up his criticism of the GOP presidential frontrunner, lambasting him for praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Kemp then skipped the state GOP convention in Columbus where Trump was the featured speaker. (Republican state Senators Ben Watson of Savannah and Mike Hodges from Brunswick, as well as state Representatives Ron Stephens and Jesse Petrea from Savannah, weren’t spotted, either.)

To top it off, the day before Trump traveled to Columbus to deliver his speech, a political action committee associated with Kemp released a poll showing Trump and President Joe Biden running at a virtual dead heat in a hypothetical 2024 election match-up.

Not exactly a big, warm Peach State welcome by the governor.

So it was surprising to hear Kemp, without qualification, tell CBS News that he would support the party’s nominee for president next year. from the state’s top Republican.

In an apparent acknowledgment of just how steadfast most of the Republican base in Georgia in its support of Trump, the governor also refused to characterize beyond “concerning” the 37-count felony indictment against the ex-president for mishandling classified documents and obstructing government investigators.

Steering away from any ringing condemnation, Kemp called the indictment a “distraction” and counted himself among “a lot of people around country” who view the actions by the FBI and Justice Department involving Trump as worrisome.

It’s all clear now

In a news release yesterday, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System informed local media that the school board has “tentatively adopted a 2023 millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 10.00 percent.”

“This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 17.631 mills, an increase [of] 1.603 mills,” says the news release under the headline “Notice of Property Tax Increase.”

Appended at the end of the news release, however, is a note, in bold red, that seems to say, “ignore previous.”

“Note to Media Partners: The Board of Education does not intend to raise the millage rate this year. The notice above is a legal requirement,” it says.

By itself, this would all be confusing enough. But it’s worse.

A week earlier, on June 12, the SCCPSS posted a “fact sheet” entitled “Basics of the Budget and Millage Rate.” In it, the SCCPSS said it was not recommending an increase in the FY2024 millage rate. The rate, it said, will remain flat from FY2023 to FY2024 at 17.631 mills.

So, what you have the SCCPSS describing in one document as an unchanged (“flat”) millage rate, it describes in another document as an increase.

Reading between the lines, though we really shouldn’t have to the Board of Education seems to be saying: “Your property taxes may go up and as a result, we’ll get more money. But don’t blame us.”  

Denise Watts
Denise Watts


  • Dr. Denise Watts Appointed New SCCPSS Superintendent of Schools” (News release, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, June 16, 2023) “Dr. Denise Watts was appointed the 25th Superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools in a Special Called Board Meeting on June 15, 2023.   Dr. Watts will begin her new role on July 1, 2023.”
  • The Chatham County GOP is opening a new headquarters next month in Savannah. To celebrate the opening, it is hosting a barbecue at the site, 321 Commercial Drive, on Saturday, July 15, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Questions? Call 356-3800 or chathamgopchairman@gmail.com.
  • Like Bulloch, Bryan enacts new zoning moratorium: County to study water, sewer, all infrastructure in northern section affected by Hyundai-fueled growth” (Statesboro Herald, June 15, 2023) “[Community Development Director Audra] Miller said the pause will allow Bryan County ‘time to analyze water and sewer, both from an infrastructure and capacity standpoint and also our transportation network. Such improvements require a lot of planning and a lot of capital investment and we are struggling to keep up with the pace of development.’ ”
  • Georgia is becoming a hub for electric vehicle production. Just don’t mention climate” (National Public Radio, June 15, 2023) “What you don’t hear Kemp talk much about, though, is the force underlying the broader drive to electrify – climate change. . . .  His approach could be a blueprint for like-minded Republicans: courting clean energy jobs without acting on climate, promoting EV production without nudging people to buy them.”
  • Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement Has Dropped Considerably From Its Peak in 2020” (Pew Research Center, June 14, 2023) “Ten years after the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag first appeared on Twitter, about half of U.S. adults (51%) say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Three years ago, following the murder of George Floyd, two-thirds expressed support for the movement. In assessing the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, 32% say it’s been highly effective at bringing attention to racism against Black people.”
  • Carter, Chatham County secure funding to improve traffic, access near Port of Savannah (News release, Office of Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, June 8, 2023) “The $1.87 million grant, funded through the FY22 Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program, will support planning and project development to eliminate eleven at-grade crossings on CSX and Norfolk Southern right-of-way. This move will increase access to the Port of Savannah by allowing for the operation of longer trains and making it easier for residents to access neighborhoods previously divided by rail lines.”
  • WATCH: Sen. Ossoff Convenes Hearing on Implications of Artificial Intelligence for Human Rights” (News release, Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff, June 13, 2023) “‘Throughout history, transformative technologies have emerged, with the potential to disrupt societies, economies, and politics profoundly and sometimes very quickly. AI capabilities are growing rapidly and in ways even its creators cannot predict, and already, it’s changing our lives,’ Chairman Ossoff said.” 
  • Governor and First Lady Kemp to Visit the Country of Georgia and France” (U.S. Embassy, Tbilisi, June 12, 2023) “This visit marks the first time a sitting U.S. governor has visited the Country of Georgia, as Governor Kemp demonstrates the state’s commitment to this ally in the face of territorial aggression from neighboring Russia. The overall mission will focus on reinforcing strategic partnerships while promoting economic development opportunities with industries in Europe.”
  • Gov. Kemp: Georgia Maintains AAA Bond Rating from Credit Rating Agencies” (Office of the Governor, June 14, 2023) “ ‘I am proud Georgia’s responsible, conservative approach to budgeting has again allowed our state to secure the highest possible bond rating,’ said Governor Kemp. ‘In the face of economic uncertainty on the national level due to bad policies coming out of Washington, D.C., our shared focus with the legislature on careful budgeting and strong economic development pipeline means Georgia will be a safe bet for job creators for years to come.’ ” 
  • United States of America v. Donald J. Trump and Waltine Nauta” (Indictment, United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, June 8, 2023) “In July 2021, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey (‘The Bedminister Club’), during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, Trump showed and described a ‘plan of attack’ that Trump said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official. Trump told the individuals that the plan was ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret.’ Trump also said, ‘as president I could have declassified it,’ and, ‘Now I can’t, you know, but this is still secret.’”

Coastal Georgia celebrates Juneteenth

From Savannah to St. Mary’s, cities and neighborhoods celebrated moment in history to be preserved for all.

How a grad student uncovered the largest known slave auction in the U.S.

Larger than the Savannah ‘Weeping Time’ sale, the Ball family auction of 600 was one of several from the estate. Over a course of 4 days, the family put up for sale 770 human beings in Charleston.

Georgia independent pharmacies to start selling cannabis oil

The board plans to roll out a draft application form next week that will include the proposed fee schedule. He expects the first pharmacies licensed to sell cannabis oil to begin selling the medicine in late August to early September.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...