Sunday Solutions — Aug. 13, 2023

Correction: This file was updated to note that Big Boi is the Savannah native who is part of the hip-hop duo Outkast.

It may still feel like mid-summer, but public policy activities are no longer on vacation in Coastal Georgia. If you’re a believer that citizen action helps grow accountable public servants, better decisions based on data and transparency or you’re just ready to get involved, it’s time to dig in to see what’s going on. Grab a shovel.

The Well is a Christian day shelter for Brunswick’s homeless. It recently reopened with increased safety measures but is being sued by the city, which alleges it is a public nuisance. Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Conflicting views, data fuel shelter dispute

The Well, a day shelter for people without housing in Brunswick, opened in 2015 and closed for several months recently after complaints from downtown business owners. The City of Brunswick has now filed a federal lawsuit to shut the homeless ministry down, despite new staff training and rules for clients plus conflicting data on incident calls from the local police. The Current’s Kailey Cota spent time talking to residents, police, clergy and people who call The Well a lifeline. Photographer Justin Taylor gives us a look inside at the facility and those who depend on it.

Policies, results fuel week’s updates

  • Reporter’s notebook: Criminal justice forum in Savannah with a side of eggs: The Current’s public safety reporter Jake Shore reported on a panel discussion last week featuring the Chatham County sheriff, district attorney, circuit public defender, a recorder’s court judge, an advocate and attorney. A common theme to solutions for a variety of problems from slow court dates to low murder conviction rates is lack of comprehensive data or ill-formed conclusions based on half-counted numbers. It’s a familiar problem for anyone who’s tried to get credible information to sort out problems from those perceived — journalists face it constantly, as do members of the public trying to sort out where public money is being spent on things like, for example, spaceport projects. And, as illustrated in the forum conversations, the data and information hurdles are often the offices and officials themselves. After all, if you don’t track it, you can’t chart success — or failure.
  • Slow start to modest Medicaid expansion reignites debate over Georgia’s health coverage policies: Governor Kemp’s attempt to expand Medicaid opened July 1 and only 265 people have been approved so far, while post-pandemic re-enrollment has forced 168,000 off the state’s Medicaid rolls — as many as 70,000 are children. Georgia remains a top state for uninsured citizens.
  • Making your vote count or counting your vote: The discussion over modern technology versus pen and paper for voting continues across the state as a small but concerted effort to push out Dominion voting systems continues. It’s expected to be on the agenda again at the Chatham Board of Elections regular meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday. Last week, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who’s also an engineer, told the Savannah Rotary Club that he’s confident the voting equipment and software will count votes accurately and safely. The Current’s Craig Nelson interviewed Raffensperger, who is clearly the man in the middle.

empty chairs lined up for a meeting
Empty chairs don’t hold public servants accountable. People do. Credit: Unsplash

A reminder: Voices matter

Here’s a fact: You can get credible information on most issues if you look in the right spaces. However, it’s what you do with it that matters. When local policymakers aren’t singing from your songbook, you can get involved and let them know. It’s the only way to endorse change. The Current’s data reporter Maggie Lee makes sure we have an updated public meetings list for decision-making bodies across Coastal Georgia every day. It has meeting times, places and agendas (if they’ve been posted beforehand) for you to check out. That’s information you can act on by simply showing up and letting the people you’ve hired to lead know what you want for your city, county or schools. Bookmark this link today — and use it.

new quiz logo

Quiz time!

Ready to test your week’s knowledge? Here’s the link.

Fulton County courthouse Credit: Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Indictment week for Georgia?

We’re all watching this week to see what will happen as the Fulton County District Attorney finishes up a grand jury investigation into whether there was an illegal, concerted effort to change the results of the 2020 presidential vote in Georgia. In Michigan, citizens there who were part of a group of alternate or fake electors have been charged with felonies while in other states, including Georgia where they’ve been elected or appointed to new statewide offices like lieutenant governor and the Board of Natural Resources. How do they figure into the federal indictment? The panels are a crucial piece in the narrative because they would furnish the alternative state electoral votes for the Senate count. Here’s an explainer from Georgia Recorder.

Your second cup: Georgia grown

Hip-hop turned 50 this week and there’s a blanket of coverage from musical and cultural perspectives. Lost in much of the national coverage of East Coast vs. West Coast rappers is the sound that’s the beating heart of Georgia, then and now. Complex magazine ranks Atlanta as the world’s top city for hip-hop, and the industry dominance has meant billions over time to the state. (Coastal Georgia can claim Savannah-native Big Boi, half of one of rap’s most respected duos, Outkast.) Sonia Murray of GPB News put together an impressive timeline of hip-hop in Georgia for this week’s recognition of the Golden Anniversary. While Georgia’s Legislature still hasn’t recognized the economic and cultural impacts with new incentives for the music industry, the sound is still one of the state’s biggest exports to the world.

Read the timeline here – and check out video playlist with it while you enjoy that second cup.

Brunswick blames crime on homeless shelter and sues to shut it

Christian clergy run Brunswick’s only homeless day shelter. The city is suing to close it, leaving 100 people without services.

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Reporter’s notebook: Criminal justice forum in Savannah with a side of eggs

Savannah criminal justice arbiters and dozens of residents gathered at a Hungry Club forum at the local YMCA. Here are some insights into what happened.

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Slow start to modest Medicaid expansion reignites debate over Georgia’s health coverage policies

Georgians earning less than $14,580 annually would have to complete 80 hours of work, on-the-job training, community service, schooling or other qualifying activity to gain and keep health insurance through the program. The state has planned for about 100,000 people to gain coverage in the first year, though as many as 345,000 Georgians could meet the income threshold, according to a state estimate.

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2024 elections: ‘Hold on tight,’ Raffensperger says

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the state’s voting system in a speech in Savannah

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Check the agendas for issues and votes so you can show up and let your elected and appointed representatives know what you want.

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How the fake electors in 7 states are central to Trump Jan. 6 indictment

According to the indictment, To gather those fraudulent electors, Trump and his close allies pressured, threatened and lied to state lawmakers and elections officials in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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Kemp says he’ll target ‘frivolous lawsuits’ against business

Advocates of tort reform – including insurance companies, physician groups, and the Georgia Chamber – have backed Republican-sponsored legislation for years aimed at what they say are “runaway” jury verdicts, but have little to show for it.

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State auditor finds Georgia’s education programs for gifted students need improvement

About 199,000 Georgia students were designated as gifted, representing about 12% of the 1.7 million statewide student body.

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What is hydrogen, and can it be a climate change solution?

Hydrogen is an up and coming alternative fuel source, but it isn’t always produced in a climate friendly manner.

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Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Susan served as executive editor of the Savannah Morning News for nearly 15 years,...