– Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 –

Good morning. It’s Thursday and this week’s public safety newsletter covers whether a Savannah mayoral candidate was registered to vote, federal authorities’ findings in a Hyundai contractor worker’s death, and a puzzling traffic crash trend.

For story ideas, tips, or comments, you can reach me at jake.shore@thecurrentga.org.

Mayoral candidate, unregistered voter

Candidate Tyrisha Davis from her campaign website. Credit: davisforsavmayor.com

Tyrisha Davis, the little-known third candidate for Savannah mayor, was not registered to vote at the time she filed to run for office, Chatham County officials confirmed.

Sabrina German, director of the Chatham County Board of Registrars, said that Davis was considered unregistered between May 30 and Aug. 28. But Davis still paid the $1,1710 fee, in cash, to the city clerk’s office on Aug. 25.

State law requires a person be a registered voter to run for office and city clerks to verify that information. Another requirement to run for mayor is living in the city for a year prior to qualifying. On Nov. 7, The Current reported on how Davis listed an address on campaign paperwork that turned out to be a vacant house. A property manager said nobody by Davis’ name had formally leased the house.

It’s not clear what actions, if any, City Clerk Mark Massey took to verify Davis’ provided information, despite best practices that clerks in other Georgia cities follow. Massey did not respond to multiple requests to speak with us.

Read the full story here on what we found pertaining to Davis’ voter registration.

Contractor faulted in Hyundai site death

Construction of the Hyundai Metaplant in north Bryan County. October 2023
Construction of the Hyundai Metaplant in north Bryan County. October 2023

Federal labor authorities found that a contractor for the $7.6-billion Hyundai Metaplant in Bryan County violated safety rules when one of its contractor’s workers died from a 60-foot fall in April. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Eastern Constructors Incorporated for two safety violations, amounting to an approximately $160,000 fine. 

At around 11:30 a.m. on Apr. 29, Victor Javier Gamboa, 35, of Statesboro was working atop a tall steel beam when he lost his balance and began to fall. His “personal fall arrest lanyard was cut by the steel I-beam” and Gamboa fell 60 feet to his death, the OSHA inspection report states.

OSHA found that Eastern Constructors “exposed employees to fall hazards,” by using a lifeline that was not capable of resisting sharp edges and was not inspected prior to each use, on a body harness that showed signs of deterioration. 

Construction news site Engineering News-Record (ENR) reported that Eastern Constructors has violated safety rules before. In 2020, two of the contractor’s workers were killed in an Amazon warehouse project in Virginia when they fell 54 feet after a structure collapsed. Eastern Constructors did not respond to a request for comment by ENR. 

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America said the following:

“Eastern Constructors Inc. is a Tier 3 contractor working on the Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America manufacturing facility in Bryan County, Georgia. We are in the process of closing out all jobs with the contractor and expect them to be completely off site by December of this year.  In the meantime, the safety and security of everyone in our facility and at the construction site is a top priority, and we are fully committed to complying with all applicable standards, rules and regulations.”

Gamboa, a father to three daughters and two sons in Statesboro, “died working to support his family,” his obituary states. 

“He was a true man of God and a great father to his children, an amazing son, brother and cousin,” it said. “He always made sure his mother was never in need.”

Here’s some key information on the Hyundai Metaplant.

Trend shows fatal car crashes up, driving down

Car wreck Credit: Johannes Blenke / Unsplash

In a trend that has lawmakers confused, people have driven less miles since 2019 but traffic deaths have spiked. 

Between 2019 and 2022, traffic deaths rose 18% nationally though miles traveled fell 3%, according to Stateline.org, which crunched the federal traffic travel and fatality data.

In Georgia, traffic deaths jumped from 1,492 in 2019 to 1,786 in 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows.

Experts call for more police officers enforcing traffic laws, whose departments suffered from understaffing and re-prioritizing following COVID-19 and nationwide racial justice protests. They also say red-light and speeding cameras can cut down crashes. 

More camera investments in communities have received pushback. In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a bipartisan measure banning photographic enforcement. 

Read the full story on the puzzling traffic trend. 

Programming note: The Current will be skipping next Thursday’s Undercurrent newsletter in light of the Thanksgiving holiday. Jake will be attempting to help in the kitchen this year.

Savannah mayoral candidate not a registered voter when she filed to run

Tyrisha Davis, a candidate for Savannah mayor, was not registered to vote when she filed to run for office, Chatham County officials said. It’s the second apparent violation of requirements to run for mayor, according to state law.

Continue reading…

Where does Savannah’s little-known mayoral candidate live?

The Current has been unable to find a confirmed Savannah-based home address for Davis, nor any record of her voting in Georgia – two issues that raise questions about whether she meets the requirement that political candidates must live in Savannah for one year and be a valid registered voter to run for […]

Continue reading…

Slideshow: Hyundai metaplant site

The plant on 3,000 acres will employ around 8,500 people and is set to build electric vehicles. Hyundai will partner with LG to build batteries there for the cars.

Continue reading…

Less driving but more deaths: Spike in traffic fatalities puzzles lawmakers

Traffic statistics show that people are driving less but dying more on U.S. roadways. Experts blame bad driving habits as well as less police scrutiny of traffic.

Continue reading…

Support independent, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Email him at jake.shore@thecurrentga.org Prior to joining The Current,...