Sunday Reads – March 13, 2022

We may have pushed clocks ahead today, but Mother Nature just rolled back spring. Seriously? We went from 80 degrees to icicles on the gutters. However, nothing was cold in the legislature, where you could fry an egg on the Gold Dome as the hot Crossover Day rush continued.

There’s more: Spaceport Camden lost at the ballot box but still lives in court, the Savannah River deepening project is done and a new discussion could mean new construction. Grab a second cup this morning and turn to Ernest Shackleton and his crew for a jolt of inspiration. His ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice and sank 106 years ago but the entire crew survived. The wreck was just discovered, thanks to the precision of its captain, Frank Worsley. So, we learn: Stay steady and focused on the horizon.

Crossover’s coming. An update.

Crossover Day — Day 28 of 40 –in the Georgia Legislature is Tuesday, and legislation must pass out of either legislative chamber on or before then in order to remain in consideration during the current session. The lawmakers from both houses scurried this week to get pet projects and obligatory ones over the hump. A quick roundup of a few topics in play:

georgia ballot box

Speaking of elections: Qualifying for the May 24 elections primary has ended. For Coastal Georgia’s only congressional seat, Georgia District 1, incumbent Republican Earl L. “Buddy” Carter will not have opposition in the primary. Three candidates have qualified as Democrats to face off in the primary: Joyce Marie Griggs of Garden City, Wade Herring of Savannah and Michelle Munroe from Richmond Hill.

Here’s the list of Georgia’s federal and state candidates.

Watch your inbox: Look for an additional newsletter from The Current soon — we’ll focus on elections, candidates and those officials the citizens hire to do the work for the people. Accountability starts with your vote.

marco polo Georgia Ports
The container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo heads down river from the Georgia Ports Authority’s Port of Savannah Garden City Terminal in May 2021 in Savannah, Ga. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority

Deepening project done. What’s next.

Georgia Ports Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week that the decades-long effort to deepen the Port of Savannah is finished. The $1 billion, 7-year project took twice as long to plan due to a variety of environmental concerns and mitigation for them. The dredge project took the river from 42 feet to 47 feet deep in order to accommodate larger container ships.

To watch: Across the river in South Carolina, officials said they are taking a look at a new agreement for a partnership between Jasper County (S.C.) and Georgia Ports Authority to develop the long-discussed deep-water container port on the Savannah River. Last year, South Carolina Ports Authority gave its half share of the project to Jasper County for any future development. The potential agreement would set up the partnership for Jasper County to work directly with Georgia Ports to develop the 1,500 acre port site that could handle 7 million cargo containers a year. The site is located east of Savannah on the north side of the river, across from Southern LNG’s Elba Island terminal.

Ben Goff used his VW bug to promote a yes vote. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Citizens speak. Spaceport fight endures.

On Tuesday, Camden County voters decided to repeal the county’s right to purchase land for Spaceport Camden, a 7-year, $10 million effort to develop a commercial rocket launch site. The vote, 4,169 to 1,613, drew 16.96% of the registered voters, more than the county election runoff in August 2020. The land deal didn’t win, but it’s becoming a bonanza for lawyers. On election day, the county filed an appeal to stop certification of the election calling the voters’ decision “a bare minority.” An earlier lawsuit to invalidate the referendum had been expedited to the Georgia Supreme Court. The state’s highest court denied a request for emergency relief that would have blocked the certification of the results, but left open the possibility of an appeal.

It’s a situation where the county, which sued its own citizens, is now suing itself as the commission and county attorney are pitted against the probate judge who certifies the election. That means more lawyers and more county money to pay them. A new lawyer has been hired to defend the county’s probate judge and the election. And, outside lawyers from Atlanta have been hired to help the commission and the county attorney.

The sparring also moved to a new arena: the May 24 primary election for Camden County Commission. Two spaceport critics qualified to run for commission this week: In the May 24 primary, Steve Weinkle will join Martin Turner and Clara Harden to run for the District 2 post. St. Marys council member Jim Goodman, who filed the suits against the county, qualified to run for the District 4 post against incumbent Gary Blount, who’s the current commission chair.

Your second cup: Endurance as inspiration

When you are in need of a little push, it’s always good to go back to the story of Ernest Shackleton and the 27-member sailing crew of the Endurance, who got stuck in ice on an Antarctic shelf, had to camp on the ice only to see their ship crushed by the growing floe, then had to navigate in lifeboats to and cross a mountainous island to sail off again before they finally were rescued. Last week brought the news about the amazing discovery of the aptly named 106-year-old shipwreck, nearly intact with ropes still hanging in the deep, freezing water. In very clear video, you can still read “Endurance” on the stern. All of this was possible — the rescue and the discovery of the ship — due to the precision of Capt. Frank Worsley. It’s a must-read.


Georgia senators pass controversial classroom ‘divisive concepts’ bill

Nine specific viewpoints will be banned from classrooms, including that one race is superior to another, that the United States or Georgia are systematically racist or that any person should feel distressed or guilty because of their skin color.

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State House passes bill ending license requirement to carry a handgun

The bill passed late Friday with a 94-57 vote that fell along party lines after a spirited hourlong debate. The Senate passed its version of a permit-less carry bill early this month, all but assuring some version of the proposal will land on the governor’s desk.

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Georgia House panel sets up broad election oversight for approval this year

This bill would authorize the GBI to lead investigations into election cases. It would also make original paper ballots available for public inspection, and require chain-of-custody paperwork for ballots.

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List: State candidate qualifying ends

Both parties fielded candidates for every federal and statewide elective office. A record-breaking 310 Democrats signed up to run up and down the congressional and legislative ballot, as the party looks to build upon its successes in 2020, when Democrats captured both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats.

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Savannah harbor deepening project complete

The harbor has been deepened from 42 feet to 47 feet to accommodate the giant containerized cargo ships now calling at the Port of Savannah regularly with fewer weight and tidal restrictions.

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Ga. Supreme Court allows certification of spaceport vote

Georgia Supreme Court says spaceport land vote can be certified but also opens door for an appeal.

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Late Friday appointments to Spaceport Authority raise concerns about county intent

Last-minute appointments to Spaceport Camden Authority raise concerns of an end run around voters as referendum nears.

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Who are the Spaceport Authority members?

Among the newly appointed Spaceport Authority members is a Republican elector who falsely certified Trump won Georgia in 2020

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Voters to Spaceport Camden: Abort launch

While the residents’ vote was 3 to 1 against the spaceport land purchase, Camden County’s attorney filed a request to prohibit certifying the election results until an appeal is heard.

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Endurance captain Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s gifted navigator, knew how to stay the course

When the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was found nearly 10,000 feet below the surface of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea in March 2022, it was located just 4 miles from its last known position, as recorded by the Endurance’s captain and navigator, Frank Worsley, in November 1915.

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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,...