Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson at a campaign rally for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, Savannah, Ga., Oct. 4, 2022

Savannah mayor announces reelection bid

It’s now official: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson will square off against Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter this November in what is expected to be one of the nastiest mayoral contests in the city’s history.

Addressing his supporters at the formal announcement of his reelection bid at a rally in Savannah’s Forsythe Park, Johnson trumpeted his handling of the Covid pandemic, his efforts to boost local businesses, and the success city programs to promote racial equity and inclusivity.

There’s more to do, he said.

“We need more affordable housing. We have to do something about improving public safety and less violent events. We have to deal more with mental health. We have to expand public transportation. We have to make sure people are ready for the jobs coming from Hyundai and the related partners. . . . I think I’m the best person situated at this time to do this work.”

At least in part, this fall’s mayoral contest will be a referendum on Johnson’s pledge to include residents of Savannah whose voices, he said, had previously been ignored in decision-making about the city and its future.

In his inaugural address following his swearing in for his first term in office in 2020, the city’s 67th mayor said the number of people at the table that is Savannah must expand. “This table is going to be redefined. This table of Savannah is going to stand on legs named Trust, Transparency, Accountability, and Inclusion.”

In his address, Johnson linked the fate of his administration to the willingness of Savannah’s citizens to help him and the eight “ordinary people” on the city council achieve his goals.

And there’s the rub in his the reelection bid he announced yesterday.

The council, which Johnson heads, has become known for nothing so much as the frequent bouts of acrimony among its members, who appear more interested in avenging personal slights than in conducting the city’s business.

For all his efforts to take the high road amid the council’s political equivalent of mud wrestling, the 55-year-old Johnson may find it difficult to persuade voters that they shouldn’t hold him accountable for it. On the campaign trail, he’ll have some explaining to do, as will Gibson-Carter.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter speaks at a press conference about the Fire Fauci Act he co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video of press conference

‘So insulting’

Coastal Georgia’s elected U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter has been firm in supporting U.S. aid for Ukraine, but how long his resolve will last remains to be seen as splits grow among Republican members of the House of Representatives over whether and how much to aid the besieged Eastern European nation.

Those divisions were all too apparent yesterday in the hours following President Biden’s unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Carter’s colleague in the Georgia congressional delegation: “This is incredibly insulting. Today on our President’s Day, Joe Biden, the President of the United States chose Ukraine over America, while forcing the American people to pay for Ukraine’s government and war. I can not express how much Americans hate Joe Biden.”

Nineteen minutes later, more condemnation: “President’s Day 2023. Zelenskyy can’t even wear a tie as he greets the President of the United States. He gladly takes our money in sweat shirts and t-shirts, but Biden is dressed up. So insulting. America Last!!!”

And some 40 minutes after that: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

Earlier this month, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the “Ukraine Fatigue Resolutioncalling for an end to U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a peace agreement between Moscow and Kyiv. Taylor-Greene was one of 10 co-sponsors.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to whom Carter has been very loyal, has to heed Gaetz, Taylor-Greene, and other right-wing members of the House who were essential to his winning the speaker’s post last month. The question is how much he will have to listen. Where McCarthy goes, so likely goes Buddy Carter.

Former U.S. President and Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter

‘Across life’s seasons’

With the Carter Center’s Saturday announcement that former President Jimmy Carter had opted to enter hospice care at his home in Plains, praise has flowed across the state.

Tweeting within hours of the announcement, Sen. Raphael Warnock said: “Across life’s seasons, President Jimmy Carter, a man of great faith, has walked with God. In this tender time of transitioning, God is surely walking with him. May he, Rosalynn & the entire Carter family be comforted with that peace and surrounded by our love & prayers.”

Tweeted Bee Nguyen, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in last fall’s elections: “My whole family loves President Carter, and we are forever indebted to him for the Refugee Act of 1980, which enabled tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to rebuild their lives in America.”

Of course, even as Carter was hobbled by cancer and falls at home in the past several years, he still served as comic fodder for some Republicans.

On the campaign trail last year, Coastal Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter regularly joked: “You know, I tell people all the time that I’m the second happiest Carter in Georgia right now. The happiest Carter is Jimmy Carter because he’s no longer the worst president we’ve ever had. Joe Biden took that title from him.”

Whatever your political persuasion, there is no gainsaying Carter’s indelible imprint on the state and the region. Scholars and writers still argue whether Carter was a harbinger of the “New South” — or even whether there was such a thing.

Still, the trajectory of Carter’s political career mirrored the region’s, at least in the perceptions of editorial writers outside the region, most memorably at the once influential Time magazine.

There was the face of Gov. Carter on the cover of the magazine in 1971, set against a mash-up of the Confederate battle flag and the U.S. flag, under the headline, “Dixie Whistles a Different Tune.”

Then five years later, in the presidential primaries, there was Carter on the cover again, portrayed astride a mule, munching on a bag of peanuts, with his presidential primary contenders trailing him, under the headline, “Who is Jimmy Carter? And Why Do They Love/Hate Him?”

Four months later, as Carter hurtled toward the presidency with his party’s nomination in hand, there was the same U.S-Confederate battle flag mash-up backing the headline, “The South Today: Carter Country and Beyond.”

georgia ballot box vote


Fair Districts GA Releases Analysis of Effects of Redistricting Maps on the Mid-term Election” (Fair Districts GA, Feb. 20, 2023) ­“Fair Districts GA’s view is that the legislature could have drawn much fairer maps that would have yielded narrower margins for the majority with more competition, resulting in a General Assembly that better reflects Georgia. Our view was ignored, and the election shows the result.”

In 2022, Black farmers were persistently left behind from the USDA’s loan system” (National Public Radio, Feb. 19, 2023) “An NPR analysis of USDA data found that Black farmers receive a disproportionately low share of direct loans given to farmers leaving them behind in a program that is important to their livelihoods. The department itself has long tried to fix these systemic problems, but many farmers and advocates remain skeptical that its efforts will ultimately benefit those who need it most.

End-of-term Euro trip by Duncan delegation cost taxpayers more than $100,000” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 17, 2023) New information emerging from Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Senate investigations makes it clear the end-of-term economic development trip outgoing Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Senate President Pro Temp Butch Miller led to Europe after the 2022 elections was not done on the cheap. There were pricey flights, nights at the Clermont Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, thousands of dollars spent on ground transportation in Germany, and receptions and meals with dignitaries.

Rural hospitals gird for unwinding of pandemic Medicaid coverage” (Georgia Recorder, Feb. 19, 2023) “The ​​Families First Coronavirus Response Act required states to allow Medicaid recipients to stay enrolled even if their eligibility changed. But that requirement ends on April 1 . . . . The loss of the federal revenue is expected to be particularly hard on rural hospitals that operate in areas with higher poverty rates and serve an older population and people with lower incomes — all factors that contribute to the financial pressure on hospitals, health care officials said.” 

Grand jury report recommends perjury charges” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 16, 2023) “Members of the special grand jury agreed unanimously that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election as Trump and his supporters had claimed. A majority of the panel also recommended that prosecutors should pursue perjury charges against at least one witness they believe lied under oath in their testimony.”

Five top revelations from Dominion’s explosive court filing in Fox News lawsuit” (The Hill, Feb. 17, 2023)Text messages, emails and testimony contained in the filing show the outlet’s top executives and hosts casting doubt on former President Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, and worrying about how fact-checking those assertions on the air might be received by the conservative media outlet’s massive audience.” 

Bill targets coin-operated game payouts

Spnsor says popular COAM machines already make up the Georgia Lottery Corp.’s fastest growing source of revenue for education, and gift cards would generate even more tax funds for HOPE scholarships and the state’s pre-kindergarten program.

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Spirit of competition: Georgia lawmakers back competing views of legalized sports betting

Lawmaker says placing sports betting under state control would allow the legislature to set regulations aimed at preventing minors and those with gambling problems from accessing the services.

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Jimmy Carter’s lasting Cold War legacy: Human rights focus helped dismantle the Soviet Union

In 1985, President Reagan publicly acknowledged that his predecessor demonstrated great timing in modernizing and strengthening the nation’s forces, which further increased economic and diplomatic pressure on the Soviets.

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Study recruits Glynn residents to measure their bodies’ chemical levels

A pilot study is getting underway in Glynn County to determine if some of its residents carry a higher burden of chemical contaminants than average Americans.

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Georgia lawmakers mull legalizing gambling through constitutional amendment

Senate bill restricts betting to sports but House version allows casinos and horse racing.

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Tough-on-crime theme of 2023 Georgia Legislature underpinned by proposed new bail requirements

Bill sponsor said the measure targets repeat offenders and violent criminals who often avoid accountability by not putting up bail.

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State lawmaker’s revival of Georgia ‘religious freedom’ legislation sparks civil rights concerns

Local governments can also pass ordinances that he argued would provide enhanced nondiscrimination protections. So far, 13 cities have passed such ordinances, according to Georgia Equality. But opponents say Setzler’s bill could potentially negate those local protections.

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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...