Sunday Solutions — June 11, 2023

We’re 10 days away from the longest day of the year, so pack in your outdoor fun before that evening sunlight cuts you off. In the meantime, we’ve got a news update from the banks of the Chattahoochee and some dinner-table conversation starters.

Georgia GOP faithful hear Trump

While you were mowing your yard or getting sandy at the beach Saturday afternoon, former U.S. president Donald Trump was speaking to a crowd of Republican faithful at the party’s Georgia convention across the state in Columbus. It was the first public speech since the former commander in chief was indicted on 37 federal charges, including espionage. The Current’s political reporter, Craig Nelson, was there and writes that the speech was vintage Trump.

For Coastal Georgia Republicans attending the convention, few seemed worried about the charges. From one St. Simons attendee: “His electability, in my opinion, hasn’t gone down any at all. I really believe that guy could serve as president of these United States from prison.”

Aside from presidential candidates, convention business included electing a new state chair to replace its longtime leader. David Shafer, a pro-Trump fake elector, did not run again and will be succeeded by former state Sen. Josh McKoon, who will have a challenge to unify the Georgia party that runs the legislature and the state house. The split, evident in the absence of state officials at the convention including Governor Brian Kemp, entails divides in ideology, heightened by Trump’s continuing insistence that he didn’t lose the state’s vote in 2020. Check out Tuesday’s Soundings newsletter for Craig’s wrap from the convention.

Chef Joe Randall Credit:

Savannah Hall of Famer

Over the past few years, Coastal Georgia chefs have earned acclaim from the James Beard Foundation, which “celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture.” Last week at its annual awards, Savannah chef Joe Randall‘s 1998 cookbook “A Taste of Heritage: The New African-American Cuisine” was selected for the Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame. The book, by Randall and Toni Tipton-Martin, was republished in 2002 and is still available online. The book explores African-American cuisine and includes hundreds of recipes along with profiles of other African-American chefs. Randall is a member of the African American Chefs Hall of Fame and is long known for his cooking school off Waters Avenue in Savannah. It’s the third Beard award for co-author Tipton-Martin, editor in chief at Cook’s Country, a founding member of Southern Foodways Alliance and the founder of a nonprofit organization that promotes the connection between cultural heritage, cooking and health. Catch up on Chef Joe’s news with this article from the Savannah Tribune.

Power, words and meanings

Regular readers of this newsletter will likely remember a story last month when the state’s Professional Standards Commission stripped the definition of diversity from K-12 teacher training rules. On Thursday, the panel approved a variety of word changes in educator materials that followed the same lines. The commission chair, Brian Sirmans, said the changes were made at the request of the University System of Georgia and are intended to clarify language that had picked up unintended negative meanings over the years. Some words in question included diverse, equity, inclusive, social justice, and community. Other changes removed references to cultural diversity and cultural responsiveness.

Commenters on the changes warned that specific word changes will pull signal a change in focus from equity and inclusiveness to normalize biases faced by students who are in the minority for many reasons that include race, gender, those who are experiencing a new culture, or those with special needs. A story from the Hechinger Report explains why understanding the biases are crucial for early childhood education.

This is the same public body that openly discussed how to delete public comments from their files because there were just too many. In a conversation about the “flood” of comments, Commissioner Brandon Seigler said “I just funneled it into a different folder and that way (I) didn’t have to look at all of them.” On Thursday, public comment speakers were required to attend the Atlanta session in person, although the commissioners were not there at all — they attended and voted virtually via online feed. Read the comments and final session details here from Ross Williams at Georgia Recorder.

Your second cup: Parking and space

Coastal Georgia’s housing density is growing daily, and it’s going to get tougher to find large lots and parking spaces sooner than later. Cities around the world are testing new perspectives regarding our need for cars and where we put them. Working solutions include reliable public transportation, mandatory parking minimums for developments, better biking and walking infrastructure. Here are three stories about real efforts and ideas to consider as you are cruising for that next parking space.

  • Drop parking space requirements for developers: The idea was to free up space for more and affordable housing, but something else happened in Richmond. The relaxed rules along with focus on safer walking spaces and fare-free bus transit ended up advancing the city’s green climate goals. A story by the nonprofit NextCity explains the wins.
  • From parking space to new space: During the pandemic, many restaurants turned parking spaces into al fresco dining, a respite from the lockdowns of offices and other gathering spots. Author Henry Grabar says that parking space should be viewed differently and serve in new ways — dining, play areas, bike lockers and newer useful functions. His book “Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World” discusses a range of ideas for retrofitting space we already have to build community, housing and a healthier population. Here’s his perspective from climate-focused Nexus Media News.
  • What happens when some streets go car-free: Covid-era experiments with less access or parking for automobiles have become permanent as communities embraced the changes. Here is a look at 4 streets in the U.S. and European cities that found permanent solutions through temporary necessity.

We’ll park this right here: Enjoy.

Trump takes on charges, prosecutors to rapt GOP faithful

Former president blames out-of-control prosecutors with political goals.

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Georgia education panel votes to cleanse teacher lesson plans as school culture wars rage on

Commission Chair Brian Sirmans said the changes came at the request of the University System of Georgia and are intended to clarify language that had picked up unintended negative meanings over the years.

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Author reimagines urban streetscapes for healthier communities

Cars are more than space hogs: Cheap and convenient car storage exacerbates the housing shortage (the U.S. allocates more land to car storage than to housing), siphons public assets into private hands, blights downtowns and fuels the climate crisis.

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New Glynn police chief’s past lawsuits linger

Ebner, 54, now Glynn County Police Department chief, has not been found liable in these past NJ cases. The allegations and his background played a role in two of five other municipalities where he has sought law enforcement jobs in the last year to drop him from contention.

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Native plants keep longtime activist rooted on the coast

Longtime environmental activist Deborah Sheppard now changes the Georgia Coast one native plant at a time.

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