Eagle's Landing Country Club in Henry County. Bill Torpy, btorpy@ajc.com

The Jolt: Mayors like Nathan Deal, but not dismantling of Stockbridge

The Georgia Municipal Association bestowed its highest award on Gov. Nathan Deal at its annual meeting this week.

The organization of the state’s mayors and other city officials has offered up its “Georgia Key Citizen Award” only three times in the last decade, so it’s a pretty big deal.

But behind the scenes, city officialdom wasn’t so keen on one major piece of legislation the governor signed this year: A measure allowing a group of voters within Stockbridge to vote on splitting off and creating a new city of Eagles Landing in Henry County.

The legislation has already generated concern within the nation’s credit-rating community, given that it would slice Stockbridge’s tax revenue in half while leaving it saddled with some $14 million in debt. A first hearing on a lawsuit to block the Eagles landing push hits a courtroom next month.

After some testy debate over the weekend, GMA’s policy council endorsed legislation that would do much of what the Stockbridge/Eagles Landing legislation didn’t:

…[N]ew incorporations should be the most economical and effective means of providing municipal services.

Portions of existing municipalities should not be de-annexed to create new municipalities unless consented to by the governing body.

Legislation proposing new incorporations which include portions of existing municipalities should address any stranded infrastructure, facilities, pension liabilities, outstanding indebtedness and bond obligations or other costs to an existing municipality in a manner that achieves equity and fairness to all affected governments and taxpayers.

The GMA also created a task force that would, among other things, “further examine the fiscal implications of creating cities using portions of existing cities on outstanding indebtedness, bond obligations, and financial ratings.”

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Patrick Saunders over at ProjectQ has picked up on two significant developments at a recent forum hosted by the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. 

The first was a question to statewide Democratic candidates on whether they would oppose “religious liberty” measures. The four contenders in attendance all said “yes,” including John Barrow, a former congressman running for secretary of state. We’ll let Saunders explain why:

It was a notable moment for Barrow, who during a 2014 bid for reelection to Congress refused to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The legislation would have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Barrow was one of only eight Democrats in the U.S. House to refuse to sponsor the bill.

While the five-time Congressman did vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and voted for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, Barrow also voted to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, leading him to often score on par with his Republican counterparts in Georgia on [The Human Rights Campaign’s] Congressional Scorecard. He lost that election in 2014.

The second involved Charlie Bailey, the party’s nominee for Attorney General. The former prosecutor was asked if he has a plan if a “religious freedom” measure becomes law and is challenged in court. From Saunders’ story: 

“The great thing about this position and me is that I’ll just refuse to defend it,” Bailey said. “And not only will I refuse to defend it, I’ll instruct my assistant attorneys general to file amicus briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs that are challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.”

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Sixth District congressional candidate Kevin Abel walked back criticism of fellow Democrat Lucy McBath’s campaign during a debate last night. The Sandy Springs businessman apologized after he said voters misunderstood his call for McBath to denounce dark money spending from groups like Everytown for Gun Safety.

He said he was trying to comment on the impact of super PACs in elections, not the mission of left-leaning groups such as Everytown to pass new gun control policies, which he said he supports.

The group's political arm has spent more than $800,000 in favor of McBath, one of its former spokeswomen. During the debate, McBath repeatedly stated, incorrectly, that Everytown is not a dark money group, and argued that it and other organizations such as EMILY's List and Gabby Giffords' gun control group "do very good work."

Debate moderator Steven Knight Griffin pointed out that Everytown's political arm indeed is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4)., and so is not obliged to reveal its donors.

The two Democrats are vying in July 24’s primary runoff to take on U.S. Rep. Karen Handel this cycle. Watch Abel’s comments here

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If you were to mentally scan that list of U.S. presidents that you’ve memorized, and look for the predecessor who most reminded you of Donald Trump, Abraham Lincoln might not be your first choice.

But that’s where Dinesh D’Souza is going. Last month, Trump pardoned the conservative author and filmmaker, who had guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2014, after he was indicted earlier that year on charges that he illegally used straw donors to contribute to Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

D’Souza is now flogging a new film that will attempt to return the favor. The uplifting title: “Death of a Nation.” The Coweta County GOP is advertising a July 31 pre-screening in Newnan. We anticipate a novel retelling of U.S. history, based on this tease lifted from the film’s website:

Not since 1860 have the Democrats so fanatically refused to accept the result of a free election. That year, their target was Lincoln. They smeared him. They went to war to defeat him. In the end, they assassinated him.

Now the target of the Democrats is President Trump and his supporters. The Left calls them racists, white supremacists, and fascists. These charges are used to justify driving Trump from office and discrediting the right “by any means necessary.”

…Lincoln united his party and saved America from the Democrats for the first time. Can Trump—and we—come together and save America for the second time?

And yes, we noticed that the title, “Death of a Nation,” parallels that of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the 1915 silent movie that inspired the second coming of the Klan atop Stone Mountain.

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After ducking similar question posed by two cases last week, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday chose not to hear a challenge to North Carolina’s congressional map on the grounds of partisan gerrymandering. The Monday decision was something of a surprise to Emmet Bondurant, an Atlanta attorney who has played a key role in developing the case. From the note he sent to us:

We are, of course, disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to remand the North Carolina congressional redistricting case to the district court for reconsideration in the light of its decision in Gill, rather than scheduling the case for oral argument in the fall, after the Court returns from its summer recess.

We believe that the decision in the Gill case actually supports the standing of the Common Cause plaintiffs, and that the three-judge district court will reaffirm its earlier ruling in our favor on the merits, and again hold that partisan gerrymandering is patently unconstitutional.

The practical effect of today’s the Supreme Court ruling is to delay for another year the day reckoning when the Court will finally have to address the merits of partisan gerrymandering.

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On the endorsement bandwagon:

--- In a sign that Hunter Hill’s supporters may be gravitating toward Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, state Rep. Sam Teasley has endorsed the secretary of state’s campaign. Teasley, who was one of Hill’s highest-profile backers, invoked the secret recording saying that Kemp has a “simple but consistent plan to put people - not politics - first.”

-- Yet another potential Democratic presidential candidate is backing Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the latest to support her bid for governor. The Abrams endorsement parade already includes several other potential 2020 contenders: U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders -- not to mention former Vice President Joe Biden.

***

Our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon has put together an obituary for one of Georgia’s most popular Democratic activists. It begins like this:

Beth Farokhi, a prominent educator with deep roots in Georgia and a former Georgia state school superintendent candidate who was active in the Democratic Party, died at her home in Kennesaw on Friday from ovarian cancer. She was 70.

An eighth-generation Georgian, Farokhi worked for 24 years at Georgia State University, where she coordinated curriculum development in the College of Education. She also headed The Galloway School and the LaGrange College Alumni Association and served on the college’s board of trustees. This year, she was honored with the college’s Distinguished Service Alumni Award.

Farokhi ran unsuccessfully for the Cobb County School Board and for state school superintendent. She was a member of the Cobb County Democratic Party and led the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women’s education committee.

She particularly enjoyed helping other women succeed, said her son, Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi. While at GSU, she established a women’s leadership program, founded and published an international gender equity newsletter and held leadership roles with the American Association of University Women.

“She got engaged in politics, which can be rough and tumble,” Amir Farokhi told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. “One of the things that struck most people is that she was always supportive and kind to anyone she came into contact with, even those who may have been in opposition to her.”

A private graveside service was held in Augusta on Monday. A 2 p.m. public memorial service has been scheduled for July 7 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

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