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Braves fever may have swept you off your feet......but our elected officials at the Gold Dome missed the parade! With the results of the 2020 Census in hand, elected officials are remaking our electoral maps RIGHT NOW. One of Georgia's long-time Representatives, Mary Margaret Oliver, released a very succinct email explaining the process and what's a stake. I'm sending it to all of you, with her permission. Please make a public comment (or read other citizen's comments) about the new districts here.
From Representative Oliver:
Many of you have invested time and energy to engage in the reapportionment and redistricting process. Those following or working with Fair Districts Georgia have been especially helpful in preparing everyone-- legislators and constituents--for the Special Session that began this week. I commend you all. And, because part of the process is building a record for potential litigation, it is not too late to submit comments to the Joint Committee.
We are three days in now at the Capitol, and I anticipate this Special Session running until perhaps November 19th. But we are only guessing at the schedule at this point. For those of you curious about the process, I want to give you some information about our district and the kinds of questions I'll be asking during the next few weeks. The process is unpredictable, and changes are made in maps and strategies with little to no warning, but I can offer some educated guessing about what happens next.
Every reapportionment and redistricting session has political and litigation strategies and is essentially a partisan fight for leadership and control of an agenda. The General Assembly Republican dominated Joint Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting has released three maps proposing new congressional and state house and senate districts. What is their strategy to maintain control without violating constitutionally protected voting rights? This is the first such session to occur in Georgia after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the requirement of U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance for maps to ensure alignment with the Voting Rights Act (Shelby v. Holder, 2013). The courts now will be asked to determine whether Section II of the Voting Rights Act has been violated based on racial discrimination.
How will the courts respond to constitutional challenges based on minority disenfranchisement? How do the Republicans hope to avoid successful litigation brought by minorities? Are the maps released so far vulnerable to charges of racial discrimination? (The U.S. Supreme Court precedent is not to intervene in cases of partisan gerrymandering; what would be a "bridge too far" even in that case?) All these and more questions are on my mind.
For a preview of potential disputes to come, see this article about the Georgia Senate discussion in U.S. News.
Draft Republican map for House districts in DeKalb, above, and Democrat alternative map for the same, below.
On the first day of our Special Session, House Reapportionment Chair Bonnie Rich (R, Suwanee) introduced the legislative framework for the new house district and congressional district maps as HB 1EX and HB 2 EX.
Draft Republican House District Maps were released the afternoon before.
We look at several things in evaluating the maps:
The thing that stands out most to me in the draft Republican House district map concerns competition.
We look at whether the districts are drawn so as to pit legislators from the same (or a different) party against each other--by drawing them into the same geographic area.
The current map includes a dozen such "pairings". Some appear to be problematic but are not, because one of the pair is leaving the House to run for another office or retire. Some are paired to try to force retirement. And some are paired for inscrutable reasons.
Here are examples of Democratic "pairings":
Republicans are not exempt from this pairing effort, but their situations favor one incumbent:
There are at least a couple of pairings involving both parties:
For a good summary and more map links, see Proposed Redistricting Maps by GPB's Stephen Fowler.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the House Republican Chair Draft House District Map (below left) a grade of F for competitiveness and gave the Draft Senate Republican Chair State Senate Map (below middle) an overall grade of F and an F for competitiveness. The Senate Republican Chair Draft Congressional District Map received a grade of C for competitiveness, and a C overall (below right). By contrast, the Democrat proposed State Senate and House maps earned overall grades of A and B, though the Project took issue with competitiveness of the Democrat House map.
Thanks for reading and getting educated about what happens when our voting districts are redrawn. It's not always crystal clear, but an educated electorate is the best weapon against corruption!
As some of you know, tomorrow is Election Day! Here in Chamblee, we have contests for several City Council seats – an At-Large seat, District 1 seat, and the newly-created District 4 seat. The Mayoral spot is also on the ballot, but Brian Mock is unopposed in this election. (Go vote for him anyway, to show your support!)
My number one responsibility as a Council member in Chamblee is to do what’s best for the city. It is with that in mind that I say that following:
Tomorrow, we need to re-elect John Mesa!!
I have known John Mesa to be a hardworking, compassionate Council member for citizens in every corner of the city. He’s the guy who will answer your email about an issue, return your call, and then probably show up in person to see things for himself. He’s the one who seems to know everyone by name, and handles his responsibilities seriously, but with humanity and humor. John is never dogmatic or unwilling to listen to ideas different than his. I’ll work alongside John any day, even if he doesn’t vote with me 100% of the time.
We need people who will do the oft-unglamourous work of local government with heart, no matter what party letter is beside their name.
(And by the way, John Mesa is also our Mayor Pro tempore – selected by the Council itself to lead us when the Mayor is unavailable.)
John Mesa is not just the better man for the job, he's the best man for the job.
Please VOTE MESA for District 1, tomorrow, at your polling place.
Who wants to join the team? I am very happy that we were able to establish a new voting area for Chamblee, even with the pandemic raging! Our new 4th District will provide representation from neighborhoods south of Buford Highway. Each area of our city has its own unique concerns and needs - I think it is imperative to have our leadership reflect neighborhoods from all over the city. Our City Council members strive to serve everyone, no matter the district. Still, the more wide-ranging our representation, the better solutions we can forge.
Click HERE for maps, qualifying information, and more about this November's election.
There’s just waaaaaaay too much happening in Chamblee for me to condense all the news into one email. Want to catch up on more? Moonbird Coffee at 5393 Peachtree Road (in the Southbound restaurant) has great drinks and breakfast burritos! I’ll be there on Saturday, August 14, from 8:00 am to 11:30 am, sitting outside, ready to chat.
8:00 am - 11:30 am
On the evening Tuesday, August 3, neighborhoods around Chamblee will celebrate National Night Out. This event brings our Police Officers out into the streets to meet YOU where you live. I strongly believe that building personal bonds gives communities resilience through troubled times, and events like this can nurture that process. The last time this was held, in 2019, it was GREAT fun to see the different spreads out in neighborhoods all over the city as citizens turned out to welcome our officers and spend an evening socializing. If you or your neighborhood want to “host” a National Night Out event on your block, you can register at the link below:
People are getting out and about again, and that includes me! Above, you can see a sampling of the events I've been able to attend: our City Council retreat in Athens, GA; a walk along the Peachtree Creek Greenway with Rep. Lucy McBath and Brookhaven's Mayor Ernst; a police use-of-force training with Chamblee's Lieutenant Gerald Thomson; an awards night with Los Vecinos de Buford Highway (where the city received an award for our partnership with the organization). I feel an immense pride being able to represent Chamblee, and I thank you again for that honor. I am always here if you need me: email@example.com.
Stay safe out there!
When citizens feel that the traffic on their residential road is getting too dangerous, they can petition the city to complete a traffic study on that street. The study will determine if a “traffic calming device" (i.e. speed bumps, road striping, islands, etc.) should be installed. This is primarily a citizen-driven process. To get approval for the study, 30% of neighbors in the affected area must agree to it. In order to install a traffic calming device, 65% of neighbors must approve of the plan before Council ultimately votes on it. The necessary signatures for this process are not collected by the city - residents do the work of organizing. Then, once a device is installed, the people within the “affected area” are assessed a $25 Traffic Calming Fee in perpetuity.
Approximately $5000 per year is gathered from this tax. It does not come close to covering the cost of installing and maintaining these traffic devices. The money to maintain our streets is set aside in the budget every year, and revenues from this fee do not impact our ability to do the work needed. In light of that, I think we can consider removing this tax altogether. I was excited to discuss this idea in Council, as this was the first agenda item that I’ve ever sponsored! (Ta-da!) In the meeting, I explained why I think the tax is not beneficial, and seems to merely nickel-and-dime our citizens. Others said that the fee is a gesture of real "skin in the game" from the community.
The video above is a recording of the June 10 meeting. If you’d like to hear the discussion about the Traffic Calming Fee, skip to the 1:11:00 (one hour, eleven minutes) mark of the video. I’d love to know what you think.
2020 and all of its COVID-19-related upheaval prevented me from reaching out and connecting with YOU, Chamblee citizens, in the way I wanted to. But now that the weather is warmer and vaccines are being given, things are beginning to open a little more. In that spirit, I've scheduled an outdoor Walk-And-Talk on the evening of May 11. Exact time and place is TBD, but I will be ready for some (masked) face time that night, and I can't wait to have some discussions about our city with you! Please plan to be there!
Yes, I'm cheering as if at a sporting event at our latest Council meeting. That's just how excited I am to be serving as your Council member!
The picture above was taken in our new courtroom in the Public Safety building. Council meetings will be held there for the time being as the Civic Center is now closed and slated for demolition. Speaking of that...the ground breaking for the new City Hall was held on a rainy morning in March. I had no idea that being in elected office would grant me the occasion to pose behind the controls of an excavator. It's one of the perks, I suppose.
There is never a dull moment in Chamblee, and I am truly looking forward to seeing some of you face to face (and at a safe distance) on May 11! More details to come for that event, but I sincerely hope that we can connect and that I can answer some of your questions about Chamblee! (I joked with staff about calling the event "Stump The Chump".)
As always, please email me with any concerns you may have. I am here for you.
We have finally had the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chamblee’s new Public Safety Building! Back in January 2020, one of my first “official” acts as a Council member was to break ground at this site. In spite of all that happened afterwards, the building was finished on schedule. The Public Safety Building will house the Chamblee PD, as well as our Municipal Court. There is a new Community Room that overlooks the parking lot, as well as a dog park and an outdoor fitness area. Once we can safely gather together, I look forward to many events in this space! (Read an article about the opening here.)
The building may be completed, but there is still a “finishing touch” to come. The Public Arts Commission is in the process of selecting a muralist to paint an outside wall with a community-oriented design. The applicants for this job were amazing, and as a member of the PAC, I was thrilled to see what kind of talent Chamblee can draw!
Next up is the demolition of the Civic Center, where the Court and Council meetings have been held for years. Our new City Hall will rise in its place, with more indoor and outdoor gathering spaces for the community.
I'll be holding a Virtual Town Hall in the near future! You are ALL invited!
I try to make my communications informative, but there is often far, far too much business to be explained in a readable email. With that in mind, Chamblee has added a space to its webpage that will provide summaries of meetings, so that you can get an idea of what is happening if you can’t attend a meeting in person. I love this idea! Right now, recaps are up from a Public Arts Commission meeting and our March Council meeting. See them here!
As always, I am here for YOU. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me help!