Atlanta skyline. (Photo by Ritu Verma.)
Atlanta skyline. (Photo by Ritu Verma.)

By Maggie Lee

The approach of the pandemic school year is looking ominous. If it’s not a viral picture of maskless students shoulder-to-shoulder in a Paulding school hallway, it’s Gwinnett staff fears of COVID-19 exposure and their demands for a work-from-home option. The City of Atlanta’s school year begins Aug. 24 and it will start with all-virtual classes.

If you need a free COVID-19 test, Fulton County lists locations.

On to more metro Atlanta happenings:

Atlanta mayor orders police policy changes

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is directing her administration and the Atlanta Police Department to work on officer training, transparency with the public, cooperation with the civilian Atlanta Citizen Review Board and several other measures.

protest, die in at APD HQ
A die-in protest at Atlanta’s police headquarters in June was intended to draw attention to calls for reforming the city’s police and jail policies. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The idea is to make APD a national model for modern policing.

The details are in new administrative orders, and are based on recommendations from a Use of Force Advisory Council the mayor called almost two months ago.

The task force covered an enormous amount of ground in its 45 days of work, Bottoms said during a Wednesday press conference.

“This is a first step. This is not going to be an easy process,” she said.

“We will also make sure we have embedded within APD the support services that are needed,” the mayor said.

The city is speaking with national experts who have worked in cities that are “even more challenging than what we are facing in Atlanta,” Bottoms said.

The mayor said her chief equity officer, former state Rep. Rashad Taylor, has visited Camden, New Jersey.

That city is getting new attention from police reformers now because it disbanded its troubled police force years ago. (Police officers still exist in Camden, but they’re county cops.)

Use of Force Advisory Council 45-Day report (large PDF)

COVID-19 is The Grinch

Atlanta Ballet is cancelling its annual production of The Nutcracker due to COVID-19.

Airi Igarashi as Marie in Atlanta Ballet’s 2019 Nutcracker (Special:Atlanta Ballet)
Airi Igarashi as Marie in Atlanta Ballet’s 2019 Nutcracker (Special:Atlanta Ballet)

It’s the Ballet’s first year without a Nutcracker at Christmas since 1968. This was supposed to be the first year for the child’s Christmas fantasy story to run at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre instead of the Fox Theatre, its home for about 25 years.

Atlanta Ballet has already canceled the March and May programs of its 2019-2020 season and the opening of next year’s season due to the pandemic. According to a press release from Atlanta Ballet, its revised 2020-2021 season is tentatively set for a February 2021 opening.

“When the required lead time to mount this highly technical and physically large production is coupled with the uncertainty surrounding public health come December, the obstacles are simply insurmountable,” said Arturo Jacobus, President and CEO of Atlanta Ballet.

The Nutcracker is the Ballet’s biggest revenue-generator, but also its costliest production.

Atlanta Ballet is working on some different kind of Nutcracker experience, perhaps something virtual. Keep an eye on Atlanta Ballet’s website for the announcement.

Roswell, Hispanic Chamber partner up

Roswell’s economic development agency and the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are about to sign a deal that will see the two work together to support both aspiring and current Hispanic businesses in Roswell and develop mutual business relationships between Hispanic and non-Hispanic business owners in the city.

The idea is to strengthen Roswell’s overall business community

The partnership will provide for a variety of events, webinars, special educational programs, and other opportunities to encourage, support, and grow Hispanic businesses in Roswell. Programs and outreach will be developed for both Spanish- and English-speaking businesses.

For more information, visit Roswell Inc or the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Turnover on state economic development board

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp named four new people to the 23-person Georgia Department of Economic Development Board of Directors.

The new folks will be Jay Wells, president of Premier Enterprises in Bainbridge; Drew Ellenburg, co-founder of the Ellenburg Chair Company in Atlanta; Garnett Lewis Johnson, president and owner of Augusta Office Solutions and Mulham Shbeib, vice president of finance and chief financial officer for Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc. in Gainesville.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development is the state’s sales and marketing arm. Its job is to attract businesses to the state or grow the ones already here.

New board chairman for Georgia Historical Society

Thomas M. Holder, chairman and CEO of Holder Construction Company, was elected new chair of the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society, in a “historical” meeting on Zoom last month — the first such online meeting in the organization’s 181-year history.

Thomas M. Holder
Thomas M. Holder. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Historical Society)

Holder is already the board chair of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and sits on a range of metro boards, including those of

the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Power Company.

In addition to Holder, other officers elected for the 2020-2022 term are A.D. “Pete” Correll, former chairman and CEO of Georgia-Pacific as vice chairman; H. Jerome Russell, Jr. , president of H.J. Russell & Company as treasurer; and Doug Hertz, President and CEO of United Distributors, Inc.,  as secretary. The Curators also elected John Morgan, owner of Morgan Timber, as the newest member of the GHS Board.

Holder succeeds Atlantic Capital Bank Chairman Walter M. “Sonny” Deriso Jr, the GHS chairman from 2018.

As an educational and research institution, GHS teaches Georgia history through a variety of educational programs, scholarly publications, and research services.

If you’ve read Georgia Historical Quarterly, or seen any of those squarish black historical markers, you know a bit of their work already.


August 8, 8:30 a.m.: Mattie Jackson Legacy Walk. In honor of the late Mattie Jackson, several organizations are putting together a Summerhill walk to call for an end to displacement of legacy residents and Black communities. Masks required. More details here.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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