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Reporter’s Notebook: Atlanta Press Club to hold primary debates next month in major statewide and federal races

The May primary is fast approaching. (Photo by Marianna Smiley, Unsplash)

Feeling extra peachy today? That might be a Georgian’s intuition. On this day, 27 years ago, Georgia officially became known as the Peach State. Although our Southern state had donned the nickname for quite some time, the title didn’t become official until 1995

On to other city news:

Then-candidate and City Councilmember Andre Dickens after the Atlanta Press Club debate on Nov. 16, 2021. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Atlanta Press Club to hold primary debates in major statewide and federal races

The Atlanta Press Club will host debates for the primary races for some statewide and federal offices from May 1 to 3.

Part of the Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, the debates will include candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, Georgia secretary of state, insurance and safety fire commissioner, state school superintendent, and U.S. Congressional Districts 6, 7, 10 and 14. The primary election is scheduled for May 24.

The debates will be available on livestream and on-demand video on the Press Club Facebook page. Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) also will broadcast the debates in the races for U.S. Senate, Congress, governor and secretary of state. 

The following are the details of when and where to watch each debate:

U.S. Senate 

Republican candidates

Livestream and GPB broadcast May 3, 7 p.m.

Congressional Districts

District 10 Republicans

Livestream May 1, 9:30 a.m.; GPB broadcast May 1, 4:30 p.m.

District 14 Republicans

Livestream May 1, 11:15 a.m.; GPB broadcast May 1, 3 p.m.

District 6 Republicans

Livestream May 1, 1 p.m.; GPB broadcast May 1, 5 p.m.

District 7 Democrats

Livestream, May 1, 2:45 p.m.; GPB broadcast May 1, 6:30 p.m.

Governor

Republican candidates

Livestream and GPB broadcast May 1, 7 p.m.

Lieutenant Governor

Democratic candidates

Livestream May 3, 3 p.m.

Republican candidates

Livestream May 3, 4 p.m.

Secretary of State

Republican candidates

Livestream May 2, 11 a.m.; GPB broadcast May 2, 8 p.m.

Democratic candidates

Livestream May 2, 12:45 p.m.; GPB broadcast May 2, 7 p.m.

State School Superintendent

Democratic candidates

Livestream May 3, 11:30 a.m.

Republican candidates

Livestream May 3, 1:30 p.m.

Insurance Commissioner

Democratic candidates

Livestream May 2, 2:30 p.m.

Republican candidates

Livestream May 2, 4 p.m.

— John Ruch

(Image provided by The Atlanta Dream)

Atlanta Dream partners with Microsoft to empower girls, women 

Atlanta’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, announced a partnership on Tuesday with Microsoft creating an alliance to help women and girls in underserved communities access technology through sport and community programming.

“This important partnership sits at the intersection of sport, purpose and technology while highlighting both the Dream and Microsoft’s shared commitment to investing in the Atlanta community and continuing the legacy of this great city as a place where the power of representation, inclusivity and community matter,” said Morgan Shaw Parker, president of the Atlanta Dream.

This landmark multi-year relationship will commit the computer company to work with the Dream’s youth programs that combine basketball with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to inspire the next generation of athletes and emerging leaders to learn about science and technology while improving their skills on the court.

The partnership will be signified with Microsoft becoming the official technology partner and jersey patch partner for the Dream’s 2022 season. 

— Allison Joyner

Atlanta Rotary President Katharine Kelley stands next to Alan Shaw, incoming CEO of Norfolk Southern, Jim Squires, retiring CEO of Norfolk Southern, and Katie Kirkpatrick, CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Atlanta Rotary on the Road at Norfolk Southern

April 4 (404 Day) was opening day for Norfolk Southern — the first day the railroad’s headquarters was officially open for its employees. 

Norfolk Southern also invited the Rotary Club of Atlanta to hold its weekly luncheon at its new company headquarters in Midtown.

Rotarian Billy Levine, who has been coordinating the new “Rotary on the Road” initiative, said the idea actually dates back to the foundation of Rotary in 1905 when it was established by Paul Harris.

“It began by members holding meetings at different places of business,” said Levine, explaining Rotary’s logo of a wheel. “The meetings rotated, and that’s why there’s a Rotary wheel.”

Norfolk Southern CEO Jim Squires chats with Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Jim Squires, Norfolk Southern’s CEO, welcomed Rotarians by joking about his upcoming retirement after 30 years with the company. He apologized to Norfolk Southern employees in the open gathering space saying: “They are captives on the Squires farewell tour.”

Squires also said the decision to relocate Norfolk Southern’s headquarters to Atlanta goes back to at least four years ago. Back in 2014, the railroad operated with three headquarters — corporate executives in Norfolk, Va., Roanoke, Va. for accounting and marketing employees and Atlanta as the base of its operations and the most employees. 

After Norfolk Southern closed its Roanoke office center in 2015, it began to consider further consolidation.

“We decided two [headquarters] was one too many,” Squires said. “Atlanta was a foregone conclusion in so many ways.”

Squires said one of the main reasons Atlanta was picked was its “diverse talent pool.” Norfolk Southern also has “placed more and more emphasis on technology,” so the proximity of the headquarters to Georgia Tech also was important.

“We are very bullish about the future and optimistic about the railroad industry going forward,” said Squires, adding that the company would continue to be active in the community.

One of the funniest moments of the program was when Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, asked Squires if he had ever said in his tenure with the company: “This is no way to run a railroad.” Laughter filled the room, so Squires didn’t have to respond.

Alan Shaw, who will succeed Squires as CEO in May, also participated in the “Rotary on the Road” program.

— Maria Saporta

ANDP $1 million closer to 2025 affordable housing goal

Truist recently donated a $1 million grant to the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) to support its Closing the Gap initiative. 

ANDP’s $440 million initiative aims to build or preserve 2,000 housing units in the metro area by 2025. A majority of the units will be affordable apartments, along with 500 single-family homes for homeownership and 250 affordable single-family rental homes.

The nonprofit also plans to invest more than $50 million in Black-owned businesses by 2025 through partnership investments and low-cost loans. 

“This grant will help ANDP expand affordable housing in the city of Atlanta and unlock new opportunities for Black-owned businesses across the region,” Jenna Kelly, Truist Georgia regional president, said in a press release. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with ANDP and invest in programs that empower residents, support businesses, provide stability for families and fulfill our purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities in the city of Atlanta.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Atlanta media figure Rashad Richey buys Alabama radio stations 

Atlanta-based publisher and broadcasting star Rashad Richey has expanded his empire with the purchase of two Alabama radio stations.

Richey is the president of the national print and online publication Rolling Out and hosts the “Rashad Richey Morning Show” on Atlanta’s 1380 WAOK. He’s also a frequent political commentator on TV news and hosts the web-based political show “Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey.” 

His purchase of Alabama’s 107.7 FM WHSL and 1130 AM WALQ was announced on April 4. According to a press release, WALQ’s broadcast license is held by the Augustus Foundation, a Texas-based nonprofit whose mission includes training people in radio careers. The ownership of both stations will be a partnership equally split between the foundation and a company founded by Richey.

WHLS, the other station, has an urban adult contemporary format. The press release says Richey intends to move it closer to the Mississippi border. 

“Local and free over-the-air radio remains a mainstay in the lives of virtually all Americans and communities are hungry for connection, content and creativity,” Richey said in the press release. “I look forward to maintaining the investment and commitment to excellence and community service that has built and sustained these stations and am thankful to be able to expand their reach.”

— John Ruch

A recipient of Atlanta Habitat’s Repair with Kindness program. (Photo provided by Atlanta Habitat for Humanity)

Atlanta Habitat receives $100,000 grant for Repair with Kindness program

Thanks to a recent $100,000 grant, Atlanta Habitat can offer five seniors services from the Repair with Kindness (RWK) program, providing critical home repairs. 

The grant is from the Merancas Foundation, a North Carolina-based foundation that invests in nonprofits that support adults and children in crisis.

In 2022, Atlanta Habitat aims to serve 75 families free of charge through the RWK program. RWK is part of the nonprofit’s larger Neighborhood Revitalization Program, intending to serve 191 families through home builds, rehabs and Brush with Kindness projects.

— Hannah E. Jones

Gov. Kemp announces $17 million to state transportation infrastructure initiatives 

Governor Brian Kemp recently announced that $17 million will fund 16 transportation infrastructure projects around the state. The loans and grants are coming from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (GTIB).

One improvement will be seen in downtown Atlanta, converting one lane of a mile-long stretch along Courtland Street to a bus-only lane during peak rush hours. The lane will be repaved and restriped, along with three additional bus stops. The improvements should decrease travel time and improve on-time bus arrivals and departures.

Since its inception in 2012, GTIB has awarded over $182 million in grants to transit infrastructure projects statewide.

Other 2022 recipients include Athens-Clark, Cherokee, Gwinnett, Fayette, Forsyth and Union counties, and cities Union City, Lawrenceville, East Point, Nashville, Sparks and Woodstock.

— Hannah E. Jones

619 Ponce at Ponce City Market. (Rendering by TILTPIXEL)

Real estate firm announces hospitality living development at Ponce City Market

Global real estate firm Jamestown announced a new development of a 700,000 square foot live, work and shop space at the Ponce City Market in Old Fourth Ward. 

“We look forward to building upon the legacy of innovation, urban renewal and neighborhood connectivity as we embark on the property’s new chapter and set a new standard for dynamic mixed-use environments,” said Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown. 

Calling it “the line between Airbnb and hotels, short-term and long-term rentals,” Phillips describes the structure as a hospitality living building located at the corner of Glen Iris Drive and Glen Iris Way, which will include 405 units and 12,000 square foot retail space with 21-foot ceilings designed to cater the way people live and work.   

The new hospitality living building is expected to open in 2024.

— Allison Joyner

Panel to discuss new legislation about government transparency, free speech

Political journalists and a First Amendment expert will discuss new legislation affecting government transparency, free speech and public policy in an April 11 virtual panel. 

The “Gold Dome 2022 Recap” is hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation (GFAF) and will cover “major bills” from the recently ended session of the Georgia General Assembly. Rahu Bali of WABE will moderate a panel comprised of Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, the GFAF’s legislative chair; Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting; and Maya T. Prabhu of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The event is scheduled for noon on April 11 and is free. For details and registration, see the Press Club website.

— John Ruch

Nathaniel Smith

NBA Foundation gives $11 million in grants to 40 nonprofits, one Atlanta-based

The NBA Foundation announced $11 million in grants to 40 nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada that create employment and career advancement opportunities and drive economic empowerment for Black youth.  

Atlanta nonprofit Partnership for Southern Equity was among the recipients, an organization that promotes economic opportunity, equitable development and health and energy equity. 

“I appreciate the NBA’s commitment to the equity ecosystem and am honored to receive the NBA Foundation Grant on the behalf of the Partnership for Southern Equity,” Nathaniel Smith, founder and chief equity officer, wrote to SaportaReport. “The gravity of the events, trials, victories, and defeats of the push for racial equity during the COVID-19 pandemic is not lost on any of us. The NBA’s ongoing support of our work helps us to stay the course today and every day.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Public safety training center committee’s bylaws skip media-talk ban, provide for removing members

Newly approved bylaws for the Atlanta public safety training center advisory committee make no mention of a previously discussed ban on members talking to the media. But they do contain a provision for removing members.

Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC) chair Alison Clark earlier this year proposed banning other members from talking to the media in the wake of an unflattering story. She said a “media policy” would be coming along with the bylaws, but the policy never materialized. The bylaws, approved by the CSAC at its March 29 meeting, do not contain any such policy.

However, they do have a provision for dealing with problematic committee members by removing them “with or without cause” and appointing replacements, who then apparently would need City Council approval. The council’s enabling legislation requires CSAC members to represent specific neighborhoods or agencies and names specific people to fill the seats. The bylaws don’t explain the CSAC’s authority to override council appointments. 

City spokesperson Michael Smith would not comment directly on that issue, but indicated that City lawyers reviewed the bylaws, saying “it would be improper and inappropriate to divulge privileged legal information.” He noted a provision of the City Charter requiring such committees to have bylaws that must be vetted by the city attorney. That provision also requires committees to have bylaws in place within 90 days of establishing a quorum, a deadline the CSAC missed by months. 

— John Ruch

Kimberly Reeves

Agnes Scott selects new Executive Director for Sustainable Center

Agnes Scott University has named Kimberly Reeves as the university’s newest Center for Sustainability executive director, succeeding Susan Kidd. 

As a freshman at Agnes Scott, Reeves became the Center’s first student employee through a work-study program. She also received a master’s degree in environmental planning and design from the University of Georgia. For the past two years, Reeves has led the Office of Sustainability at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. 

The university has reduced its carbon footprint by 30 percent since 2018, according to President Leocadia Zak. Agnes Scott was named one of the Top 20 Green Colleges in America by The Princeton Review. 

“To say that I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to return to the Agnes Scott community is only scratching the surface. I will strive to continue the advancement of Susan Kidd’s legacy in sustainability, climate change and intersectional environmental justice,” Reeves wrote in a press release. “Reaching the college’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2037 will take a community effort, including leadership from our students, faculty, staff, alumnae and greater Decatur and Atlanta residents. I am excited and filled with hope to be part of this chapter of Agnes Scott’s mission to educate women to engage the intellectual and social challenges of our time.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Jehovah’s Witnesses return to places of worship, but not door-knocking

Jehovah’s Witnesses in metro Atlanta and around the country have returned to in-person worship after a two-year pandemic shutdown. But their famous door-to-door ministry remains on hold.

The Christian denomination had one of the most hardcore shutdowns among religious organizations, citing the sanctity of life and the Biblical prescription to love your neighbor as reasons to avoid any COVID-spreading risk. Their places of worship, called kingdom halls, shuttered on March 20, 2020, and made no reopening moves, unlike some faiths that waged court battles over gathering restrictions. 

That also ended the “public ministry,” or door-knocking evangelism by members, that the faith is probably best known for among outsiders. It was replaced with letter-writing and phone calls.

Kingdom halls reopened this week with a remote hybrid option for services, according to a press release. But the door-to-door ministry remains on hold.

— John Ruch

Georgia Trust to hold gala, honor preservationists

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is holding its annual gala on May 7 at Buckhead’s historic “Pink Castle” mansion.

The Georgia Trust is an Atlanta-based statewide nonprofit known for its annual “Places in Peril” list. The “Preservation Gala” is its main fundraising event and includes awards given to preservationists and supporters.

This year’s honorees will include:

  • Barbara and Les Callahan of Atlanta, whose work includes funding the Georgia Trust’s Callahan Incentive Grant.
  • Melanie Turner and Stan Benecki, the owners and restorers of the Pink Castle. Also known as the Calhoun House and Trygveson, the Pink Castle is a 1923 mansion on Pinestream Road.
  • Jerry Lominack of Savannah, an architect who has worked for over 50 years in his city’s Landmark Historic District. 

Tickets to the gala are $150 for members; $250 for non-members (includes membership to the Trust); and $100 for guests under 40. To buy tickets or get more information, see georgiatrust.org or call 404-885-7812.

— John Ruch

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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