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Reporter’s Notebook: DeKalb considers paid time off for employees to vote, Atlanta Mayor expands Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, King Center’s Beloved Community International Expo

The week in local news.

This weekend, iconic superheroes, villains and comic book characters will come to life in downtown Atlanta with the annual DragonCon. To check out the action firsthand, head over to Peachtree Street on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the DragonCon Parade. Enjoy your trip into another reality!

On to other recent news: 

DeKalb considers paid time off for County employees to vote

DeKalb County is considering giving its government employees paid time off (PTO) to vote on election days.

A proposal for four hours of PTO is under consideration in the DeKalb Board of Commissioners’ Employee Relations & Public Safety Committee (ERPS). It’s a scaled-back version of a proposal for an Election Day holiday made by District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry, who chairs ERPS.

The County currently follows a state law that requires any employer — public or private — to give employees two hours off to vote if their shift schedule does not already give them that much time to get to the polls before or after work. The law does not require that employees are paid for those two hours. 

At an Aug. 25 ERPS meeting, District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader said he thought PTO was a better solution than a holiday. He said it’s important for the County offices to be open and functioning on Election Day and that a holiday could simply be seen as time off, not an incentive to vote. But he also wanted to ensure that County work was not a hindrance to voting. “We give people a half-day off for giving blood,” he noted. 

County Chief Operating Officer Zach Williams said the administration favors a PTO solution as well. Consensus jelled around the idea of four hours of PTO.

The County law department will work on a way to formalize that idea, which might be an ordinance or just an employee policy update. The item is scheduled to return to EPRS on Sept. 6 and the full board on Sept. 13.

— John Ruch

Chandra Farley.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens expands Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, announces new staff additions

This week, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced the expansion of the city’s Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, naming two new additions to the team.

Chandra Farley was selected as the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer and John R. Seydel III was promoted to Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer. Farley most recently led ReSolve Consulting, an energy justice consulting firm. Before his promotion, Seydel served as the city’s director of sustainability for more than five years.

In their new roles, the pair will be tasked with Atlanta’s sustainability plans, goals and programs — including updating the City’s comprehensive climate and energy plan, creating the city’s first comprehensive food systems plan and managing Atlanta’s resources from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. 

“The world is experiencing a climate crisis, and our Administration understands the sizeable impact rising energy costs, barriers to food accessibility and other hardships have on communities across Atlanta — particularly those in historically underserved areas,” Dickens said in a press release. “With Chandra and John’s leadership, I look forward to expanding Atlanta’s role in building a smart, sustainable future for generations of Atlantans.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Journalist who leads UGA’s Red & Black student media is stepping down

The acclaimed journalist who has led the publishing company for the University of Georgia’s student news outlet The Red & Black is stepping down.

Rebecca Burns, who has served as executive director of the nonprofit Red & Black Publishing Company in Athens for seven years, announced on Aug. 30 on Twitter that she will leave the job early next year. 

“It’s been the most amazing experience of my professional life, but I’m ready to have a little more time for travel and personal projects,” said Burns in the announcement. “I’ll forever be a supporter of The Red & Black and all student news organizations. They play an increasingly important role in our democracy and shape the next generation of journalism.”

Burns previously served as editor-in-chief of Atlanta magazine and has authored three books on the city’s history, including the 1906 “Race Riot” massacre and the political tensions around Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 funeral. Last year, she was named to the Atlanta Press Club’s Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1893, The Red & Black has a reputation for high-quality work from students at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and also for fierce editorial independence from the school. 

The publishing company is now seeking Burns’ replacement.

— John Ruch

Tom Cousins, Warren Buffett and Julian Robertson at the 2011 Purpose Built conference in Indianapolis (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Philanthropist Julian Robertson remembered by Atlanta leaders

A key investor in Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities, Julian Robertson, died Aug. 23 at the age of 90 at his home in Manhattan.

Robertson was a Wall Street investor who helped create the hedge-fund industry — becoming a multi-billionaire according to his obituary in The New York Times.

Purpose Built Communities had three founding benefactors — Atlanta developer and philanthropist Tom Cousins, U.S. businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett and Robertson.

The three men joined together nearly 15 years ago to cover all the administrative costs of Purpose Built Communities, established nearly 15 years ago to replicate the comprehensive revitalization model of Atlanta’s East Lake community across vulnerable neighborhoods throughout the country.

To this day, Purpose Built offers its consulting services free of charge to help nurture community champions and local organizations to create thriving mixed-income communities. Part of the formula includes establishing quality cradle-to-college educational offerings and complete neighborhood amenities such as fresh food, health and wellness.

Purpose Built now is working with more than 25 network members while mentoring dozens of others in what is known as a place-based model to combat poverty.

Purpose Built Robertson

Julian Robertson greets Shirley Franklin, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“Julian Robertson was a true friend of the communities and families of the Purpose Built Communities network and East Lake Foundation,” said former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who served as CEO of the nonprofit after leaving office. “As an early investor in the development and growth of the model, he asked the hard questions and set high expectations for innovation and integrity.”

Carol Naughton, the current CEO of Purpose Built, echoed those sentiments.

“Julian was a prince,” she said. “He was kind, funny and amazingly generous. He inspired our entire network when he attended our conferences. We will miss him.”

Naughton went on to say Robertston’s death has not impacted the funding of Purpose Built. 

Note to readers: I was fortunate to meet Robertson more than once. I especially remember interviewing Buffett, Robertson and Cousins at Purpose Built’s national conference in Indianapolis in 2011. The conference gave the three founding investors an opportunity to witness the model in action.

— Maria Saporta

Clarkston energy-efficiency training program gets $375K in funding

A Clarkston program that trains refugees and others in energy-efficient home upgrades provided to local residents for free will continue at least two more years after receiving $375,000 in City and DeKalb County grant funding.

The “Empower Clarkston” program is offered by Tekton Career Training, a nonprofit that offers a variety of trade skills programs in the city famous as a home for resettled refugees from around the world. It’s a two-week course that pays trainees $15 an hour. City residents can receive free home upgrades carried out by the trainees.

The new grant funding ultimately comes from the federal American Rescue Plan. District 6 County Commissioner Ted Terry, a former mayor of Clarkston, secured $250,000 of the funding, while the City, with advocacy from Councilmember YT Bell, provided $125,000.

“By funding Empower Clarkston, we can ensure better workforce training, provide energy-efficient improvements for vulnerable residents and strengthen our county’s fight against climate change,” Terry said in a press release. “I’m thrilled to see this fantastic program continue to spread good throughout our county.”

Empower Clarkston is currently taking applications for trainees for a course starting on Sept. 19, as well as applications from homeowners looking for upgrades. For details, see the Tekton website.

— John Ruch

King Center hosts annual Beloved Community International Expo

On Saturday, Sept. 10, The King Center is holding its 2022 Beloved Community International Expo to “travel around the world without leaving Atlanta.” 

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., people can come by downtown’s King Center for a free celebration of over 20 nationalities and cultures, including activities, performances and food. For four years in a row, The King Center has held the Expo as a community celebration of global culture.

“The Expo is designed to enhance one’s world view and develop a deeper appreciation for the interrelatedness of humanity by exposing people to many of the diverse nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures around the globe,” said Bernice King, CEO of The King Center and daughter of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. “…This exposure better equips and empowers one to create The Beloved Community where ALL people are valued and treated with respect, dignity and fairness.”

The celebration is presented in collaboration with Martin Luther King Jr., National Historic Park and the Atlanta Consular Corps.

— Hannah E. Jones

5K run/walk focuses on gathering African American men to provide free health screenings

On Sept. 24, The National African American Male Wellness Agency is hosting a 5K at Friendship Baptist Church in west Atlanta. 

With the mission to increase the life expectancy of African American men through physical, mental and financial health, fatherhood and research, the agency uses its core initiatives to develop men into great fathers and remove barriers that may hinder their participation in the lives of their children. 

Singer Musiq Soul Child and the president of Morris Brown College, Dr. Kevin James, are this year’s honorary chairs.

The event starts at 7 a.m. and will have health screenings for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, HIV and other STIs will be available. 

Click here to find out how to register to run, create a team or become a volunteer.  

— Allison Joyner

The new TK Elevator headquarters in Atlanta. (Photo courtesy of TK Elevator.)

TK Elevator’s Atlanta headquarters boasts 100 percent renewable electricity 

TK Elevator, the fourth largest elevator manufacturer in the world, has newly achieved 100 percent renewable electricity at its Innovation and Qualification Center, the Atlanta headquarters that opened in early 2022. Earlier this year, the sustainable building earned a LEED Gold certification, the second TK Elevator building in North America.

Cobb Electric Membership Corporation is the building’s energy supplier. By 2030, the company aims to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity in all global operations.

“We are committing countless resources towards making the world safer and healthier, including purchasing renewable electricity. How we source energy is a priority for our company as we work to achieve our ambitious carbon targets,” Kevin Lavallee, CEO of Business Unit North America and Group COO Field, wrote in a press release.

— Hannah E. Jones

(Credit: Black Radio United For The Vote.)

Black radio stations come together for Black Radio United for the Vote

Several of Atlanta’s Black radio stations have teamed up to inform their listeners of voter education and mobilizations ahead of the November 2022 elections. 

Nine stations, including KISS 104.1 (WALR/Cox Media Group), Hot 107.9 (WHTA/UrbanOne), and NPR affiliate Jazz 91.9 (WCLK/ Clark Atlanta University), have come together to create positive changes as they look toward future elections. 

The program directors of these stations created Black Radio United For The Vote to educate and mobilize Black voters across metro Atlanta and to get them to the polls on Nov. 8. 

“Nowhere else in the country has Black radio made such an impact on the decisions our communities have made,” said Terri Avery, Director of Branding and Programming for KISS 104.1/CMG Atlanta. 

“It is important that all in our country and communities know how to vote, when to vote and where to vote as all of us, as citizens, have a fundamental obligation to exercise our right to vote,” said Rick Caffey, SVP/Market Manager for Audacy Atlanta. 

“It’s an honor to be able to team up once again with our fellow broadcasters to serve the best interests of communities of color throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area,” said Derek Harper, Operations Manager for UrbanOne Atlanta. 

To learn more about registration deadlines, early voting and other information, log on to their website.

— Allison Joyner

Tom Boney.

Westside Future Fund welcomes new board member

Westside Future Fund (WFF) recently announced a new addition to its Board of Directors, Tom Boney, executive president and president of Novelis North America.  

Boney will join Beverly Tatum, president emerita at Spelman College; Rodney Bullard, vice president of Community Affairs and Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation; and John Gamble, chief financial officer at Equifax. The Coca-Cola Company appoints an executive to sit on the board of WFF. 

“Joining WFF’s Board of Directors empowers us at Novelis to support the safety, sustainability, and diversity of this historic community,” Boney said in a press release. “This is consistent with our approach across the 17 communities where we operate across North America, and we’re excited to leverage this expertise in support of our company’s hometown here in Atlanta.”

WFF is a local nonprofit focused on the equitable revitalization of the Westside, with a focus on English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center.  

— Hannah E. Jones

East Point, Fulton County partners to host marker dedication ceremony for lynching victim

On Sunday, Sept. 4, the City of East Point’s Public Art Division, in partnership with the Fulton County Rememberance Coalition, will host the marker dedication ceremony commemorating the life of 14-year-old Warren Powell, who was lynched in 1889.

Powell, arrested for allegedly attacking a white girl while she was walking home from school, was seized by a mob of 15 to 20 white men from the East Point jail and was lynched. 

The ceremony will take place at 2847 Main Street in East Point at 12:30 p.m. For more information visit the city website.

— Allison Joyner

Labor Day Art in the Park at Marietta Square

This upcoming weekend, Art in the Park is back for its 36th year in the heart of Marietta Square. 

The fine arts festival will feature 170 artists showcasing their work, including painting, woodworking, photography and jewelry. In addition to live music and food trucks, there will also be a Chalk Spot, an interactive display where kids can design a three-foot box within a larger piece. 

The three-day festival usually attracts up to 45,000 visitors. A portion of the funds will go to the Marietta Business Association, serving as the Association’s largest fundraiser.

Click here to find more information and a festival map. 

— Hannah E. Jones

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, 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 can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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