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Week in Review for Oct. 27

By Arlinda Smith Broady - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



Statewide

Democratic congressman faces primary fight

Democrats have their first high-profile intraparty fight of the election season.

DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown launched his campaign Wednesday to unseat U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson with a four-stop kickoff tour across the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from DeKalb to Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties. Brown said restless voters are in need of a more dynamic leader.

Johnson’s closest election since wresting the seat from Cynthia McKinney in 2006 was a three-way primary in 2010, in which he prevailed over two fellow Democrats from vote-rich DeKalb.

Metro Atlanta

Voters already see glitches

Problems with the state’s new election software mean thousands of metro area residents don’t know where they’re supposed to vote just two weeks before Election Day.

About 20,000 Fulton County residents still haven’t received notices letting them know where they’re supposed to vote, and hundreds more may have been told to go to the wrong precinct. Cobb County is late in telling some Marietta and Kennesaw residents about election changes that affect them. Officials in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties also have reported problems with the state software.

Fulton and Cobb were expected to mail precinct cards late last week — after the state-mandated deadline of Oct. 7. The delays have officials worried that thousands of voters could show up at the wrong precinct on Election Day. The city of Atlanta may send its own precinct cards to ensure voters get the word.

Atlanta

APS racketeering case closer to trial

The racketeering conspiracy case against 34 former Atlanta Public Schools educators and administrators moved a step closer to trial Thursday when the Georgia Court of Appeals chose not to consider a contentious pretrial issue.

The court declined to hear an appeal filed by two former middle school principals who are under indictment in the case. They contend that when initially interviewed by investigators, APS defendants gave coerced statements because they had been told they risked losing their jobs if they did not cooperate. If this happened, the principals’ lawyers said, the sweeping indictment should be dismissed.

The racketeering indictment accuses the 34 defendants of conspiring to change answers on federally mandated standardized tests so they could meet academic standards and benefit from bonus pay. Other charges include false statements, false swearing, influencing witnesses and theft by taking. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Panda twins have new names

During a Wednesday morning ceremony broadcast by ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Zoo Atlanta’s male panda cubs, formerly known as Cub A and Cub B, were given the names Mei Lun and Mei Huan.

The ceremony, presided over by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, came after a national contest sponsored by the television news show. More than 50,000 voters nationwide chose from a list of possible Chinese names.

In accordance with Chinese tradition, the panda twins, born on July 15, were not named until they were 100 days old. The offspring of mother Lun Lun and father Yang Yang are the first surviving panda twins born in the U.S. They have three brothers, Mei Lan, Xi Lan and Po.

Gwinnett County

Tax would fund extension of 911

Gwinnett County plans to build a $5 million emergency communication system that would provide video from inside county and city of Buford schools directly to the 911 emergency dispatch center so that police can respond more quickly and effectively in an emergency like a school shooting.

But the system will be built only if voters approve a $498 million special sales tax renewal next month.

Gwinnett Police Chief Charlie Walters said his department began thinking about this type of system in December, after 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

DeKalb County

Decatur split on demolitions

The Decatur City Commission voted 4-0 Monday in favor of a 90-day moratorium for large-tree removal — which includes healthy specimen trees more than 12 inches in diameter — as a part of construction or renovation. But Decatur’s top officials were nearly as divided as their constituents in voting 3-2 against a moratorium on single-family residential structural demolition. Many for and against the changes in Decatur’s skyline said they felt a moratorium wasn’t the way to go.

The city has a firmer grasp on the tree issue. Last month, Decatur hired a consultant to help produce a Unified Development Ordinance, which will collate existing — and often conflicting — land, stormwater, tree and zoning ordinances.

Forsyth County

Expert: Bears want food, not trouble

There have been several bear sightings in south Forsyth and north Fulton counties over the past several weeks. According to state wildlife biologists, the appearance of the furry animals isn’t completely out of place.

Don McGowan, a state wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said the bears aren’t looking for trouble; they’re looking for food. And this year there may be more sightings because of a shortage of their favorite fall snack: acorns.

Bears find plenty of substitute foods in the neighborhoods, McGowan said. Bird seed, pet food and household garbage make for good snacks.

Bears are omnivorous — they will eat almost anything — but they do not pose the same risk to small pets as coyotes. But while there has never been an unprovoked bear attack on a human reported in Georgia, people should not intentionally leave food out for bears.

Paulding County

Airport deals gets OK

Despite opposition from some neighbors of Paulding County’s airport, local officials voted Tuesday to take another major step toward preparing the small facility for airline service.

During a morning meeting at the airport’s new terminal building some 38 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, the Paulding County Airport Authority unanimously approved issuing $3.4 million in bonds to pay for a taxiway expansion.

That was followed in the evening by the Paulding County Commission voting 3-1 to approve the 10-year bond issue.

Some residents are upset about the expansion after learning this month that a lease deal was quietly struck nearly a year ago to bring airline service to the Paulding airport.

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