LISTEN: On the Friday, March 3 edition of Georgia Today: A massive new film studio planned for Albany is going elsewhere; Buckhead cityhood fails in the Legislature; and the legacy of suffragist Mamie George Williams.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, March 3. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, the massive new film studio planned for Albany is going elsewhere. Buckhead cityhood fails in the legislature. And we'll take a look back at the legacy of suffragist Mamie George Williams. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1

Peter Biello: The developer of a massive film studio once slated for Albany now plans to build the studio south of Atlanta. Attorney and former political adviser Patrick Millsaps is planning a $700 million project in the city of Chattahoochee Hills. That's according to a development plan filed with the state. Millsaps told Chattahoochee Hills leaders last year that his Albany plans fell through when the pandemic hit. Meanwhile, Georgia's top lawmakers say they want to review the state's aggressive film tax credits, which have given film production here a boost. Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and House Speaker John Burns issued a joint statement promising the review after the current legislative session. They say their goal is to make sure taxpayers are getting a good return on investment. Critics of the credits say most of the benefits go to out-of-state companies and out-of-state workers.


Yard signs supporting the initiative to incorporate Buckhead as a distinct city. Proponents of the effort have fielded thousands of requests for yard signs during the first three weeks of availability, pictured on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in Atlanta.

Yard signs supporting the initiative to incorporate Buckhead as a distinct city line one of its roadsides, pictured Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in Atlanta. In March 2023, the proposal for a referendum on the issue was roundly defeated in the Georgia Senate.

Credit: Jenni Girtman, AP Images for Buckhead City Committee

Story 2

Peter Biello: An effort to get citizens in Fulton County's Buckhead neighborhood to leave the city of Atlanta has failed in the Georgia Senate. GPB's Stephen Fowler has more.

Stephen Fowler: The bill, put forward by Republicans outside Atlanta, would have taken the unprecedented step of asking select voters in the area whether they wanted to create the city of Buckhead City by cutting out a big chunk of Atlanta. Ten Republicans joined 23 Democrats to vote down the effort, including John Albers of Roswell.

John Albers: This makes no sense politically, operationally or financially. So what are the next steps? How do we really fix the problem? It's time to drop the angst and the egos and start working together.

Stephen Fowler: Bipartisan opposition cited legal concerns about the move, including a negative impact on finances, no concrete plans to address schools and other logistical impossibilities. For GPB News, I'm Stephen Fowler.


Story 3

Peter Biello: Bald eagles in Coastal Georgia hatched fewer chicks last year due to bird flu. That's according to a new study from the University of Georgia. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: Researchers found that the H5N1 virus decreased fledging rates in Coastal Georgia by 30%. Nicole Nemeth is a UGA professor who led the study.

Nicole Nemeth: I really couldn't sleep at night because I knew that these birds and many, many other bird species too, were suffering from this very severe viral illness. A lot of these birds have not had a lot of exposure to these type of viruses before, especially raptors.

Benjamin Payne: She says the virus has the potential to roll back successful conservation efforts that began in the 1960s, when the bald eagle nearly became extinct. Nemeth's team is already seeing signs that the species is struggling this year because of H5N1. The best thing that citizens can do, she says, is to report any dead eagles they encounter to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne.


Story 4

Peter Biello: A bill aimed at tackling the issue of homelessness passed the Georgia Senate late last night. Senate Bill 62 passed only after a section which would have paved the way for state-sanctioned tent shelters was removed during floor debate. Remaining in the bill are sections protecting preexisting local ordinances against camping by the homeless and a section describing an — and a section describing an audit by the state of all homeless services performed by nonprofit groups. Jake Hall is the executive director of United to End Homelessness, an arm of the United Way of Central Georgia in Macon. He says the audit might be a good idea.

Jake Hall: Do you think an asset map of where service dollars are going is an — is an important thing? Always, because there isn't always geographic equity in how these funds are dispersed in any state.

Peter Biello: The audit of all homeless service providers described in SB 62 would have to be completed by the end of the year. The bill now heads to the Georgia House.



Story 5

Peter Biello: State lawmakers want to change a Georgia law that allows clerks and judges who process passports to take home, as personal income, the fees that people pay them for processing, GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Sen. Kate Kirkpatrick, would require Clarkson judges to disclose how much they earned from passport fees. It would also make them split that money with the county where they work.

Kay Kirkpatrick: We should not be taking money home that is not disclosed or going through payroll at the county level.

Sarah Kallis: The bill cites a Cobb County clerk who made over $400,000, but some say the bill would discourage clerks and judges in rural areas from providing passport services.

Sen. Derek Mallow: But it is the intention of this body to legislate a few clerks that will have an impact on the rest of us.

Sarah Kallis: The bill passed 34 to 19 and now moves to the House. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis at the state capitol.


Story 6

Peter Biello: Paramedics are often the first to reach sick or injured people. They're also one of many professions facing severe shortages. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports on what they told lawmakers about the future of their workforce.

Sofi Gratas: EMS workers said finding solutions for workforce shortages is their priority because right now they've only gotten busier. Some paramedics point to early education as a solution, like Jason Lewis from Oglethorpe County.

Jason Lewis: The only way that we're going to get past the shortage is to put EMS into public high schools.

Sofi Gratas: Others say they can use more telemedicine to keep people from needing an ambulance at all. Mark Waterman is chief medical director in Clayton County.

Mark Waterman: The number of patients who have fallen through the cracks; don't have a doctor, don't have a clinic, don't have medical health insurance. Those patients tend to be the over utilizers.

Sofi Gratas: In 2021, there were just over 10,000 EMTs and paramedics working in Georgia for close to 11 million people. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas.



Story 7

Peter Biello: A new monument is scheduled to go up at the intersection of East Broad and East Henry Street in Savannah to commemorate suffragist and community leader Mamie George Williams after women won the right to vote in 1920. Williams began helping black women register and is credited with helping more than 40,000 women vote in that year's presidential election. With me now for more on Mamie George Williams, his remarkable life as historian and author. Velma Thomas Fann. So tell us a little bit about Mamie George Williams's early life. She grew up in Savannah?

Velma Thomas Fann: Right. She was born and reared in Savannah. She went to the Beach Institute. She also went to Atlanta University. And she graduated from there. And she stayed in the Savannah area. Her parents were religious leaders and very, very prominent at that time. So all of her life, she stuck very closely to the Savannah community.

Peter Biello: And when did she get into politics and why? What drove her into that?

Velma Thomas Fann: I'm not sure why. She first started out with the Toussaint L'Ouverture American Red Cross. And so she volunteered 2,400 hours of volunteer service. So she was always very civic-minded. And I think people just kind of kept an eye on her. And pretty soon, she just kind of walked into the politics, starting, I guess, around 1920, because she was a suffragist. And so they looked and said "This woman from Savannah is making some gains." And people really started to notice her.

Peter Biello: What was it about her that that allowed people to say, "Whoa, she's noteworthy?"

Velma Thomas Fann: I think it had to do with her stature. She seemed to be a woman who stood her ground, a woman who got things done. She married very prominently and I think that helped as well. But she was very focused and she she stood flatfooted for what she believed in.

Peter Biello: What were some of the barriers she might have faced back then?

Velma Thomas Fann: Racial and sexual barriers. She fought both. So being the first African American woman to hold a seat on the Republican National Committee from Georgia and the first African American woman to hold that seat in the whole nation, she stood out and she really felt that she had to speak for the cause of African American political leaders, particularly the Republican Party, of which she was a part.

Peter Biello: And I feel like you can't understate how big an achievement that would have been. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how she rose to that level.

Velma Thomas Fann: She rose to the level — she was appointed by Linc Johnson, who was a prominent Republican leader here in Georgia. And because of her work with the suffragist movement, her ability to get things done, when the Republican Party decided that they would let women into the Republican National Committee, he tapped Mamie George Williams. So that's how she was introduced to that — to that circle. And then she won that seat later on. So she served on the Republican National Committee from 1924 to 1932.

Peter Biello: What does it mean to you, someone who's studied her life and legacy, to know that there's going to be a marker put up in Savannah in May?

Velma Thomas Fann: Well, I was surprised. I was surprised that no one knew who she was, first of all, particularly in that area. I was surprised that her legacy had been forgotten. So when we moved forward and made a submission for the historical marker and looked as to where to put it, we looked at Dixon Park because that is the street that she lived on. And I thought, "If this is not more fitting that all of this is all coming together 99 years after she first sat on the Republican National Committee."

Peter Biello: So the marker is going to go on the street she lived on. Is her house still standing?

Velma Thomas Fann: Her house is still standing.

Peter Biello: And is it marked somehow that it's her house?

Velma Thomas Fann: No, I haven't knocked on that door yet.

Peter Biello: So it's privately owned.

Velma Thomas Fann: It's privately owned.

Peter Biello: Do those who live in the house that she once lived in know the significance?

Velma Thomas Fann: I don't think they do.

Peter Biello: So there's someone in Savannah right now — I mean, I'm sure there are a lot of people in Savannah living in historically significant homes — but, wow, they don't know.

Velma Thomas Fann: So I'll have to send them a letter and say, please come to the unveiling. She lived there.

Peter Biello: All right. Well, if you live on, what is it, East Henry Street or East Broad?

Velma Thomas Fann: East Broad Street.

Peter Biello: If you live on East Broad Street, watch your mailbox.

Velma Thomas Fann: I'm sorry. East Henry Street. Yeah. Watch Your mailbox is East Henry and East Broad.

Peter Biello: Was there anything We didn't talk about that maybe we should have?

Velma Thomas Fann: I usually like to pay tribute to her with a song, if you don't mind.

Peter Biello: Is it a song that she sang or is it a...

Velma Thomas Fann: Mm-mm. It's a song that Black women sing.

Peter Biello: Please. We would love to hear it.

Velma Thomas Fann: [Singing] May the work I've done speak for me. May the work I've done speak for me. When I've done the best that I can and nobody understands, may the work I've done speak for me.

Peter Biello: That's beautiful.

Velma Thomas Fann: Thank you.

Peter Biello: Well, Velma Thomas Fann, thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate it.

Velma Thomas Fann: Thank you. Appreciate you.

Peter Biello: I've been speaking with author and historian Velma Thomas Fann about the life and legacy of Mamie George Williams. A monument to Mamie George Williams is scheduled to go up in Savannah in May.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. Let me leave you with this joke that I used to hear growing up in New England, as we head into the weekend: W"hat do you call a sunny, beautiful day that is preceded by two rainy, cloudy, lousy days? Monday." That's a joke that does not apply for this weekend. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, if the forecast holds, are supposed to have plenty of sunshine. Hope you get outside for some sunshine, if that's your thing. Also, be mindful of the pollen. The pollen is out in full force this time of year and it is not even officially spring yet.

If you've got any feedback for us for this podcast, my bad jokes notwithstanding, you can send it by email. The address is And if you like what you hear, leave us a review. That helps other listeners find us. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening and have a great weekend.


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