On this Wednesday May 24 edition of Georgia Today: The city of Augusta is hit by a cyberattack; the Atlanta land trust breaks ground on its latest project; we'll tell you about two plots of land which will become new state parks.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, May 24th. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, the city of Augusta is hit by a cyberattack. The Atlanta Land Trust breaks ground on its latest project. And we'll tell you about two plots of land that will become new state parks. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: Augusta city officials say cyber attackers accessed the city's computer systems, causing disruptions in city business. They say the cyber attack began on Sunday. Mayor Garnet Johnson says the city's information technology department is investigating whether the attack targeted sensitive data. His update yesterday did not say what functions were impacted, but did say the attack was unrelated to outages the city experienced last week.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Georgia's insurance commissioner has named a director for the state's soon to be launched health insurance exchange. Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King announced on Monday the appointment of Cheryl Gardner to lead the exchange, called Georgia Access. Gardner previously held similar jobs in New Mexico and Arkansas. She'll oversee Georgia's move away from the federal healthcare.gov to its own website. More than 800,000 Georgians get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. That's according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: A South Korean company will build a $40 million factory to make heating and cooling systems near a Hyundai Motor Group auto assembly plant in Coastal Georgia. GPB's Devon Zwald has more.

Devon Zwald: Hanon Systems announced yesterday that it would build the plant in Statesboro with plans to hire at least 160 new employees. The company is the eighth major supplier to locate in the region after Hyundai announced a $5.5 billion plant to assemble electric vehicles and batteries in Bryan County. From the GPB newsroom, I'm Devon Zwald.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: More police officers are patrolling some of Buckhead's busiest commercial thoroughfares, thanks to a privately funded initiative to provide more security in the affluent north Atlanta neighborhood. The Buckhead Safety Alliance announced Monday the launch of its private security patrols by off-duty Atlanta Police Department officers who will patrol five commercial districts. The new patrols were formed based on recommendations from a 2022 report by the Buckhead Public Safety Task Force. Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood, who represents Buckhead on the council, said the new security patrols, quote, "will actually make us safer in Buckhead for our residents and our visitors."

Atlanta Police Deparment Hiring

Story 5:

Peter Biello: Buying a house these days is just too expensive for a lot of people. But since 2009, the Atlanta Land Trust has been working with the mayor's office to create permanently affordable housing. GPB's Amanda Andrews attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the latest project in Atlanta's East Lake neighborhood.

Amanda Andrews: Community members, leaders from the city of Atlanta and DeKalb County officials spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony about the importance of affordable housing.

Community member: You see the layers that I'm talking about just to get affordable ...

Amanda Andrews: But it all starts with the Atlanta Land Trust. The 40 townhomes under construction here in East Lake are their latest project. When Makeisha Robey bought her home with the Land Trust's help about four years ago, she says it felt like her only option.

Makeisha Robey: I really didn't qualify for a lot of the other programs and down payment — down payment assistance programs that were out there. My — my income at the time was just too low. I had consistent income. I had worked, you know, for a long time. I had money saved, but it just wasn't enough.

Amanda Andrews: Amanda Raine is executive director of the land trust. She says what made Ruby's purchase possible is that Roby only owns her house, not the ground underneath it.

Amanda Raine: We use a dual ownership structure in order to create homes that are permanently affordable. So when the Atlanta Land Trust sells a house, we are just selling the house itself and retaining ownership of the underlying land.

Amanda Andrews: In Atlanta, land value can account for about a quarter of the cost of a home. For $300,000 home, that can be a $75,000 discount. When they're ready to leave, owners are required to sell to another low income family. Owners get to pocket about 25% of the appreciation in the home in the time they live there. Raine says that balance is building wealth for owners against keeping homes affordable.

Amanda Raine: The resale formula that we use at the Atlanta Land Trust is an appraisal-based resale formula that allows our homeowners to share in up to 25% of the appreciation of the home during the time that they live there. So they get a portion of the equity and then are able to use that when they sell the house for a down payment on another home.

Amanda Andrews: Last year, the Atlanta Land Trust held a groundbreaking for 36 townhome units in Atlanta's Oakland City neighborhood. To qualify, a potential buyer must verify their income is less than 80% of the median income in Atlanta. For a family of four, that's less than $70,000 a year. Stewardship manager Karen Babineau has been a traditional real estate agent. Now she pairs eligible buyers with the land trust. She says like many people with her background, initially, it was difficult to understand the model.

Karen Babineau: It works. I had to learn that, but I know I know it, and I'm confident that it works. I see it. I see people. I see people's lives have been changed, you know, by owning a home and learning about estate planning. They have an asset now that they need to protect.

Amanda Andrews: The Atlanta Land Trust reports over half of land trust homeowners go on to purchase traditional homes after selling their houses. Later this year, they'll break ground on another 40-unit townhome community. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews in Atlanta.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: Atlanta is moving forward with plans to buy 46 acres in the South River Forest for the creation of parks and trails. Atlanta City Council approved legislation at its meeting last week to spend up to $1.6 million to buy the land, located in two separate areas of the forest. The first site is roughly a dozen acres nestled between the Interstate 75/85 Connector and the South River. The second site is about 34 acres just north of Empire Park. All 46 acres are not located near the site of the city's planned public safety training center, which is also in the South River Forest, but in unincorporated DeKalb County.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: The leader of Georgia's Department of Natural Resources has been chosen to oversee the state park at Jekyll Island. The island's board voted yesterday to hire Mark Williams as their executive director, succeeding Jones Hooks, who led the Jekyll Island Authority for 15 years. Williams has been DNR commissioner for the past 13 years. An estimated three and a half million people each year visit Jekyll Island, a once-private beachfront getaway for wealthy industrialists that the state bought in 1947.

Story 8:

Peter Biello: A popular state park in Southwest Georgia is expanding. The Georgia Board of Natural Resources yesterday approved the purchase of two parcels of land to add to Providence Canyon State Park. The 1,700 acres cost the state $3 million, with most of the funding coming from the 2018 voter-approved Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. The act dedicates sales tax revenue from outdoor recreation equipment to land conservation.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: Georgia congressman Rich McCormick yesterday became the state's first elected official to endorse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. DeSantis has yet to announce he's running, but is expected to do so as early as this week. In his announcement, McCormick did not mention Donald Trump, the current GOP frontrunner by a wide margin.


Story 10:

Peter Biello: Commissioners in Albany's Dougherty County abruptly fired their county administrator Monday. Before the 4 to 3 vote, County Chairman [Lorenzo] Heard said the administrator, Michael McCoy, disrespected him by hiring an assistant county administrator without telling him. Commissioner Russell Gray told Heard that such hires are typically made without publicity.

Russell Gray: Here you're going to be put the entire county out with no administrative head whatsoever. Entire county, because your ego was —

Lorenzo Heard: Now, listen, don't address the chair like that, sir. Please. I'm talking about the dishonor of the chair. Not of my ego, sir.

Russell Gray: Well, I mean, you're the one who brought this up, sir. All due respect.

Lorenzo Heard: But it has nothing to do with ego. It has to do with respecting the chair, sir.

Peter Biello: Gray said the vote leaves the county at risk for an expensive lawsuit. Neither Heard nor a county spokesperson immediately returned request for comment.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: Atlanta's historic Tara Theatre is set to reopen tomorrow, months after it got a new owner. Atlanta Film Society executive director Chris Escobar took over the theater's operations after Regal Cinema closed it in November. Escobar says the Memorial Day reopening weekend will include some classic films, including the appropriate Back to the Future Part II.

Chris Escobar: It's the second-oldest movie theater we have, despite it only being 55 years old. Most other cities have far more historic movie theaters. In Atlanta, that's quite an endangered species.

Peter Biello: The Tara is also one of only three arthouse theaters in Atlanta. Escobar says getting it back into working condition cost several hundred thousand dollars.

After closing its doors November 2022, the Tara theater is under new ownership and on track to reopen.

After closing its doors November 2022, the Tara theater is under new ownership and on track to reopen.

Credit: Tara Theatre

Story 12:

Peter Biello: Four years after opening, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine will graduate its inaugural class of physicians tomorrow from its campus in South Georgia. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more.

Sofi Gratas: Fifty-three students in the inaugural class will graduate with a doctorate in osteopathic medicine. It's the first class of future physicians to finish at the school's campus in Colquitt County, which opened in 2019. Interim dean of the school, Robert Lloyd says after graduation, students are heading in a variety of directions.

Robert Lloyd: Things like anesthesiology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery.

Sofi Gratas: And also primary care specialties.

Robert Lloyd: Family medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN. And I know the students are very excited. This is a milestone for them.

Sofi Gratas: Lloyd says 13 students from the inaugural class will stay in Georgia for medical residencies, with nearly half placed in rural hospitals. Peckham Moultrie is the only medical school in South Georgia. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.


Story 13:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Braves hope to avoid a series sweep as they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at Truist Park. Braves pitchers Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider had trouble in the first two games, shutting down a powerful offense led in part by former Braves infielder Freddie Freeman. Adding to Atlanta's woes were first baseman Matt Olson's defensive errors and the fact that strong starting pitchers Kyle Wright and Max Fried are on the injured list. Manager Brian Snitker says for now, the Braves are relying on other starters.

Brian Snitker: Just waiting for those guys to continue to get more starts and kind of hopefully they get, you know, a few of those guys get on a roll, too, because we're going to — we're going to need them all at some point in time.


Story 14:

Peter Biello: Tomorrow, the Braves will pay tribute to the Atlanta hip hop duo Outkast with music and art inside and outside Truist Park as they begin a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The first 15,000 fans will get an outcast bobblehead featuring group members Big Boi and Andre 3000 wearing Braves gear cruising around in a signature red Cadillac. Big Boi will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and the playbill will feature specialty Outkast artwork and content. Big Boi will be joining Brandon Gaudin and Jeff Francoeur in the broadcast booth during the game for the Bally Sports Southeast broadcast. As for festivities outside the park, Biological Misfits, featuring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, will perform Outkast tribute music on the Georgia Power Pavilion stage in the Battery. That's beginning at 6 p.m.



Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about these stories, visit our website, GPB.org/news. And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. It'll help you stay on top of all of the top stories in the Peach State. And if you've got feedback or a story idea, we'd love to hear it. Email us. The address is Georgiatoday@gpb.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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