Georgia Today: Gullah Geechee settlement rezoned; Long term health care; Georgia Co-response program
LISTEN: On the Wednesday, Sept. 13 edition of Georgia Today: McIntosh County officials vote to rezone a historic Gullah Geechee settlement on Sapelo Island, raising concerns with citizens; a new study show Georgia residents are unprepared to handle long term health care; and sheriffs in central Georgia try a new way of helping people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, Sept. 13. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, McIntosh County officials vote to rezone a historic Gullah Geechee settlement on Sapelo Island. Valdosta authorities arrest an international fugitive wanted for running a human smuggling operation. And sheriffs in central Georgia try a new way of helping people experiencing a mental health crisis. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: Officials in coastal Georgia's McIntosh County voted last night to rezone a historic Gullah Geechee settlement on Sapelo Island. As GPB's Benjamin Payne reports, many community members are concerned the change will increase property values, drive up taxes and push out the descendants of enslaved West Africans who have lived on the island for generations.
Benjamin Payne: By a 3 to 2 vote, the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners more than doubled the maximum size of homes that can be built on Hogg Hummock from 1,400 square feet to 3,000. That's a huge concern to Brunswick resident Sharon Banks, who grew up on Hogg Hummock and often visits her parents who still live there.
Sharon Banks: I don't believe it is right. I know it's not right. It's taking away the true beauty of Sapelo Island. Sapelo is a Gullah Geechee place. It's a very unique place, and should not be changed.
Benjamin Payne: McIntosh County Chairman David Stevens cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the rezoning. Afterward, he criticized Gullah Geechee property owners themselves for the loss of their homesteads. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Darian.
Peter Biello: Former President Donald Trump and other defendants are waiving their right to seek a speedy trial in the Fulton County election interference case. The filings are part of the legal wrangling that's happening as county prosecutor Fani Willis seeks to try all 19 defendants together starting next month. Trump was the first to file a speedy trial waiver yesterday. Other defendants filed waivers today. Most of the defendants have sought to separate their cases from some or all of the others, with many saying they won't be ready by Oct. 23. That's when a trial has been set for two defendants who have demanded a speedy trial.
Peter Biello: The federal judge overseeing the case involving activists' effort to stop Atlanta's planned public safety training center, is accusing city officials of moving the goalposts on their signature-gathering campaign. U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen ruled today that he does not have the authority to force the city to begin processing tens of thousands of signatures that the activists recently handed in to force a referendum on the facility. He said he can't intervene while the matter awaits input from an appeals court. But he also said Atlanta officials shifting approaches to the petition drive have contributed to widespread confusion over when their signatures were due.
Peter Biello: A new survey suggests many Georgians are unprepared when it comes to providing and paying for long-term care. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
Ellen Eldridge: Nearly 20% of Georgia's population is older than age 60, and as they age, many will need full-time care that can prove tough for family members who are navigating their own jobs with providing care. Eileen J. Tell is a researcher on gerontology who asked people over age 55 if you needed long-term care, who would pay for it? Many of them wrongly assumed the federal government would step in.
Eileen J. Tell: Most long-term care is paid out of pocket, and only when somebody depletes their income and assets do they then go on Medicaid.
Ellen Eldridge: Tell says more than 80% of participants worry they won't have enough money to retire because of their health care needs. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.
Peter Biello: Authorities in Valdosta have arrested an international fugitive charged in the Bahamas for the deaths of 17 people and an unborn child in a human smuggling operation. Records provided by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office show the fugitive Travis Jamal Moss was charged locally for speeding, DUI, providing a false name and other offenses three weeks ago. The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that Moss was one of three men indicted after a Miami-bound boat carrying as many as 40 Haitian migrants capsized in Bahamian waters last year, killing many on board. Moss had been previously expelled from the U.S. and previously charged with illegal reentry.
Peter Biello: Athens congressman Andrew Clyde is among U.S. House Republicans who announced yesterday that they won't support a short-term spending agreement needed to avert a partial government shutdown in October. In a news conference broadcast on CSPAN, Clyde called the deal "disastrous."
Andrew Clyde: We're not interested in giving up when the going gets tough. We're not interested in allowing Washington to revert back to serving the swamp instead of serving the American people.
Peter Biello: The agreement could pass the majority Republican House without the support of its most conservative members if it also has Democratic backing.
Peter Biello: State officials say Georgia had a record year for tourism and a near record year for film and television productions. Gov. Brian Kemp announced yesterday that Georgia tourism brought in nearly $40 billion in 2022. That exceeds by $2 billion, the previous record set in 2019. And the Georgia Department of Economic Development announced today that the state's film and television industry spent more than $4 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June. And that is just below the record set during the previous fiscal year.
Peter Biello: Georgia will give Hyundai Motor Group a projected $2 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to build an electric vehicle battery manufacturing complex in Southeast Georgia. That's according to Associated Press calculations released today, showing the expected incentives will rise by nearly $300 million from the amount first announced last year. The increase comes after Hyundai and LG Energy Solutions said last month that they would raise their own investments in the Bryan County facility by more than $2 billion.
Peter Biello: Co-response pairs mental health specialists with law enforcement officers to reduce the number of people who are imprisoned or harmed for having a behavioral health crisis. To address what they call a crisis-level need, sheriffs in central Georgia are planning a Multi-county co-response program, the first of its kind in the region. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports, and as a warning for our listeners: This story contains some disturbing audio and descriptions of violence.
Sofi Gratas: Eurie Martin, 58, was walking alone on a rural two-lane road in Washington County in 2017, when three deputies from the county sheriff's office encountered him, responding to a suspicious person call. Police footage shows the situation quickly turned hostile.
Deputies (on video): Get on the ground! Get on the ground!
Sofi Gratas: The three deputies didn't know Martin had a history of mental illness and were not trained to handle people in crisis. During the interaction, Martin was tased for over a minute and a half. It was enough to stop his heart. Though an ambulance was called. Martin died at the scene. Washington County Sheriff Joel Cochran says this was a turning point for his community.
Joel Cochran: I think that was an incident that really opened a lot of eyes to realizing that, you know, we have a — we have a crisis in general with mental health and law enforcement is just not trained and incapable of handling those types of situations.
Sofi Gratas: When he took office in 2019, Cochran made 40-hour crisis intervention training mandatory for all deputies. That training's helped his deputies to de-escalate situations which, as Cochran puts it, could have gone in a different direction. Even then, Cochran says his deputies are overwhelmed with calls about mental health crises. He's not alone. In neighboring Jefferson County, Sheriff Gary Hutchins says his deputies respond to calls about mental health crises every week.
Gary Hutchins: I would — I would say the last 10 years has got worse. And it's getting worse and worse.
Sofi Gratas: Deputies might be out of the county for hours at a time transporting people in crisis to whatever health care facility might have room for them.
Gary Hutchins: We go a long way, sometimes. It could be Saturday night, Sunday morning, 2:00. And we don't have a big department. We have three men working per shift. You take one out, that means you got two.
Sofi Gratas: If there aren't enough beds available, people in crisis end up waiting in the county jail. Hutchins says many of these calls come from family members of people in crisis who need help. Like Brianna Greer's mother in nearby Hancock County, Greer had schizophrenia and died last year when she fell out of a police cruiser after being arrested instead of de-escalated. These are all examples of why last year, for the first time, Georgia created a legal framework for co-response, a model that's proven to help with these problems. Senate Bill 403 says that to decrease the risk of escalation, law enforcement should work with behavioral health specialists to respond to mental health crisis calls.
Shelby Roche: There's something to be said about someone who is a clinician that can be soothing, calming, comforting to someone who's in crisis versus maybe solely seeing an officer — well intentioned, but that already kind of elevates their level of anxiety about what to expect or what's going to happen.
Sofi Gratas: Shelby Roche is the director of the DeKalb Regional Crisis Center, which has paired clinicians with the local police department for 26 years. Roche says in her area, co-response is working to keep people in crisis from the worst case scenario.
Shelby Roche: We're able to assess and de-escalate a situation where a majority of the people that are reached out to you don't have to be transported involuntarily.
Sofi Gratas: Georgia already has several co-response programs, but Senate Bill 403 is the first time lawmakers promised funding for it across the state. Earlier this year, Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said funding 10 co-response teams would cost $15 million. But after SB 403 became law, lawmakers only set aside $900,000. Washington County Sheriff Joe Cochran was left out of all that. So Cochran and sheriffs in five other neighboring counties found their own funding, A $1.5 million public safety grant from American Rescue Plan funds — more than all the state money combined.
Joel Cochran: We got together and felt like this was something that can benefit all of us.
Sofi Gratas: The plan is to hire five clinicians and support specialists to assist deputies on mental health calls in Jefferson, Hancock, Glasscock, Johnson, Wilkinson and Washington County.
Joel Cochran: Now, will we solve the problem? Obviously not. But our goal is to respond under these types of situations. It would be to, one, be able to de-escalate them so that they don't turn into something a lot worse.
Sofi Gratas: And so people in mental health crises live to get the help they need. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.
Peter Biello: GPB's Peach Jam podcast is coming back this week with a new season of showcasing musicians with ties to Georgia. Host Jeremy Powell is with me now to talk a little bit about this new season. Hey, Jeremy.
Jeremy Powell: Hey, I'm glad to be here again.
Peter Biello: So glad to have you here. Please do tell us about the first musician.
Jeremy Powell: Well, the first musician that we're going to hear from is Iveen. Iveen is from Smyrna, Ga., which means obviously, she plays Celtic electro harp pop. Right. I mean, because that's what's big in Smyrna. I guess.
Peter Biello: Yes. Everybody loves a harp in Smyrna.
Jeremy Powell: It's — it's the most random thing. But she grew up playing Celtic music with her family. Her dad's Irish. And so Celtic music has been a big influence in her life. And now she might be the only person on the planet making the sound that she makes.
Peter Biello: Well, let's hear it.
MUSIC: "Orion" by Iveen
Peter Biello: So that's Iveen With the song Orion. It wouldn't have occurred to me to think Celtic there, but once you mentioned it, I hear it.
Jeremy Powell: Yes. And that's one person making all of those sounds. So she is a loop artist like Ed Sheeran does.
Peter Biello: Okay.
Jeremy Powell: And so she's got a loop pedalboard. And she had with her a harp, a keyboard of some sort, a flute, a guitar. She can use her voice and in a just a wonderful way. And she makes all of this sound as a one-woman band. And it's incredible to see an incredible to hear because, you know, when she's building the song, you can hear the process of building the different tracks. And it was absolutely fascinating.
Peter Biello: I love watching musicians do that. So this is a good time to mention that you also have a video component of — of Peach Jam podcast.
Jeremy Powell: That's correct. So you can listen to the podcast anywhere you get your podcasts, you can find it online at GPB.org/podcasts, GPB.org/PeachJam, but also on our YouTube channel, you'll be able to see all of the musical performances in their entirety there.
Peter Biello: Well, let me ask you about one particular musician I'm excited about. That's Lloyd Buchanan.
Jeremy Powell: Lloyd Buchanan is from Columbus and he is a music minister at his church for his — you know, that's his Sunday job during the week. He is the in-demand rock and roll organist in the country, possibly the world. He has bands that come from England to record in Columbus, just so he can be on their albums. He travels with Alabama Shakes. He travels with Brittany Howard, who's the lead singer of Alabama Shakes. I was looking at one of my records from the Heavy from London, and it thanks Lloyd Buchanan right there in the liner notes. And he, by himself and with his band, brought an organ with just an incredible sound and took us to church.
Peter Biello: All right. Let's hear Lloyd Buchanan.
MUSIC: Lloyd Buchanan
Peter Biello: All right. How can you not get up and dance to that?
Jeremy Powell: Seriously, we so we film and record these episodes for Peach Jam in the TV studios we have in the basement here in Midtown Atlanta. And when he came in, it was in evening. And, you know, the building's mainly empty except for us down there. And we were rockin' and rollin'; it was awesome.
Peter Biello: That's really cool. OK. Few more on the list coming up for this new season of Peach Jam. Tell us about another.
Jeremy Powell: Let me tell you about Ryan Oyer. Ryan Oyer works in the carpet industry in Northwest Georgia by day. On the weekends, he plays in hotel lobbies in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Peter Biello: Hmm.
Jeremy Powell: He's about to release his seventh album. Wow. The last album he put out, he put out on vinyl. He actually sent me a copy. It's fantastic. And he's one of those artist who, when you hear him sing and play, you think, "Why has this guy not got a major record deal?" And instead he's playing in a lobby. Like, people will walk by him in a lobby in a hotel in Chattanooga and maybe not give him a second look. But they really, really should, because he's very talented.
Peter Biello: All right, here's Ryan.
MUSIC: "Worthy of Love" by Ryan Oyers
Peter Biello: So that's Ryan Oyers' "Worthy of Love"
Jeremy Powell: And he's he's got a great sound. It's — it's universal, almost, you know, like it feels a little '90s alternative but it's it's very singer-songwriter like it it can kind of go all over the place. And like I said, he is playing in small venues in Northwest Georgia and in Chattanooga and you got to pay attention to who's there because you never know what type of talent could be right there in the room with you.
Peter Biello: That's a really cool, great story. Let's also hear a little bit of rap, right? Because you've got all genres as part of the Peach Jam podcast. So here is Wiley from Atlanta.
MUSIC: "Fear and Loathing" by Wiley from Atlanta
Peter Biello: That's Wiley from Atlanta's "Fear and Loathing" — not the kind of rap you would expect.
Jeremy Powell: It's like alternative R&B. Wiley from Atlanta was so interesting to talk to because with Peace Jam podcast, it's not just about the music, it's about the conversation. Getting to know these artists and what their experience has been like and where they're from and — and just a little bit about them as people. Wiley from Atlanta was a ballerina in ballet, is what helped him realize that he liked to perform and liked to be on stage. And he tells me about being in Montessori school and then being a ballerina. And he says, "Ballerino is what you call a guy," but he doesn't like that. So he refers to himself as a ballerina. And those are the things that pushed him into becoming a rapper and a musician and an artist. I feel.
Peter Biello: I feel like Ballerino would be a good rap name, though.
Jeremy Powell: Right?
Peter Biello: MC Ballerino.
Jeremy Powell: Yes.
Peter Biello: Okay. One more before we let you go. And that's The Waymores. Tell us about The Waymores.
Jeremy Powell: The Waymores are from East Cobb. They're from Marietta in Northwest Atlanta and The Waymores life is basically like a classic country song. So Kira Annalise, who's half of the duo, met Willie Heath Neal in a bar in Marietta, Ga., and decided she was going to write a song to impress him so that she could join him and become a musician. And the song she wrote about was how the marriage she was currently in was falling apart, and so she left her husband and joined up with Willie Heath Neal. They're now together. They tour and they play classic country — like true-to-life, classic country.
Peter Biello: Let's hear it.
MUSIC: "But I Don't" by The Waymores
Peter Biello: So that's The Waymores with the song "But I Don't." Jeremy, I was researching this band before our conversation and I see that they had played at a place that bills itself as the best dive bar in Georgia, and I was like, Yeah, that tracks for this kind of music for sure.
Jeremy Powell: Right, I can hear it. Yes. And they were a lot of fun to talk to. They they're very funny. They're good people. And you really get the feeling that they love each other very much and they're having a good time. And so, yeah, I really enjoyed my conversation with the Waymores.
Peter Biello: All right, sounds, videos, all that coming from the Peach Jam podcast. New season dropping on Friday. Host Jeremy Powell, thanks very much for speaking with me.
Jeremy Powell: Thank you.
Peter Biello: In sports and baseball. Matt Olson matched Andruw Jones for the Braves season home run record with 51 yesterday as the Braves beat the Phillies in a 10-inning nailbiter last night. Final score: 7-6. Marcell Ozuna hit a three-run shot and Ronald Acuna Jr. had a two-run homer for the Braves. Acuna now has 37 homers. He's aiming for 40, so he can be one of five players in MLB history with at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases. He's already stolen 65. The Braves can wrap up their sixth straight division crown with a win tonight over the Phillies. Spencer Strider is scheduled to get the start for the Braves.
Peter Biello: And one more thing before we go tonight. A Sandy Springs elementary school principal will be competing on Wheel of Fortune. The Lake Forest Elementary School community is planning to gather to watch their principal, Laryn Nelson compete on the primetime game show.
Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. Thanks so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit our website, GPB.org/news. And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast yet, take a moment and do it now. We'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon with all the top stories in the state. And if you've got feedback or maybe a story idea, we'd love to hear from you. Email us. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.
For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news.