Georgia Today: Okefenokee mine; Police raid home of training center opponent; Usher Halftime show
LISTEN: On the Monday, Feb. 12 edition of Georgia Today: A new mine may be coming to the Okefenokee; police raid the home of an opponent of Atlanta's public safety training center; and R&B star Usher centers Atlanta culture at his Super Bowl halftime show.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Monday, Feb. 12. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a new mine may be coming to the Okefenokee. Police raid the home of an opponent of Atlanta's Public Safety training center and R&B star Usher centers Atlanta culture at his Super Bowl halftime show. Those stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: Flooding is causing traffic delays on some Georgia roadways today as a storm front moves through the state. Interstate 16 westbound through Macon was stalled for hours this morning by standing water, reported to be several feet deep in some areas. One of two lanes remains blocked there as of this podcast taping. Georgia 511 also shows flooded lanes on Interstate 285 northbound through Clarkston and Tucker, east of Atlanta. The National Weather Service reminds motorists not to attempt to drive through standing water.
Peter Biello: An Atlanta man whose home was raided by the Atlanta Police Department and other agencies says his home was targeted because he opposes the construction of the controversial Public Safety Training Center. Luke O'Donovan's Lakewood Heights home was raided on Saturday while he was at work. Police say the search was related to the burning of an Atlanta police car in that neighborhood earlier in the day. O'Donovan says the police had a warrant but did not find the evidence they sought.
Luke O'Donovan: They must have exaggerated to the judge the possibility of someone fleeing from the scene of this arson to my house, because that is a blatant lie. There's not a chance that happened. And so we will be pursuing legal action against the agencies that executed this erroneous raid.
Peter Biello: In a press conference, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Shierbaum says late last week, police served four search warrants related to a series of fires and made an arrest. He says more arrests are coming.
Peter Biello: State environmental regulators have issued draft permits for a proposed titanium mine near Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The Environmental Protection Division's decision late Friday to issue air, water and mining permits to Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals brings the project closer to final approval. Attorney Josh Marks, of Georgians for the Okefenokee, says the mine would irreparably harm the swamp's delicate ecosystem.
Josh Marks: It's really a terrible day for Georgia's natural resources. It seems like this would be the last thing that Georgia EPD would want to do to what is widely accepted to be our greatest natural treasure in the state.
Peter Biello: EPD officials say impacts from the mine will be minimal. The draft permits kick off a 30-day public comment period before the agency's director can sign off on them. Marks is calling on Gov. Brian Kemp and state lawmakers to intervene.
Peter Biello: Meanwhile, a new project aims to uncover and document an overlooked chapter in the swamp's history. GPB's Orlando Montoya reports on the preservation effort in the Okefenokee Swamp Park.
Orlando Montoya: A lot of folks know the CCC — The Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal program that helped young Americans and built national parks during the Great Depression. In Georgia's vast Okefenokee, hundreds of CCC workers, all Black, built roads and bridges, dug canals and developed recreational facilities that made the park what it is today. Project coordinator Jess Neal.
Jess Neal: This project will continue to amplify is that Black and brown folks have always had a connection to the land, and land is a natural endowment. It is a gift to us all. And in the words of Rev. Antoine Nixon, we only get one shot at taking care of it.
Orlando Montoya: The swamp park will carry out a nearly half million-dollar federal grant to document and preserve this park building history. Public programs and educational materials for schools are expected within three years. For GPB News, I'm Orlando Montoya.
Peter Biello: The state House is backing a bill to ensure solar farms popping up across Georgia in large numbers don't become permanent eyesores. Representatives today unanimously passed a measure to require companies that lease property for solar farms to restore the land to its natural state after the lease expires. The bill now moves to the Senate. For more on the state Capitol, watch GPB's Lawmakers tonight at 7 p.m. on your GPB-TV and online at GPB.org.
Peter Biello: The Biden administration has updated standards for how much particle pollution or soot is permissible in the air. The changes, announced last week by the Environmental Protection Agency, are expected to benefit the health of Georgians. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has more.
Ellen Eldridge: Clarke, Dougherty, Fulton, Houston, Richmond and Washington are the Georgia counties now considered too polluted to meet the new standards for air quality. Anne Mellinger Birdsong is the health and medical adviser for Mothers and Others for Clean Air in Georgia. She says the changes are good news because soot in the air is particularly dangerous to children.
Anne Mellinger Birdsong: Particle pollution causes dementia. It causes strokes. It causes heart attacks. It is associated with diabetes and other metabolic health problems.
Ellen Eldridge: Birdsong says policymakers can help reduce particulate pollution by funding projects that make clean air a priority. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.
Peter Biello: Dexter Scott King, the late son of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, has been memorialized as the protector of his family's legacy and the keeper of the dream during a service in Atlanta. He died last month at age 62 at his home in Malibu, Calif., after battling prostate cancer. Saturday's memorial for Dexter King was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father once was pastor. Among those who paid homage were his wife, Leah Webber King, and Stevie Wonder, who closed the memorial by singing "They Won't Go When I Go."
Peter Biello: A Columbus tourist attraction is permanently closed a year after announcing a temporary pause in operations. The Living History Museum Historic Westville has been struggling financially since the COVID-19 pandemic and an expensive move from Lumpkin, about 40 miles to the south.
Peter Biello: R&B superstar Usher compressed 30 years of hits into a mere 12 minutes in last night's Super Bowl halftime show. And in doing so, he brought a little bit of Atlanta to an enormous audience. GPB's Sonia Murray has been covering Usher for years, and she joins me now to break down last night's performance. Thank you so much for speaking with me.
Sonia Murray: Thank you for having me.
Peter Biello: What's the significance of having Usher as the star of the halftime show at the Super Bowl?
Sonia Murray: It's the biggest audience of his career. I mean, of a 30-year career. And this guy's won Grammys, sold millions of records, and now, in his mid-40s, he's now at a point where he can, you know, take his hundred — 100 sold-out shows, I think he said, at Vegas and then play the biggest audience of his life, you know, the next month. So it's gigantic.
Peter Biello: Mm-hmm. Huge audience. What stood out for you in this performance?
Sonia Murray: How how prominently he placed Atlanta and Georgia. I mean, he lives here, part-time here. You know, he's been in Vegas, as everyone knows, for the past year or so with his residency, but I how prominently he placed Atlanta, not just bringing Atlanta artists on the stage that he'd worked with. I mean, even walking in before the game even started, I saw him walk in — or, you know, the cameras showed him walking in with Jermaine Dupri, who he's — produced him. As well as Johntá Austin, who may — people may not know, but is also an Atlanta artist and producer and songwriter. So from that to Jermaine is on stage with him. He obviously brings out Ludacris and and Little — and Lil John for "Yeah." But then, I mean, there are also Atlanta elements that, you know, we may want to shy away from, like the stripper pole that was out there in the end, to you've got, you know, him actually repeating that he's bringing the world to the "A".
Usher (in Super Bowl audio): I turnt the world to the A, baby! I turnt the world to the A!
Sonia Murray: And the roller skating, which is very much an Atlanta part of the, you know, part of the Atlanta culture as well.
Peter Biello: Yeah, no, let me ask you about the roller skating. So that — Is that an Atlanta thing, to roller skate like that?
Sonia Murray: Absolutely. It's — No, roller skating rinks are an Atlanta thing. If you grew up in Atlanta there's still Cascade Skating Rink, which is, I mean, it goes as far back as Beyonce had her 21st birthday there. It's very much an Atlanta thing. That's why the movie ATL is based in a skating rink. Usher skates in, you know, his residency. I hadn't had a chance to make it there yet, but I that's very prominent. Going to skating rinks is an Atlanta thing.
Peter Biello: There was a lot of talk about how he was going to possibly squeeze in 30 years worth of hits into a 12- or 13-minute performance. As someone who's been covering him for a long time, how do you think he did as far as like covering the, the, the biggest of the big hits that he's had?
Sonia Murray: I, I agree with some of the reviews that I've seen, some, including on our site, that says it was kind of rushed in a bit, but I mean, he hit the high notes, he hit what everybody was expecting him to do, which was "Yeah," you know, as the closer. Here's a little bit of Usher performing "Yeah" the closer — the big closer.
Usher (singing "Yeah" in Super Bowl audio)
Sonia Murray: He really — I mean, his catalog really is huge. And he has a lot of featured artists. I personally was, you know, surprised that he brought H.E.R. and Alicia Keys up there.
Peter Biello: Why was that surprising?
Sonia Murray: Well, and in part because I wanted other people..
Peter Biello: Who'd you want? Who'd you want?
Sonia Murray: I wanted, uh — I mean, Beyonce could have been there with him. He's been in Beyonce's "Naughty Girl." Maybe they haven't had a song together, but he was in her "Naughty Girl" video. She was there, you know, and it was her night as well.
Peter Biello: Yeah. She was off releasing her own new album, which is a whole separate conversation.
Sonia Murray: I exactly I mean, I would, I would like to have seen Nicki Minaj, who he has a song with. You know, just in terms of performers for, for that kind of audience. I wouldn't have chosen Alicia Keys. Though she looked great and the song is big: "My Boo." I get it. And it was a nice pairing. But you know, in terms of his energy and just what I would've liked to have seen, and it might not have been Alicia Keys and H.E.R.
Peter Biello: For folks who haven't gotten enough of usher after that Super Bowl performance, I believe he's going to be here in Atlanta quite a few times through.
Sonia Murray: Whew. Boy.
Peter Biello: Like five times, right?
Sonia Murray: Well, I just heard five times, as you said. It started out they announced the tour on Friday, Super Bowl Sunday, and there were only two dates on Friday and now there are five. It is amazing.
Peter Biello: All right. Plenty of chances to see Usher here in Atlanta, although some may say not enough. GPB's Sonia Murray, thank you very much.
Sonia Murray: Thank you.
Peter Biello: It was definitely a busy weekend for Usher. In addition to performing at the Super Bowl, he married his longtime girlfriend in Las Vegas over the weekend. He'd obtained a marriage license in Clark County, Nevada, on Thursday.
And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit gpb.org/news. And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast, don't miss out. We'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow if you do subscribe. And if you've got feedback, we'd love to hear from you. Send us an email. 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