On the Monday February 19th edition of Georgia Today: Early voting in Georgia's Presidential Primary gets underway; Governor Brian Kemp directs federal COVID relief funds to help nonprofit crisis centers; And a new documentary explores the life and legacy of music legend and Augusta native James Brown.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB news. Today is Monday, Feb. 19. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, Early voting in Georgia's presidential primary gets underway. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp directs federal COVID relief funds to help nonprofit crisis centers. And a new documentary explores the life and legacy of music legend and Augusta native James Brown. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Story 1:

Peter Biello: Today is the first day of in-person early voting for the March 12 presidential primary in Georgia. Both major party frontrunners, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, are on the ballot. Kimberly Brown and her husband, Vice, voted early today in Cobb County, as they say they do every year. Kimberly says they both are voting for President Joe Biden because she believes he'll make the U.S. a more inclusive place and strengthen the economy.

Kimberly Brown: Without a doubt, if I look at the options that I look at the past reality of what we've provided, I'll definitely be voting for Biden. And not just for him, but for representation of inclusiveness, accountability and integrity. And then also listening.

Peter Biello: Other voters GPB News talked to in Cobb County said they are prioritizing education spending, border policy and women's rights at the polls. Votes for two other Democrats and 10 other Republicans also will be counted, although several candidates have dropped out of the presidential race. Georgia workers can now take up to two hours off from work to vote after state lawmakers passed a bill allowing the time off last year. Georgia voters are encouraged to check their My Voter page at the secretary of state's website for polling hours and locations. Early voting will continue in Georgia until March 8.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp is steering $26 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to nonprofit groups providing services to Georgia crime victims. The funds, announced today, come as sexual assault crisis centers across the state face growing costs. Chamblee state representative Democrat Karen Lupton has been pushing for more funding in the statehouse.

Karen Lupton: I firmly believe that we as a state and we as the General Assembly, can give better, stronger financial support to our sexual assault centers, to our domestic violence shelters and those who work at them.

Peter Biello: She said, some crisis centers are at risk of laying off staff and reducing services.




Story 3:

Peter Biello: House Democrats proposed a constitutional amendment that could increase the number of statewide referendums on ballots. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: The amendment would allow for citizen-led ballot referendums, which Georgia's current constitution does not allow. In order to get a question on the ballot, citizens would have to gather signatures from 10% of Georgia's voting population. Rep. Sarah Draper is one of the bill's sponsors.

Sarah Draper: We are supposed to have a representative democracy. Georgians vote for representatives, and then those representatives vote for policy initiatives that ostensibly represent the will of the people. But that is not what is happening under the Gold Dome.

Sarah Kallis: The legislation would require two-thirds of both chambers to approve it and is unlikely to pass. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis at the state Capitol.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: Military and law enforcement officials are joining mental health advocates to push Georgia lawmakers for more mental health funding. The Council for a Strong America says the nation's public safety and national security are at risk without more investments. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.

Ellen Eldridge: Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, include exposure to violence, drug abuse and mental illness, and more than one-fifth of children are affected. Casey Coane is a retired Navy rear admiral and a member of the Council for Strong America. He says state legislators need to fund preventative interventions like the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program.

Casey Coane: That kind of program is — has proven to be effective. And today in Georgia, consultation programs are being piloted right here in Atlanta, in Savannah and in Macon.

Ellen Eldridge: Coane says early childhood mental health experts are placed in learning environments to correct problems as they arise. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: Federal authorities say a North Atlantic right whale found dead earlier this month showed injuries consistent with a collision with a ship. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was notified of a dead right whale off the coast of Tybee Island on Feb. 13. The critically endangered whales number less than 360. Vessel strikes and rope entanglement continue to threaten the survival of the species.

 Chattahoochee River

Chattahoochee River

Credit: GPB / File

Story 6:

Peter Biello: The state House once again is considering a bill aimed at fine tuning the balance between river access and private property rights in Georgia. GPB's Grant Blankenship has more.

Grant Blankenship: House Bill 1172 would rectify legal issues on Georgia waterways following a settlement the state made with a powerful landowner who, for years, fought to keep people off his piece of the Flint River. And on first read, the new bill looks like a restoration of what had been the norm before the settlement. That's anybody's boats on any navigable waterway. But for Southern Environmental Law Center attorney April Lipscomb, the language about privately owned river beds being off limits to the public is troubling.

April Lipscomb: The wade, fishing or dropping anchors or, you know, if you're hunting, maybe you got to get out of your boat to go get a wood duck. It's really hard to fish a navigable river without touching the bottom.

Grant Blankenship: Lipscomb also asks why muddy the water with a second new river law, when a second lawsuit by another Flint River landowner is still in the courts? For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: Rome public transit riders will have to start paying bus fares again. The director of the Rome Department of Transportation says federal COVID-19 relief money has allowed the city to cover the entire cost of its six bus routes and paratransit rides since 2021. That money has now dried up. The director says the city still hasn't determined what the new fare will be or when it will start. About 200,000 riders depend on bus and paratransit rides in Rome each year.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: Delta Air Lines has announced a special flight for people who want to spend as much time as possible in the moon's shadow during the total eclipse that will take place in the U.S. on April 8. The Atlanta-based company said today it's scheduled an aircraft with extra large windows to fly from Austin to Detroit at a time to coincide with the eclipse's path across the country. The announcement also included five other route ideas for those interested in being above the clouds during North America's last total eclipse until 2044.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines is adding another destination to and from Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. The Denver-based company said it will begin three-times-weekly service between SAV and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on May 16. Frontier's only other Savannah route is a weekly service to and from Philadelphia.

James Brown, pictured here in the 1960s, was born in South Carolina not far from the Georgia line, moved to Augusta, Ga. at age five and later found superstardom. A new documentary series explores his journey to becoming the 'Godfather of Soul.'

James Brown, pictured here in the 1960s, was born in South Carolina not far from the Georgia line, moved to Augusta, Ga., at age 5 and later found superstardom.

Credit: Look Magazine Collection/Library of Congress

Story 10: 

Peter Biello: A new documentary series debuting tonight on A&E, delves into the legendary life of musician James Brown. The international superstar proudly called Augusta, Ga., his home. James Brown: Say it Loud, the four-part broadcast airing tonight and tomorrow night, follows his life from humble beginnings as a seventh grade dropout to becoming the godfather of soul. GPB's Morning Edition host Pamela Kirkland spoke with the director of Say It Loud, Deborah Riley Draper.

Deborah Riley Draper: It is a pleasure to be here and talk about James Brown. I was born in Georgia — Savannah, Ga. — so it's nice to be able to write and direct a docuseries about our very own James Brown.

Pamela Kirkland: This documentary features interviews with artists like Questlove, Mick Jagger, Bootsy Collins, and they're all talking about James Brown's influence on all of these different musical genres. Can you talk about the impact that he had on the evolution of American music?

Deborah Riley Draper: It's rather incredible, because from the middle of the 1950s until 2006, when James Brown passed away, every bit of his soul he put into the music. So he influenced soul, jazz, hip-hop, of course. And he created funk. So, this man literally changed how we listen to music, how we hear music. He had 15,000 songs sampled. I thought it was really incredible to listen to Mick Jagger in particular, speak about being in the U.K., searching for that Live at the Apollo album, like, you know, finding it — and it was a rare-to-get — and passing it among all of his friends, then eventually being able to be on The Tammy Show with James Brown himself and admitting James Brown mopped the floor up with everyone. So it was priceless. It's incredible.

Pamela Kirkland: And I think it's fair to say we all know that scream. We know the music. But the documentary also reminds viewers that James Brown is a very complicated person. 

Deborah Riley Draper: 100%. When I was preparing to do this docuseries, I spent time with some professors at Morehouse [College] understanding Black trauma, understanding generational trauma and how it impacts people. So James Brown is quite complicated. He's a creative genius and he's flawed. He knows how to entertain. He knows how to be the "hardest working man in show business." But at the same time, he has trauma that was not healed. 

Pamela Kirkland: From his upbringing in the Jim Crow South to his role in the civil rights movement, can you talk about the — how the documentary places Black culture at the center of his story?

Deborah Riley Draper: James Brown was born during the Depression. He grew up through Jim Crow. He experienced the music business as a Black man from the South. He found his footing that day [in 1966] at the James Meredith rally when he was standing there with Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Sammy Davis Jr., Dick Gregory, as they had this March Against Fear. This was what I believe to be his awakening. What James Brown taught us about our Blackness was to "Say it loud: I'm Black, and I'm proud." 

It is a lesson on how to motivate yourself. But it's also a lesson about perseverance. Because he had high highs and low lows, but he fought through and he pushed through to become this icon. 

Peter Biello: You can watch James Brown: Say it Loud, the four-part documentary broadcast, tonight and tomorrow night at 8pm on A&E.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Vibe lost to the Grand Rapids Rise 3 to 1 yesterday. Opposite hitter Anna Lazareva made her debut with The Vibe yesterday, picking up 25 kills on a 3.39 hitting percentage. She had 11 kills and 11 digs in the first two sets alone. Atlanta returns to their home court on Thursday, Feb. 29, to host the Omaha Supernovas. And in the NBA All-Star game yesterday, the Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference 211 to 186, with the winners putting up the most points in the game's 73-year history. The previous high was 196 by the West. In 2016. Atlanta's Trae Young put up 5 points and 7 assists for the East.

And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. 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, take a moment and do it now. We've got a week's worth of news ready to pop up in your podcast feed every weekday afternoon. If you've got feedback, we would love to hear from you. The best way to give us feedback is to 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

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