On the Thursday June 13th edition of Georgia Today: Nathan Wade says he's not to blame for the delay of the election interference case; Voters in Macon grapple with confusion over incorrect ballots; And a plan to compensate businesses hurt by Atlanta's water main breaks is taking shape.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, June 13th. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, Nathan Wade says he is not to blame for the delay of the 2020 election interference case in Georgia. Voters in Macon grapple with confusion over incorrect ballots, and a plan to compensate businesses hurt by Atlanta's water main breaks is taking shape. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

District Attorney for Fulton County, Fani Willis speaks during an Associated Press interview on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, in Atlanta.

District Attorney for Fulton County, Fani Willis speaks during an Associated Press interview on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, in Atlanta.

Credit: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Story 1:

Peter Biello: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis addressed attacks against her during a conference in Marietta today. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: Willis addressed a group gathered in Marietta for the African American Methodist Episcopal Planning Conference. Her speech centered around criminal justice and equal treatment under the law. She also spoke about the scrutiny she faced for her romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the former prosecutor, in the Trump election interference case.

Fani Willis: I live the experience of a Black woman who is attacked and over-sexualized.

Sarah Kallis: However, Willis says she does not concern herself with the attacks and focuses on her work. Meanwhile, the case against former President Donald Trump and others is on hold until the Georgia Court of Appeals rules on Trump's request to have her removed from the case. Prosecutors in her office have asked the judge to dismiss that appeal. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Atlanta.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Meanwhile, Nathan Wade says he is not to blame for delays in the election interference case. In an interview with CNN, he says he would not have done anything to jeopardize the case.

Nathan Wade: It took years out of my life. I'm very passionate about it. I believe in the indictment. Certainly, I would have never done anything that I thought would jeopardize that hard work. But do I believe that my actions caused this delay? No, no, no.

Peter Biello: The trial is not expected to take place until after the presidential election.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: The federal Juneteenth holiday, celebrating when news of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Texas, is next Wednesday. But in the city of Macon, observances have already begun, as GPB's Grant Blankenship reports.

Grant Blankenship: Macon's Juneteenth observance began with a wreath laying in Rosa Parks Square at the top of Poplar Street: a street once home to a large market where people were bought and sold. Sunday will see a Juneteenth parade up Poplar Street, sponsored by the civic group Macon Black Culture. Muse Dixon leads the group. She says the holiday is especially important in cities like Macon, where slavery was fundamental to their birth.

Muse Dixon: And we celebrate Juneteenth because we're going to sweep around our own front porch. We're going to strengthen the community that has been broken through the trauma over the centuries of slavery.

Grant Blankenship: And Dixon says the Juneteenth parade will be Sunday instead of Wednesday because she expects, despite the federal holiday, some people still won't be able to take Wednesday off from work. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: A plan to help businesses hurt by Atlanta's recent widespread water main breaks is taking shape. Mayor Andre Dickens announced last week a $5 million fund for businesses that were forced to close when several water mains broke across the city, causing prolonged water outages and boil water advisories. Invest Atlanta will administer the funds, which businesses will not have to repay. Invest Atlanta researchers say nearly 7,000 businesses were affected by the boil water advisory on May 31, and more than half of those were still under the advisory a week later. Priority for the grants will be given to businesses directly impacted by the outages, such as restaurants, beauty salons, spas and day cares. Atlanta City Council is expected to vote on the plan next week, and if approved, businesses could apply for relief as early as June 24.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: Atlanta-based data center company T5 is proposing a new data center in Fairburn, southwest of Atlanta. The company's proposal includes two 2-story buildings totaling nearly half a million square feet. Data centers are large computing warehouses that store data on servers and power IT systems. Last month, Bohan Road Ventures proposed a data center for Fairburn called the Fairburn Technology Center, and in nearby Douglas County, a more than2.2 million-square-foot data center was proposed in April by TC Atlanta Development. Gov. Brian Kemp vetoed a two-year pause last month in a tax break for data centers after lobbyists fought to preserve it. Data centers like these often need lots of electricity. Power usage by data centers in Georgia more than doubled between the first and second halves of last year.

Story 6:

Peter Biello: The Atlanta City Council has passed an ordinance that allows taxis up to 10 years old to pick up passengers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The age limit for taxis at ATL was seven years. Advocates for the ordinance passed last week say it's too expensive to have to buy a new car every seven years. The only no vote came from council member Alex Wan, who expressed concern over older taxis at one of the city's first points of entry when soccer fans travel to Atlanta in 2026 for the World Cup. Up until 2017, the taxi age limit was 10 years. That year, the council changed the limit to seven years while putting in regulations for Uber and Lyft pickups at the airport.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: A Georgia park is asking visitors to leave unattended fawns alone. The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park said on social media well-intentioned visitors have attempted to rescue baby deer that were left alone. The park says a mother deer will often leave her young in a safe place and go forage, returning after a short time — and they said moving the fawn can cause confusion for both the mother and the baby.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: The need for school-based, trauma-informed care that addresses grief, addiction and suicide prevention has grown tenfold amid the coronavirus and opioid epidemics. Providers are struggling to meet the demand for mental health services, even in affluent areas. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has more.

Ellen Eldridge: The hallways of Roswell High School are quiet, like students are holding their breath as they finish their final exams. Between rows of lockers and classroom doors, the counseling office is open.

Students: Hi. Hi. Nice to meet you.

Ellen Eldridge: Soft lighting falls across beanbag chairs and a plush couch with pillows shaped like plants. The walls frame the open space with encouraging and colorful signs. It's the kind of room where you can exhale. Jillian Canada is one of two school-based therapists at Roswell High. She says Covid trauma is one thing connected to anxiety and depression among students.

Jillian Canada: It's still following us, and I think we have forgotten that a little bit. Like, those losses that happened four years ago are still just as real for a lot of people. Those near-losses are still just as real.

Ellen Eldridge: A new study estimates more than 210,000 children nationally lost caregivers to COVID between 2020 and 2022. Therapist Keaton Warner joined Roswell High School about four years ago when the school first contracted with in-school therapists. He says his first few students lost their parents to COVID.

Keaton Warner: And that grief was so deep and so new because the pandemic was so recent, so we didn't really know how to handle that type of situation outside of just normal grief therapy.

Ellen Eldridge: Last year, a student died by suicide just two weeks after a teacher's sudden and unexpected death.

Keaton Warner: After that, we had a really big need. We had a really big push and a really big influx of students who needed to come to us, because a lot of the parents saw that as a situation of like, "Wow, I need to actually pay attention."

Ellen Eldridge: Valerie Rogers is the school's longtime social worker. She says there is always a waiting list for counselors.

Valerie Rogers: We, you know, we could have a whole wing of therapists here. We would love to have a therapy wing, because we could fill it.

Ellen Eldridge: The therapists at Roswell High are provided through a combination of Georgia's Apex program for school-based behavioral health and grant money. Counseling is provided in school at no cost to the client, just like it is across the state. Jillian Canada.

Jillian Canada: I think sometimes the downside to it being an affluent area is the people who are not — not affluent, they get buried and it makes it even harder to have access to this.

Ellen Eldridge: Canada says she wants to guide all students as they process their grief, anxiety and depression.

Jillian Canada: So we do a lot of work with that, with trying to help them process their grief and be able to get back to who they want to be and who they want to — just how they want to envision their future and get them back on track. Because sometimes this grief, I mean, it's complicated, it's confusing. It throws off their entire world.

Ellen Eldridge: School social worker Valerie Rogers says that for many students, the challenge is establishing a healthy normal.

Valerie Rogers: So being able to really restart and be able to teach them from the ground up, very, very basic coping skills, to be able to function in life.

Ellen Eldridge: Rogers says that's because nowadays, kids are more likely to find bad ideas on social media than good skills from a mental health clinician. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.

A sign tells voters to wait in line as they wait to vote.
Credit: John Bazemore,AP

Story 9:

Peter Biello: Some voters in Macon-Bibb County in the most recent primary were surprised to find the wrong party's candidates on their ballot. It's a symptom of a problem that voting officials have been aware of since early May and is not fully fixed in time for next week's runoff election. Jesse Fraga has been reporting on this for the Macon Telegraph, and he's with me now. Welcome to the program.

Jesse Fraga: Hey, Peter. Thanks for having me.

Peter Biello: So when did county officials first inform voters that something was wrong? And what did they say?

Jesse Fraga: It wasn't until the NAACP approached the elections board that they noticed accessibility issues, as well as district lines being incorrect regarding voter ballots. So let's say one voter is supposed to be in District 2, their sample ballot and actual ballot showed a different district. And this became a point of discussion from the elections board as the primaries were leading up in early May.

Peter Biello: Okay. And is there any indication that these ballot issues changed the outcome of some of the primary races on May 21 after the votes were counted?

Jesse Fraga: According to my reporting for the Telegraph, after speaking with the election supervisor, Tom Gillan, he says that there wasn't much of a difference between having these districts being incorrect on certain ballots that were submitted. The NAACP, on the other hand, is speaking with their lawyers, regarding whether or not this was significant enough to impact the election.

Peter Biello: So what have county officials done since then to try to remedy this problem?

Jesse Fraga: The NAACP and some voters have said that the elections board has not fixed this problem at all. And after speaking with Tom Gillan, the election supervisor, he also said that this issue is still prevalent in the upcoming runoffs. The issue has not been fixed. And in terms of the issue itself, in the beginning, when the primaries were first starting, Tom Gillan said that the issue was the recent county's hack, while, initially, he had told me that it had to do with recent redistricting in the county, which happened in December. So it's not clear what really was the cause of districts being incorrect on voters' ballots.

Peter Biello: So the hack that you referenced there — you're referring to a cybersecurity issue. But this is not related to the state's voting software, just to be clear. This is an issue with ballots.

Jesse Fraga: Yeah, that according to Tom Gillen, the cybersecurity issue was partly to blame. He didn't really go in-depth about what that specifically means and how much that has impacted the results of the election. But the Bibb County IT department is still investigating the hack. And as of this point, they haven't released information on what the hack specifically did to the election.

Peter Biello: And meanwhile, voting continues — early voting for the June 18 primary. And you wrote in the Macon Telegraph that three groups are considering taking legal action, NAACP among them, as you mentioned. What do they want to see happen or not happen before making a decision on whether or not to file an injunction on the election?

Jesse Fraga: According to the NAACP, they said that their lawyers are investigating to make sure that they have enough data to prove that the incorrect ballots that were submitted, the amount was significant enough to impact the election. And if they have enough data to prove that the elections board was at fault for this, then they would take legal action. In terms of, pausing the election, they could do that before the runoffs are certified and if not, if it comes after that, it would be a lawsuit against the elections board. The NAACP also did say that if this issue is still happening, they're concerned that this could also impact the presidential election.

Peter Biello: And in the meantime, what should voters in Macon-Bibb County do? Is — they should they be checking their sample ballot to ensure that it's correct? Or is there anything else that they should be aware of?

Jesse Fraga: Yeah, voters should definitely be checking their sample ballots to make sure that their district is correct on there and that the candidates that they're voting for are in their district. The NAACP will be offering district maps on site of the polling locations, and the elections board will, according to Tom Gillen, also be at the precincts to answer voters questions if they have concerns about their ballots.

Peter Biello: Jesse Fraga is a reporter for the Macon Telegraph. Thank you so much for speaking with me about this.

Jesse Fraga: Thanks, Peter.

Courtesy of Atlantafalcons.com

Story 10:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Falcons have lost their fifth round pick in next year's draft for violating the NFL's anti-tampering rules. The NFL made the announcement today in response to the team's signing of quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Falcons and Cousins agreed on a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed, shortly after the league's 52-hour legal tampering window opened. Cousins indicated he spoke to the team's medical staff before they were permitted to have contact. The NFL also fined the team a quarter million dollars, and the team's general manager was fined $50,000. And Rhyne Howard and the Atlanta Dream take on Caitlin Clark and the Fever this evening in Indiana. It's the first time the two Eastern Conference teams face off this season, and the meeting comes amid the hype Caitlin Clark has generated after a stellar college career and recent discussion over whether recent fouls against her have been blatant targeting or simply common fouls. Though the WNBA hasn't commented on the physical plays involving Clark, Fever coach Christie Side says some of the fouls against Clark have crossed the line, adding she will continue to send video clips to the league until something is done about it.


Peter Biello: 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 yet, do it now. It'll keep us current in your podcast feed. And if you've got feedback for us, or perhaps a story idea we should know about, send it to us by email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news

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