On the Wednesday July 10th edition of Georgia Today: The State Election Board is implementing new rules for how elections are certified; Savannah mayor Van Johnson responds after recent pedestrian deaths caused by city vehicles; And Atlanta opens a new autism center to help prepare kids for elementary school. 

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Orlando Montoya: Hello and welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, July 10. I'm Orlando Montoya. On today's episode, the state election board is implementing new rules for how elections are certified. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson responds after recent pedestrian deaths caused by city vehicles. And Atlanta opens a new autism center to help prepare kids for elementary school. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.



Credit: GPB / File

Story 1:

Orlando Montoya: The state election board is moving forward with a proposed rule that would give local election boards discretion in deciding whether to certify election results. It's one of three measures the Republican-controlled board voted to advance yesterday. Another change would require the total number of ballots cast at a precinct to be posted on a website, and a third would require that precincts verify that the number of ballots submitted is not more than the number of ballots that they received. State Election Board Chairman John Fervier says a final vote on the proposed rule could come next month.

John Fervier: So we initiated rulemaking procedures on all those. Those three petitions are will be posted for the public to comment on. And then at a future date, the board will rule on those.

Orlando Montoya: Yesterday's meeting lasted more than eight hours, with the five-member board's lone Democrat voting against the proposed changes.


Story 2:

Orlando Montoya: Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff introduced legislation yesterday that would strengthen support for victims of human trafficking. The Supporting Victims of Human Trafficking Act would give the Justice Department's Office of Victims of Crime more flexibility to fund programs that serve human trafficking victims. It also would increase training and technical assistance for organizations that receive federal grants to help those victims. The bill is cosigned by Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and is backed by organizations that support human trafficking victims.

Story 3:

Orlando Montoya: The public transit systems in metro Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah are splitting $45 million in federal grants announced yesterday. The Augusta and Savannah agencies plan to use their shares of the Federal Transit Administration's funds to replace older buses with electric models. The Metro Atlanta system MARTA plans to build a transit hub in south DeKalb County for both bus and rail connections.


Story 4:

Orlando Montoya: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is responding to two pedestrian deaths in less than a week as a result of collisions with city vehicles. Last week, a Savannah Police Department vehicle struck and killed someone. And on Monday, a man died after being hit by a city stormwater vehicle. Johnson expressed condolences to the families of those killed.

Van Johnson: If there is fault, we will deal with that where the fault is. But there is a city employee who is feeling pretty horrible right now. And so I ask all of us that, you know, we extend some grace as well.

Orlando Montoya: The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the deaths while the city employees involved remain on administrative leave.


Story 5:

Orlando Montoya: The National Democratic Party plans to target four Republican-held seats in the General Assembly this year in hopes of chipping away at the GOP's grip on power under the Gold Dome. The Democratic legislative campaign committee said this morning it would boost the campaigns of four Democrats who are trying to flip legislative districts in the north Atlanta suburbs. It's part of an escalating fight this year for control of state legislatures across the country, even though the GOP maintains comfortable majorities in both the Georgia House and Senate.


Story 6:

Orlando Montoya: A new autism center in Atlanta will help preschool-aged children learn life skills and preparation for attending elementary school. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has that story.

Ellen Eldridge: Centra Artisan's Life Skills Academy will provide applied behavior analysis, or ABA therapy, for children with autism. The widely used approach provides individualized treatment plans to help children with autism develop social, academic and life skills that address behaviors. Haley Royal is the director of clinical services.

Haley Royal: We are as much as possible replicating an early childhood education setting with everything tailored to them, specifically to their individual needs, while also allowing for us to work on social skills with similar age peers.

Ellen Eldridge: The center in Southwest Atlanta plans to enroll up to 76 students. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 7:

Orlando Montoya: New infrastructure is being planned for Southeast Georgia's Bryant and Bulloch counties, as the region faces water supply needs related to growth and the new Hyundai electric vehicle plant under construction. State environmental regulators on Monday released draft permits that would allow the counties to withdraw more than 6 million gallons of water each day from the region's underground water source. Nearby residents and farmers fear the new pumps could cause their wells to go dry.

Story 8:

Orlando Montoya: Delta Air Lines has struck a deal with a startup airline to operate flights between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Atlanta-based Delta and Riyadh Air announced a partnership yesterday that would make Delta the only U.S. airline flying the Saudi Arabia. The kingdom's flag carrier, Saudia, currently flies nonstop between that country and three U.S. destinations. Riyadh Air isn't carrying passengers yet, although it has ordered lots of planes. No timetable or financial details were released and the agreement still requires regulatory approval.


Story 9:

Orlando Montoya: Fulton County is partnering with Atlanta Farmers and the Atlanta Regional Commission to offer fresh produce to seniors at events throughout July. GPB's Amanda Andrews reports.

Amanda Andrews: The Georgia Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program serves 450 seniors at four different sites in Fulton County. Eligible shoppers receive a $50 voucher to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. The program is designed to address food insecurity and increase nutrition education. Kenneth Elder has been farming for 15 years and working with Fulton County for five. She says the markets are mutually beneficial.

Kenneth Elder: So you get a lot of produce that comes off in the summer. So quite naturally, you're looking for a market that you can get rid of those items. But it's also a pleasure working with the seniors, you know, because they actually are from a generation. They cook. They're used to fresh food.

Amanda Andrews: The next market will take place at Helen Mills Senior Center in Atlanta. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews.


Story 10:

Orlando Montoya: Residents of one of the South's last Gullah Geechee communities of Black slave descendants have submitted signatures, hoping to force a referendum on whether to reverse zoning changes that they fear will make them sell their land. Commissioners in Southeast Georgia's McIntosh County voted last year to weaken zoning restrictions that for decades protected residents on Sapelo Island. On Tuesday, those residents and their supporters submitted a petition for referendum to repeal the changes. They expect a special election on the issue this fall.


Story 11:

Orlando Montoya: A startup at Emory University, is among 16 student-led startups from around the world and one of only four in the U.S. competing for $1 million investment prize aimed at solving some of the world's biggest sustainable development challenges. The Hult Prize Foundation announced the semifinalists for its investment funding today. Final winners will be chosen in September. The Emory students' company, Owonga, aims to provide affordable, on-demand electricity through portable battery packs.

Story 12:

Orlando Montoya: The house museum where Atlanta writer Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind reopened today after a four-year closure. The Margaret Mitchell House in 2024 sits on a busy corner that the writer hardly could imagine when she lived there nearly a century ago. High-rises and commercial bustle surround the three story house with its large front yard and porch. Sheffield Hale is CEO of the Atlanta History Center, which owns the house.

Sheffield Hale: I think it's just so important to — to keep this going. We've got this great piece of real estate and, you know, there's something about being at the birthplace of Gone with the Wind that makes all kinds of discussions richer.

Orlando Montoya: The house closed in March 2020, when tourism ground to a halt because of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Sheffield Hale: About 40% of our tourists that were people that would come through here were from other countries. And so that's that's a key part of our — our business strategy. And so I think that they're back. And so we're open and we're very excited about that.

Orlando Montoya: Stepping inside the house, Claire Haley is my guide. She's the Atlanta History Center's vice president of special projects and talks about the closure more like a transformation.

Claire Haley: The exhibits that were in the house have been up for many years at that point. We wanted to give folks a new experience so they had a reason to come back and maybe learn something new and see something different. And so when we figured out that it was gonna be longer than the two weeks we all thought to flatten the curve, we took the opportunity to completely reimagine the exhibit.

Orlando Montoya: After four years, artifacts that you'd expect to be here still remain, including period furniture and the original desk that Mitchell wrote on — and on display for the first time is the actual suitcase that took the pages of her still-unpublished novel to a New York publishing firm. But there are also exhibits like glass cases filled with about a dozen books showing how Gone with the Wind got interpreted into many languages — like those those international visitors might have read it in.

Claire Haley: Especially after World War II, Its popularity really picked up internationally, I think, for similar reasons to why it was initially popular in the U.S. on the heels of the Great Depression. There were a lot of people who had been through rough times. Here in Gone with the Wind, you have a story of a woman surviving a devastating war and coming out on the other side with resilience and pluck and courage. And I think that really appealed to people who found themselves on the other side of war.

Orlando Montoya: The house museum also addresses head on how the story might not have appealed to many Americans, especially when it premiered as a movie in a segregated Atlanta in 1939. The film was produced by David O. Selznick.

Claire Haley: There's some correspondence that we have between David O. Selznick and Walter White, who was the head of the NAACP at that time. And Walter White writes to Selznick and tells him, Look, within Gone with the Wind, there are some problems with the way that Black people are portrayed. It's not reflective of the history of slavery and reconstruction, and perhaps you should look at ways that you can mitigate some of that in the film.

Orlando Montoya: Selznick made some small changes. The new exhibit goes further. By elevating some of the real history of reconstruction, the exhibit debunks some of the myths undergirding Gone with the Wind. There's also another book featured prominently, that of another Atlanta writer, W.E.B. Du Bois, whose Reconstruction in America was published just a year before Mitchell's epic and challenged the prevailing historical narrative of the same period covered in Gone with the Wind. So there's a lot to chew on. And so whether you come from across the world or across Georgia, the newly renovated Margaret Mitchell House is there to welcome you Tuesday through Sunday, 9 to 4 each day.


Orlando Montoya: And that's all we have for you on this edition of Georgia Today. I'm glad you decided to download us today. Do that again tomorrow. And of course, hit subscribe on Georgia Today so you'll always stay current with us in your feed. If you'd like to learn more about these stories, visit GPB.org/news and if you have feedback, send that to us at GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Orlando Montoya filling in for Peter Biello all this week. It's been a pleasure being with you today. And I'll talk to you again tomorrow.


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

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