Russell Edwards, Tim Denson, and other family members and supporters walk from City Hall to the Board of Elections office to apply for county commissioner positions in Athens, Georgia, on Monday, March 5, 2018. (Photo/McGee Nall, www.mcgeenall.com)

Local activist organization Athens for Everyone elected several new board members and adopted a new platform for 2018.

Six A4E members were elected to two-year terms. The platform was expanded to 21 items from last year's 11 items and is divided into local and state platforms for the first time.

These changes took place at their annual member meeting at the Athens-Clarke County Library on Feb. 24.

The board's role includes appointing members to lead certain initiatives, as well as supporting candidates for office.

The number of board members rose since last year, from nine to 14. The number of members has fluctuated over the years and is not a set rule, A4E organization coordinator Adam Lassila said.

The new board members elected are Eleanor Davis, Meera Naqvi, Nnenne Onyioha-Clayton, Eric Rose, Imani Scott-Blackwell and Jimena Vargas Pacora.

Scott-Blackwell is stepping down to run for Clarke County School Board in District 5 but plans to return to her role after the election.

Lassila said the new board members bring their own experience and perspectives to contribute. Rose is involved with the United Campus Workers of Georgia, the recently formed union of workers that include University of Georgia employees. Naqvi has a background in public health, and Onyioha-Clayton brings experience from political campaigns and volunteer organizing.

A4E separated the platforms into local and state issues because some of its local initiatives would come into conflict with state laws, even if passed in Athens.

"Local policy can do a lot to address the problems we have in Athens, but it can't fix all of Athens' problems," Lassila said.

One issue that was expanded was criminal justice reform. A4E had previously advocated for local decriminalization of marijuana, but is now pushing for statewide legalization. A4E supports this to reduce prison populations in the future, especially for non-violent drug offenders.

A4E also added an initiative to end cash bail. Lassila said these issues, as well as advocating for an equity package to combat poverty, have expanded focus on racial and criminal justice issues.

“I think it really shows A4E doing a better job of getting in line and working together with black-led organizations in the community to really fight for racial justice in Athens," Lassila said.

Other issues were removed from the platform because the organization felt that they had been achieved. One such issue was raising the minimum wage for full-time Clarke County employees to $11.60 an hour. Another was the successful T-SPLOST referendum that passed last year, allocating more money for transportation projects. Lastly, the expansion of Athens Clarke County Transit to include a bus route that goes to US highway 29, was mentioned as a victory, according to their website.

“The most exciting thing is when you get to take something off your platform, not because you think it can't be done, but because you already did it," Lassila said.

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