ACC M&C June 2

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor & Commission had a livestreamed work session Wednesday, where it discussed the removal of a Confederate monument downtown and the Sunday protests against police violence. (Screenshot/ACC YouTube)

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz ordered the county attorney’s office to begin investigating removal procedures for the Confederate monument at the intersection of Broad Street and College Avenue in a livestreamed commission work session Tuesday.

The Soldiers’ Monument is a stone obelisk-like monument that sits near the University of Georgia’s Arch. It was moved to Broad Street from its original location on College Avenue near City Hall in 1872 and bears the names of Confederate soldiers from Athens.

Community conversations about the monument’s removal have been happening for years. Girtz said he was prompted to begin the removal by Sunday’s protest against police brutality.

Several commissioners voiced their support for the removal of the monument and praised Sunday’s peaceful protest. District 8 Commissioner Andy Herod called the monument a “danger to public health” and said he was sure it would be pushed over, leading to severe injuries if someone was caught under it.

“I want a crane out there tomorrow or the next day, just like they did in Birmingham yesterday, for the protection and safety of that monument, for the protection and safety of this community,” District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards said. “I want to see that monument taken down.”

Commissioners spoke about a lack of transparency around the tear-gassing that occurred at the end of the protest. District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link called for more information about the actions of the ACC Police Department and National Guard during the protest.

District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker was part of the group who organized the protest. During the meeting, she said she stood with the nonviolent protesters that were tear-gassed and asked her fellow commissioners to speak up about racism in the U.S. and in Athens.

Parker also called for a transition plan that would convert 50% of ACCPD armed officer positions to social work positions, mental health professionals and justice counselors over the next 10 years.

District 10 Commissioner Ovita Thornton said she was very proud of the rally, but also said she was sick of people coming into Athens and saying that black lives matter, while not reaching out to the black community.

“Help black people up, not be trying to drag us along like y’all are saving us,” Thornton said. “Start at home. Clean your own house up first.”

She also urged commissioners to fix issues of racism in their own local government.

“Do we have racism on this board, with this commission? Start cleaning up our own house first,” Thornton said. “The blind can’t lead the blind, unless you have another agenda.”

The commission also discussed and approved items on the consent agenda. The commission approved nearly $74,000 to cover Board of Election expenses from implementing the state’s new voting system. The payment comes from the fiscal year 2020 general operating contingency fund and covers extra voting expenses caused by the pandemic, including absentee ballot postage.

A resolution that urges all ACC residents, employees, businesses and visitors to wear a face mask was approved during the meeting. Girtz said the county purchased 50,000 masks using federal money. The masks will be distributed in high-density public areas, ACC Transit buses, the courthouse and in other public facilities, Girtz said.

The commission approved a contract between the government and the Athens Housing Authority for Bethel Midtown Village to become part of the North Downtown Athens Development Project.

The commission also accepted the amended Athens Downtown Master Plan 2030. The plan is a “blueprint for building on the existing assets of downtown Athens to create a walkable, sustainable, and vibrant city center by 2030,” according to an ACC document.

Link said the downtown area has changed since the plan was drafted in 2012, citing new apartment complexes and the proposed west downtown historic district. She said she wants the Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee, which was appointed by Mayor Nancy Denson in 2015, to meet and revise the plan based on how the city has changed.

An ordinance that allows the government to exercise “police power” to use money to pay for homeless, impoverished or “distressed” citizens was approved by the commission.

“Police power here doesn’t refer to policing by police department, but in fact refers simply to the power of this government to do some things that currently are not embedded in our charter,” Girtz said. “Specifically, this provides us the opportunity to provide relief to the public and we wanted to make sure there was clear authority in our charter to do that, particularly in the midst of this pandemic.”

The revised loud noise ordinance discussed in the Legislative Review Committee’s last meeting was also approved in the regular session. The commission also voted to amend water and sewage payment rates in the county, a move that District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said would save Athens residents money.

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(4) comments

Minja

Its quite simple that monument has same meaning as putting up monument for Adolf Hitler.

wjabbe

There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the Civil War which was the first ratcheting up of Federal Power by Abraham Lincoln against the good intentions of the Founders. Did you know the Confederacy was being taxed by the North at an enormous rate of 40%? How would you like to pay such an enormous tax? New York was basically built by black slave labor. Abraham Lincoln was elected, if you can call it that, by 39%. What kind of "majority rule" is this? Lincoln went through many generals; none would fight his war against the Confederacy. Read the Constitution. Where does it authorize killing millions and destroying and plundering over half the country for the purpose of "keeping the Union together"? Lincoln could have said, "Go you will be back in 20 years and we will welcome you back." All the unnecessary death and destruction would have been avoided. Why didn't he do this? This was was not about slavery. Blacks were not full citizens in the original Constitution regardless of your opinion about that. This was how the Founders created it. Slavery was not outlawed until after the Civil War. Today we are all basically slaves to government, working over half our lives just to pay taxes to foment wars all over the planet, most of them undeclared and illegal. Moreover the South was forced to suffer for decades after the Civil War by looters and thugs from the North who raped the South. This entire episode of our history is a shameful disgrace. History books lie. It is monuments to Dishonest Abraham Lincoln which must come down along with drunk Grant and Psychopath Sherman. Lincoln had zero authority for any of his illegal actions. Shame on him. Even the great General Lee appears to have had a conflict of interest because he could have sent a highly trained commando squad to DC and obliterated Dishonest Abe and the entire mob of thugs up there and avoided all the death and destruction of the failed illegal Civil War. I believe General Lee was compromised because he switched sides from North to South. He also well knew resources were limited. Everything pointed to a surprise attack by a small commando squad but he rejected this plan for a massive, expensive and failed and illegal land war. Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics

wjabbe

Just over a month ago, April 23, 2020, was the 28th anniversary of the "unsolved" murder of former UGA Senior Jennifer Stone behind the Bus Station in downtown Athens. The police investigation files have been kept secret by the full military armed force of this government. The government has had 28 years to solve this crime but has resulted in dismal failure. The time is long overdue for the full investigative file to be opened to the light of day and the light of truth. Let's stop using the full military force and power of government to hide the truth. Secrecy is the enemy of the truth. Although the Georgia Supreme Court ruled you could continue the secrecy, you still could voluntarily open the files to the light of truth. How about it? Her memory deserves no less. Every student at UGA deserves no less. Let's stop using the military power of government to hide the truth from citizens who pay for the operations of government. Perhaps the efforts of ordinary citizens can finally solve this "unsolved" case once and for all! Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics, Citizen for about 54 years. P. S. In 1961 I graduated in physics from the great University of California, Berkeley. Did you know the first president of this great University was from Georgia? John LeConte M.D. from Georgia, who lost everything in the Civil War, was appointed first president and first professor of physics at the newly formed University of California in 1868. The Motto of this great world class University is "Let There be Light". The "Light" of course is the light of knowledge and understanding. One can't shed light on a subject which is kept secret by the full military armed force of government. I am sure if John LeConte were alive today he would also advocate opening the murder investigation files for former student Jennifer Stone.

wjabbe

This monument was dedicated to the memory of many courageous citizens and soldiers long ago. Why does this Mayor want to tarnish their memory by moving it? Why did not the local police protect it from criminal vandalism? Would the Mayor and Commissioners who seek to move it do so if they or their loved ones were honored by it? Do not the Mayor and Commissioners have more important things to do than to shame the good names of others who are no longer alive to defend themselves? As a citizen of Athens for about 54 years I think their behavior is a shameful disgrace. I ask the Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia Legislature to prevent these proposed evil deeds by our elected officials in Athens. Thank you. Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics

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