by Robin Kemp
A lot of very powerful people and entities from outside Clayton County come here to line their pockets. Many times, they do so at the expense of the health and quality of life of those of us who live here. These forces have a vested interest in keeping the people who live here in the dark. Often, they come bearing the promise of a few “good jobs” at double the minimum wage.
There’s a saying about giving people “the mushroom treatment”–keep them in the dark and feed them bovine excrement.
We’re not in the mushroom-farming business.
We’re in the news business.
Most news organizations are for-profit businesses, although those profit margins are generally razor-thin. We specifically chose to follow a nonprofit news model because it makes sense financially and ethically. It’s also what journalists in hundreds of other communities–where local newspapers have been gutted, zombified, or shut down–have done to keep bringing their communities the news.
A non-profit is still a business. It’s just a business that plows its money back into operations for the public good instead of handing out cash to shareholders.
The Clayton Crescent is not a hobby. It is not a blog. It is not an entertainment site. It is not here merely to repost whatever announcements various government entities make. And, although it has a full-time staff of one, it’s not one person’s opinion. The Clayton Crescent is a professional news operation.
We have a business office. We have accounting. We have legal fees. We still have rent, subscriptions, membership dues, and all the usual bills to pay. And we’ve had to set everything up while one person continues to do all editorial, production, and technical support work, usually 16+ hours a day, usually 6-7 days a week. And it’s not a cut-and-paste job.
Clayton County is in a difficult situation. It’s one of the smallest counties in the state, yet it’s the site of one of Georgia’s biggest economic engines. Clayton County bears the freight to and from the Port of Savannah. Clayton County land is the soot-covered Cinderella who does the work of hosting and running the airport that pumps money into the City of Atlanta. Clayton County is left to try and minimize decades of toxic contamination created and left by the U.S. Army at the former Fort Gillem–contamination that has impacted Conley, Ellenwood, Joy Lake and other modest-income areas where previous homeowners have either died or fled, leaving renters in the dark as to environmental risks.
It’s also ranked 158 out of 159 Georgia counties in terms of individual giving to nonprofits.
Burying the lede
The Clayton Crescent has until Friday, September 17 to raise $3,000 in order to meet a generous matching donation. Since April 2020, we have brought unprecedented and unparallelled news coverage to the people who live and work in Clayton County. In November 2020, we showed up to do what a local news organization’s duty is–to cover election returns–and we were the only local news organization there on Election Day.
When the final outcome came down to Clayton County, news organizations around the world and across the nation knew what kind of pressure cooker the local tallying effort had become–BECAUSE The Clayton Crescent was there.
Local television news crews came down to Clayton County–BECAUSE The Clayton Crescent was there.
Strangers and friends from all over the country saw this and took it upon themselves to donate thousands of dollars to The Clayton Crescent–BECAUSE The Clayton Crescent was there.
That money has brought you all the coverage you’ve come to rely on since then.
Here’s why you should support The Clayton Crescent:
- The editor has lived in this community for 13 years and is recognized by her peers as the leading authority on Clayton County news coverage.
- We are transparent in our fiscal stewardship and our editorial content.
- We are scrupulous in avoiding conflicts of interest.
- We provide professional news coverage of local government, business, and quality of life issues that others don’t.
- We do not host irrelevant “sponsored content.”
- You don’t have to click and click and click to try and find the latest Clayton County news. All you have to do is go to our homepage and there it is.
- We preserve history in the making that otherwise would have been lost at this critical moment in time.
- We tell you what’s going to happen, not what happened last week, so that you can be an active participant in your own government and not a passive victim of it.
We know there’s an appetite for this kind of coverage in Clayton County. That’s why we are asking you to become one of 25 new members before Friday, September 17. Help us meet this matching goal so we can keep bringing you the news you need and deserve!
It’s election season once again. This time, we have two special elections–one for Board of Commissioners District 1 and another for School Board District 8. The municipalities have elections coming up in November. And the national effort to rewrite election laws–as we are experiencing in Georgia under SB 202–continues in other states’ legislatures and the federal courts. Add to this the business-as-usual nature of local elections in Clayton County.
Where will you turn for the information you need to choose wisely?
With your support, we can continue to hold your elected and appointed officials accountable, and to break down information silos that affect the streets you drive on, the neighborhoods where you live, and the schools your children attend.
Our logo is a crescent moon because we represent a sliver of light shining in the darkness.
We aren’t mushroom farmers.
Dare to compare.
Join now at donorbox.org/clayton-crescent. And ask your friends and neighbors to join, too. Thank you.
Here’s your Monday roundup, brought to you by many generous donors who care about Clayton County:
Monday, September 13
- 6 p.m.: The Jonesboro City Council will hold several public hearings on zoning matters, followed by the regular meeting. The council plans to move the polling place for the November 2 election from the police station to Lee Street Elementary. The city is looking to buy an empty lot at 158 Smith Street from Charlie Souder, Jr. and Leroy Hickson as part of its massive City Center construction project. The lot’s fair market value is $18,000, according to county tax rolls; the city says its current market value “via the Sales Comparison Approach” is $19,800 and wants to offer $$19,139.74. The council also will consider an $86,200 low bid to seal the leaking roof of the recently-renovated historic firehouse building now housing Nouveau Restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago, and a discussion of a current financial audit of the city. The city plans to spend its federal COVID-19 relief funds on “revenue recovery,” a small business incubator in the future City Center.
Other agenda items:
- a proposed food truck court at 8271 Tara Blvd., at the site of the mulch and gravel yard and The Handy House, outbuilding seller. Don Flanders/Sardis Creek, LLC owns the property. The applicant is Tan Bowers / Atl Food Truck Park. The city recommends approval with many conditions. The owner had allowed commercial truck parking there until Code Enforcement shut it down; now he wants to open a vegan food truck site.
- Councilman Ed Wise is asking for flashing stop signs, at the intersections of Lee and Dixon Streets and of North McDonough St., at a cost of $8,917.54 (or $1,364.59 per sign). Betty Sue Parks of Lawrenceville owns Transafe, the company providing the quote.
- a request by owner/applicant Santwan Miller to rezone a single-family home at 1284 Ga. Highway 138 (across from Advance Auto Parts near the Clayton County Police Department) from single-family residential R-4 to highway commercial C-2. The city recommends denial, noting the area was just rezoned from commercial to to residential two years ago.
- transferring two military surplus Humvees and two military surplus diesel motorcycles to Black Dog Customs of Madison in exchange for an $11,000 credit. Black Dog valued the items at $9,000. The business, owned by Michael Vaden, refurbishes Humvees. The credit will go to refurbishing a 1994 surplus Humvee for the Jonesboro Police Department that Vaden’s shop already is working on. (The 1994 Humvee gets 13 mpg highway/14 mpg city.)
- approving a $1,729.50 Justice Department matching grant to help supply Jonesboro Police with five bulletproof vests.
- acceptance of seven Tasers for the Police Department from the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office (investigators there got new ones and say these were in good shape)
- a final update on the 6.19-acre Hearthside Jonesboro senior development plat map consolidating many smaller parcels into the project
- a zoning variance request to remove landscaping and add parking for a liquor store on Ga. Highway 138 owned by James Stephen of McDonough. “The property is only 0.79 acres and site elements like parking and landscape strips will be tight with the requirement of a 10,000 square-foot building,” the action item notes. In April, The Clayton Crescent reported that the City Council voted to annex the property into the City of Jonesboro for tax purposes. It did so via Zoom several days after Gov. Brian Kemp had lifted an emergency prohibition on public meetings. The city cc’d its notice to Grimsby Development, whose officers were Seung Hee Han and Eun Bai of Suwanee; the business’ license lapsed August 26, 2019 and was reinstated on April 8–days before the online council hearing and vote–with Bai as the sole officer.
- approval of conditions on a conditional use application for 309 North Main Street. City Manager Ricky Clark wrote that the applicant, Arsalan Amin, the applicant, had said the business (Match Point) would be a clothing store with a few retail convenience items on the side. Later, Clark saw convenience store items being unloaded but no clothing. “Despite the communication mix-up, the general retail will all be contained inside the suite. Lottery machines are at the back, and no discernable noise should affect those outside or in adjacent suites,” Clark wrote in the action item. “The store will definitely not attract the amount of traffic of a gas station convenience store. There are not many general retail stores in this part of the City.” Feadlore, LLC owns the property, which is the strip mall where Arnaud’s BBQ is. Here’s a letter Zoning Director David Allen sent:
Tonight’s agenda packet includes photos of the store’s interior, which include a bank of video poker-type machines and stacks of ramen noodle cups, generic paper towels, and lots of cell phones.
- 6:30 p.m.: Lake City’s City Council holds its work session, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. The work session will cover updates on Employee Appreciation Day, Community Clean-up Day on Saturday September 25, and city projects, as well as a discussion of home businesses. The regular meeting will take up an ordinance to establish an architectural review board. Meanwhile, progress is underway on the front lawn of City Hall for a future amphitheater/gathering space.
- 6:30 p.m.: The Hampton City Council holds a “virtual regular session” via Zoom. The council will hear and take action on the Ethics Committee’s finding on Mayor Steve Hutchison’s complaint lodged against Councilman Errol Mitchell. The board did not find that Mitchell had committed any violations and “in fact acted as any Council Member should and made his own attempts to correct any errors that may have existed. In fact, the evidence and statements presented did not show that [Mitchell] had ill intent.” There will be second readings on six proposed ordinances, which give the public the opportunity to comment on any plans to change local law. Three other items are up for a final vote, and an additional ordinance will get its first reading. These include:
- a request from Bear Creek Henry 21 LLC, whose business address is 120 S. Zack Hinton Pkwy. in McDonough, to rezone a 21.42-acre parcel on Tara Boulevard from C-2 General Commercial and R-2 Single Family Residential to MU Mixed Use. The company wants to develop townhomes and “commercial uses.” The council “asked that the applicant perform a market analysis” in an effort to impose age restrictions on the townhomes. Two of the proposed conditions: that the development be a gated community and provide bike-friendly parking. The property abuts Woodland subdivision, Eagle’s Landing Family Practice, and a “proposed commercial pod.”
- an ordinance banning the use of storage facilities for things like band practice, engine repair, garage sales, commercial sales, or living spaces
- allowing the city manager to appoint an interim department head if one is not appointed within 60 days of a vacancy
- a ban on grass and yard clippings blocking the streets, sidewalks, or rights-of-way
- a resolution to send the Capital Improvements Element to the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Department of Community Affairs
- a resolution to adopt an intergovernmental agreement with the Downtown Development Authority
- an ordinance to charge a “development electrical utility installation fee” for underground utilities and an “electric meter installation and connection fee” that would apply to new construction as well as remodels requiring a new meter.
- A resolution to adopt new fees for electrical permits. The attached schedule includes a new electrical permit application, as well as several other fee changes for things like liquor licenses, business licenses, temporary sign permits, and building permits, to name a few:
- Here’s how you can comment on it:
- For the general public comment period at the beginning of the meeting: E-mail your comment to email@example.com by 12 noon Tuesday, September 14.
- To comment AFTER a specific agenda item, type your comment in the Zoom chat room.
Access the Zoom meeting at https://bit.ly/3Ee5dMR using meeting ID 892-4634-5996 and passcode 833639. You also can call (888) 788-0099.
Tuesday, September 14
- 4:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration meets online. This is the last meeting before the September 21 election and it comes as Elections and Registration ramps up for the November 2 municipal elections. Send public comments in advance from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at https://bit.ly/2YMaRWh. On the agenda: Director Shauna Dozier’s monthly report and 2021 election update, a discussion of vote review panelists for the September 21 special election and October 19 runoff (if there is a runoff), a recommendation for a special called board meeting to certify the September 2021 election results, recommendations for Morrow and Lake City early voting locations for the November 2 municipal elections, and a discussion of a new county ordinance requiring county boards to post minutes within five business days of each meeting, as well as requiring all board members to get Open Records Act training within 45 days of taking office. In February 2021, The Clayton Crescent brought the matter of missing and untimely minutes to the attention of the county. In July, the Board of Commissioners passed the ordinance. Many county boards have not posted timely minutes in months–or, in some cases, years–thereby preventing citizens from knowing what transpired before minutes were approved at the next meeting.
- 5:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Commissioners holds its work session. On the agenda: MARTA will present its quarterly update, the Clayton County Water Authority will do a presentation on the proposed 700-acre Huie Nature Preserve, Southern Regional Medical Center CEO Charlotte Dupré will discuss a request for funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a discussion by the Development Authority of a major development project for Mountain View, a look at 2022 medical benefits for retired county employees ($1.78 million) and the rest of the 2022 county employee “benefits mix,” and a SPLOST management update on the Flint River Community Center. You can attend by watching online or in person (mask, temperature check, and social distancing are mandatory).
Take a look at this video about the Huie Nature Preserve plan, which would bring people to the Pates Creek Watershed and teach kids about the water cycle:
- 6 p.m.: The Development Authority of Clayton County holds its monthly meeting at the Lake City Community Center, 5471 Jonesboro Road in Lake City. Project bonds for the “Rock Hill Project” are on the agenda, along with a report from the treasurer, an update on Clayton Works, and an overview of various Invest Clayton projects. The conference call number is (605) 472-5254 with access code 136500#. The board’s Public Purpose II corporation also will get a property management update from Richard Buckley. Any executive session items requiring votes would be voted on at the end of the meeting. The Development Authority, also known as Invest Clayton, handles major business deals for Clayton County and its meetings are open to the public.
- 6 p.m.: The Clayton County Youth Commission will host a School Board District 8 Candidate Forum at the Sonna Singleton Gregory Senior Center, 3215 Anvil Block Road, Ellenwood. To attend in person, register at https://tinyurl.com/YC–MeetSchoolBoardCandidates for in-person attendance. If you prefer to watch online, register at https://tinyurl.com/claytonschoolsD8.
- 6:30 p.m.: The Morrow City Council holds its work session, followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. The work session agenda packet is full of photos of local strip mall signs. The regular meeting includes a “public hearing tax notice,” followed by votes on:
- extending the contract withWaste Pro for 90 days for $115,000, for 1,300 homes at $35 each and about 11,575 yards (x 6) “based on the need of the residents”
- $14,500 from the Product Developpment portion of the Hotel Motel tax for Southeastern Tank & Tower to paint Clayton State’s logo on the water tower
- $98,656 in SPLOST 2014 funds to MC’s Painting and Decorations, Inc. “for the commercial concrete floors in the Dark Space.”
- creating a position for a DEA Task Force officer
- changing the Police Department’s promotion and assessment policy
- changing the job qualification descriptions for police lieutenant and sergeant
This is the first meeting since longtime City Manager Sylvia Redic’s departure.
Wednesday, September 15
- 9 a.m.: The Clayton County Board of Assessors meets at the Clayton County Tax Assessors Office, Annex 3, in the fourth floor conference room, 121 S. McDonough Street.
Thursday, September 16
- 5 p.m.: Forest Park Ward 1 Councilwoman Kimberly James holds her monthly ward meeting, which is open to all city residents. You can attend in person at the Hartsfield Community Center, 696 Main Street, or join by Zoom at https://bit.ly/3k7oBTX using meeting ID 830-8346-5760 and password jamesward1.
- 5:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Land Bank meets at Arts Clayton. The public is allowed access to this open meeting only via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/94058195944. The board has said it would only allow public participation via Zoom “until further notice” due to COVID-19.
Friday, September 17
Saturday, September 18
- 10 a.m.: Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner is hosting a town hall meeting via Zoom. Register online at https://bit.ly/3k7gQ0b.
The Clayton Crescent is here for the people of Clayton County, without fear or favor. Everywhere we go, people tell us “Thank you,” “Thank you for keeping us informed,” “Thank you for what you do,” “Thank you for your coverage.”
The Clayton Crescent thanks you for your support. Please donate now at donorbox.org/clayton-crescent and ask your friends to do the same. You can write your donation off your taxes, so it’s a win-win financially–PLUS you get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your part to keep Clayton County residents in the know.