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A word

Happy Monday to all! Due to a moderate sports injury (hand), your editor has had to take it easy on the keyboard for the past couple of weeks. Some readers had suggested using voice-typing software, which is a kind thought but does not solve all the problems. As you likely know, one person does all the tasks of maintaining this nonprofit news site (not a “blog,” as some mistakenly call it). That means not just writing, but also maintaining the website’s many backend plugins, research (online and on foot), budgeting (and now bookkeeping), the interface itself that creates the finished pages you see, photography, processing of that photography, and hands-on technical or analog tasks involving assorted pieces of gear.

And that leaves precious little time or energy for fundraising.

All that is to say: the more people who commit to a monthly gift to The Clayton Crescent, the sooner we will be able to hire more staff. More staff means no breaks in coverage. It’s that simple.

We are entering our third year of service this month to Clayton County and the Southern Crescent, and frankly, this community has reaped enormous benefits during this time for little to no investment. It is difficult to maintain a site in a small county where the most engaged citizens are generally tied to political campaigns or are politicians themselves. Because we are a relatively small community, The Clayton Crescent does NOT take donations from elected or appointed officials. That’s because sooner or later, we have to cover them, and some will try to exercise editorial control over The Clayton Crescent if they don’t like something we’ve covered.

That places us in a difficult financial position, one that our associates at the Institute for Nonprofit News understand and support. Complicating matters is the fact that, in a legitimate news organization, there is a wall of separation between editorial and advertising. Otherwise, it’s not a news organization—it’s a public relations/marketing/vanity site. We don’t do that.

Like National Public Radio or the Public Broadcasting System, we depend on readers’ financial support. Unlike NPR or PBS, we do not receive a budget line item from the federal or state government to keep running. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing (witness the last Georgia Assembly session that cut Georgia Public Broadcasting’s budget—not to mention Clayton State University’s budget and several other Georgia universities’ budgets, which we’ll get into in another story.)

Lightly salted

close up shot of a salt shaker

We hear plenty of citizens complaining “Tier 1 county” (actually, Clayton contains several Tier 1 areas, which make up a large chunk of the county) and “no white-tablecloth restaurants” and “political corruption.” We also hear constant praise and encouragement for The Clayton Crescent. We do break nearly all the stories about Clayton County that you later see on the local TV stations and you can compare the dates yourself to prove it.

But we are at a crossroads, Clayton County. We need you to show up for us the way we have shown up for you. A lot of people talk a good line about fundraising but don’t actually come through.

That’s not cool.

Add to this the continuing downward slide of the legacy newspaper, which is for all intents and purposes a “zombie” paper, and you, the citizens of Clayton County, are in deep, deep trouble.

We’ve pointed several times to research proving that, wherever local papers stop covering local news (not just tweaking press releases or sharing copy from non-local publications to fill space), there is a corresponding rise in political corruption. That’s because a news outlet’s primary job in a functioning democracy is to put the brakes on said corruption.

Think of your local news outlet as a referee. If a political player palms the ball or steps outside the agreed-upon boundaries, it’s our job to call the foul. And, just as in any sport, one or two players with outsized egos will throw a tantrum. We can call a foul on that, as well. But it’s up to you, the public, as their coaches, to send any unsportsmanlike players to the showers.

If you are a Facebook friend, or if you like and follow The Clayton Crescent, or if you share our stories with your colleagues or neighbors, ask yourself: Have I done my fair share to support this vital community news source?

We need your financial support at the monthly level. And it’s tax-deductible.

colored eggs on white surface
Eggs valued at $Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Looking at the insane price of eggs, of a cup of coffee, of lunch out, of a single cocktail, of a movie—how much of that do you waste in one week’s time?

Would you be willing to invest the price of one lunch out each month to keep Clayton County and metro Atlanta up to date on what’s happening in your own backyard?

Would you also be willing to convince two friends to do likewise?

Clayton County has been the red-headed stepchild of Atlanta for years. Speaking personally, I have made it my mission to educate the world at large about this place, its people, and its vital economic contributions to the metro and the region. You’ll notice that, over time, local news stations began adding coverage of Clayton County beyond murders and fires. That is a direct result of The Clayton Crescent’s editorial influence.

You’ll also notice that other nonprofits with far bigger endowments and staffs have taken an interest in this space and come in, seeding the ground plowed by The Clayton Crescent. But they don’t provide the kind of serious news reporting and investigations that we do.

And speaking personally some more, I have done this at a steeply-discounted salary (like, at a 50% to 150% discount) for the job description. I’ve turned down some very juicy job offers. I’ve answered the phone at all hours of the day and night. I’ve continued to publish immediately after major surgery for cancer, and despite a couple of other recent health challenges. (No one else does this.) The only tangible benefit this job offers is health insurance. The intangible benefits are many. But they don’t keep the website up.

We run on literally 1/10th the annual budget of many similar nonprofit news operations.

Put your money where your mouth is, Clayton County. We provide a free service but it’s not free to produce.

Here’s what’s happening in your world this week. We hope you use this information to be proactive and to let your elected and appointed officials know—in advance—what you do and don’t want from them.

And keep in mind: advance voting for the runoff for Clayton County Sheriff starts Monday, April 10. Low turnout means the vote of the few governs the many. You have to vote if you want any say in the matter.

Monday, April 3

  • Clayton County Schools are on spring break this week. The Board of Education’s next scheduled meeting will be Monday, April 10 at 6 p.m., at 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro. Get into the details of past meetings via eBoard.
  • 6 p.m.: The Jonesboro City C0uncil holds a work session at City Center. This will be the first meeting presided over by newly-elected Mayor Dr. Donya Sartor. Items for discussion include:
    • A fee waiver for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce ‘s Women in Business Luncheon to use the Community Room in City Hall on May 12.
    • discussion of supporting the Jonesboro High School Mock Trial Team at the nationals in Little Rock, AK.
    • Cyber Insurance, National Liability, Workers’ Compensation, and changing the renewal date.
    • a Zoning Appeal (23-ZA-001) for duplexes by Dawn Massenburg/Community Home Ventures, property owner, and Canon Manley, applicant, for lots 3 and 4 (Parcel Nos. 05241B B007 and 05241B B007A) on New Dawn Court.
    • a Conditional Use Permit application (23-CU-006) for a tattoo studio by Charlotte M. Noon, property owner, and Whitney Singleton, applicant, for property at 279 North Main Street (Parcel No. 13209C C002), Suite D.
    • surplus of a Jonesboro Police Department body armor vest.
    • a municipal lease agreement with Motorola for 40 portable police radios
    • Celebrations and activities marking Georgia Cities Week, April 22-29.
    • a parking lot agreement between the city and AT&T for 25 parking spaces at 130, 134, and 138 West Mill Street, weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 6 p.m.: The Forest Park City Council holds its work session (discussion) at 6 p.m., followed by the regular meeting (voting) at 7 p.m. The council wants to add another as-yet-unnamed Sister City in Senegal and proposes sending a “goodwill mission” at a cost to taxpayers of $50,000. Also on the work session agenda: a request to approve a 40-person event center in the small strip mall at 1067 Forest Parkway in the party supply store; an agreement with Clayton County Public Schools to serve breakfast and lunch this summer to all children under 18 and to developmentally disabled 19-year-olds; a request from AT&T to update communications equipment on the tower by the Farmers Market at Barnett Road; and a $253,476 sole-source contract for 60 new Tasers, software, and supplies from Axon for the police department. The council will hear public comment and vote on these items during the regular meeting, as well as present a proclamation to Public Works sign shop William Ross, who has worked for the city for 55 years and says he started out making $1.50 per hour. You can watch live via Facebook at https://bit.ly/3c28p0A.

Tuesday, April 4

  • 4:30 p.m.: The Riverdale City Council holds a Budget Work Session in the upstairs Conference Room, 7200 Church Street.
  • 5:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Commissioners holds a pre-agenda meeting at 112 Smith Street in Jonesboro. Listed discussion items as of press time include the Roman United development and Phase II of the Mauldin and Jenkins audit. Watch live at https://claytoncountyga.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.asp or on TV on CCTV23/AT&T U-verse 99.
  • 6:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Commissioners holds its regular meeting at 112 Smith Street in Jonesboro. The big one is Resolution 2023-77, which authorizes Mauldin & Jenkins to conduct an audit of travel and training expenditures for all county employees from July 1, 2018 through July 31, 2022. The Clayton Crescent has been going back and forth with the county Finance Department for over a week about Mauldin and Jenkins’ findings on specific dollar amounts spent by specific employees and elected officials (more coming on that in a separate story). Some other agenda highlights:
    • first contract amendment for an existing street milling contract with Atlanta Paving & Concrete Construction Company, Inc. of Peachtree Corners due to material cost increases;
    • $ 636,697.52 special purchase contract for Piedmont Paving, Inc, of Newnan to finish the Panhandle Road turn widening at Michelle Obama Academy;
    • an annual contract (ITB 22-241) for fencing awarded to both ASAP Management Group, LLC of Jonesboro and Stembridge Custom Metals, Inc. of Fairburn;
    • an annual contract (ITB 23-04) to Top Notch Dock and Door, LLC of Oakwood or overhead door service for Fire and Emergency Services;
    • a sole source contract (SS 23-17) for $112,826 over three years to Blackboard, Inc. of Marietta for Blackboard Learn Professional Software for Fire and Emergency Services;
    • a $99,556 Special Purchase Agreement (SP 23-54) with Impactiv, Inc. dba Vivo of Atlanta for an online live interactive strength training program for seniors;
    • a recommendation to use the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) Cooperative to buy an annual contract for red light traffic camera enforcement systems from American Traffic Solutions, Inc., dba Verra Mobility, of Mesa, AZ;
    • a recommendation to spend $164,405.51, using Statewide Contract #99999 T20190814– SPD0001 with Carahsoft Technology Corporation of Reston, VA, for on a Public Works Cartegraph Operations Management System (in plain English, an electronic mapping system);
    • a budget amendment request to resurface tennis courts at International Park Tennis Center, South Clayton Recreation Center, Independence Park, and Flat Shoals, and to convert two tennis courts at International Park Tennis Center to pickleball courts;
    • Resolution 2023-74 is a potential partnership agreement with the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine to set up the Health Equity For All Teens program;
    • a resolution for the county to grant Georgia Showcase Baseball, Inc. $10,000 in Commissioner Block Grant funds for the travel baseball youth program;
    • a resolution authorizing the county to apply for a $94,639.45 grant for the District Attorney’s Office Child Support Division from Georgia Department of Human Services (“with a revenue neutral in-kind match of existing facility and services”);
    • and several board positions are up for appointment, including Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities Region 3 Advisory Council (Chairman Jeff Turner’s appointee), Tourism Authority (full board/at-large appointee), and five seats on the MARTA Citizens Advisory Board (one for Turner, two for District 3 Comissioner Felicia Franklin, and two for District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis).

Wednesday, April 5

  • The Jonesboro Design Review Commission holds its regular meeting. No agenda was available as of press time Monday.

Thursday, April 6

  • 5:30 p.m.: The Riverdale City Council holds a Budget Work Session in Council Chambers, 7200 Church Street, Riverdale GA.

Friday, April 7

  • 5 p.m.: Food Truck Friday is back in Forest Park at Bill Lee Park, 721 Main Street, next to the railroad track and across from the Leonard Hartsfield Community Center. Watch the weather!

We don’t want to rain on your parade, not one little drop, but please watch the weather this weekend, which may affect several planned Easter Egg hunts. Check with organizers for any last-minute cancellations.

Meanwhile, send your hot news tips to editor@claytoncrescent.org but please—if you make an allegation, you can speed things up by sending us the proof to back up your claims. (A good rule of thumb is this: If you were hauled into court to defend your statement, could you?) Broad hints, half-truths, and implications of wrongdoing without proof waste everyone’s time. We investigate what seems credible based on our professional news judgment. We don’t entertain nonsense.

And we always appreciate those with the courage to use their real names.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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