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Conyers prioritizes vaccine incentive, premium pay for essential workers from from ARPA funds
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CONYERS — Mayor Vince Evans and members of the Conyers City Council met in a work session Oct. 6 to prioritize spending of the $6 million-plus the city will receive in federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The mayor and council members reviewed a list of items compiled by city staff members and agreed by consensus to move forward with a prioritized list. If approved as proposed, an incentive for city employees to become vaccinated is the top priority with an expenditure of $87,500, followed by premium pay for first responders and essential workers at $795,000.

Based on council discussions last week, the city will pay each employee who is vaccinated $500. Premium pay for police officers will be $5,000 per officer who has more than a year of tenure. Those with less than a year will receive $2,500, and those with less than six months will receive $1,000. All other essential workers with more than a year of tenure will receive $4,000; those with six months up to a year will receive $2,000; and all others with less than six months will receive $1,000. Part-time emloyees who are eligible will receive $500.

The council first met to discuss ARPA funds in July to review details about the funding and begin the process of determining how the money will be used. Under program guidelines, funds can be used to address seven broad pandemic-related categories — for public health services; to remediate negative economic impacts; to provide services to disproportionately impacted communities; for premium pay for essential workers; to fund water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; to pay administrative costs related to use of the funds; and to replace lost revenue for government services. The city estimates that it lost $2.6 million due to the impacts of the pandemic.

The city’s third priority is to enhance mental health services provided through its Police Department, including renovations to the city’s Public Safety Complex where mental health workers will be housed.

Direct assistance to city residents and businesses has also been proposed at $250,000 for each category. The city is also proposing to use $300,000 to hire consultants to assist with providing assistance to residents and businesses.

Other priorities include:

♦ Broadband expansion — $350,000

♦ Parks upgrades — $675,000

♦ Stormwater projects — $700,000

♦ BOLO wraps — $85,000

♦ Radar detection devices — $76,000

♦ Gunshot detection systems — $101,000

♦ License plate recognition devices — $100,000

♦ Public safety cameras — $120,000

♦ Water and sewer upgrades to RV lot ??? — $300,000

♦ Upgrade and repair restrooms in RV lot and Barn 5 at the Georgia International Horse Park — $200,000

♦ Upgrades to docks, viewfinders and wetlands walk at horse park — $100,000

♦ Online inspections software — $500,000

♦ Administrative costs to manage ARPA funds — $100,000

♦ Projects contingency — $500,000

Oxford College renames historic building in honor of late Judge Horace J. Johnson
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OXFORD — Oxford College of Emory University renamed a historic campus building after the late Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr., an Oxford alumnus who became the first Black judge to serve on the Superior Court in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, and established an endowment for need-based scholarships in his honor.

Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves joined Oxford College Dean Douglas A. Hicks at the renaming ceremony on Friday, Oct. 8.

“Today we gather to remember and honor an extraordinary alumnus, Judge Horace Johnson, as we rename one of Oxford’s central academic buildings in his name,” Hicks told the gathering of more than 300 that included Johnson’s family, leaders from local community organizations, and Oxford faculty, staff and students. “Today Language Hall, which has been at the center of academic life at Oxford for almost 150 years, becomes Johnson Hall. Witnessing his name prominently featured at the heart of Oxford College, at the heart of Emory University, adds life to this community.”

Johnson graduated from Oxford College in 1977 and Emory’s Goizueta School of Business in 1979. He went on to become the first Black judge to serve on the Superior Court in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, which includes Georgia’s Newton and Walton Counties, serving from 2002 until his untimely death in 2020. Among his many contributions to Oxford, he served almost 30 years on the college’s Board of Counselors and mentored countless students and alumni.

The University Committee on Naming Honors, which was established in 2019 to review historic names represented on campus, embraced the name change from Language Hall to Johnson Hall. Fenves, recalling a time in the university’s history when talented African American students and faculty members were not allowed to learn, teach and thrive at Emory, celebrated Johnson’s achievements, his values and his lifelong dedication to public service.

“Judge Johnson did so much for the people of Newton County, Atlanta, and the state of Georgia. As an attorney and judge, he was known for making history himself, serving as the first African American Superior Court judge in the Alcovy circuit,” said Fenves. “As a community member, he was always engaged — dedicating his time to numerous organizations in Newton County, including the Boys and Girls Club. He was always bringing people together to serve the common good, to take on big projects, and to spark needed change.

“I have no doubt that Johnson Hall will serve as an inspiration to many students and faculty that will call it home for generations to come,” Fenves continued. “They will write the next chapter of Emory, but they will also have a reminder of what integrity, courage and excellence look like, what service can do for society and a community, and what one exceptional person can mean to an entire place, a city and a state.”

Oxford College has also announced the establishment of the Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. Scholarship Endowment to provide need-based scholarships to Oxford students.

Michelle Bryant Johnson thanked Oxford and Emory for helping to preserve her husband’s legacy. She was accompanied at the ceremony by their sons, H. James Johnson III and Bryant Johnson, and many other family members.

“Our hearts are warmed, and we are so humbled by this expression,” she said. “Horace loved Oxford. This is an amazing tribute to him on the campus that he adored.”

A special element of the ceremony was a poem, “Among Us,” commissioned, created and recited by Tameka Cage Conley, Oxford College assistant professor of English and creative writing.

Other speakers at the dedication included Judge Cheveda McCamy, Superior Court judge in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit; James O’Neal, Johnson’s longtime friend and former Oxford roommate; and Oxford students Sarah Bekele, president of the Black Student Alliance, and Roxanne Chou, president of the Student Government Association.

Prior to the ceremony, a new sign for the building and a granite plaque in front of the building were unveiled. A portrait of Johnson commissioned by the local artist Rossin will be completed and installed next spring in the lobby of the new Johnson Hall.

“We want to thank Michelle, Bryant and James, and all of the Johnson and Bryant families, for your support and for sharing Horace with us,” said Hicks. “Through the scholarships that will bear his name and in this building, his intellect, compassion, dedication to public service, and commitment to justice and equality will live on at Oxford.”

Minimum wage issue spurred Kimberly Reuter to join Congressional race
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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with candidates in the 10th Congressional District race. For a full Q&A with candidate Kimberly Clark Reuter, go to www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com.

“I want to be the change I seek.” Kimberly Clark Reuter says that’s one of her favorite sayings. The 33-year-old mother of three is hoping to be that change by winning the U.S. Congressional 10th District seat with a platform that ranges from supporting a $15 minimum wage to climate change measures to greater regulations and fees for corporations.

A Democrat, this is the first time Reuter has ever sought public office.

“I kind of decided to jump right in,” she said. “I was looking around for what office needed the more progressive values that I champion, and Jody Hice’s seat looked like it needed to be flipped. Right now, it’s just an open seat.”

Hice, a Republican is not seeking re-election to Congress, but rather running to unseat Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

A resident of Johns Creek, Reuter grew up in Loganville, having gone to Loganville Primary, Elementary, Middle and High schools, She says she has always been “fairly political.”

“I’ve always had opinions and things I wanted to say,” she said. “I wanted to get involved more actively probably around mid-March when the Senate voted to not include the $15 minimum wage in the COVID relief package. That would have helped a lot of people. I was just very tired of sitting back and watching politicians disregard what people needed either to appease their donors or to create drama. I got tired of sitting back and watching that. I said I’m going to run for Congress and see if I can make a difference...”

While her last two jobs have been $15-an-hour jobs, Reuter says in her early 20s, she had to work two jobs to make ends meet.

“Each of those jobs paid $7.65 an hour,” she recalls. “That’s barely over the minimum wage... A $15 minimum wage is essentially a living wage for people. I know, I’ve had experience with this and people working in a minimum wage job who can’t support their family. It’s not enough to support yourself. A $15 minimum wage is a basic amount for people to work for, to support their families, have a roof over their heads and electricity. We need that floor at the federal level. You shouldn’t work 40 hours per week and be away from your family and then not be able to support them. You shouldn’t have to work two-plus jobs to provide a living for yourself and your family.”

Reuter says she has “done a lot” in her 33 years. Her first job was at Blockbuster followed by a job working concessions at a movie theater. She went to college and then worked as an after-school lead teacher for Primrose. She sold car and rental insurance; worked as a bartender and had a position in information technology (IT).

“And I’m a parent of a 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and a 4-year-old son,” she added.

After high school, Reuter went to Georgia Perimeter College where she got an associate’s degree in psychology. This past year, she completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia State University and she hopes to go back to school and get her master’s degree to practice as a therapist.

Raised by a single mother from the age of 10, Reuter spent much of her life in Loganville with her mother, Cheryl McCoy, and in Snellville, where she enjoyed time with her grandparents, Douglas Clark and the late Shirley Clark.

“They were very instrumental in my life,” she said.

When she was 17, she met her husband, John, who is in IT, and they married in 2015. They have 4-year-old Thomas together and are the parents of 15-year-old daughter, Satawney and 12-year-old son Benjamin.

“My husband and I moved to Johns Creek for his job, but I still find myself in Loganville several times a week,” Reuter said. “My mother still lives there and my stepson attends Loganville schools, just like I did. I have a vested interest in representing GA-10 to make it a better place for growing families. I will advocate for a quality education system, universal health care and better infrastructure.”

Reuter says education, health care and infrastructure are her top three concerns.

“In education, I know at a federal level the funds are doled out more at a state level, but I want to use the platform I have for equal funding for students — not based on local property taxes, but equal for everybody,” Reuter said. “It’s a shame that one school district would be funded better than another just because the houses are better. It’s a disservice and an equity issue.”

She also supports universal health care and bachelor degrees.

The candidate says she is “very passionate” about health care.

“Personally, I advocate for universal health care,” she said. “I think it’s a human right, and the government should provide it to all citizens as a human right.”

Regarding infrastructure, Reuter said she likes the idea of a “more efficient transit system.”

“(I advocate) having a sufficient broadband structure to ensure everybody has the Internet where they can have the world’s knowledge at the tip of your fingers,” she said. “That’s so important. I advocate for more community green spaces. If we have more spaces to come together as human beings, we’ll come together as human beings and our communities will be more tight-knit.”

Considering how to pay for those programs, Reuter said a look should be taken at where taxes go.

“I did some research, and there’s quite a bit of waste,” she said. “It seems like airplane tickets for government officials that don’t get used, don’t get refunded — things like that — looking at programs that may or may not be helpful. Making sure we are spending tax money to be beneficial. If not, cut that program and put those funds in the universal health care pot. I do believe in raising corporate taxes. I do like the 28% President Biden has proposed. If you look at a corporation, they use our roads more than your average citizen would. They’re using the system more.”

Would corporations then pass along those expenses to the consumer?

“By the nature of capitalism, yes; however, I do want to point out that in today’s world, everything is more open and under a microscope,” Reuter said. “It is a lot less easy for corporations to just raise prices and not have a backlash for that. Honestly, I don’t know if that would happen because people would see that greed and there would be accompanying backlash from that.”

While Reuter says she is “pro-capitalism,” she adds, “but it does need restraint.”

“So pro-capitalism, but also government regulations,” she said. “I’m not an economist, but I would love to work with an economist to see what we could do to rein in capitalism. This type of laissez-faire we’ve got going on is not working. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.”

Reuter said restraints would be “more geared toward multi-million dollar corporations.”

“I feel like it’s restraining greed,” she added. “...Capitalism created these uber-rich people, buying yachts for their yachts, going into space commercially and only claiming $80,000 on their taxes.”

While Reuter agrees the rich pay the majority of taxes, she cites the tax code and said “they don’t pay what they should.”

Regarding climate change, Reuter said, “We’re watching our ice caps melt. That is what is convincing me that it is real and scientifically, it’s being caused by the CO2 emissions. That is what is causing that, so capping that, which is something the corporations should be responsible (for) and should also pay a carbon tax.”

When asked what she loves about America, Reuter names one thing: the freedom of speech. “The freedom to express my opinion and not worry about the government coming after me,” she said. “That’s it. It’s just the freedom, and while I understand the U.S. isn’t the only country with freedom of speech or religion, I enjoy the freedoms I have. The freedom to express my opinion. The freedom to run for office if I choose to and to do what I feel is right.”

What would she change about the U.S? “It would be to make everybody (understand) that we are a large community and we need to work together to help everybody prosper,” she said. “If we all do a little, none of us has to do a lot. I believe that’s a direct quote from my friend in Arkansas, Kelly Krout. That would be my wish — for everybody to do their part... She’s running for lieutenant governor in Arkansas. I’ve never met her face-to-face, but we’re friends on TikTok and my financial manager also worked for her.”

While Reuter says her mentor in politics is Sen. Bernie Sanders, she stops short of calling herself a democratic socialist. “I would consider myself a progressive,” she said. “This is a tricky one because I think the government should work for the people and not just the rich. So at the heart, I do think that everything in this country we have for the people enshrined into our founding documents, the government and economy should work for all of the people. Bernie is definitely influential to me more because he sticks to his guns. He sticks to what he thinks is right, and he will fight for it...”

Reuter says she does not want to “label” herself democratic socialist because “there is a stigma attached to socialism. I don’t want to attach myself to it. People hear socialism and hear communism and hear dictator...I would describe my views and words as everybody thriving and looking out for my fellow man...”

Being a wife, mother and now a candidate, Reuter has a busy life, but when she has time to relax, she has a couple of special hobbies. She likes to play Final Fantasy, a multi-player online role playing video game where she competes with players across North America. She also taught herself to crochet and enjoys making hats and other items.

For more information, visit www.kimberly2022.com

Candidates running for the 2022 U.S. Congressional District 10 seat are being asked to answer a questionnaire posed by the Citizen. A sampling of Reuter’s answers is below. The full Q&A transcript can be found under Election 2022 on our website www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com.

Why are you a Democrat?

I find that my political ideology is closest to that of the Democratic party. I agree with raising the minimum wage to $15. The Democrats are also the party that cares about climate change. In some ways, I appreciate the official platform, but also feel that it does not go far enough. Things like healthcare and education up to a bachelor’s degree should be publicly funded. At the end of the day, I have two choices. I am a person who believes we should have more than two choices.

What led you to get involved in politics?

Watching how dispassionately those in Washington vote against the best interest of their respective constituencies is what spurred me to action.

Do you think U.S. businesses should pay more in taxes? If so, how much more and why?

Large businesses, yes. They use our roads, our mail services, our police. They should pay their fair share. If you make more money, your cut is a little higher. I support a 28% corporate tax.

Do you support the current open border immigration system? What do you think about a border wall? Please explain your answers.

The wall makes no sense. In most cases, illegal immigrants came into the U.S. legally then overstayed their visas. Our current immigration system is a disaster. We make it too hard to become a tax-paying citizen of the United States. It will take years and thousands of dollars to achieve it. Our immigration policy should be simple and straightforward. First, illegal immigrants already in the U.S. should be offered a pathway to citizenship. They should not be scared to walk into an immigrations office and start the process. DACA recipients should be given a pathway as well, so that they are not living in this weird can we stay or not limbo. We should have humane means of housing individuals who do try to come into this nation legally while they wait for their immigration trials.

Regarding Critical Race Theory, do you think promoting it will help or hurt efforts to improve race relations in the U.S? Please explain your answer. Also, should it be taught in America’s public schools? Why or why not?

I think that history should be taught how it happened. If certain laws were built to disenfranchise a certain group, that shouldn’t be shied away from. I do think acknowledging our past will do nothing but help race relations.

Covington City Council extends residential zoning moratorium until Feb. 20, 2022
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COVINGTON — The Covington City Council approved by a 4-1 vote on Sept. 20 extending a moratorium on acceptance of rezoning applications, preliminary plat petitions, and special use permit requests for residential development until Feb. 20, 2022, to give the city’s planning department time to look at current zoning ordinances and infrastructure needs.

The council initially approved an emergency 30-day moratorium at a called meeting on Aug. 24 after City Manager Scott Andrews said the city has more than 5,000 residential units that have been approved or are in the process of being approved and the city needed to look at its infrastructure and zoning codes to make sure they are prepared for the growth.

City Attorney Frank Turner said when the council approved the 30-day moratorium that it would not affect any building permit in the zoning department’s pipeline for property currently zoned residential, any residential development for which construction plans have been submitted on or prior to Aug. 24, or any zoning, preliminary plat, or special use request from a landowner who has already had substantial expenses based on assurances of city staff of the project moving forward in the process.

Two projects that were in the pipeline were approved at the September meetings. A special use permit (SUP) for a 315-unit apartment complex at Martin’s Crossing was unanimously approved at the Sept. 7 meeting.

A SUP for a 227-unit townhome development at Neely Farms was approved with conditions by a vote of 4-1, with Susie Keck opposed and Fleeta Bagget absent, at the council’s Sept. 20 meeting. Keck wanted a reduction in the number of townhomes to provide for more greenspace and had initially made a motion to approve an SUP for 181 townhomes. But the rest of the council felt the developer had met all the zoning requirements, and Keck’s motion died for lack of a second before the motion to approve the 227-unit SUP was made and approved.

The moratorium extension came up after the approval of the Neely Farms SUP. Mayor Steve Horton said there were still four parcels in three projects that are still in the zoning pipeline and would not be affected by the moratorium extension.

During a public hearing on the moratorium extension, Jeff Bullock, representing Neely Farms, questioned if the next phase of the development is in the zoning pipeline and not affected by the moratorium.

“A few of us have a lot of money invested in future projects. I’m curious to know if ours is one of them (in the pipeline) and we plan on applying for another special use permit for The Quarry at Neely Farms.”

Turner stated that their project is not in the pipeline.

“They have not filed for rezoning and do not have vested rights if they have not yet applied for a special use permit,“ Turner said. “That is a discretionary matter that only the council can give, so you can’t have a vested right for that. So he’s not on the list of excepted properties.”

Another person asked what the specific purpose of the moratorium is.

Horton stated that the moratorium will give city staff time to study current zoning ordinances and infrastructure concerns in regards to current and future residential projects, and make recommendations to the mayor and council.

The council voted 5-0 to approve a motion to extend the moratorium.