Sunday, January 16, 2022

DeKalb NAACP to hold virtual King Day parade

The DeKalb NAACP will hold a virtual MLK Parade on Monday, after cancelling its plans for a parade from Green Pastures Christian Ministries to MLK High School because of winter weather.

The kick-off ceremony for the virtual 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade will take place at 11:30 a.m on Monday. The virtual parade will follow, beginning at noon.

You can join the event at

The theme for the parade is "Marching To The Sound Of Justice."

Stone Mountain to host virtual King Day celebration

The City of Stone Mountain and the city's St. Paul AME Church are hosting a virtual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday at 11 a.m.

The keynote speaker will be Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.

The event can be viewed on the City of Stone Mountain's Facebook page, which appears to require a Facebook account to log in.

Monday, January 10, 2022

General Assembly to consider DeKalb County commission map, new cities, guns and ballots

DeKalb County lawmakers expect election-year politics to dominate this year's General Assembly session, which will consider new county commission district maps and proposals for two new cities.

"I anticipate that many of the issues that we will be deliberating upon will be those issues that put the majority party in good stead with their base because this is an election year," State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) told an online delegation town hall meeting on Saturday.

"There's probably going to be at least two cityhood issues that will have to be analyzed and deliberated upon and discussed. I would encourage you to stay active, get involved, let your state senator and state representative know how you feel about these issues because that carries the day," Mitchell said.

A proposal for a new city in south DeKalb County, first launched in 2014, remains active. Previously called Greenhaven, proponents are now calling it the City of DeKalb. There is also a proposal for a city encompassing Atlanta's Buckhead shopping and business district.

"The effort to have Buckhead secede from the City of Atlanta is on the table," State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) said, adding that she assumed most DeKalb legislators "would be adamantly against that for a variety of reasons." She said Georgia's Governor, Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker have "been a bit lukewarm to that, but it remains a very dangerous issue and, frankly, it's been over a decade since the state should have revamped its approach to the creation of new cities and put a better process in place. This is yet another example of why that should have been done." 

Legislators will also consider revamped DeKalb County commission districts. The Board of Commissioners approved new district maps without revealing them publicly or allowing the public to comment on them directly at a commission meeting. Critics say the proposed maps would divide county neighborhoods while favoring existing cities.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), the chair of the DeKalb Senate delegation, acknowledged the county's proposed maps. "We appreciate their input but the responsibility of redistricting and reapportioning in DeKalb County lies squarely on the state legislature and not the county commission," he said. 

"It's the delegation's responsibility to redistrict the seven commission districts for DeKalb County," Jones said. "We have members of DeKalb County government that have a lot more members in the district than some of the DeKalb County government officials on the south side of the county."

Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), chair of the county's House delegation, encouraged DeKalb County residents to provide comments to the county's state legislators on the "tentative" proposed maps. "Our process is just starting, your opportunity to weigh in is invited," she said. "All of us will be involved."

Lawmakers said Republicans can be expected to make further changes to Georgia election law, building on last year's legislation that restricted the locations of ballot drop boxes and increased state influence on local election boards.

"They're literally creating cheating empires," Mitchell said. "There's going to be an attempt, primarily through the local legislation process, to change the non-partisan nature of these election boards. They started last session and I expect to see much more of that."

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, will "tack much harder to the right in order to try to win the primary," Parent said. He is "now pushing for the elimination of all [ballot] drop boxes, which was not a position he was taking last year," she said.          

Teacher pay raises will be on the agenda, as well as mental healthcare reform and gambling, such online sports betting, destination resorts and horse racing, said Mitchell.

He said permit-free gun carry legislation will be considered. "This is a big issue to the base of the majority party," Mitchell said. "There are those who believe that you ought not to have to apply and have a permit to carry a gun in public. It's an incredible notion when you think about it."

Vernon Jones claims DeKalb County ballot box violated state rules

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones says he has filed a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State's office, alleging that the county violated state election rules by placing a ballot drop box on private property.

Jones, a Republican candidate for governor, alleges that DeKalb County advertised, listed and used an absentee ballot box located on privately owned property in violation of State Election Board Rule 183-1-14-0.6-.14, the Albany Herald reports.

"I will always be a fighter and protector of election integrity and voters' rights," Jones said in a news release. 

Jones announced he was switching to the Republican Party at a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., just hours before the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He said last year that Georgia's November 2020 presidential election was "fixed." 

A Fulton County prosecutor has told the Associated Press she expects to ask for a special grand jury to investigate efforts by Donald Trump and others to overturn the Georgia election results.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

DeKalb Elections Board meets Thursday

The DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections will hold its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, January 13, at 4:30 p.m. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been published.

Public comments of two minutes or less can be made through the Zoom link:  

The county says it will also stream the meeting at:  

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Stonecrest Mayor Lary faces federal charges of diverting Covid relief money

Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary appeared in court Wednesday on criminal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, and federal program theft related to $6.2 million in COVID-19 relief assistance received by the city.

Lania Boone, a bookkeeper for the Municipal Resource Partners Corporation, Inc., an entity contracted by Stonecrest to disburse the relief funds, has been charged with conspiring with Lary to steal the money.

Federal prosecutors said that approximately $108,000 in stolen funds were used to pay off the mortgage on a lakefront home that Lary owned, $50,000 went to paying Lary's back taxes, and $7,600 went to pay college tuition and rent for Boone's son. Money was also used for political purposes, they said.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Stone Mountain Memorial Association to meet on Oct. 25

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state-chartered authority that oversees Stone Mountain Park, on Monday announced its next meeting will take place at 11 a.m. on Monday, October 25 at the Evergreen Conference Center inside the park.

The agenda for the meeting indicates it will include a year-to-date financial report and an executive session not open to the public.

The last meeting of the SMMA was on September 20. The SMMA board is seeking a business to operate the park's attractions and replace a Herschend Family Entertainment subsidiary that is leaving the park next summer after more two decades.

A portion of the Oct. 25 meeting will include public comments, but the agenda says speakers must be "scheduled" prior to the meeting. Only five members of the public will be allowed to speak and they will be limited to three minutes each. 

In August, the association voted to adopt a new logo that removed a depiction of the mountain's carving of Confederate leaders. The carving on the mountain, the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world, remains. It portrays Confederate figures Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

Get Out To Vote Rally in Stone Mountain on Saturday

A Get Out To Vote rally is scheduled to take place in downtown Stone Mountain on Saturday, October 23, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event on Saturday will take place adjacent to the Stone Mountain Visitor's Center and the city's main parking lot on Main St.

The City of Stone Mountain granted a permit for the event to St. Paul AME Church, which is located on Third St. in the city's Shermantown neighborhood.

Speakers, candidates and music will be featured at the rally, which is intended to encourage voting in the upcoming November election.

Online child exploitation arrest made in Stone Mountain

A 45-year-old Newton County Man was arrested on Friday in Stone Mountain as part of a state and local investigation into online exploitation and child molestation.

Derrick Crooms was arrested by federal marshals acting on a tip. He was charged with two counts of incest, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, two counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of child molestation and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes. He was transported from Stone Mountain to the Newton County Jail. 

The GBI has been working on an investigation with the sheriff's offices in Newton and Oconee counties for almost a year, following a request from the Oconee County Sheriff's Office. Their probe alleges the crimes occurred in Newton County as well as at other locations around the country.

The GBI says the arrest is part of an ongoing effort by its Internet Crime Against Children Task Force, a program created by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Crooms' wife, Rachel Overton, a traveling nurse, was arrested in February in Wisconsin. Authorities said she was aware of but failed to report Croom's criminal acts to law enforcement. After she was returned to Georgia, she was charged with third-degree cruelty to children and failure to report as mandated. She has been released on bail.

Tips about similar crimes can be provided to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation Unit at 404-270-8870 or submitted anonymously by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Stone Mountain lawmaker speaks to U.S. Senate committee on election law

State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) was among those who spoke at a U.S. Senate Rules Committee hearing held in Atlanta on Monday regarding new restrictions in Georgia's voting law.

The field hearing was held the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were among those who criticized revised limits on registration periods, runoff voting, drop boxes and a provision that would allow the General Assembly's majority party to bypass local election officials.

Mitchell, who chairs the Georgia House Democratic Caucus, said that last provision allows "cheating umpires" who could replace local officials with political appointees "whose only concern is the will of the person who appointed them." 

"If they don't like the outcome of an election, they can simply and immediately just take over the election board," the Washington Post quoted Mitchell as saying. "For that reason alone, these election laws should concern us all."

According to the Albany Herald, Mitchell noted that courts rejected every lawsuit alleging voting fraud in last year's elections. "With the highest level of voter participation and the lowest number of challenges, why would you want to change that?" Mitchell asked the Senate panel.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Commissioner Larry Johnson to head national counties group

DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson has been elected and sworn in as President of the National Association of Counties.

Johnson, who was elected second vice president of NACo in 2019, was chosen as President at NACo's Annual Business Meeting in Prince George's County, Md. on Monday.

"When I was growing up, I couldn't imagine being here today," Johnson said in his acceptance speech. "I'm the product of two teenage parents and sometimes it seemed like the world was against me. But I never would give up. I wish my mom could be here to see me now."

Johnson said he would focus on NACo's theme of "Counties Thrive" during his year as president. "We'll focus on six areas," he said, noting that the THRIVE acronym stands for: Technology, Health, Readiness, Infrastructure, Vulnerable Populations and Economic Opportunity. 

Johnson told fellow DeKalb County commissioners on Tuesday that county CEO Michael Thurmond flew to the event in suburban Washington, D.C., to swear him in as NACo president.

At the meeting, Fulton County (Ga.) Commissioner Liz Hausmann was chosen as chair of NACo's Transportation Committee.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Water outage planned in Tucker for Wednesday night repair

DeKalb County says water will be shut off in Tucker on Wednesday night as contractors replace a aging and damaged water line.

The work will take place at the intersection of Lawrenceville Highway and Northlake Parkway between 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, and 3 a.m. Thursday, July 15.

The county says Northlake Parkway will reopen to traffic on Thursday, July 15.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Factcheck: Taking the Wrong City to Task

The latest edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Take to Task," includes a reader complaint about a pothole.

"This is on Silverhill Road, Smokerise, in Stone Mountain. As you cross the speed bump you drop forcibly into these holes and feels as if you've hit the frame of the vehicle, even though you've slowed almost to a stop to cross the speed bump," Ray Rosenberg wrote.

The AJC says "We sent the issue to Stone Mountain and will keep you updated."

"Who's looking into it: Public Works Director, Jim Tavenner," the newspaper adds helpfully, referring to a longtime Stone Mountain official.

However, Smokerise is not in the City of Stone Mountain, it is in Tucker. The city limits of Stone Mountain do not extend north of the Stone Mountain Freeway (U.S. Highway 78), where Smokerise and Tucker are located.

Less than a quarter of a mile of Silver Hill Rd. is in the City of Stone Mountain. There are no speed bumps in Stone Mountain's section of the road and only a few minor potholes. It is likely that the letter-writer is actually referring to this section of Silver Hill Rd. in Tucker:

This speed bump and pothole are located just west of Musket Lane on Silver Hill Rd. in Tucker. 

Presumably, Stone Mountain will tell the newspaper to contact officials in Tucker about potholes in Tucker. Maybe someone at the AJC will be taken to task.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Stone Mountain, Clarkston set election qualifying dates

Two DeKalb County cities have announced qualifying dates for candidates for their respective municipal elections on November 2.

Voters in Stone Mountain and Clarkston will go to the polls to choose a mayor and three city council members who will serve four-year terms.

Clarkston will accept candidacy notices from August 16 through 18. Stone Mountain will accept candidacy declarations from August 17 through 19.

August 16 is the first day to request an absentee ballott for the November election.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Lowman Smith is new chair of DeKalb County elections board, Jester elected vice-chair

Dele Lowman Smith was elected as the chair of DeKalb County's five-member Board of Registration & Elections on Thursday, with new member Nancy Jester unanimously elected as the vice chair of the board.

Dele Lowman Smith
The board elected officers during its first business meeting since members were sworn in by a Probate Court judge on Wednesday. The board has two new members (Jester and Karli Swift) and three returning members. All will serve two-year terms that end on June 30, 2023.

In nominating Lowman Smith as chair, Susan Motter described her as "an ethical, a transparent, a hard worker and collaborative colleague." Her nomination was seconded by Swift.

"I see Ms. Lowman Smith as demonstrative of a generational shift that is needed for this board as well as the elections department," Motter said. 

"In her day-to-day livelihood, she does work with a number of governmental entities including with respect to elections. So she clearly has the experience," Motter said. "I am looking to her to bring a new era of transparency and openness amongst the board, the board members and the public." 

Lowman Smith was elected chair in a 3-2 vote, with Jester and Anthony Lewis voting against her nomination. The vote for Lowman Smith came after a 3-2 vote against Lewis' nomination of Jester to chair the board. 

"I look forward to working with you," Jester, a former DeKalb County commissioner, told Lowman Smith. "I know you'll make a great chair."