Stephannie Stokes | WABE 90.1 FM

Stephannie Stokes

Producer

Stephannie Stokes is a producer at WABE’s features desk. The title, “producer,” can mean a lot of things, but her focus is on telling stories. On WABE, you might hear her reporting about a lesser known part of Atlanta’s history, while another day you might catch a sound portrait she produced about a person or place in the region.

She came to Atlanta in 2014 by way of Washington, D.C., where she worked for member station WAMU’s local news and public affairs program The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

But really she isn’t from the East Coast at all. She was born, raised and educated in the Pacific Northwest. 

A fan holds a scarf during a party at which Atlanta United FC was announced as the name of an MLS soccer expansion team, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Atlanta. The team is scheduled to begin to play in 2017 at the city's new retractable-roof stadium.
Branden Camp / AP Photo

Professional soccer is returning to Atlanta.

The city's new Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United FC, is kicking off its first season this weekend.

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Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications for MLS, said the team has a good shot of bringing together Atlantans of all backgrounds.

That's partly because the league hasn't been around that long.

Presidents of Clark Atlanta University and Georgia Piedmont Technical College signed a new partnership agreement on Wednesday at Clark Atlanta University's campus.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Leaders of historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta are back home after a visit to the White House.

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Their trip ended Tuesday afternoon with President Donald Trump signing an executive order that he said supports HBCUs.

The presidents of Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morehouse College were among the dozens of HBCU leaders in attendance.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Marcuss Ealy walks through a big warehouse, passing aisles filled with various shapes of cardboard boxes.

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The warehouse on the westside of unincorporated Fulton County is part of a national printing company, Integrated Merchandising Systems (IMS). Ealy points to workers who are getting orders ready to ship.

“See I started on this aisle way back where that lady at,” Ealy said. “That’s the packer.”

Courtesy of Fulton County District Attorney

The attorney for a black man shot by Atlanta police last month says the officer had no reason to fear for his life and a video released today proves it.

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Surveillance footage shows DeAundre Phillips sitting in the passenger seat of a car at the Atlanta Public Safety Annex.

Two plain-clothes officers approach him. They talk with Phillips and then there's a struggle.

Phillips crawls into the driver's seat to drive off, when one officer jumps through the passenger door.

Al Such / WABE

Atlanta's taking a second look at some of the low-level offenses in the city's code.

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Those offenses include treasure hunts – illegal if they’re for commercial gain. Another law prohibits moving your furniture in the middle of the night unless you have a permit.

Then, there’s the crime of spitting. It’s against the law on sidewalks and in churches.  

Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta-based Popeyes is getting a new owner.

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The company behind Burger King is buying the fried chicken chain for almost $2 billion. It comes after Popeyes Louisiana Chicken made some changes to its fast food image.

The company's been remodeling its restaurants and tweaking the flavors of its food. According to analyst John Gordon, the chain's taking a card from fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle.

Downtown Connector March 2015
Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta is coming up with a new vision for transportation in the city. This time, officials want to reimagine how Atlantans get around.

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For example, Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta is a wide one-way road, almost like a highway. Planning Commissioner Tim Keane said streets like that were designed to get cars through town as quickly as possible.

He said, if the city’s going to keep growing in population, that has to change.

Atlanta Police Department Badge
Alison Guillory / WABE

Some Atlanta activists want more transparency when it comes to officer-involved shootings.

The focus is last month’s fatal shooting of a young black man, DeAundre Phillips, by an Atlanta police officer.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations is looking into the shooting. It hasn’t released video of the incident. It also hasn’t made the officer’s name public due to concerns for his safety.

A couple dozen protesters, including Gerald Griggs, objected to that Tuesday at an Atlanta city council committee. 

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia state lawmakers are trying to figure out how to stop surprise medical billing.

It happened to Vicki Willard. She went to the emergency room to check on a heart issue.

“I was admitted to the hospital, in network, things went well,” Willard said.

Then, weeks later, she got something unexpected in the mail.

“After I’ve paid all my regular bills, I see a bill come across my desk for $700,” Willard said.

It turns out, one of the cardiologists who treated her was outside her insurance network.

The City of Atlanta is handing over 10 out of 44 property deeds to Atlanta Public Schools.
Stephanie M. Lennox / WABE

The city of Atlanta has released the deeds of 10 school properties to the Atlanta Board of Education.

It’s the latest development in a battle between  Atlanta and the school system, as the city continues to hold deeds to dozens of Atlanta Public Schools properties. 

The city wanted APS to develop an affordable housing policy for the properties. The school system complied last month.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

The city of Atlanta has created a new historic district on the west side of Atlanta, near Georgia Tech.

The district is centered around a small road called Means Street. It's dotted with brick factories and warehouses dating back about 100 years.

The Atlanta City Council approved a designation Monday that protects about seven of them.

“We wanted to preserve the character of those buildings that really made this district unique,” City Council Member Ivory Young Jr. said.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Means Street is a short narrow road near train tracks west of Georgia Tech. Square nondescript brick buildings rise up on each side.

As Bill Gould walks up the street, he says it gets its name from an early Atlanta landowner, Alexander Means. That name is part of what first drew Gould here almost 30 years ago.

“All these buildings were largely abandoned, covered in Kudzu with the windows all missing. And it was really beautiful, but a little bit edgy, scary and mean, so,” Gould says.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

This spring, Atlanta will start work to recreate a historic park on the city’s Westside. Local officials have high hopes for the new space, that it could even become a tourist attraction.

But the proposed park recently got caught up in Atlanta’s complicated past.

Civil Rights And Peace

In Vine City, just a mile from the new Falcons stadium, is a wide open field. There’s not much to look at, other than some trees and boarded-up apartments off to the side.

But Rodney Mims Cook Jr. has big plans to change that.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed delivered his final State of the City address today.

The mayor trumpeted the economic gains Atlanta's made since he took office.

Among the different ways Atlanta's improved under his watch, the mayor listed a lower unemployment rate, a surge in construction permits and a better credit rating.

He said the city's grown its cash reserves by more than $100 million.

"Because of our efforts, Atlanta is in the strongest financial condition that it's been in in more than a generation,” Reed said.

Courtesy of Archdiocese of Atlanta

Catholic leaders in the region are asking Augusta prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty for a man charged with killing Florida priest Rene Robert. They said, it would go against the wishes of the priest himself.

‘A Declaration of Life’

Robert was found dead in the woods near Augusta last year. A man named Steve Murray was charged with murder in the priest's kidnapping and slaying. Shortly after, the District Attorney filed intent to seek a death sentence.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

In 1940, a black teenager was lynched in LaGrange. The crime was barely acknowledged and for years it was forgotten.

Until Thursday night. More than 70 years later, the LaGrange Police Chief officially said, “I’m sorry.”

'It should never have happened.'

Two hundred people packed into the pews of Warren Temple United Methodist Church in LaGrange.

The audience was evenly mixed, black and white. LaGrange police officers stood along the sides.

From the stage, Police Chief Lou Dekmar started a story. 

Georgia Supreme Court building
Nick Nesmith / WABE

A years-old lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks went before the state Supreme Court Monday.

But the main question during oral arguments didn't have much to do with the controversial procedure.

Instead, it focused on “sovereign immunity,” a law that protects state agencies from being sued.

Georgia’s attorney general claimed it prevents the gynecologists, who are challenging the abortion law’s constitutionality, from even bringing the case against the state.

Alison Guillory / WABE

MARTA’s trying to figure out how to spend a new half-penny sales tax in the city of Atlanta, and it wants the public's help.

The transit agency came up with a list of expansion projects, including bus rapid transit and streetcar expansion, before voters approved the tax last fall.

But the list included more than the $2.5 billion expected from the tax could fund.

So now MARTA's asking Atlantans which projects they want to happen first. And at a community meeting Thursday, people gave wide-ranging answers.

Elly Yu / WABE

Thousands are expected to march in Atlanta this week in response to Donald Trump's inauguration.

The largest march likely will be this Saturday, the day after the president-elect's sworn in.

The Georgia NAACP is organizing the rally, in coordination with local community and advocacy groups.

State NAACP president Francys Johnson said the plan is to send a message that they'll be defending civil rights.

Don Ryan / Associated Press

Consider this scenario: You’re a worker, who lives paycheck to paycheck. Then, your child gets sick and you miss three days at your job. And that means rent will be three days late.

According to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, what happens next may depend on who your landlord is.

Thomas Moeller / Wikimedia Commons

An Atlanta neighborhood group is telling the city to take back an ordinance that abandons certain downtown streets or face a lawsuit.

The city council voted last month to relinquish control of parts of Pryor Street, Alabama Street and Plaza Way to help complete the sale of Underground Atlanta.

But the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association said the move violated the city's own codes.

That's because the city didn't give proper notice to nearby property owners or hold a public hearing, the group said.

At a Chevron gas station in Midtown Atlanta, gas prices were $2.69 on Thursday, a few days after the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline explosion.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Fulton County is looking for solutions to a wave of carjackings and robberies at some of its gas stations.

The crimes have been especially bad in the southern end of the county. One gas station there had more than 70 incidents last year.

To combat the thefts, county commissioners considered two different long term proposals Wednesday —one from the county chief of police and the other from the district attorney.

Both involve setting up a multi-jurisdiction group of police officers from the county and cities like Atlanta and College Park.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Boy Scouts of America has seen a steady decline in membership over the years. Some say that's because kids today no longer have time for it, with all of their after school activities.

Here in Atlanta, there's a man who has always made time for Boy Scouts, even now that he's 94 years old. His name is Josiah Benator, but among scouts he’s often known simply as “Mr. B.”

Benator, a friendly man with big eyeglasses, has been with Boy Scouts for eight decades. He wears a uniform decorated with pins and badges, showing his years of involvement.

Downtown Connector March 2015
Alison Guillory / WABE

As the year comes to a close, Georgia is setting a deadly record. The number of roadway fatalities has reached the highest point in a decade.

Around 1,500 people have died on state roads so far. It follows a trend set last year, when Georgia saw a spike in roadway deaths.

Jill Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said distracted driving is definitely a factor.

"People are just not paying enough attention on the roadways,” Goldberg said, “and we're seeing that reflected in the increased fatalities."

Some intown residents have been perplexed by the kinds of businesses moving into developments. A new mattress store along Atlanta's Moreland Avenue spurred discussion in the surrounding Reynoldstown neighborhood.
Stephannie Stokes / WABE

As mixed-use developments pop up around Atlanta, some intown neighbors have become perplexed by the kinds of businesses moving in.

Recently, along Atlanta’s Moreland Avanue, a big sign with shiny white letters went up above one project’s retail space.

Janine Brown lives in the surrounding neighborhood, Reynoldstown. When she saw what the sign was for -- a mattress store -- she was not excited.

"Well, what we have is a Mattress Firm literally across the street from another Mattress Firm,” Brown said.

In this June 13, 2014, file photo, construction continues on a new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia. An analyst for the Public Service Commission, Steven Roetger, said the timeline for finishing two nuclear reactors at Pl
John Bazemore, File / Associated Press

The Public Service Commission approved a deal with Georgia Power to pay for its delayed nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Construction on the two new units is now several years behind schedule. It’s also costing Georgia Power about $2 billion more than originally expected.

The Public Service Commission's vote signaled Georgia Power's spending at the plant is “reasonable and prudent,” and much of the costs can be passed onto the company's customers.

Local research is confirming something we've all heard: getting a job is often about who you know.

Like many people, Atlanta resident Brenna Lakeson has seen the benefits of personal connections in her career.

Recently, when a friend was leaving her job at a center serving the homeless in Atlanta, she put in a good word for Lakeson. The two had gone to grad school together.

Lakeson ended up getting the spot, and, she said, it's worked out well.

Georgia state capitol
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Georgia's electors will convene Monday at noon at the state Capitol to cast their votes for president. And as in several major cities across the country, they'll likely run into protests.

Several groups, including Democracy Spring Georgia and the Electoral College Petition, have scheduled rallies outside the Capitol in the morning.

The protesters plan to ask Georgia's 16 electors not to vote for the candidate who won the state, Donald Trump.

It's not the first time this year the state's electors have faced pressure from the public.

Pixabay Images

The group that governs high school sports in Georgia has updated its policy addressing athletes and gender, and the change is getting measured praise from transgender advocacy groups.

The Georgia High School Association used to require an athlete's gender be determined by what was written on his or her birth certificate. Now, the association is backing off gender policy and instead leaving it up to each school.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Atlanta officials and business leaders broke ground on a new youth center on the city's Westside Wednesday. The site chosen for redevelopment sat in an area of English Avenue filled with gutted homes.

"In the hills of all the blight that you see here,” said outgoing Atlanta Police Chief George Turner in his remarks, “there are still men and women that have a desire to raise their family and make a difference in their lives.”

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