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. 

MARTA is eyeing several stations around the region for new ''transit oriented developments'' aimed at boosting ridership. The project at Brookhaven’s station has faced skepticism from some in the surrounding community.
Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Don Green watches cars line up at a Brookhaven intersection just across the street from the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe University MARTA station.

The agency is eyeing 15 acres of parking spaces around that rail stop for one of its new “transit oriented developments” -- sometimes called TODs -- and Green is worried.

“It’s a traffic oriented disaster,” Green said. “It’s just going to be miserable at rush hour in the morning and the afternoon.”

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is still dealing with a deadly wildfire, but here in Georgia the two largest fires are dwindling.

Over the last month or so, wildfires in Fannin and Rabun counties burned up about 50,000 acres of forest.

Now, though, firefighting crews say the North Georgia fires, which didn’t cause any structural damage or injuries, are on their way out.

"We were able to do some good work and get the containment lines built around the fire," said Debbie Carlisi, a spokesperson with National Forest Service. "And then of course the rain helped."

Buford Highway proposed development June 10, 2015
Alison Guillory / WABE

Communities along Buford Highway are determining how they want the corridor to look in the years ahead.

It's part of a study funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission, along with the cities of Chamblee and Doraville.

The goal is to come up with a Master Plan for the area, based on the input of residents and business owners.

Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

Advocates of high speed rail between Atlanta and Chattanooga think the project could finally move forward under the incoming presidential administration.

Former Chattanooga councilman David Crockett started pushing for the rail line a couple decades ago. Since then, there's been plenty of studies and not much else.

But Crockett believes the election of Donald Trump is an opportunity. He and other high speed rail lobbyists point, for one, to Trump’s promises to boost manufacturing.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Since the 2016 U.S. election, there’s been a lot of talk about the nation being divided. A recent Gallup poll found three-quarters of Americans feel this way.

In Atlanta, one man recently decided to take action, and reach across the aisle in his own neighborhood.

A Political Bubble

The morning after the election, Jonah McDonald woke up realizing he lived in a bubble.

His home is in Kirkwood, a neighborhood on Atlanta’s east side. He works as an author, storyteller and also part-time at the Atlanta Friends Meeting, which is a Quaker group.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Jeremy Willoughby is with a crew contracted by the National Forest Service. They’re on the side of a gravel road in the Cohutta Wilderness, where the largest wildfire in Georgia is burning.

They’re spraying water onto soil that’s covered in ash, which Willoughby said is the char from them intentionally burning the ground cover.

“So what we want to do is grid this where we burned out up to a hundred feet, eliminating any heat, putting water on it and mixing it up,” Willoughby said.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

As smoke hangs in the air, Fire Station One in Clayton, Georgia, is bustling with the county’s emergency workers.

“This is pretty unprecedented in all of our careers. Fires this size,” said Justin Upchurch, assistant fire chief in Rabun County.

Wildfires are ravaging North Georgia. Now it has led the U.S. Forest Service to call for evacuations in parts of the county.

Upchurch’s staff has been working 12-16 hour shifts to protect homes and structures, as the Forest Service and its team from around the country try to contain fires.

Tim Adams / flickr.com/36217981@N02

People in Atlanta overwhelmingly voted in favor of a tax to fund MARTA expansion last week. And it turns out, they're in good company.

A total of 34 out of 49 measures were approved nationwide, according to the American Public Transit Association, in cities like Los Angeles, Indianapolis and San Francisco.

Taken together, the ballot items add up to $170 billion in new funding.

Art Guzzetti, vice president of policy at the American Public Transportation Association, said all of the measures are in response to an overall lag in investment in transit.

Ending veteran homelessness is a federal designation cities or states can earn. Cathryn Marchman, executive director of Partners for H.O.M.E., said the city will soon be applying.
Stephannie Stokes / WABE

The city of Atlanta has long set a goal to end veteran homelessness. Now, the city said it’s close to achieving it.

Ending veteran homelessness is a federal designation cities or states can earn. Cathryn Marchman, executive director of Partners for H.O.M.E., said the city will soon be applying.

To get the status, the city has to meet a number of benchmarks, which include identifying homeless veterans and showing that Atlanta has the capacity to place them in housing.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Joe McCarty has developed a job search routine.

Outside a career center from the Atlanta Regional Workforce Development Board in Gwinnett County, he says, for one thing, he dresses appropriately.

“Well, I have black dress shoes, dress socks, dress slacks,” McCarty says. “I have a royal blue shirt on.”

In case he’s called for an interview, he’s got a suit coat and tie in his truck.

“I’m already ready. All I have to do is put my tie on and my jacket and I’m ready,” McCarty says.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump finishes up speaking before a crowd of 3,500 Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Phoenix.
Ross D. Franklin / AP Photo

Some people in Atlanta are celebrating Donald Trump’s win in Tuesday's presidential election while others are trying to find a way to cope.

Betty Byrd in Vinings had a smile on her face.

"I'm tired because I stayed up too dang late,” Byrd said. “But I'm happy."

Byrd and her family are Trump supporters. She likes his small government approach, his outsider perspective and she hopes he addresses illegal immigration.

A Buckhead resident, Shukree Abuwi, had very different feelings:

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Some in Gwinnett County are facing long lines at the polls today.

That's despite the fact that about 40 percent of voters there cast their ballots early.

At Peachtree Corners, an affluent part of the county, people waited up to two hours to vote.

"It was amazingly, painstakingly slow,” said resident Orestes Meeks after voting at the Peachtree Elementary School precinct.

Inside the school, there were eight ballot booths and just two stations where workers checked voter information.

Expired parking meter in downtown Atlanta
Alison Guillory / WABE

A new company is set to enforce parking on Atlanta streets.  

The Atlanta City Council gave the the city the green light to choose Chicago-based SP+ to replace PARKAtlanta.

 

According to the terms of the deal, the company will add a thousand new meters to Atlanta’s already 2,400 paid spaces. SP+ also agreed to hand over $7 million annually to the city over the course of its five year contract – $2 million more than PARKAtlanta contributed in revenue.

 

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Atlanta, you're getting a chief resilience officer. The city's sustainability director, Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, is taking on the role.

So what will she do? The short answer is: a lot.

Mayor Kasim Reed said Benfield will come up with a city-wide resilience strategy. That means figuring out a way to tackle the big problems facing Atlanta in the future, he said.

"Such as aging infrastructure and an overloaded transportation network,” Reed said.

Reed also mentioned climate change and income inequality as future threats.

Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

The Colonial Pipeline, which has been shut down for the second time this fall, is one of a number of aging pipelines in the U.S.

 

Parts of it are now 50 years old, which is about the average age for pipelines in the U.S., said Carl Weimer with the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust.

 

"There's about 200,000 miles of these types of hazardous liquid pipelines and a lot of them went in in the 50s and 60s,” said Weimer.

 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are introduced during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
David Goldman / Associated Press

On Election Day, Atlantans can experience the conclusion of the presidential campaign as though it were a Hollywood film.

The city is one of 25 where residents will be able to watch election results live on the big screen, as part of a partnership between AMC Theatres and CNN.

The companies are ensuring participants won't have to sit next to people from opposing political parties. They’re bringing the broadcast to two Atlanta area theaters, one for each of the two major political parties.

A school bus in front of the Georgia Capitol
Alison Guillory / WABE

A Georgia law that prohibits people from verbally abusing public school employees is unconstitutional, according to the state's high court.

The statute allowed the school to order any person insulting a teacher or bus driver in front of students to leave. If that person refused, he or she could face criminal charges.

The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled Monday that the law violated the right to free speech under the First Amendment.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

When asked why she wanted to come hold LED candles in a Kroger parking lot, Tracy Hicks paused a moment.

“Um, because we’re sad,” Hicks said.

Then, her friend, Lucia Goodman, stepped in.

“Kind of just like to give it a proper goodbye,” Goodman said.

"It" being the Kroger on Ponce De Leon Avenue -- or, as most people know it, "Murder Kroger."

The grocery store is closing Friday to be redeveloped as part of a mixed use project.

 In this June 16, 2015 file photo, developer Donald Trump with daughters Ivanka Trump, left, and Tiffany Trump, after his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, Tuesday, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

One of the most prominent women in Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign made a stop in Georgia Wednesday.

Ivanka Trump, along with her sister Tiffany, greeted a crowd of a few hundred supporters at Cobb County’s GOP headquarters.

In Ivanka’s brief remarks, she emphasized she wasn’t the Republican candidate’s surrogate but his daughter.

“So I’ll talk to you about my father as I really know him and as Tiffany knows him, which is as a parent and an amazing man,” she told the crowd.

Dan Raby / WABE

AT&T's potential $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner could mean changes for Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting.

Turner Broadcasting is owned by Time Warner and employs about 5,000 in Atlanta.

Brandon Smith at Emory's Goizueta Business School says Turner and other Time Warner entities face uncertainty.

"What's unclear is when AT&T makes this acquisition and moves forward, are they going to keep these entities intact,” Smith said.

Smith says most mergers do lead to consolidation within the organizations.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Civil rights groups say they plan to deploy election observers to polling sites in several Georgia counties this election.

Those observers will keep an eye out for instances of voter intimidation, said Georgia NAACP president Francys Johnson.

“They will be looking for … people who may be displaying the Confederate battle emblem, for example. Or people who will be displaying firearms within 150 feet of a polling place,” Johnson said.

The Georgia NAACP is working with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU and the Legal Defense Fund.

Pedestrians enter the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Friday, April 24, 2009 in Atlanta.
AP Photo/Gregory Smith

The Federal Reserve has received a lot of criticism recently for its lack of diversity. The leaders of the central banking system are almost all white men.

But now that the president of one of the Fed’s 12 regional banks in Atlanta is stepping down, some see an opportunity for change.

Several congressional lawmakers and the activist group Fed Up are calling on the agency to appoint the system’s first black president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Chris Ferguson / WABE

Fulton County sent letters to registered voters to tell them where to vote next month, but many of them ended up at wrong addresses or left voters confused.

In Susan White's case, the mistake was obvious.

She got a letter telling her to vote in Fulton County at Morningside Baptist Church. The problem is, she lives in DeKalb County.

"Someone maybe does need to vote at Morningside Baptist. But they're not at my house," said White.

Fulton County blames a vendor for using address forwarding records and sending thousands of letters to incorrect homes.

Hall County residents are opposing a manufacturing company's plans to expand near Lake Lanier.

One of the big concerns is how the business smells. Mincey Marble makes things like shower enclosures and vanity tops, using a chemical called styrene. That, nearby residents say, creates an odor around their lakeside homes.

"If you've ever been by a marina where they're fiberglassing boats, it's like that,” says John Kandler, who lives a quarter mile away from the company. “It's not a pleasant smell."

Associated Press

Members of Atlanta's Ethiopian community are watching the recent political unrest in their home country with concern.

Hundreds have been killed in a wave of anti-government protests in Ethiopia. It led the Ethiopian government to issue a six-month state of emergency over the weekend.

"It is a very scary situation, let me put it that way,” said Tekla Tessema, who left Ethiopia 30 years ago.

Tessema now lives in metro Atlanta, which has one of the largest populations of Ethiopian immigrants in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Stephen B. Morton / Associated Press

Gov. Nathan Deal is urging residents on Georgia's coast to follow a mandatory evacuation order. It applies to everyone located east of Interstate-95 in six coastal counties.

While Deal admitted the state would not arrest or force from homes anyone who did not wish to comply, he said, “I would emphasize however that we need to take this situation seriously."

"It is not something where we should jeopardize anyone's life simply because we don't want to heed the warnings," Deal said.

Courtesy of Buckhead CID

A nine-acre park over a traffic-clogged highway may sound far-fetched, but in Buckhead it’s getting closer to becoming a reality.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District first floated a proposal to put a greenspace over Georgia-400 a year and a half ago.

Now, after going through designs and meeting with the public, the group voted Wednesday to move the idea forward.

CID Executive Director Jim Durrett said that means they'll be addressing the question on a lot of people’s minds: Can the park be paid for?

Ric Feld / Associated Press

Sandy Springs is trying to address concerns about traffic in the area by rolling out new tools for drivers.

They include a 24-hour chat service, cell phone alerts for accidents and lane closures and a new traffic map online.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

A protest erupted Monday as Atlanta’s City Council took an official step toward closing down Atlanta’s largest homeless shelter.

Council members approved an ordinance allowing the city to start negotiations to take over Peachtree-Pine and put a police and fire facility in its place.

After the vote, protesters, with groups like Black Lives Matter and the Housing Justice League, stood in front of the council and yelled, “Shame.”  

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

At a pavilion in Washington Park on Atlanta’s Westside, a DJ is setting up. Some people are getting a grill ready. It looks like the start of a neighborhood party.

In this case, though, the neighborhood no longer exists.

This is a reunion for anyone who ever lived at Herndon Homes, a public housing project that once stood a couple of miles from here, just north of where the Georgia Dome is now.

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