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. 

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.”

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

An Atlanta City Council member intends to make gas stations do more to stop crimes on their premises.

Keisha Lance Bottoms introduced legislation that would require stations and convenience stores to pay for their own security.

Bottoms, who represents a southwest Atlanta district, says the ordinance was prompted by personal experience.

"I was a victim of a crime at a gas station and someone took my purse and my phone,” Bottoms said, “and I've had several friends who have also been victims."

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Tuesday night, Georgia carried out its ninth execution of 2016, which is more than any other state this year.

Georgia’s new title for most executions weighed on death penalty opponents who recognize each execution with a vigil.

About forty people stood outside the steps of the state capitol in the evening Tuesday to sing, pray and read off names the state has put to death.

The vigil marking the execution of William Sallie was their ninth this year -- the most since Murphy Davis started these gatherings almost 40 years ago.

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.

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