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

 

Eli Dickerson faces the Fernbank Forest with Clifton Road just behind him.

“So I was thinking we could sort of follow the creek into the heart of the forest,” he says. “There’s a nice loop we can do around there.”

Dickerson is an ecologist with the Fernbank Natural History Museum. He’s kind of like the curator of this old growth forest.

Peachtree Pine homeless shelter in Atlanta
Allison Guillory / WABE

The city of Atlanta is taking steps toward using eminent domain to shut down the homeless shelter Peachtree-Pine.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has long made it clear he wants Peachtree-Pine gone. For the last year, he's floated plans to put a police and fire facility in its place.

Now, there's an ordinance before the City Council that would authorize negotiations with the property owner. That would open the door for the city to use eminent domain to take it over.

Mike Stewart / Associated Press

Sandy Springs residents are worried traffic’s going to get a lot worse when the Atlanta Braves move to neighboring Cobb County.

At a forum Wednesday night, many weren’t comforted by state and local plans to address the traffic.

In the Riverwood High School auditorium, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul listed off some of things that could be done to prevent the area from becoming one big traffic jam on game days.

Among them were temporary exit ramps off the interstates. The state may also consider making a route one way only during game traffic.

In this March 25, 2016 photo, an Atlanta Police Rides-For-Hire Enforcement vehicle sits amid taxi cabs outside the departures area of the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
AP Photo/Jeff Martin

Taxi drivers wanting to pick up from Hartsfield-Jackson airport should double check the age of their cars.

Yesterday, the Atlanta City Council passed a new seven-year age limit for cabs serving the airport.

Kevin Ross, who represents the Atlanta Taxi Cab Company Owners, said it will be difficult for drivers to comply by the city’s deadline — Jan. 1, 2017.

“We were seeking to have existing fleet grandfathered,” Ross said. “[That] would help these drivers which are dealing with difficult times, from having to make a major capital investment in less than three months.”

Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Atlanta has cleared the way for Uber and Lyft pickups from the airport.

While drivers with the ride hailing companies have already been picking up people from Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the new law passed by the City Council Monday will make it legal starting Jan. 1, 2017.

For Uber driver Marni Perrymond, it means she won’t have to look over her shoulder at the airport anymore to see if an officer’s going to cite her.

“The biggest thing for me -- I’m telling you -- is no pressure, no pressure, no pressure,” Parrymond said.

Courtesy of National Monuments Foundation

A years-long effort to recreate a historic park on Atlanta's Westside is facing pushback.

Mims Park was originally named after Livingston Mims, the 37th mayor of Atlanta and a Confederate soldier. Mims donated the land.

Eventually, though, that park on Northside Drive was developed over by an elementary school. And for years, Mims' distant nephew Rodney Mims Cook Jr. has pushed to build it again.

That plan is finally moving forward for a 16-acre site south of Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. The city of Atlanta recently called it a "catalyst for economic development."

Dave Martin / Associated Press

Emory's Primate Research Center, Yerkes, is now free to send seven of its research chimps to a zoo in England.

Animal rights groups sued to block the transfer. But they lost their case this past week.

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society President Theodora Capaldo, who has led the effort, said they have now written a letter to Emory asking the university to change course.

"Yerkes out of an ethical obligation should be voluntarily not sending those chimps," Capaldo said.

Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Atlanta is inching closer to legalizing Uber and Lyft pickups from the airport.

New legislation allowing ride-hailing services at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport made it out of the city council's transportation committee Wednesday.

The law would require drivers with companies like Uber and Lyft wait for passengers in a special assembly area close by.

It could also make the companies pay nearly $4 in fees for every ride from the airport.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Newton County may have canceled a meeting about lifting a moratorium blocking a proposed mosque, but members of a local militia still carried out their protest outside the county courthouse in Covington.

The handful of members from the militia, Georgia Security Force III%, waved American flags and held anti-Islam signs. A couple had rifle slung over their shoulders.

The members were easily outnumbered by members of the media in the Covington square.

The entrance to the MARTA station near underground Atlanta
Brenna Beech / WABE

Come November, Atlanta voters will decide whether they want to pay a higher sales tax to expand public transit. And, it turns out, they won't be alone.

More than a dozen cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle, are seeking similar ballot measures. Taken together, the initiatives would fund $200 billion worth of transit projects, if passed.

Cobb County's Commission is holding its first public hearing Tuesday morning on its proposed 2017 budget and some residents plan to speak out against it. They say it once again ignores a voter-approved referendum to create new parks.

The $40 million bond referendum to preserve more county green space passed back in 2008. Shortly after, the recession hit and the county wasn't able to fund it.

Recently, a group called the Cobb Parks Coalition has pushed to get the park program back on the table.

The defense team of Justin Ross Harris, attorney's Carlos Rodriguez, center left, Maddox Kilgore and T. Bryan Lumpkin, right,discuss information in Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley's courtroom on Tuesday, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, during day tw
Kelly J. Huff / Marietta Daily Journal via AP, Pool

Attorneys in the murder trial of Justin Ross Harris will start selecting jurors in Brunswick Monday.

Harris is accused of intentionally letting his child die in a hot car in Cobb County.

A judge agreed to try Harris on the Georgia coast after his attorneys argued a fair trial would be difficult in metro Atlanta.

Trial attorney and former judge Keegan Federal said people in Brunswick will know less about the case.

“I feel very sure that they will be able to find 12 impartial jurors to try this case,” said Federal.

John Minchillo, File / Associated Press

One of Donald Trump's most visible surrogates is helping out the campaign in Georgia Monday.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is holding a town hall at Kennesaw State University.

Kerwin Swint, a KSU professor of political science, said he expects Gingrich will be trying to shore up the party's Cobb County base.

"They understand that they need high turnout of Republicans in strongholds like Cobb to run strong statewide,” Swint said.

Courtesy of Dr. Charles Menzel / Georgia State University

Professor Michael Beran puts on a lab coat to work with Sherman, one of Georgia State University’s three chimpanzees. The primates live in a jungle gym-like enclosure, which includes indoor and outdoor areas, at the university’s Language Research Center in south DeKalb County.

In the indoor section, Beran invites Sherman over and sets up a test using carrots and bananas; the sight of the latter makes the chimp grunt loudly. Beran covers up each food with a differently colored container and has Sherman pick which one he wants.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Outside her Carver Hills house, Lola Williams points out Cosmo lying under a bush.

She isn’t sure how the three-year-old cat is going to handle the move. This neighborhood is all he’s known.

The same could be said for her. She’s lived in the Carver Hills community since the 1940s, when it was built by General Motors for black families displaced by the construction of its Doraville car plant.

The historic Covington courthouse in Newton County.
Johnny Kauffman / WABE News, NPR in Atlanta

There may be a resolution sooner than expected in the battle over a proposed mosque.

The Newton County government says it's calling a special meeting in two weeks to "take action" on the planned development. 

News of the application for a mosque and Muslim cemetery in the county first came to light in mid-August.

Newton commissioners responded by placing a moratorium on building permits for all places of worship.

Mike Stewart / Associated Press

A new Atlanta law that tracks changes to affordable housing may be catching on nationally.

New Orleans and Pittsburgh are among the cities looking at adopting an ordinance similar to one that was first passed in Atlanta last fall. It requires city officials to quantify how many low-cost housing units would be lost or gained with a change in municipal policy.

Housing advocate Matthew Charles Cardinale said those reports, referred to as affordable housing impact statements, can help influence future city planning, and they can also be a resource for the public.

Newton County commissioners have until Tuesday to respond to a concerned letter from five of the county's mayors.

In the letter Friday, the mayors said they're "embarrassed" by how the county has handled a proposed mosque. Among several requests, they asked county commissioners to lift a moratorium on building permits for places of worship.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

A civil rights group is continuing its call for Newton County to end a moratorium on new religious buildings.

 

Edward Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, stood with religious leaders and social justice activists Tuesday to condemn the moratorium.

 

It blocks the construction of any new religious buildings in the county for five weeks.

 

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

A coalition of union and community activists are trying to get voters to say "No" to Gov. Nathan Deal's school takeover plan.

The plan will appear as a ballot measure this November. If approved, it would create an “Opportunity School District,” which would allow the state to manage underperforming schools.

About 100 protesters showed up Monday at Liberty Plaza to oppose the measure. Most were from the national union, Communication Workers of America, whose members are in town for a conference.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Omar Zaki stands next to a sign on Woodbine Avenue on the border of the Edgewood and Kirkwood neighborhoods.

"You can see this is where it ends," said Zaki, who's part of the Organized Neighbors of Edgewood.

The sign marks the end of the Trolley Line Trail, a path that was built more than 20 years ago, before the Olympics. It follows the old streetcar route through Kirkwood.

It was supposed to continue into Edgewood, Zaki's neighborhood, and then Reynoldstown, but funding issues kept that construction from happening.

Now, though, it could.

The 9-foot statue of Warren Spahn, designed by sculptor Shan Gray, was unveiled at Monument Grove, adjacent to the Grand Entry Plaza on the north side of Turner Field in 2003.
Wally Gobetz / flickr.com/wallyg

Some of those who live around Turner Field say they're feeling hopeful following the sale of the stadium to Georgia State University.

The $30 million deal between GSU and the Atlanta Fulton Recreation Authority became official yesterday.

Suzanne Mitchell, president of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, said she and her neighbors are pushing for an agreement between the community, Georgia State and the university’s partnering developers, Carter and Oakwood.

"I'm optimistic,” said Mitchell. “We're in conversation. We're going to get a strong agreement."

Peachtree street in Midtown Atlanta
Allison Guillory / WABE

Two of Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhoods, Midtown and Buckhead, are seeing a new development trend. And it’s one that could make the upscale character of the neighborhoods even more permanent, said Michael Kahn, an editor with Curbed Atlanta and architect at Rosser International.

“We’re beginning to see a shift from upscale rentals to upscale condos that are for purchase,” Kahn said. “Obviously purchasing a home doesn’t necessarily equate to living there long-term, but more so than rentals it really encourages a longer occupation of a population.”

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

 

Southwest Atlanta residents aren’t happy with a plan to put a homeless shelter in one of their neighborhoods.

 

The city said it’s considering turning a vacant building it owns at 836 Metropolitan Parkway into a temporary facility for homeless families. It would house no more than 75 people and be run through a public-private partnership.

At a meeting Tuesday, dozens of residents from the neighborhood, which is Pittsburgh, told the city, “Not here.”

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

A local mosque’s plans to turn empty land in Newton County into a burial center and place of worship is drawing criticism from an elected official.

Imam Mohammad Islam of the Doraville mosque that bought the more than 100 acres along Highway 162 said they hope to build a place to prepare bodies for burial. There currently aren’t any funeral homes specifically for Muslims in Georgia, he said.

"We need to think about our future, our children, where they will be buried," Islam said.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport dealt with delays and cancellations Monday as Delta recovered from a power outage that crippled its computer system globally.

Eleven-year-old Victor Violette said he and his dad had to spend several hours longer at the airport after their flight was canceled. They were heading to Melbourne, Florida, where his grandfather lives.

“It’s kinda sad right now because I was really hoping to see my grandpa earlier today,” Victor said.

From Newlead's press kit.
Newlead

A cargo ship has been stranded off the coast of Georgia for nearly four months, and much of the crew is still on board.

A lender foreclosed on the vessel in April when its owner in Greece got behind on loan payments.

That left the crew members, who are Filipino, waiting on the Newlead Castellano vessel for a new owner. They don't have the right immigration papers to come ashore.

Todd Baiad is an attorney representing the lender, who is paying the crew now.

If Congress doesn't reach an agreement on the federal Highway Trust Fund, Georgia could have to reduce the number of highway projects it moves forward with starting in September.
Faith Williams / WABE

This week Fulton County commissioners will meet to officially place a $.75 sales tax on November's ballot.

If voters approve it, the tax would fund transportation projects worth several hundred million dollars in county areas outside of Atlanta.

Each Fulton County city outside of Atlanta developed a list of projects to be included in the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – or T-SPLOST.

WhosThisValGirl / flickr.com/whosthisvalgirl

DeKalb County admitted this week that it failed to report a number of sewage issues over the last four years, including 35 spills that reached the region's waterways. The county is required to report such issues to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency according to a 2010 federal court order.

Findings from an internal investigation submitted to the EPA show county employees sometimes didn't record a spill or overflow if they didn't witness it themselves. They also didn't report many cases where sewage simply flooded an area or building.

Ebyabe / Wikimedia

A new committee in the Georgia House of Representatives will examine historic preservation in the state.

That means a review of how designated sites are managed. It could also result in a closer look at what sites are identified as historic.

The committee, called the House Committee on Historic Site Preservation, came to be after several lawmakers realized each of their districts had lost buildings that the surrounding community felt were historic.

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