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Local Atlanta news




Sunday, May 27, 2012
2:00 – 4:00

Suwanee Public Library
361 Main Street Suwanee, GA 30024

Jim Burress / WABE-FM

How do you make sure a billion-and-a-half dollar airport terminal is fully-functional on opening day?

You practice.

Wednesday at the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal, that meant gate agents checking in passengers, TSA Screeners focusing on luggage, and 1,600 volunteer travelers doing what travelers “do.”

That included the Anbil family of Smyrna, who often fly internationally.   

Even so, Nachu Anbil was a bit confused by the new terminal’s layout.  He questioned whether “Concourse F” is ready for opening day, just two weeks away.

City Council works out budget

May 2, 2012


The Atlanta City Council will spend the next few months combing through Mayor Kasim Reed’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting in July. Reed wants to continue beefing up public safety despite another drop in revenue.

More than 19 hundred police officers work for the city of Atlanta. That number could go up if the council passes the Mayor’s budget. Duriya Farooqui is the city’s chief operating officer.

“The city will also be able to reach its longstanding goal of 2,000 police officers in the Atlanta Police Department,” said Farooqui.

On Monday, Dekalb County educators received their contracts for the upcoming year, which outlined a 6% pay cut. Then on Tuesday, they received a letter explaining the pay cut probably won’t happen. For the past few years, the Dekalb Schools has included some kind of austerity cut in teachers’ and administrators’ contracts. District spokesman Walter Woods says the measure is put in place because, by state law, the budget isn’t finished by the time contracts are issued.

A citizens committee studying future plans for an airport in Gwinnett County has voted against allowing commercial flights.

It’s the latest development in what has become a contentious local issue.

Committee members were divided, but they ultimately voted against commercializing Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville.

A majority of the panel wants the airport to remain a general aviation facility serving corporate jets and other small aircraft.

The committee recommendation now goes to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners, which has the ultimate say.  

Governor Nathan Deal has signed into law legislation that will reinstate child-only health insurance plans here in Georgia.

The law is aimed at helping children whose parents aren’t offered dependent coverage through their job and don’t qualify for Medicaid or PeachCare.

"There have been people that have fallen into that particular situation and we saw this as an easy opportunity to fix a problem and hopefully people will take advantage and enroll those kids," said Georgians for a Health Future outreach director Amanda Ptashkin, who helped lobby for the legislation.

Governor Deal Signs into Law Criminal Justice Overhaul

May 2, 2012

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law an overhaul of the state criminal justice system. The legislation sets out to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders in Georgia prisons by placing a greater focus on drug addiction treatment and mental health services.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein was one of the leading advocates for reform.

“Hopefully in addressing the root problem, we’ll keep them from committing other crimes and reunite them with their families and friends and make them taxpayers, not tax burdens.”

Georgia Department of Labor Launches New Online System

May 1, 2012
GA Department of Labor

The Georgia Department of Labor has launched a new online system to help process unemployment insurance claims. The department says the State Information Data Exchange E-response system will allow employers to respond more quickly after a former employee files an unemployment claim. Brenda Brown is the director of unemployment insurance benefits for the department:

“It reduces staff time, it reduces paperwork that goes back and forth through the mail, it reduces postage cost, but more importantly it helps us keep unemployment rates as low as possible by reducing overpayments.”

The final exams are over and the invitations have hopefully gone out.

May is commencement month for most of the area colleges and universities.

Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson will speak at Emory University’s commencement ceremony.

Gary Hauk is vice president and deputy to the president of Emory University.

He says the president’s office looks to students to help select the keynote.

Garden Gnomes take to the Streets in Inman Park Parade

May 1, 2012

Hundreds of people dressed as garden gnomes, complete with pointy red hats are marching down the road. It’s all part of an annual attempt to break the world record for largest gnome march. Atlanta artist Chantelle Ritter is captain of the Krewe of the Greatful Gluttons, a social club that organizes the march. 

"Well of course I have hopes that we're going to break the record, though it's an impossible number of gnomes. But anything is possible. We are never going to give up. We are gonna do this year after year because it is ridiculous fun and we are silly people"

Fulton County Turns to Private Debt Collectors

May 1, 2012

Fulton County is turning to private debt collectors in an effort to track down money owed by residents.

DeKalb County and cities including Atlanta, Alpharetta and Roswell have already enlisted help from private debt collectors.

Fulton County is joining those ranks, and has hired a team of firms based in Illinois, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

Critics however, are concerned about the potential for harassment by profit-driven debt collectors and the possibility of errors on debts that can be several years old.

The DeKalb County school board has voted to cut more than 100 jobs at the school level. The decision is part of the school district’s new zero-based budgeting plan. This is the first year the Dekalb schools will implement zero-based budgeting. New Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson introduced the plan to the district. Dekalb Schools’ spokesperson Walter Woods says the school system used student enrollment to determine how many jobs were needed.


Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order this week to remove the members of the troubled Miller County school board in Southwest Georgia. The state board of education recommended in March that the governor oust the Miller County board since governance problems put their accreditation on probation. Deal spokesperson Brian Robinson says the governor stepped in before things got worse.

As WABE reported last week, the Georgia chapter of the environmental organization The Sierra Club is opposing the regional transportation sales tax, which goes before voters in July.  The Sierra Club made the announcement in a news release Monday, April 30th. 

View the press release from Untie Atlanta.

View the press release from The Georgia Sierra Club.

Council scraps request for airport contract extension

May 1, 2012

The Atlanta City Council Monday said it won’t ask a top city official to extend contracts for some companies selling products inside Atlanta airport. Those companies are getting ready to move out because they didn’t win the right to stay in business at the airport.

Asthma is a lung disease that makes breathing difficult for millions of Americans. To help improve asthma awareness and reduce asthma disparities, Fulton County is launching a new initiative called the Fulton Asthma Improvement and Reduction Initiative.

The initiative kicks off Tuesday with a panel discussion and is an opportunity for the public and other stakeholders to weigh in on ways for the county to improve policies and help reduce asthma related illnesses and deaths. Dr. Patrice Harris is director of Health Services for the County:

 Tuesday is the official start of smog season for the metro area. Weather experts are predicting a hot and possibly dry summer. As a result, state climatologist Bill Murphey says it’s likely this year’s smog season will be average, where there will between 35 to 40 days which violate federal ozone standards.

 “Normally when we’re hot, dry conditions and fairly stable conditions, usually fairly stagnant conditions with the Atlantic or Bermuda high pressure system dominating that usually gives favorable conditions for high ozone around the metro area.”

A state utility regulator is calling on Georgia Power to start cutting down on fuel charges a month earlier than expected.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton says he wants to accelerate a planned price reduction from July to June to help customers save on their summer electric bills.

“We all know the rates are going to decrease. We know that because we’ve seen the projections. It’s not just that we’re able to do it a month earlier, it’s the fact that we’re doing it during the summer cooling season when bills are the highest.”

State Task Force to Address Emergency Drug Shortage

Apr 30, 2012

Georgia’s top public health official is forming a special task force to respond to the state’s limited drug supply.

In the last few weeks, the supply of epinephrine, used to treat cardiac arrest and asthma, has been especially low due to a recent recall by federal regulators.

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald says shortages are on the rise and a task force is needed.

“The task force here in Georgia will be looking at the supply of drugs in the EMS arena on a daily basis so we can make daily recommendation.”

Georgia economic development officials say deepening the Savannah harbor will allow bigger ships to access the port there. 

That, in turn, they say will provide a big financial boost to the state.

But Georgia taxpayers could be on the hook for a costly project related to the port deepening.

The Part of the Savannah harbor deepening project proposal includes $70-million dollars for oxygen machines so fish can breathe.

More American children are going hungry. 

The USDA defines “food insecurity” as lack of access to enough food to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

A new report from Feeding America says there's more food insecurity among American children, partly due to continued high unemployment and rising food prices.

Nationwide, more than 23% of children fall into that category.

UGA Officials Approve Engineering College

Apr 27, 2012
University of Georgia

The University of Georgia will soon open a college of engineering after gaining unanimous approval from school officials this week.

The college will officially open its doors in July and classes in the school will start in August.  Pete Konenkamp is a spokesman for the university.

“The most important thing is that it will give more an opportunity to remain in the state of Georgia rather than seek a degree elsewhere.”

Future Unemployed Will See Big Benefit Cuts

Apr 27, 2012

Soon workers who lose their jobs will have a much a shorter period to collect unemployment.

After July, new state legislation will reduce the payout period for benefits from 26 weeks to between 14-20 weeks, depending on the job numbers.

The better the jobless rate, the steeper the cuts.

If unemployment falls below nine percent, which currently appears likely, the maximum benefit period will drop from 20 weeks, down to 19.

FAA red flags 4 Atlanta concession awards

Apr 27, 2012

The city of Atlanta still plans to open the new international terminal at its airport next month. That’s despite concerns from the federal government.

Imaging being a month away from moving into a new home only to find out you weren’t financially qualified.

That’s essentially what has happened to Atlanta Restaurant Partners, Mack II, Incorporated, Vida Concessions and Hojeij Branded Foods.

A new American Lung Association report says the air quality in the U.S. and metro Atlanta is getting better. However, Atlanta continues to lag behind many other cities.

The report ranked the metropolitan area the 25th worst for the number of high ozone days. But American Lung Association state director June Dean says the ranking is slightly better than last year.

“We know that  improving and strengthening the Clean Air Act is making a difference for us, and here’s the proof.”

Prom costs increase

Apr 26, 2012

It's prom season in metro Atlanta.  According to a study by Visa Inc., prom spending has increased.  The average American family will fork out nearly $1,100 for their teen.  

That's up 33% from last year being spent on dresses, manicures, make-up, limousines and professional photographers among other things.  Jason Alderman, a senior director of financial education for Visa, says reality tv has a lot to do with it.

The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with some immigrants’ rights groups, has filed a “Freedom of Information Act” request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The request asks for information related to two immigration enforcement programs in Georgia. Azadeh Shashahani, with the Georgia ACLU, says they want information about Secure Communities and 287 (g). 

“Who’s getting deported?" Shashahani says, "How many people are getting picked up and facing deportation proceedings? What is the reason  people are getting picked up in the first place?”


Two Atlanta colleges signed an agreement today with a national charter school organization. Morehouse and Spelman colleges have each pledged to reserve slots for qualified KIPP students across the U.S. The agreement is the first in the country between a charter school group and historically black colleges or universities. Nationally, about two-thirds of KIPP students are African-American. David Jernigan, executive director of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, says the partnership will have a special meaning for his students.

Grady launches marketing campaign

Apr 25, 2012

Last month, Grady Memorial Hospital launched a marketing campaign that’s being featured on billboards, buses and the radio. This week the hospital is rolling out a series of television ads.

In one of the TV ads, Estela Munoz tells about her daughter Mina who was born 13 weeks premature.

“She was 12 inches long and 1 pound 4 ounces, so she could fit in the palm of your hand. We owe Mina’s life to Grady.”

Statewide Drug Shortage Poses Risk to Emergency Patients

Apr 25, 2012
AP File

Paramedics and other emergency responders are reporting shortages of a variety of life-saving drugs.

Drug shortages have been a problem for years now, but emergency workers across the state say it’s reaching an alarming level.

In a letter sent to Georgia’s public health commissioner, a group of EMS workers warns that the current shortage poses a “real danger to patients…without relief in sight.’’

“In my career, I’ve never seen the level of concern that I see now,” said Kim Littleton, executive director of the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services.