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House adopts new congressional map; Douglas split into 3rd, 13th districts
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ATLANTA — The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives approved a new congressional map Monday, the final act in a once-a-decade redistricting special session.

House members voted 96-68 virtually along party lines.

Douglas County, which has been entirely in the 13th Congressional District, will be split into two districts under the map.

The eastern side of the county will remain in the 13th District, which is represented by Congressman David Scott, an Atlanta Democrat. The western side of the county will now be in the 3rd District represented by Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson of Newnan.

Legislative Democrats had proposed a congressional map that likely would have led to a 7-7 split in the delegation, which they argued would reflect the 50-50 partisan divide that has arisen in Georgia as a result of minority population growth since the last census in 2010.

Instead, the new map is expected to pave the way for Republicans to gain one seat on their current 8-6 majority for a 9-5 advantage.

To accomplish that, the map looks likely to re-flip the 6th Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta won in 2018 after it had been in GOP hands for decades.

The district, currently concentrated in ethnically diverse suburban East Cobb, North Fulton and North DeKalb counties, now stretches into more exurban and even rural communities in predominantly white Forsyth, Dawson and eastern Cherokee counties.

Attorney Jake Evans, a Lithia Springs High grad, is among several Republicans already campaigning for the 6th District seat.

McBath wasted little time Monday announcing a change of plans after Monday’s vote.

Within an hour of the virtually party line vote in the General Assembly, McBath announced she will run in the newly redrawn and much more Democrat-friendly 7th District next year.

The move potentially sets up a primary showdown with fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee, who won that Gwinnett County-based seat last year.

“It is no mystery why Republicans and the NRA (National Rifle Assocation) have decided I’m their top target,” said McBath, who was elected in 2018 on an anti-gun platform after her teenage son was shot to death.“As a Black woman, activist, and mother on a mission — they would like nothing more than to stop me from speaking truth to power about the gun lobby and Republican Party in Congress. So let me make something very clear: I refuse to stand down.”

Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, chairman of the House Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee, bristled at the Democrats’ accusations of targeting. She said it’s necessary to move voters out of districts that have grown larger than the 755,000 legally required for even distribution and shift voters into other districts that are underpopulated.

“We don’t draw maps to protect incumbents,” she said. “We draw maps for the people.”

The other specific complaint Democrats raised Monday was over Republicans adding voters from heavily Black South Cobb County to the largely white, rural Northwest Georgia district represented by conservative firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome.

But House Minority Leader David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, said there’s more to the issue than Greene, including the map splitting Cobb between four congressional districts, and dividing South Cobb alone three ways.

“This is not about Marjorie Taylor Greene or whoever else represents the district,” he said. “It’s about fairness.”

But House Speaker David Ralston said the decision to extend the 14th District to the south was not politically motivated.

“That district needed to pick up about 36,000 people,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “We had to go somewhere and find them. … That’s a challenge.”

Democrats are expected to file lawsuits challenging the congressional map and well as new Georgia House and Senate maps lawmakers adopted earlier in the special session.

Ralston said he’s confident the maps will be upheld.

“The maps — the rhetoric notwithstanding — are fair. They follow the law and the Voting Rights Act,” he said. “I was very proud of the process and the work that went into this.”

Reports from Capital Beat News Service were used in this article.

Community dedicates new $500K fire truck during ceremony
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The Douglas County Fire and EMT Division officially added a new firetruck to its fleet.

With the help of students and some county officials, a Wet Down Ceremony was held at Chapel Hill Middle School before the truck was pushed into a bay at Fire Station No. 5.

“I’m honored to see all the great things Santa will bring in 2022,” said District 3 Commissioner Tarenia Carthan, who hosted the event.

The truck, which cost $500,000 to purchase and is equipped with $70,000 worth of fire and EMT equipment, was paid for with SPLOST funds.

“It is amazing what a penny can buy for the safety of our citizens,” said David Good, program manager of SPLOST. “We thank the citizens of Douglas County. Our No. 1 responsibility is to protect the citizens. You show you care.”

A Wet Down Ceremony is a long-standing tradition where firefighters commission a new firetruck by spraying it with water, drying it, and then pushing it into its new home, Deputy Fire Chief Eric Phillips explained to the gathering of citizens, county officials and the new recruiting class.

The historical ceremony represents when firefighters had to wet down the horses used to pull fire engines and push the steam fire engines back into the fire station bay, Phillips said.

“This is wonderful, and I’m glad I was a part of it,” District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell said.

Carthan offered a prayer for the firefighters, EMT personnel and the new truck before it was pushed into the bay.

Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones participated in the push-in.

“This is the district where I live, and I’m happy to see the citizens being taken care of,” Jones said.

Jones got to ride in the new truck as it made it way from Chapel Hill Middle to its new home a few feet away.

“We have some big things happening with the department that will ensure the safety of our citizens,” Fire Chief Roderick Jolivette said. “It is all about the citizens, and how we can better protect them.

County Administrator Sharon Subadan praised the new recruiting class for answering the call to serve community.

“This is a multi-cultural class that reflects our community,” she said. “It was one penny spent to have this important equipment to help the community.”

In June, the BOC approved the fire department’s request for four new paramedic Quick Response Vehicles. The total cost of the new equipment came to $240,000, which included lights, sirens and equipment.

This is Douglas: Williams focuses on family, community in helping others
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Taressa Lumpkin Williams has only been living in Georgia for six years, but the Florida transplant is trying to make a huge difference in the metro area.

After living in Marietta and southwest Atlanta, Williams has settled into Douglas County. After 25 years in the healthcare corporate setting, Williams decided to fully concentrate on her no-profit organization.

She has been running the Blessings Working Together organization, which helps feed the homeless and assist women in getting out of abusive relationships.

It has long been Williams’ passion to start the organization, and the pandemic accelerated her desire.

“I know with the pandemic, there are some women and children that think they are trapped in that situation,” she said. “Because of the pandemic, the need has increased. I think this was meant for me to be more available to give back.”

Williams speaks from experience.

Born to a teenage mother with a 10th-grade education, Williams grew up in an abusive situation where she was sexually abused.

“I started this organization because of personal reasons,” Williams said. “I know what it is like because I had a young mother and a young grandmother. I found myself in an abusive situation.”

In addition to helping those that experience domestic violence, Blessings Working Together also helps feed the homeless and those in need.

On Monday, the organization served 140 families with Thanksgiving meals that included a turkey, fresh vegetables, other side items and cake.

She has connected with the Atlanta Food Bank, but is actively seeking more sponsors.

“I’m basically a one-woman organization right now,” she said. “We need volunteers to help in all areas. I wanted to do this full-time because there is a need. I want to continue to partner with other organizations to help the community.”

At her former employer she ‘trained others to be great’ in serving as a liaison for people going through a crisis.

“I would find resources for them in the community,” Williams said.

Having the experience in that field has been invaluable in maintaining her nonprofit organization.

After a period of healing with an abusive childhood, Williams said she wanted to start a family of her own.

She and her husband have two daughters.

“We wanted to start a family in Georgia,” she said. “It was all in God’s plan. I started late in life but there had to be some healing.”

Once in Georgia, she said it just worked out that she would land in Douglasville.

“Everything just kept pulling me here,” she said. “The housing and the community. I’m loving this community.”

Holiday sales expected to set records
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Some turkey, dressing and shopping will be in store for a lot of consumers this Thanksgiving holiday.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, an estimated 153.8 million Americans are expected to shop in-person and online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

While many retailers have decided to again close on Thanksgiving, shoppers will be up early Black Friday looking for deals.

Because of supply chain issues, many retailers have encouraged customers to get their shopping done earlier this holiday season to avoid any delays.

According to market analysts the message got across as retail sales surged in October on items such as electronics, clothing and fitness gear.

Earlier this week, Target announced it will be closed on the holiday. It was closed last year because of the pandemic, and has decided to make the holiday closure permanent, the store announced.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still good indicators of where the consumer is at. It may be that the timing is just getting more distorted, especially with supply chain issues and whether consumers are concerned about getting the products they want,” said Raya Sokolyanska, vice president/senior analyst at Moody’s Corp., a Manhattan-based financial services company.

Most brick-and-mortar stores will be closed Thanksgiving, mainly because of the labor shortage, according to industry experts.

The National Retail Federation is projecting that holiday sales in November and December will rise between 8.5% and 10.5% to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, compared to holiday spending in the 2020 season. The season will set records for spending growth and the dollar amount spent, the federation projected.

However, retailers have been spreading out the deals for weeks.

Best Buy launched its Black Friday deals Friday, Target started Sunday and Walmart started Monday, said Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at BlackFriday.com.

“These retailers will release more deals on Thanksgiving. But Black Friday basically starts a week early now. … I think retailers want to extend the hype as long as they can,” she said.

The National Retail Federation expects retailers will hire between 500,000 and 665,000 seasonal workers. That compares with 486,000 seasonal hires in 2020, according to NRF data.

Because of the pandemic and safety concerns, online shopping became the norm.

Many industry experts believe ecommerce will remain strong, but in-store shopping will increase.

“Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween,” federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said.