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Georgia editorial roundup

Posted July 12

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 7

The Telegraph of Macon on a domestic dispute that ended with an officer shooting a man:

The altercation between Chris Cashell and Houston County Sheriff Deputy Jonathan Lewis that led to Cashell's death didn't have to happen, but it is an example of the sort of situations deputies, police officers and others in law enforcement are called in to intervene when domestic situations get out of hand.

By all accounts, Cashell was a good provider for his wife and her son by another relationship, but, that's not the side he exhibited the day he died. Alcohol got in the way of Cashell's clear thinking and for some reason he didn't want his wife to leave and slashed her tires to make sure she didn't. She called the sheriff.

Deputy Lewis walked into a situation feared most by all in law enforcement. Domestic violence calls can quickly turn on a dime and instead of having one angry person, the deputy may be faced with two. That didn't happen in this case, but for some reason, that God only knows, Cashell, after repeated warnings to drop his weapon, pointed his gun at Deputy Lewis.

Milliseconds later, Deputy Lewis fired four shots hitting Cashell three times. Now, one life ended and another has to live with the thought that he took another person's life. One life ended and another lives with a memory. Not discounting the loss, but Deputy Lewis didn't report to work last Monday expecting to take a life that day.

Truth be told, Deputy Lewis' situation is not unlike what's faced by law enforcement officers every day, every shift, every hour. Certainly, the profession has its share of bad actors, but the majority just want to live through the day and return to their families, wake up and do it all over again.

However, that said, law enforcement is a specialized tool. You don't call them unless you absolutely need them. And if you need them, absolutely call, but if you don't, leave them out of the equation. They would much rather individuals solve their own domestic issues without third party interference. Particularly interference that knows little about the situation and the personalities they might be walking into.

And they would much rather, even when called to domestic disputes, that everyone leave from the altercation alive and well. They want everyone to return to their everyday lives safely — everyone.

Online: http://www.macon.com/

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July 8

The Savannah Morning News on voter data collection:

Georgians should be concerned about efforts by the Trump administration to create a national electronic data base of voters, presumably to protect the nation against widespread voter fraud.

While the sanctity of the ballot box and the one-man, one-vote concept merit protection, that's a job that's best left to the individual states, not Washington. In the federal government's hands, the effort to collect personal information — including partial Social Security numbers — from millions of U.S. voters smacks of Big Brother at its worst.

It's no wonder that the ACLU of Georgia decided last Friday that it will be closely monitoring the response of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to the request for extensive voter information from President Trump's commission on election integrity. That commission, along with the U.S. Justice Department, wants material about how Georgia removes voters who should no longer be eligible to vote from its rolls.

That's probably a question that many Georgians, who are concerned about the integrity of the electoral process, would like answered. But it's more properly answered by those who are closer to the voters — local and state registrars and boards of elections — not bureaucrats in far-away Washington.

Indeed, comparing names and addresses and signatures of registered voters is a time-consuming and laborious process, accuracy would seem to suffer if the work was not done by those who were closest to the scene. In short, when questions of voter fraud arise, it should be handled as a local and state matter. If local and state officials aren't up to the job, get new ones.

So far, there has been no indication that Mr. Kemp, or any of Georgia's local election officials or registrars, have fallen down on the job and need help from Washington.

Sean Young, the ACLU's legal director, said his group's interest stems from its intent to prevent Mr. Kemp from sending information to Washington that is required to be kept private under Georgia law.

Mr. Young is right on that count. While the liberal-leaning ACLU is no friend of Republican office-holders like Mr. Trump or Mr. Kemp, Georgia officials have no business ignoring state law to satisfy an edict from Washington.

But it's important to point out that some information the Trump commission is seeking from all 50 states is already available in Georgia under this state's public information laws. In this instance, the request for this same information is not odious and Mr. Kemp can easily comply.

In fact, Georgia officials have said some — but not all — of the information requested by Trump's voter fraud panel is already publicly available under state law for a standard fee of $250. They have requested payment of that fee before the state will process the request, which is only proper. State law allows information such as voter names, addresses, race and gender, among other data points, to be included on the list.

Georgia will not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters' driver's license numbers and Social Security numbers. That's as it should be. In the wrong hands, such data can ruin lives and destroy an individual's right to privacy. That's especially true given the millions of dollars being spent to influence elections.

The move by the ACLU was supported by an informal coalition of groups including the Georgia NAACP, government watchdog group Common Cause and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta. They met in Atlanta on the campus of downtown's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, who also serves as board chairman for voter advocacy group the New Georgia Project, is senior pastor.

Several of the groups, including New Georgia Project and the state NAACP, have in the past requested and received parts or all of the same public voter file, using the information either for field work or in litigation. Still, those groups said that it was in the public's interest for Mr. Kemp to deny the federal panel's request.

That's absurd.

Mr. Kemp cannot pick and choose who receives public information. It must be made available to anyone who asks. Otherwise, he could be in violation of state law and would merit punishment.

Besides, it's the height of hypocrisy for a group that has benefited from this law to deny that same benefit to others.

At the same time, much of this information about Georgia voters, like party affiliation, is already available to candidates for elective offices and their political operatives. That's how they know where to mail their political cards and other propaganda. It's not a state secret.

If anything, all this hoopla from the ACLU and related groups is a sign that the next race for Georgia's governor is starting early and that some Democratic-leaning groups are already looking for ways to pile on Mr. Kemp.

Mr. Kemp has nothing to worry about as long as he just does his job. Release the public information. But keep the private data, private. Don't invade the privacy of Georgia's voters. Tell Big Brother to take a hike.

Online: http://savannahnow.com/

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July 9

The Augusta Chronicle on Augusta University assisting area school districts:

For centuries, governments have reached out to spread around state-of-the-art agricultural practices like so much intellectual fertilizer — in modernity, through Extension Services often run out of universities.

Well, Augusta University's College of Education is using a similar approach to till the field in education.

One shining example is the department's outreach to Wrens Middle School.

As we noted last week, the school's Junior Beta Club recently brought home a national Beta championship in robotics, after constructing a fully functioning robot from scratch.

But it's going to get even better.

At AU's invitation, Wrens has accepted the university's help in implementing an integrated "STEAM" curriculum — covering various subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.

It's part of a regional outreach philosophy under the direction of Zach Kelehear, dean of AU's College of Education. He calls it their "commitment to being responsive and relevant to the needs of the CSRA school districts as the college seeks to prepare innovative and inspiring teachers who are prepared to offer rich and relevant content to children."

Indeed, AU is helping Wrens Middle School teachers become STEAM certified at no cost to the teachers — and is even taking the program to Wrens so the teachers who live in rural areas can get to the training easily.

The university had hired Dr. Ashley Gess, who Kelehear says received a Ph.D. in Integrative STEAM Education from Virginia Tech University.

"She immediately traveled to districts in the CSRA to assess the needs and interests" of area education leaders," Kelehear said. It just so happens, Jefferson County's Dr. Molly Howard was among the first to jump at the chance to partner with AU.

"Our college and university responded immediately," Kelehear added, "so that we might take our university out to Jefferson County and work with the teachers in their schools, in their communities.

"What is remarkable is that in a day when public schools are often criticized for not being relevant or effective, there are actually some excitingly effective and relevant things happening — because leaders with vision make it so.

"We plan to ride the crest of the cyber tsunami on the platform of innovative, inspiring and responsive teachers for all children."

This is truly exciting stuff. And it's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Augusta University and the state's other colleges and universities offer to the entire region. Classrooms aren't the only place where learning happens.

Kudos to Kelehear and his charges — and for Dr. Howard in Jefferson County for seeing the no-lose situation for her school district.

It's a wry old dig at government to joke, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

In this case, nothing could be truer.

Online: http://chronicle.augusta.com/

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