Axios Atlanta

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Situational awareness: On this day in 1982, the late, great, Hank Aaron was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He died a year ago next week.

Today's newsletter is 980 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: 🚗 Georgia's most... interesting vanity plates

Georgia license plate with symbols implying a swear word.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Every year, officials at the Georgia Department of Revenue reject roughly 200 applications for vanity license plates for being obscene, defamatory or profane.

Why it matters: If you're going to sit in hours of traffic every week, you might as well get a chuckle from the car braking in front of you.

  • However, there are rules in a civilized society, folks.

🧑‍⚖️ The rules: The state prohibits obscene, defamatory or profane “prestige” plates and reserves the right to recall ones that slip past.

Details: Axios filed an Open Records Request for the past two years of rejected prestige plates. Here's what you won't see on the road:

😤 So much hatin': Applications were rejected for clapping back at haters, including: YUH4TIN, DNTH8, YUHATN, YUH8TN, HIH8RZ, YRUH8N

🦠 Pandemic plates: People tried — and failed — to snag tags with N0MASK, N0VACS, C0VID19, COVID, C0VID, 2C0VID, K0VID19, C0R0NAV, C0R0NA7

👩‍🎨 Creative AF: Among the proposed plates playing off “____ as f___,” some of the most memorable were VEGANAF, THICCAF, L0UDASF, S0LIDAF, BLACKAF, BR0KEAF, SICKAF

🟥 Red state: In addition to PRAGERU (the name of a conservative nonprofit), officials rejected TRMP1, TRMP3, TRUMP24 and TRMP2.

Thomas' thought bubble: My dad was a urologist and was able to score a license plate that read “C ME 2 P,” which to this day makes me giggle.

  • His two other proposed plates — which I can't repeat here in this family-friendly newsletter — were rejected.

Also, let's all have a round of applause for the Georgia Open Records Act.

Read the full story.

2. 🚓 Buckhead's newest police precinct

Police cap on dark background under spotlights.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Mayor Andre Dickens will open a new mini police precinct in the heart of Buckhead later this morning.

  • It will start with about a dozen officers working 12-hour shifts, with plans to double by the summer.

Why it matters: Dickens has made keeping Atlanta united an early priority, and with the Republican-led General Assembly session underway he doesn't have much time to head off a Buckhead cityhood referendum.

Catch up quick: Police Chief Rodney Bryant first announced the move in September, in part because of Buckhead's rapid population growth, which he said has kept most officers busy with traffic incidents.

Yes, but: Bill White, CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, told Axios this is “putting lipstick on a pig…we are starving for more police and this is a photo op, plain and simple.”

What’s next: Dickens told state lawmakers at a breakfast yesterday that “there are about 400 steps between Atlanta City Hall and the Gold Dome” and “working together will make us stronger together.” But two bills have already been filed to make Buckhead cityhood a reality.

The intrigue: In fact, a spokesperson from the mayor's office tells Axios he has met with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle, including one such meeting yesterday afternoon.

Read the full story.

3. 🏫 DeKalb parents oppose possible school merger

Hawthorne Elementary School in DeKalb County
Parents whose children attend Hawthorne Elementary School are voicing their opposition to the district's proposal to merge it with Henderson Mill Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Rusty Tanton

Some DeKalb County parents are concerned about the district's proposal to consolidate their school with a nearby facility.

The DeKalb County School District's comprehensive master plan calls for merging several elementary schools: Henderson Mill and Hawthorne; Reynolds and Dresden; Allgood and Dunaire; Stone Mill and Stone Mountain; and Midvale and Livsey.

  • A petition opposing the merger has received more than 800 signatures.

What they're saying: Maike Caudle, a Hawthorne parent, told Axios she didn't believe the existing infrastructure could support combining two schools and that students, parents and teachers could lose that sense of community with a larger school.

Details: DeKalb's comprehensive master plan goes through the state of its buildings with a fine-tooth comb, evaluating each school's future projected enrollment and their physical conditions.

  • The plan reviews which schools will be overcrowded and under-utilized and which will be in poor condition by the 2030-2031 school year.

Community organizations are also watching the school district's plans closely. Andrew Heaton, president of the North Briarcliff Civic Organization, told Axios the group has no official stance, but residents who live near Hawthorne Elementary School want to know more about how traffic will be affected if the schools merge on that site.

Read the full story.

4: 🚇 New MARTA, who dis?

A gray modern rail car with a red "smile" on the front and a blue, orange, and yellow stripe on the side traveling in a flat environment
The smart way to travel across the Great Desert of Atlanta. Rendering courtesy of MARTA

MARTA asked, you answered, and starting next year, the first batch of more than 250 new, modern rail cars will pull into a station near you.

Why it matters: Most of MARTA's current stock of cars are older than 40 years old, and years of use, repairs and getting wrapped in ads for personal injury attorneys can take their toll.

Flashback: Last year, MARTA asked the public to pick its favorite design for the next fleet of heavy rail cars.

Riders picked the minimalist exterior — the sleek design gives the sense of speed, MARTA said at the time — coupled with an interior that favors “comfort and technology.”

Details: Unveiled at the annual State of MARTA event held virtually yesterday, the new design features a “smile” on the front of the train that denotes the color of the rail line — and signals to riders which train is arriving.

  • Inside, expect an open gangway so riders can move freely between cars, larger ADA spaces and seats facing forward and inward. The cars will also feature larger areas for luggage, bicycles, strollers or standing.

On the tech side, some seats will have charging stations for smart devices, state-of-the-art lighting, wind screens with embedded digital displays, digital system maps and service information.

Thomas' thought bubble: I think MARTA should have bought a bunch of throwback railroad buses, but hey, I'm just a journalist, not a transportation planner.

Read the full story.

5. 😱 Five points: Scientists make disturbing discovery

Illustration of five-ish points animating to form the letters ATL.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🌆 Alpharetta is among the top city-like suburbs in the U.S. (Urbanize Atlanta)

🏛️ Former NLF player Desmond Marrow has settled his lawsuit against Henry County over his arrest in 2017. (11 Alive)

🦠 UGA scientists have discovered a gene in sewer water that could make some bacteria resistant to an antibiotic. (Fox 5 Atlanta)

🗳️ Voter use of ballot drop boxes declined during the fall 2021 elections. (AJC)

🛑 A judge will rule later this month on whether Camden County can purchase land for its proposed spaceport. (Associated Press)

🤔 Kristal wonders if she should buy food in case we get winter weather, or more houseplants.

💒 Emma is excited to announce she became an ordained minister in 10 seconds, so that she has the honor of marrying two of her closest friends this spring. You may call her Rev.

💡Thomas is wondering if the city would let him use one of those kiosks in Downtown Atlanta as an office.