Axios Atlanta

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Today's newsletter is 938 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: Settlement reached over South Fulton jail conditions

A jail fence with barbed wire.
Photo courtesy ferencziviktoria21/Getty Images

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is poised to accept a settlement agreement that would require it to improve conditions at one of its jails.

Why it matters: The preliminary settlement comes nearly three years after a federal lawsuit alleged detainees at the county's South Annex Jail were being held in solitary confinement in cells littered with urine, feces and toilet water.

The agreement says the Sheriff's Office must give detainees at least four hours they can spend outside their cells five days a week; opportunities to participate in activities; and access to clean drinking water, reading materials, personal hygiene items, clothes and underwear.

What they’re saying: Sheriff Pat Labat, who took office in 2021, said in a statement that his office is committed to "going above and beyond to treat detainees with a level of care approaching best practices in the industry."

  • “We continue the important work of improving jail conditions, working closely with experts in the field of mental health, and correctional services," he said. "Through this work, conditions for mentally ill detainees at the South Annex have improved dramatically since this litigation began."

What we're watching: A fairness hearing will be held at 3pm on March 16 where a judge will hear objections or comments about the settlement made by detainees represented in the class and give final approval to the agreement.

Read the full story.

2. Kemp v. Perdue: campaign finance edition

Animated gif of two elephants involved in a tug of war with their trunks
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This week, Gov. Brian Kemp filed an ethics complaint against primary opponent David Perdue, alleging that his campaign improperly coordinated with a political action committee. Perdue denies it.

Why it matters: The complaint connects back to a larger fight brewing over what Perdue calls an “uneven and discriminatory campaign finance structure” that benefits Kemp.

  • Last week, Perdue sued Kemp about a new law that he argues “grants special fundraising and expenditure privileges to the incumbent governor.”

Flashback: Last year, the General Assembly passed the law that allows the governor — among other leaders — to create “leadership committees.”

  • These committees are not subject to standard campaign finance regulations, including limits on donations, and prohibitions against fundraising during the legislative session and coordination between candidates and committees.

What they’re saying: Kemp tells Axios that it's non-incumbents who normally have “an unfair advantage over me because they can raise money during the legislative session.”

  • Kemp’s lawyers also argued this in their response to Perdue’s lawsuit. Overturning the law, they said, would tilt the scales in Perdue’s favor.
  • Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said he sees merit in Perdue's argument because the leadership committee law creates a “two track” system that “benefits the incumbent purposefully and disadvantages everybody else.”

The big picture: Kreis said that, perversely, if Kemp’s complaint alleging improper coordination is correct, “then David Perdue’s lawsuit claims seem to be strengthened.”

  • Meaning, it highlights “how one-sided the law is for challengers running for office:” Kemp is able to coordinate with a political action committee while Perdue cannot.

Read the full story.

3. A year in homicides

A car outside an Aromatherapy Spa
Atlanta's Aromatherapy Spa in March after a shooting spree that left eight dead. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

2021 saw the most homicides in Atlanta since 1996 according to a special report compiled by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Driving the news: Crime was the top issue in the Atlanta mayor’s race and a top priority of new Mayor Andre Dickens. The homicide rate made headlines in 2020, but 2021 saw an increase by one death.

What they’re saying:

  • “Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said most homicides stem from disputes between people who know each other and noted his officers can’t be everywhere at once.”
  • Georgia Tech criminologist Volkan Topalli tempered that other cities saw higher homicide rates, and Atlanta has seen worse in decades past, but the recent spike was a “perfect storm” amid the pandemic and a proliferation of guns.

By the numbers, per APD data:

  • Homicides investigated by APD in 2021: 158
  • Homicides involving guns: 145 (91.8%)
  • Deadliest month: August (23)

By the names: All of Atlanta’s 2021 homicide victims

Zoom out: Atlanta’s 2021 murders, mapped

Worthy of your time: Veteran AJC photojournalist John Spink talks about what it’s like to document a homicide crime scene.

4. The future of Bowen Homes

An aerial image of a former housing complex that today is just green lawn and trees
The former Bowen Homes property was once home to roughly 4,000 people. Many were displaced to build the Atlanta Civic Center. Photo: Courtesy of Atlanta Housing

For 13 years, the 77-acre property that was formerly the Bowen Homes public housing complex has sat fenced-off, empty and waiting for whatever comes next.

Driving the news: Atlanta Housing officials are conducting workshops to brief the community on the process of planning affordable housing and businesses on the Bowen Homes footprint and in nearby Carey Park.

Guests are invited to attend in-person or virtual meetings tonight or Saturday to see officials design in “real time” based on input.

Context: Built in 1964 and demolished in 2009, the 650-unit Bowen Homes was one of the city’s largest public housing complexes. Over the decades the complex created a tight-knit community and economy along Bankhead Highway (now Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway) but battled tragedy and struggled with crime in later years.

  • Famous former residents include rapper Shawty Lo and former boxing champion Evander Holyfield. Outkast’s “B.O.B.” music video was shot there.

Details: Tonight’s meeting starts at 6 on Zoom and at Springfield Missionary Baptist Church at 1730 Hollywood Road NW. The next meeting will be Saturday at 1pm at the same location.

5. 🧑🏽‍🍳 Five Points: Hello, Rumi!

Illustration of concrete wall with a sign reading "5-ish," with six points after it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🤔 One of the Fulton Elections Board’s most vocal critics could join the state’s oversight body. (AJC)

🍽 Rumi’s Kitchen is finally opening in Colony Square. (Eater)

🙋‍♂️ Wanted: A tenant for the really pretty building constructed as part of Grant Park’s parking deck. (Urbanize)

⚖️ The family of a teen who was shot and killed by Cobb County police is suing the county for $150 million. (WSB)

💵 Tax collections — boosted by federal pandemic relief — are up, up, up. (AJC)

🐾 Emma is interested in something, ANYTHING, that will keep her 9-month-old puppy occupied in the house for more than 20 minutes.

😂Kristal is really enjoying "Abbott Elementary."

👷 Thomas wants to know who will help him turn this shell of a downtown building into a... how about an indoor driving range?