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Andrew Young opposes fight over Confederate statues

Civil rights icon and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young said Wednesday he doesn’t back the fight to tear down Confederate memorials around the country and that he fears it could have unintended consequences.

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War,” Young said Wednesday at a press conference in which he and fellow civil rights icon C.T. Vivian endorsed Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell to succeed Kasim Reed as the city’s next mayor. “We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together.”

Young’s comments came just days after a woman was struck and killed and at least 19 others were wounded in Charlottesville, Va., when a car plowed into a group of demonstrators who were protesting neo-Nazis, KKK members and white nationalists who had descended on the city because of plans to dismantle Confederate statues.

President Donald Trump sent what many consider mixed messages to the nation in reaction to the violence, saying on Tuesday that “alt-left” demonstrators shared some blame for the confrontations after a day earlier saying racism had no place in the nation.

Young said the fight in the early 2000s to replace the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia flag hurt the state and Atlanta because the Democrats lost the governor’s mansion. If Georgia had not been embroiled in the battle, it might have salvaged the deal to bring a Mercedes-Benz plant to southern Georgia and an accompanying 3,000 jobs and that Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act might have expanded in the state.

“I’ve always been interested more in substance over symbols,” Young said, calling the fight over the flag a mistake.

“If the truth be known, we’ve had as much agony but also glory under the United States flag,” he said. “That flew over segregated America, it flew over slavery.”

Young also said he thinks James Alex Fields, the driver alleged to have been behind the wheel in the fatal death of Heather Heyer in the Charlottesville melee, is probably suffering from some type of mental illness and needs professional care.

“That’s not normal behavior,” he said of Fields. “That’s not militant behavior. That’s not patriotic behavior. That’s sick behavior.”

Gwinnett judge suspended after posts about Confederate monuments

A Gwinnett County judge and longtime local politician has been suspended after making controversial Facebook posts about protests over Confederate memorials in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere.

Judge Jim Hinkle — a magistrate judge who served as mayor of the city of Grayson for more than two decades before retiring in 2013 — took to Facebook on Saturday to label the Charlottesville protesters “snowflakes” with “no concept of history.” On Tuesday morning, he followed that missive with another post, this one comparing “the nut cases tearing down monuments” to the so-called Islamic State. 

MORE: PHOTOS: Controversial Facebook posts by suspended Gwinnett judge MORE: Petition calls for removal of Confederate flag in Kennesaw

A few hours after that post — which was not the first on Hinkle’s Facebook page that could be considered inflammatory — Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had suspended Hinkle.

Blum said she’d been unaware of the recent post and others until The AJC asked her for comment.

“After reviewing the Facebook posts you brought to my attention this morning, I have suspended Judge Hinkle effective immediately while I consider the appropriate final action,” Blum wrote in an email. 

MORE: After Charlottesville, a fresh look at Atlanta’s Confederate symbols MORE: Atlanta protesters deface Peace Monument in Piedmont Park MORE: Abrams calls for removal of Confederate faces off Stone Mountain

“As the Chief Magistrate Judge, I have made it clear to all of our Judges that the Judicial Canons, as well as our internal policies, require Judges to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, impartiality, and fairness of the judiciary. I consider any violation of those principles and policies to be a matter of utmost concern, and will certainly take any action necessary to enforce compliance and to maintain the integrity of this Court.”

Reached at his home early Tuesday afternoon, Hinkle said he didn’t "see anything controversial” about the posts.

“But you know, with the way things are going in the world today, I guess everything’s controversial,” he said, declining to comment further.

Read the full story about Hinkle’s posts at myAJC.com.

Hinkle’s Saturday afternoon post was written less than an hour before one of the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many more.

“In Charlottesville everyone is upset over Robert E. Lee statute (sic),” Hinkle’s post said, in part. “It looks like all of the snowflakes have no concept of history. It is what it is. Get over it and move on. Leave history alone - those who ignore history are deemed (sic) to repeat the mistake of the past.”

The proud Marine Corps veteran then appeared to express support for the Confederacy — or, at the very least, contempt for the North.

“In Richmond VA all of the Confederate monuments on Monument Ave. have people on horses whose asses face North. PERFECT!” he wrote.

MORE: DeKalb rallies against racism and hate after Charlottesville

The post was one of several on Hinkle’s page that could raise questions about his impartiality as a judge in one of the Southeast’s most diverse counties.

In March, Hinkle shared a link to a story with the headline “U.S. Marine Dad Makes School PAY After Pushing Muslim Propaganda On Little Girl.” In a January post, the judge declared himself “proud to be a deplorable infidel.” 

In June 2016, he wrote the following post, a reference to Islam: “This is a tenet of what peaceful religion? ‘Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.’”

Two months earlier, on the same day the United States Treasury announced that Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, Hinkle wrote this: “Well, the U.S. Treasury has just announced the ugliest $20 bill, or any money ever.” 

Gabe Okoye, the chairman of Gwinnett County’s Democratic Party, called Tuesday for Hinkle to “apologize and resign.”

“When history of oppression and bigotry is celebrated, future generations may accept such as societal norms,” Okoye told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Given his biased views on this Charlottesville matter, how can ethnic minorities and religions trust him to render fair and equitable justice from the bench?”

Hinkle’s Facebook page appeared to be deactivated or set to private sometime around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, after The AJC first attempted to contact Hinkle and other Gwinnett County officials regarding his recent posts.

Charlotte Nash, the chairman of Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners, declined Tuesday to comment directly on the situation. She's spent the last eight months or so trying to maintain order in the wake of colleague Tommy Hunter’s own controversial social media posts. 

In January, Hunter, the county’s District 3 commissioner, called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook. He’s since been publicly reprimanded.

“Since the individual involved is an employee within the Magistrate Court and the Board of Commissioners has no authority over those employees, this is a matter for that Court to handle,” Nash wrote in an email. “I have confidence that the Chief Magistrate will review and address the situation.”

Read the full story at myAJC.com.

Atlanta mayor orders flags at half-staff, considers renaming Confederate roads

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is ordering flags at City Hall to fly at half-staff after last weekend’s deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., and is considering petitions calling for streets with Confederate names to be changed.

Reed, in a statement, said he has ordered flags on city property to flown at half-staff “out of respect for the victims of violence in Charlottesville.

MORE: Atlanta protesters deface Peace Monument in Piedmont Park

“I am deeply saddened that hate-based violence took the lives of Heather Heyer and state troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, and seriously injured many others,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with each of these individuals, their families and loved ones.”

Reed said he also will soon make a decision on petitions seeking to rename streets such as Confederate Avenue. A change.org petition seeking to change the name of the Grant Park road had more than 3,700 signatures by mid-afternoon Thursday.

MORE: Petition grows to remove Decatur Confederate memorial MORE: At Atlanta churches, anger and sadness over Charlottesville violence

“Over the past two days, Atlanta residents have started petitions and called for city streets bearing the name of the Confederacy or Confederate leaders to be renamed,” Reed said. “I will carefully consider these petitions, because symbols matter, and as those espousing hate-filled ideologies grow bolder, we must grow stronger in defense of our values.”

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Leon Stafford keeps you updated on the latest in the Atlanta mayoral race and everything else going on at City Hall. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

DeKalb commissioner accused of sexually harassing employee

DeKalb County Commissioner Greg Adams is being accused by one of his office’s employees of sexual harassment.

Ashlee Wright, who is Adams’ district director, alleges that he pursued a late-night “sexual liaison” while they were at an out-of-town conference. She also says he asked for pictures of her in a bikini, among other allegations.

Wright is seeking $750,000 from the county government to resolve the allegations outside of court.

Adams, a pastor and former police officer, denies making inappropriate comments.

He says he treats employees and constituents with integrity and accountability.

Exclusive to subscribers: Read more about the allegations against DeKalb Commissioner Greg Adams on myAJC.com.

Fulton County will ask Live Nation to cancel Aug. 25 R. Kelly concert

By Arielle Kass - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fulton County commissioners asked the county attorney on Wednesday to send a letter asking Live Nation to cancel an R. Kelly concert scheduled at a county amphitheater later this month.

The request comes after the singer was accused of keeping women as sex slaves in a cult in a Buzzfeed article that ran last month. Kelly has denied the allegations.

Kenyette Tisha Barnes, who is part of a #MuteRKelly campaign that seeks to pressure Atlanta radio stations to stop playing the R&B artist’s music, asked commissioners to revoke the contract with Live Nation for the Aug. 25 concert at Wolf Creek Amphitheater.

“If our demands are not met, we’re prepared to protest the concert,” Barnes said.

Fulton County owns the venue, but it is operated by Live Nation. Earlier Wednesday, a representative from Live Nation said the concert would go on as planned.

Kelly has already canceled shows in New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and Baton Rouge, La.

A county spokesperson said the ultimate decision belongs to Live Nation, but the request to cancel was based on community input.

More from Arielle Kass

Fulton County will ask Live Nation to cancel Aug. 25 R. Kelly concert

Fulton County commissioners asked the county attorney on Wednesday to send a letter asking Live Nation to cancel an R. Kelly concert scheduled at a county amphitheater later this month.

The request comes after the singer was accused of keeping women as sex slaves in a cult in a Buzzfeed article that ran last month. Kelly has denied the allegations.

Kenyette Tisha Barnes, who is part of a #MuteRKelly campaign that seeks to pressure Atlanta radio stations to stop playing the R&B artist’s music, asked commissioners to revoke the contract with Live Nation for the Aug. 25 concert at Wolf Creek Amphitheater.

“If our demands are not met, we’re prepared to protest the concert,” Barnes said.

Fulton County owns the venue, but it is operated by Live Nation. Earlier Wednesday, a representative from Live Nation said the concert would go on as planned.

Kelly has already canceled shows in New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and Baton Rouge, La.

A county spokesperson said the ultimate decision belongs to Live Nation, but the request to cancel was based on community input.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Arielle Kass keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Fulton County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Fulton politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

Fulton city results updated, Stonecrest numbers final

The new city of Stonecrest’s leadership is now set after voters chose their initial local leaders in runoff elections Tuesday.

Voters elected three council members to run the city of 50,000 people in southeast DeKalb County. They’ll join Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary and two others on the council who won election outright last month.

Meanwhile in the new city of South Fulton, residents chose their mayor and all seven council members in runoffs.

The South Fulton mayor’s race pits Bill Edwards, a former Fulton County commissioner, against Benny Crane, an entrepreneur who helped lead the cityhood movement. Both rose to the top in a nine-way race to lead the city of nearly 100,000 people.

In early results, Edwards was leading the race by a large margin. And by Wednesday morning, he had won 59.85 percent of the vote.

Edwards, 67, said he wants South Fulton to have good schools and low crime. Crane, 60, wants to increase community policing, get the new city’s fire department accredited and improve entertainment options, which he said will lead to economic development.

In the council races, Catherine Rowell beat Willie Davis in District 1; Carmalitha Grubs beat Damita Chatman in District 2; Helen Willis won against Louis Bell in District 3; Naeema Gilyard took the lead spot against Manisha Thomas in District 4; Rosie Jackson beat Corey Reeves in District 5; Khalid Kamau won against Charlean Parks in District 6; and Mark Baker bested Linda Pritchett in District 7.

In Stonecrest, the winners of the council races were Rob Turner, a Georgia Department of Labor program manager; George Turner, a retired MARTA manager; and Diane Adoma, an H&R Block franchise owner.

Turner defeated a 19-year-old candidate, Mary-Pat Hector, who may be the youngest person ever eligible to run for elected office in Georgia.

Additionally, voters in Roswell and Johns Creek each elected a new council member. In Roswell, Lori Henry won against Marie Willsey in a runoff. In Johns Creek, Chris Coughlin beat John Patrick Flores.

Unofficial results for Metro Atlanta municipal runoffs

Stonecrest numbers represent final results. All numbers represent voting totals with all precincnts reporting.

JOHNS CREEK CITY COUNCIL

Chris Coughlin 10,010 - 63.81%

John Patrick Flores 5,676 - 36.19%

ROSWELL CITY COUNCIL

Lori Henry 10,601 - 57.81%

Marie Willsey 7,738 - 42.19%

STONECREST CITY COUNCIL

Post 2

Rob Turner 437 - 53.1%

Plez A. Joyner 386 - 46.9%

Post 4

George Turner Jr. 867 - 50.64%

Mary-Pat Hector 845 - 49.36%

Post 5

Diane Daniels Adoma 662 - 54.4%

Tammy L. Grimes 555 - 45.6%

SOUTH FULTON

Mayor

Benny Crane 5,302 - 40.15%

William Bill Edwards 7,904 - 59.85%

District 1

Willie G. Davis 606 - 28.43%

Catherine Foster Rowell 1,519 - 71.48%

District 2

Damita Kay Chatman 1,133 - 45.94%

Carmalitha Gumbs 1,333 - 54.06%

District 3

Louis M. Bell 690 - 33.48%

Helen Zenobia Willis 1,371 - 66.52%

District 4

Naeema Gilyard 1,052 - 54.59%

Mandisha Rhomas 875 - 45.41%

District 5

Rosie Jackson 690 - 51.45%

Corey Alan Reeves 651 - 48.55%

District 6

Khalid Kamau 1,127 - 66.80%

Charlean Parks 560 - 33.20%

District 7

Mark Baker 879 - 58.60%

Linda Pritchett 621 - 41.40%

— Staff Writer Lauren Foreman contributed to this story.

Former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis repaid $755K for attorney costs

Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis will be paid $755,000 to reimburse his legal defense costs after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make the payment, which is allowed under state law when a government official is found not guilty or charges are dismissed.

The compensation to Ellis covers the amount paid to his legal team through two trials and a successful appeal. After the Georgia Supreme Court threw out his convictions, District Attorney Sherry Boston dropped the charges of attempted extortion and perjury.

“DeKalb made the right decision. It’s the fair decision to make," said Craig Gillen, who was Ellis’ lead attorney. “Even though he has been repaid the attorney fees, he simply cannot be repaid in any way for the time that he spent away from his wife and his children as a result of this case. That precious time cannot be given back.”

Ellis, who was twice elected as DeKalb’s chief executive, served eight months in prison after a jury found him guilty in July 2015. He had been accused of strong-arming county contractors into giving him campaign contributions.

He didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

The Supreme Court ruled in November that Ellis didn’t receive a fair trial because he wasn’t allowed to present evidence that could have cleared him.

Kathie Gannon, the DeKalb Commission’s presiding officer, said the payment is appropriate.

“Of course, it’s a lot of money,” she said. “When a person in their capacity as an elected official is found not guilty of a crime, they can be reimbursed for their defense.”

Please read the full story on MyAJC.com.

Glenn Jacobs, WWE star 'Kane,' officially announces his bid for mayor

When Glenn Jacobs' treasurer filed the necessary paperwork for a potential political campaign last month, it became national news that the World Wrestling Entertainment star known as “Kane” might run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.

>> Read more trending news

On Tuesday, Jacobs made it official. Speaking to a crowd at Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, the pro wrestler announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for mayor.

>> RELATED: Libertarian Republican Eric Brakey, “Maine’s 28-year-old political wunderkind” announces U.S. Senate run

“As Knox County mayor I promise to keep taxes low and make Knox County a place everyone can be proud of,” Jacobs promised. “I see my role as that of a facilitator among the different communities in our area. And also I think that Mayor (Tim) Burchett has done a very good job with transparency in government and I would continue along those lines.”

The 2018 election for Knox County mayor will be for an open seat to replace Burchett.

Jacobs focused on the themes of jobs, education and smaller government, repeating a version of Ronald Reagan’s conservative mantra that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Glenn Jacobs announcing his bid for mayor

The WWE star told Rare on Tuesday that his belief in free markets and individual liberty were part of what interested him in becoming involved in politics, and he saw his Republican brand as being similar to that of libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul, Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, and also his own congressman, Rep. Jimmy Duncan.

Jacobs has lived in Knox County for over two decades, roughly the same amount of time his “Kane” character has endured as one of the top stars in the pro wrestling industry.

“For the past 22 years I’ve had the pleasure of living here in East Tennessee,” Jacobs said Tuesday. “Because my career with the WWE has taken me all around the world on a weekly basis, me family and I could live pretty much anywhere in the U.S.”

“We live here because we want to,” Jacobs said to applause. “We live here because we love it here.”

Jacobs and his wife Crystal own an insurance agency in the Knoxville area.

>> RELATED: WWE superstar puts libertarian charity first in dancing appearance back home

At least two other challengers for mayor are expected to run, including County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who has already announced, and Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones.

Though Jacobs wrestled under other monikers prior for a number of years, his “Kane” character was introduced to WWE fans in 1997.

Disclosure: Glenn Jacobs is a Rare contributor.

Census: Metro Atlanta’s population approaches 5.8 million

Thousands of people are moving to metro Atlanta from around the country, increasing the region’s population to nearly 5.8 million, according to the U.S. Census.

Metro Atlanta gained the fourth-most residents in the nation last year, with 90,650 additional people making the area their home.

The Atlanta area is the ninth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country. The region grew by 1.6 percent from 2015 to 2016, boosting its population to 5,789,700.

Many people came to Atlanta for jobs, especially in its suburbs. The sharpest population increases were in Forsyth, Cherokee and Paulding counties.

The region added 77,000 jobs last year, the third-highest total among the nation’s 12 largest metro areas last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Atlanta Regional Commission. The 29-county Atlanta area trailed only Dallas and Phoenix.

Overall, the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw the nation’s biggest population increase, adding 143,435 residents, according to the Census.

CountyPop. 2015Pop. 2016Fulton1,010,5621,023,336Gwinnett895,823907,135Cobb741,334748,150DeKalb734,871740,321Clayton273,955279,462Cherokee235,900241,689Henry217,739221,768Forsyth212,438221,009Paulding152,238155,825Douglas140,733142,224Fayette110,714111,627

Video: Top reasons people are moving to Atlanta

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