City of South Fulton employees will have a day off to cast their ballots and make up for their participation in City Councilman khalid kamau’s electoral college event on a Saturday.
More than a year after Mayor William “Bill” Edwards vetoed an official Election Day holiday, it gained—and kept—city council approval.
Its enacting resolution, green-lighted Aug. 28, also encourages other governments to do the same and voters to turn out in greater numbers at the polls.
City employees whose attendance is “mission critical” on Election Day will be given other time off, the resolution stated.
In 2017, the resolution, sponsored by kamau, passed by a 4-3 margin before the veto, which stood, lacking five votes to overturn. This year's vote for the resolution, co-sponsored by kamau and Mayor Pro Tem Mark Baker, was 6-1 with City Councilwoman Catherine F. Rowell opposed.
Rowell said a financial impact statement should accompany items up for a vote.
“I’m glad it passed and everything, but I don’t want to set a precedent like that again,” he said.
City Manager Odie Donald II said the holiday had “no additional impact,” as the cost for employees for that day has already been established.
This year, kamau noted, it aligns with a new Fulton County School System policy to make Nov. 6 a school holiday and has the support of school Superintendent Jeff Rose, Ed.D.
In 2017, a suggestion to swap it out with Columbus Day, also a school holiday, raised concerns for parents’ need for child care if they had to work Oct. 9.
As it stands, the new holiday is an addition to the city schedule.
“This will be no different than our city closing if we had a snow day, which we have done. Our city will not go bankrupt,” kamau said. “The holiday and the electoral college market our city as a progressive city and a voting city, and candidates are taking note of that. We will be the first ever in the state to have the whole-day holiday.”
He said holidays represent values, citing MLK Day and Veterans Day as examples.
“I think that it’s important enough to pause and shut down our city and encourage other people to shut down because voting matters, especially this year,” kamau said.
Ballots in November will include the governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, both of whom are invited to the electoral college event, kamau said in an Aug.13 statement.
The Fulton Industrial District’s potential annexation into South Fulton also will be on the agenda of the event, set for Oct. 13, the Saturday before early voting begins, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., kamau said.
In other city actions, an attempt to raise the city employee minimum wage met defeat in a 3-4 vote.
Human Resources Director Anquilla Henderson said the lowest-paid city employees earn $14.14 an hour.
She said it is necessary to look at a higher rate’s sustainability, affordability and appropriateness, a point which kamau said also applied to employees who are city residents.
“The more successful we are as a city, the more expensive it will be to live here,” said kamau, one of the resolution’s sponsors along with Mayor Pro Tem Mark Baker. “The people who build this city deserve to be able to afford to live here.”
The item may be brought back again for consideration after a financial impact statement is prepared.
“We need to make decisions based on data,” Edwards said.
The city council found unanimous agreement in placing the so-called Brunch Bill on ballots in November. If approved by voters, it will allow alcoholic beverages to be served on Sundays beginning at 11 a.m., instead of the present 12:30 p.m. pouring time.
The city also voted 7-0 to create a public arts commission, noting in its establishing ordinance that “cities use public art to showcase their personalities, character and history.”
It will be funded by a portion of the city’s hotel and motel tax.
In a proclamation, the city declared Sept. 2, the date of a community festival, as Old Nat Day in support of organizers Torrey Tomlinson and Old National Entertainment.
In related news, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners was set to ponder support at its Sept. 5 meeting for a Feb. 13 city ordinance restricting truck traffic on certain roads, but the item was bumped to a later date.
The city’s action preceded an amendment to state law effective July 1.
“The city has relayed to the county its opinion that, in light of (Georgia) Act 407, the city cannot maintain all of the restrictions set forth in the truck ordinance unless the county, by ordinance or regulation, concurs with those restrictions,” the county resolution reads.
The resolution cites resident safety as a concern as well as ensuring “continued access by necessary truck traffic to vital industries in the Fulton Industrial District,” the remaining unincorporated portion of the county.
The county proposed “certain modifications” to South Fulton’s truck law “in the interest of practicality.”
City officials met Aug. 31 regarding its revision.