By Ashton Adams
The gathered crowd at the annual American Meteorological Society meeting in Atlanta rose to their feet for a standing ovation as Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd stepped down from the stage, and his presidency.
A standing ovation is something AMS staffers say they have never seen given to a former president.
“That moment was so surreal for me because as I came off this huge stage surrounded by thousands of my colleagues, a standing ovation is not what I was expecting,” said Shepherd. “In that moment, it became clear to me that in the time I was president I must have made an impact in some way.”
Dr. Shepherd, who is also director of UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences program, completed his year-long term as president of the American Meteorology Society in February. The society serves as the nation’s mouthpiece on atmospheric sciences.
As president, Shepherd was frequently sought as an expert on weather and climate change, appearing on the Today Show, CNN, Larry King Live, Face the Nation, the Weather Channel and a number of other broadcast outlets.
In his most controversial role as President, Shepherd found himself putting out fires between two well-known power houses.
When Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called last month’s snow and ice storm a “leftist, global warming conspiracy” and made claims that the popularized term “polar vortex” was created by liberals that week, White House advisers fired back in a YouTube video claiming that the extreme weather was indeed a sign of global warming.
That’s when Shepherd intervened.
In his blog, Shepherd corrected Limbaugh stating that the term “polar vortex” had been used in meteorological reports since 1940 but called the White House “heavy handed” on the issue in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
One audience Shepherd won’t soon satisfy are the far-right critics who deny climate change and who Shepherd calls “zombies.”
Shepherd explained in his Tedx Atlanta talk last year that “zombies” were critics of his whose Conservative ideas on global warming could not be killed no matter how viable the scientific evidence.
“I quickly learned as President that to be an effective leader, you can’t waste valuable time trying to appease the extremists. As they say, ‘it is what it is,’” said Shepherd.
Shepherd’s AMS presidency was just one of many salient roles he held. Considered a catalyst in the African-American community, Shepherd says breaking barriers in his field is long over-due.
The first, and only, African-American to graduate with a PhD in meteorology from Florida State University and only the second Black president of the American Meteorological Society, Shepherd was even spotlighted on The Weather Channel for a piece on noteworthy meteorologists in honor of Black History Month.
“It’s an incredible honor to be labeled as a ‘first’ at something but it is also disturbing at the same time,” said Shepherd. “Here it is 2014 and it is somewhat sad that I am the first to accomplish some of the things I have done.”
Holding professional titles at NASA, the University of Georgia, the American Meteorological Society and a number of other esteemed panels and organizations is what Shepherd calls “normal,” and he has made no plans to slow down.
“Ultimately my success can’t be measured by my presidency, my job at NASA, or anything else I’ve done thus far. Success should be measured by how well you balance all qualities of life,” said Shepherd. “I am active professionally and I am active with my family and that will never overwhelm me.”
The former president will join the advisory board at Climate Central this month, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching climate change and its impact on the American public.
As far as his role at UGA goes, Shepherd plans on using his expertise and notoriety to further build the university’s relatively new atmospheric sciences program.
To hear more from Dr. Shepherd, visit his blog “The Mind of J. Marsh”: https://www.blogger.com/profile/06173530773221005727
By Brittney Cain
After living in busy downtown Athens for 2 years, Lauren Klopfenstein has learned the ropes for getting around problems.
She has found a way to deal with one of the most common annoyances—loud noises.
Klopfenstein’s best advice is to find a different place where it is quiet to get schoolwork and studying done, since downtown isn’t always the best place.
When signing a lease downtown most people think they are aware of the living conditions, but not all actually are.
The growing heaps of trash, loud noises, and run-ins with intoxicated students are often the biggest issues with students and residents of downtown.
One “annoyance” often overlooked is parking in downtown Athens.
More residents are choosing to live downtown, officials say, because of the close proximity to the University of Georgia campus and convenience.
According to a 2012 study of Athens, nearly 2,000 people lived in the downtown Athens area.
Jack Crowley, head of the downtown Athens master plan project, believes that with recent and current construction of residential areas, numbers are set to more than double in the next few years.
With growing number of residents in the downtown area, annoyances are unavoidable.
Here are some tips from current residents and public officials.Trash remains one of the biggest problems with living downtown, according to UGA student Hannah Lech. In addition to being a resident for a year, she also works downtown.
“I work at Athens Bagel Company downtown and can see all of the trash and litter piled up early in the morning,” Hannah Lech responded when asked about the claims of trash.
Among the Athens-Clarke County’s most commonly broken codes, unlawful dumping and littering can be seen downtown.
Garbage is collected by the Solid Waste Department in the downtown district. If garbage isn’t picked up on the proper days, residents can call the main office at 706-613-3501.
Living above Whiskey Bent, Hannah Lech also finds the noise to be disturbing.
“I can usually tell what song is being played at the bar below by the shaking of my floor. It can get pretty loud even on weekdays,” said Hannah Lech.
She suggested future residents invest in earplugs or stay up late enough that they will immediately fall asleep despite the noise below.
Athens-Clarke County Staff Sergeant, Derek Scott, said “we notify bars if they are playing loud music after hours to prevent potential complaints from the residents of downtown.”
Another annoyance is one that is sometimes unavoidable.
Dealing with intoxicated students is bound to happen with nearly 80 bars downtown.
Christian Conover, a junior at the University of Georgia, said, “dealing with intoxicated students is annoying, but I think this comes with living in a college town and can only be fixed by increasing police presence and cracking down on underage drinking.”
Professor John Newton specializes in Criminal Justice at the University of Georgia.
He said that the main problem with intoxicated students is the threat of large crowds and disorderly behavior of those intoxicated students.
Professor Newtown said, “I would be concerned about the unpredictable nature of intoxicated people who may be more likely to resist with violence than a sober person.”
A tip for dealing with these unpredictable “drunks” is to travel in small groups if possible to avoid conflict, and for those that are deciding to drink to be responsible and aware of those that live downtown.
Although trash, noise and inebriated students are annoyances that you would think of when living downtown, most people are unaware of parking situations.
Danny Boardman, a resident on Broad Street, continues to be annoyed with the parking situation. Not only are there small amounts of parking spaces available, but also the parking tickets given are beginning to increase.
Even though there are 750 short-term, pay as you go parking spots along downtown streets and 4 pay lots; it can be difficult to find parking for guests close to residential lofts and apartments.
“I have to be prepared to drive around downtown to find parking spots. Parking is free on Sunday, so it’s the worst that day,” Lauren Klopfenstein said about the new annoyance of parking issues.
Despite all of the minor issues and annoyances of living in a downtown area, Hannah Lech claims, “she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” She fully recommends others give it a try.
By Eli Watkins
The state of Georgia is a bastion of college football fanaticism, church attendance, and gun ownership. In keeping with one of these traditions, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill in February easing restrictions on concealed carry in colleges, churches, and bars. The bill has teetered back and forth in the legislature since then.
This legislation could carry real ramifications for downtown Athens, an area predominantly composed of bars.
The gun rights expansion would bring many changes to Georgia if it becomes law. As the law stands now, gun owners of legal age (21 or over) can register with the state of Georgia and receive a concealed carry permit. Permit holders may then keep a weapon on their person. They can carry the weapon in many places with few exceptions. The proposals flying through the Gold Dome seek to remove some of these exceptions and reduce the penalties for violating the rules.
Republican legislators in Georgia have pushed hard for some expansion of gun rights with last year’s failure behind them and elections in front of them this year. HB 875, the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” and its more recently amended counterpart, HB 60, have become the substance of that push in this legislative session. The original proposal was broader in scope, and observers will have to wait for the current legislative session to end today to see what form the final bill takes, if any.
Legislators have backed down on some points so far. They curbed potential concealed carry expansions to public places, like colleges.
One of the proposed changes could affect downtown Athens more than all the others could, and so far, legislators have not taken it off the table. Georgia may remove the ban on carrying firearms in bars, instead leaving that decision up to bar owners. The question remains: Will the bar owners of Athens welcome gun owners into their establishments?
When asked about a broader proposal last year, Athens bar owner Paul DeGeorge came down as a clear “no.” He owned firearms, but that did not mean he thought they belonged in bars.
“It’s a bad environment to have access to something like that. There’s too many brawls,” said DeGeorge.
A third year journalism student and occasional bar-goer, Skye Rubel, echoed DeGeorge’s concerns.
“People drink and do stupid things. Guns and alcohol are a horrible combination,” said Rubel.
Other Athenians in the bar industry were not so critical. Norman Scholz, the general manager of The Globe, did not have a problem with the idea of concealed carry in his place of work.
“As long as it is legally concealed carry, then it’s not our concern,” said Scholz.
Opinions vary on this controversial legislation, with viewpoints ranging from outrage to skepticism to full support. Discussions over the potential expansion of concealed carry have taken a decidedly chill tone in Athens, as one would expect. However, the controversial aspects of this bill have invited statewide and national scrutiny.
The gun control advocacy organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns wrote, “This bill [HB 875] would dangerously expand the scope of the state’s existing Stand Your Ground law.” People on different sides of the debate have disputed the accuracy of this letter’s claims. However, the text of the bill they referenced did provide the legal opportunity for fights in bars to end in justifiable homicide involving firearms.
State Representative Scott Holcomb is one of the bill’s skeptics.
“As far as bars are concerned, I think that any of us that have had that witches brew touch our tongues get that you don’t want to mix guns with that,” said Holcomb.
Gun possession in bars does have its advocates. John Monroe of GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. said his organization supports carrying firearms in bars, openly or concealed. “We think safety would be enhanced in bars if carry were allowed,” said Monroe, “Carry already is allowed in restaurants that serve alcohol… So, people already are carrying in many places that are essentially bars and there are not issues with it.”
The push from Republicans, particularly in the state house, has been strong. Almost all of the Republicans in the state house voted in favor of the bill, and they almost comprise a supermajority in that chamber. The vote in the GA house split the members from Athens. Democrat Spencer Frye voted “Nay,” and republican Regina Quick voted “Yea.”
A gun bill of the kind discussed so far may pass in the waning minutes of this session and move swiftly thereafter to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. If it does not, observers can guarantee a similar push next year.
The Georgia state government may soon make its decision, then the bar owners of Athens will make the ultimate call.
People know the bars of Athens for eclectic music and underage drinking. These welcome frat brothers sporting identical popped-collar polos and townies sporting identical vaudevillian mustaches. Will bars open their doors to concealed firearms too? It looks like someday soon, the people of Athens will find out for themselves.
By Emily Curl
A school bus is stopped on Barnett Shoals road, dropping students at the entrance of an apartment complex.
Traffic behind the bus is stopped.
But eight of the nine cars traveling in the opposite direction do not stop.
Those drivers who did not stop violated Georgia’s law regarding school bus safety.
The law confuses many motorists, officials acknowledge, but understanding and obeying the law is the only way to avoid a $300 ticket.
Following in the steps of many other school districts across the U.S., Athens’s motorists will start paying a fine for ignoring school bus stop signals beginning this week.
Cobb County’s school district has already implemented this same camera system on their school busses, and according to the transportation director for the school district, Rick Gresham, bus drivers have already seen a decrease in violations.
Many other states, such as Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and Louisiana, have also begun installing these mounted traffic cameras onto school buses to deter motorists from speeding past stopped buses.
This past January, five Clarke County School District buses were equipped with external cameras in hopes to enforce Georgia’s state law requiring motorists to stop for school buses when they drop passengers off.
These cameras were finally put into action on Monday after several weeks of test runs.
Ernie Stedman is an employee of American Traffic Solution and the installer of the camera systems on Clarke County school buses.
When asked about the cameras, Stedman said “There are 6 cameras on each bus. The system (a small computer) knows when the stop arm is extended, and can visually detect when a vehicle passes. It then records a video of the vehicle and its tag, and sends the video up to the server for review and citation issuance. Everything on the bus [system] is automated requiring no driver involvement.”
In the past, it was the responsibility of Clarke County bus drivers to recognize a car passing the stopped bus and up to them to make note of the tag number.
This proved almost impossible for any busy bus driver.
As stated by the American Traffic Solutions website “CrossingGuard® is a completely automated enforcement system that requires no bus driver involvement. High-resolution cameras installed on the exterior of the bus automatically capture images and video of violating vehicles as they illegally pass the stop arm. In addition to capturing video, the system automatically embeds a data bar which includes GPS coordinates, date and time of the violation, and other relevant violation information used to create a comprehensive evidence package.”
This could be bad news for drivers who do not know the extent of the law.
“It will reduce violations in two ways,” Stedman added. ” The cameras themselves are a deterrent for anyone thinking of passing when the arm is out. The second way is by modifying driver behavior; if they do go around, they get a $300 citation. I think they will be very careful not to repeat that offense.”
The Georgia law states “when [a] school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.”
All motorists are expected to obey this law, unless there is a physical barrier as a median, then only traffic following the bus must stop.
Barnett Shoals Road is a four lane road with a turning lane running throughout the middle of the road.
There is no physical barrier as a median, meaning motorists traveling in the opposite direction are expected to stop for the school bus along with the traffic following the bus.
This law is confusing to many motorists, but it is important for all drivers to know and understand the law to avoid getting a ticket.
“I think it is confusing to a lot of drivers,” Emily Jolly said when asked about Georgia’s law. “I know I have to stop on a two lane road, but sometimes when I’m traveling on a larger road I don’t even notice the bus stopped on the opposite side.”
This same idea is common for many Athens drivers.
“I guess it’s just because I never really see other cars stopping, I didn’t realize I had to stop,” T.J. Hinton answered when asked about stopping for school buses on Barnett Shoals Road.
This is exactly what the Clarke County School District is hoping the camera systems will accomplish: awareness.
Cathy Benson, Clarke County’s school district transportation director, explained that five buses are equipped with this camera system at this time, but there is a possibility of adding up to twenty buses total.
When asked how the buses were picked to have the system installed she said the buses were chosen by the roads they travel; buses that travel on busier, heavily congested roads were picked to be outfitted with the cameras first.
According to Benson, there was no cost to the school district to have the buses equipped with the cameras, and the district does not receive any revenue from violations.
Online Athens reported, “Violators face a $300 fine for their first violation, $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third.”
“Safety for our students is always our foremost goal,” Benson said. “However, we also want to educate and increase the awareness of the public about the laws when sharing the road with school buses.”
By Lacey Davis
The smell of downtown Athens on a Sunday morning is familiar to pedestrians who frequent the city. It’s a thick stench of old beer and garbage. Attention is turned from the beautiful, historic buildings to the smell rising from the sidewalks.
The issue of garbage in downtown Athens is different than most cities. There isn’t a place behind the businesses to put dumpsters or trash cans. This means that businesses are forced to leave their garbage bags on the sidewalk at night when there are already crowds of people spilling into the parking spaces and road. There have been attempts to fix this problem in the past, however few ideas have succeeded.
According to Jim Corley, Director of the Solid Waste Management in Athens-Clarke County, “Roll carts were used at one time and the carts were left on the sidewalks all the time. Dumpsters had been placed around the downtown area when the service was tax supported, but when it became a customer paid service it was changed to the current bag service.”
Corley explained the current system by saying, “The customers pay a fee for the bags that covers the cost of disposal. They also select a level of collection services based on the type of business they have. For example, restaurants have a mandatory seven day-a-week service, whereas a small business may only have two.”
Although the city picks up garbage three times a day, seven days a week, the current system of trash disposal leaves pedestrians with an unpleasant feeling after walking the streets of downtown.
Gemma Formby, a junior majoring in accounting, said, “When I think about what I’m stepping over at night or if I ever go downtown early in the morning, it’s just disgusting, really.”
Shayna Brandi, Formby’s roommate from Sandy Springs, agreed. “I don’t really understand the issue, honestly. I realize there aren’t side alleys near every business, but why can’t the employees just walk the trash down to a dumpster that is kept on the side?”
The department of sanitation can longer use the system that Brandi suggested because, at the time the plan involving the roll carts was implemented, there were few bars and restaurants. There are now over 100. Corley said another problem was that “very few workers are going to carry heavy bags of bottles or food waste for any distance. Additionally, there is not a way to track who is using a dumpster that is not in a controlled environment.”
Although pedestrians such as Formby and Brandi are dissatisfied with the way downtown Athens handles its trash, few complaints are filed overall.
Corley noted that the only times that the city receives complaints is when trash is outside at unauthorized times, meaning more than hour before scheduled pickup. Trash pickup is every day at 2 p.m., 11 p.m., and 4 a.m.
Residents are also told to put their garbage on the sidewalks. Dana Heyman, a sophomore living in a downtown apartment, said, “We can put our trash out any day of the week. It’s pretty convenient. We have specific times to put it out. It can’t be on the sidewalk for an extended period of time.”
However, the real issue doesn’t lie among the residential garbage. Compared to the smell and large amounts that come from bars and other late-night businesses, residents pose little damage to the overall cleanliness of downtown.
Frank Russo, a bartender in downtown Athens, said, “Some people have suggested cutting back and reducing the waste but there isn’t much we can do. The majority of our garbage comes from bottles that are a necessity in any bar.”
In Jacksonville, Florida, another college town with a popular downtown, they have a different trash plan in place. The city charges each business for trashcans. According to Fox 30 News, business owners are opposed to the idea of trash bags sitting on the sidewalk, claiming it is bad for business and downtown. The plan is losing money.
If Athens is looking to revamp its current system for trash pickup, they need innovative ideas. Learning from Jacksonville’s failing system and the former system of Athens that will no longer work, there aren’t many obvious options remaining.
There have been several meetings over the past year and more planned for the coming months between Waste Management and the Mayor and Commission to discuss options, according to Corley.
Regardless of the plan that results from these meetings, Corley added, “if the customer does not follow the rules there will always be some problems as a result.”
Here is a video of trash in downtown Athens during the day. This video shows how, even during one of the least busy parts of the day, trash is still an eyesore littering the streets. In a short, 30 second walk, there were multiple piles of trash.