Like the past few years, 2022 came and went in a blink, packing a punch as it whizzed by.
This year was in many ways a return to normalcy after two years under the specter of a global pandemic. Though the virus is still active, severe infections are not as prevalent as the past two years. However, the indirect impacts of the pandemic — supply chain and economic issues — remained a major issue.
In Georgia, residents grappled with high gas prices, inflation, and a major Senate election as well as the fallout from some issues that began in previous years.
Below are the Top 22 News stories of 2022. Please note, these are not listed in any particular order.
It’s The Economy
If there was one national issue that was at the top of mind for most Georgians, it was inflation. Grocery prices shot up, gas prices were high for the lion’s share of the year, and the cost of goods and services rose steadily throughout the year.
Fortunately for most Georgians, job losses and unemployment were not part of the inflation. Georgia’s unemployment rate remained strong for the entire year — which is largely attributed to the fact that Georgia was one of the first state’s to re-open during the pandemic in 2020.
Toward the end of the year, economists debated whether or not we are in a recession or if we are headed into one. That is a question for 2023.
In April, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the “Constitutional Carry” bill into law, allowing Georgians to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit.
In the background of this decision is a national crime wave in larger cities throughout the United States that has been growing since 2020. Two Atlanta mayors have dubbed it a COVID crime wave, while Republican politicians have blamed the rise in violent crime on mayors of “liberal cities.”
From the moment Constitutional Carry was signed into law, Democrats began blaming the brand new law for gun violence.
In June, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson responded to an uptick in gun violence in his city by pinning the blame on Constitutional Carry and said he was considering curfews.
“What would have been a fist fight at a bar or a club, now becomes a gunfight at a bar or a club,” Johnson said.
In July, Blakely Mayor Travis Wimbush declared a state of emergency throughout the city due to gun violence and enacted a curfew in response.
The emergency declaration came on the heels of a rash of gun violence throughout the city. Three people were shot on May 31, two people were shot on June 8, and on June 26, seven people were shot resulting in one death.
In August, Music Midtown was canceled. Event organizers told news outlets they were concerned about a court ruling that would have prevented them from keeping guns out of the concert area.
The Constitutional Carry measure became a major issue in the Governor’s race this year with Stacey Abrams consistently hammering Kemp over allowing residents to carry guns without a permit during an increase in violent crime.
Voters responded by giving Kemp a second term.
Atlanta’s new mayor Andre Dickens was sworn in back in January. He inherited a city with a growing violent crime problem and faced demands from residents immediately to take steps to curb the issue.
In his first speech as mayor, he promised residents he would have a laser focus on crime.
In his first year as mayor he has appointed a new police chief, dealt with fallout from WellStar’s decision to close Atlanta Medical Center, helped relocate families in dilapidated apartment complexes in the city, campaigned for more affordable housing within the city, formed a Pothole Posse, and lifted COVID-19 restrictions at City Hall.
No Need For Speed
A growing trend of dangerous behavior on Georgia’s roads vexed police departments across the state.
Groups of drivers taking over intersections to do donuts in them — usually for social media fame — have become an issue, as well as more the more traditional dangerous behavior of drag racing.
In April, Roswell police charged 12 people in such an intersection takeover.
On the street racing front, some jurisdictions are taking harsher measures to combat the issue. Gwinnett County announced this year that drivers caught street racing will risk having their cars impounded for up to a month.
A similar ordinance passed in Atlanta and Sandy Springs.
In May, the Gwinnett Police and other police departments made more than 80 arrests on Peachtree Corners Circle and Spalding Drive, leading to about 24 impounded vehicles.
According to the Gwinnett police department, the problem is not limited to metro Atlanta and is a growing concern nationwide.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Tragedy struck in Brantley County in May when a 6th grader at Atkinson Elementary School lost his life.
Brantley Gibson died as a result of injuries sustained during an ATV accident.
Brantley left behind his parents and two siblings.
School officials described Bentley as a student who others were drawn to. “He was known for his outgoing personality, infectious smile, and athleticism. He will be greatly missed, always loved, and never forgotten,” school system officials said.
The Georgia Guidestones have been called America’s Stonehenge. The monument contained a 10-part message about the conservation of humankind in several languages. The origin of the monument and the identity of the organization that erected it is unknown. The monument was constructed in 1980.
So far, no arrests have been reported for the destruction.
2020 Election Fallout Continues
While on the National level, the January 6 Committee met and revealed its findings about the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Georgia also continued to grapple with the issues surrounding elections, voting, and the 2020 election in Georgia. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and two Fulton County election workers were among Georgians who testified before the committee. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis continued to prosecute a case over Donald Trump’s role in overturning the election in Georgia, subpoenaing multiple witnesses including Rudy Giuliani and Lindsey Graham.
In January, it was revealed that Georgia’s slate of phony electors — a group of 16 Republicans who filed falsely certified Trump as the winner of Georgia’s electoral votes — were part of a much larger plot involving six other states that also had false electors fill out a competing set of electoral college certifications.
Some of the controversy stemming from Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election made its way into Election Day in November. Two poll workers in Johns Creek were fired on Election Day after social media posts they made regarding Jan. 6 were turned over to local election officials.
Georgians largely didn’t buy the claims of a stolen election and returned both Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger to office in the November Election, despite the two Republicans’ vocal opposition to Trump’s election denial.
Georgia Takes Center Stage in National Politics Again
And to think Georgia used to be the state that politicians didn’t campaign in because it was solidly red.
The times have changed for The Peach State, landing it once again at the center stage of national politics.
Georgia residents voted on two high profile offices this year that garnered both national attention and national fundraising efforts.
First, there was the rematch between Gov. Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams. Both Kemp and Abrams have become national figures both due to the events of the 2018 election and their frequent disputes with each other and Kemp’s differences with Donald Trump.
Abrams is widely credited with Georgia’s status as a purple state and while that impact didn’t win her a stay in the Governor’s mansion, it may have shaped Georgia’s Senate picture for the next six years.
It became clear in the summer that Abrams would have a difficult time going head to head with Kemp, who has turned out to be a popular governor. Kemp was expected to win since the primary and won his second term handily in November.
Kemp’s popularity did not extend to the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, who himself is UGA royalty in Georgia.
Despite his name recognition and football fame, Herschel Walker could not garner enough votes in the November election or the December runoff to defeat Raphael Warnock. In both elections, the race was close, but Republican voters who supported Kemp were wary of throwing their support to Warnock.
In fact, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan said on runoff day he walked into his polling precinct, got a ballot, didn’t vote, and cast a blank ballot because he couldn’t vote for Walker and didn’t want to vote for Warnock. This move by Duncan illustrated the issues many Republicans had not just with Walker but with recent candidate quality in the Republican party.
As it stands now, Georgia has two senators who are Democrats. Jon Ossoff has five years remaining in his term and Warnock just won six years in the Senate.
In a Heartbeat
In July, the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade — the landmark abortion decision from the 1970s. The ruling immediately put abortion bans in several states, including Georgia into effect.
Georgia’s heartbeat law outlaws abortion once a heartbeat is detected.
While courts have gone back and forth on the measure since the Supreme Court decision, the most recent decision puts the heartbeat law back into effect. In November, the Georgia Supreme Court made a ruling that reinstated the ban.
While Georgia’s law does make provisions allowing abortions when the mother’s health is in danger, critics of the law are concerned about how the medical community will make such decisions in addition to concerns about law enforcement overreach if a woman has a miscarriage.
Are The Water Wars Finally Over?
September saw an agreement that could put an end to Georgia’s water wars with neighboring states to an end once and for all.
A long-term water deal between the state and Gwinnett, Forsyth and Hall counties will guarantee the counties water until 2050.
Under the agreement, the state will also have to reimburse the Army Corps of Engineers $71 million over the next 30 years.
How ‘Bout Them Dawgs?
In January, the Georgia Bulldogs won their first college football National Championship in over 40 years, defeating Alabama 33 – 18.
But that’s not the end of the story.
The Dawgs are in the running for the championship again and could win back-to-back championships.
We don’t make predictions here, but suffice to say — win or lose — it has been a good year for Dawgs fans.
The Last Straw
A scam first reported in February involving pine straw sales and targeting elderly Georgia residents carried through all year.
The scam was pervasive throughout the whole state from metro Atlanta to Albany.
In the scam, scammers would come to an elderly resident’s door offering to lay pine straw for $5 per barrel. After completing the job, the scammer returned to the door with a handful of bale ties claiming it took hundreds more bales than usual and then charging the homeowner thousands of dollars.
A Roswell resident was charged $2,700 for the service while an Albany resident was charged $5,000.
In most Georgia cities and counties, solicitors must be permitted and should be able to produce a permit if a customer requests it.
A Rocky Start
The City of Roswell’s new mayor took office this year and hit the ground running. However, some of his early actions and proposed changes raised eyebrows and caused some early growing pains for the new mayor and city council.
In January, a public records request turned up an email Wilson sent to the city administrator just after being elected but before being sworn in. In the email, Wilson questioned the city administrator’s qualifications for the job and chided him for not reaching out to newly elected officials sooner.
If you are interested in the text of that email, you can read it in its entirety here.
In the aftermath of the email being released to the public, Wilson apologized and said it was poorly written and was a poor response.
In February, the new mayor took aim at the city charter and proposed sweeping changes that would have given the mayor power over city department heads instead of the city administrator, given the mayor a line item veto, and changed the way council vacancies are filled.
The backlash from residents was swift and strong and prior to the city council meeting where the changes were to be discussed, Wilson killed all immediate plans for revising the charter.
A contrite Wilson told residents at the next council meeting, “I did not sell this to you, I did not inform you, I did not make a business case and I did not make a gap analysis, and all those points are spot on and I failed on that miserably with you and you’re 100% correct.”
News out of Roswell City Hall has been comparatively quiet since February.
A Tarnished End
In January, another Georgia mayor found himself in hot water for a much more serious offense. Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary pleaded guilty to charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud.
Lary promptly stepped down from office.
In his resignation address, Lary asked residents to measure him by “the whole story.”
Justice For Ahmaud
After two years, Ahmaud Arbery’s family and community finally feel a sense of justice.
In August, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were given a federal life sentence for hate crimes.
The jury found that Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael killed Arbery based on the color of his skin, leading to the sentence.
Prior to sentencing, Greg McMichael apologized to Arbery’s family.
No Charges in Death of Brianna Grier
In July, a young woman named Brianna Grier died in police custody after she fell out of a moving police car.
Despite the GBI determining that the door Grier fell out of was never closed by deputies, Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III decided not to bring the case to a civil or criminal grand jury.
The GBI has closed Grier’s case since there will be no charges.
The GBI also concluded that Grier was placed in the back seat of the patrol car, handcuffed in the front of her body, and with no seat belt.
According to the GBI, Grier was on the ground refusing to get in the patrol car. Grier made a statement that she was going to harm herself. To put Grier in the patrol car, one of the deputies walked around and opened the rear passenger side door.
The deputy quickly returned to the rear driver’s side door. Both deputies put Grier in the back seat of the patrol car. The deputies closed the rear driver’s side door.
GBI officials say their investigation shows that the deputy thought he closed the rear passenger side door.
A spate of prison deaths throughout the state made headlines this year.
In June, an inmate at the Bibb County Jail died, that death was later ruled a homicide. Carlos Shelley was found unconscious in his cell last week. Deputies and medical staff at the Jail attempted to revive him, but he was later pronounced dead.
Investigators have charged Joseph Anthony Moore, of Macon, with Aggravated Assault, and Murder, in relation to Shelley’s death.
The DeKalb County Jail has been the site of multiple inmate deaths this year. In July, a Stone Mountain man died in his cell and a Decatur woman died in the jail’s infirmary. In August, two more inmates died — both from hangings that jail officials say were unrelated.
The latest duo of deaths at the DeKalb jail were Lithonia resident Anthony Lamar Walker, 34 and Clarkston resident Jackson Orukpete, 57. Both men were found unresponsive in their jail cells and pronounced dead by DeKalb EMS in late December. Jail officials say the two deaths were unrelated.
In November, a 35-year-old Florida woman died at the Bacon County Jail.
A Base By Any Other Name
One of the more controversial issues in Georgia this year has been the renaming of military bases that are named after Confederate soldiers and officials.
A commission was formed to rename military bases that bear the names of Confederate personalities. The commission recommended renaming Fort Gordon after Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ft. Benning after Lt. Gen. Hal Moore.
The estimated cost to rename all nine bases throughout the country that are up for renaming is $21 million.
When President Joe Biden announced in February that he would be sending 7,000 troops to Germany in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Georgia soldiers were directly impacted.
According to the Pentagon, the majority of those troops were from Fort Stewart.
The troops were sent to NATO territory and were not deployed in Ukraine.
While Georgia was spared the worst impacts of Hurricane Ian in September due to a sudden Eastward turn, the Peach State wasn’t so lucky in November when Hurricane Nicole slammed Coastal Georgia causing closures and flooding in Brunswick and other coastal areas.
While flooding was limited to the coast, the impact of the heavy rain was felt statewide. Veterans Day events throughout metro Atlanta were cancelled or moved inside due to the rain.
Carjacking Turns Deadly
A well-known high school coach named Bradley Coleman was putting air in his tire at the Peachtree Corners QuikTrip when carjackers attempted to take his car.
Coleman was shot when he tried to stop the men from stealing his car. His death sent shockwaves through the community.
Police have arrested three people in connection with Coleman’s killing.
One of Brian Kemp’s biggest legislative achievements this year was passing his education package, but the measure did not have bipartisan support.
The education package included a parents bill of rights, allowing parents to be more involved in which books are available in school libraries and allow them the opportunity to review instructional material.
The package also included a divisive concepts bill, which is aimed at preventing elements of critical race theory from being taught in Georgia classrooms.
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