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The Local Agenda: Jones resigns from elections board in Hall
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Ann Jones, a longtime Flowery Branch resident, businesswoman and activist in Republican politics, resigned her seat last week on the new Hall County elections board because a bylaw prohibits her from engaging in political campaigns.

County Attorney Bill Blalock said state election law prohibits certain political activities by members of local elections boards, and the law is reflected in county statutes. Such prohibitions are meant to ensure impartiality.

“Because of those complications, I resigned my seat ...” Jones told The Times. “I was not willing to give up my political activity at this point in time. While I think the board is absolutely a worthwhile cause ... I don’t think at this time it’s a good fit for me.”

The Board of Elections and Registrations of Hall County, created by approval of the state legislature last year, consists of two Republicans and two Democrats appointed by the local political parties.

Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee serves as the chairwoman.

Critics of the elections board fear it will be politicized by partisan politics, which the state elections law seeks to remedy.

But Hall County Republican Party Chairman Kris Yardley said it is “patently absurd” not to expect members appointed by local parties to have any political leaning or involvement.

“It’s hard to take party members ... and tell them they have to be disinterested in party politics,” he added. 

Yardley said he will seek out a candidate to replace Jones and hopes to have the seat filled before the next elections board meeting in March.

Ken Cochran, owner of Cochran’s Marine Service, is the other Republican appointee at this time.

Cochran ran for a Hall County Board of Commissioners seat last year, something he would not be allowed to do as an elections board member.

Cochran said he would simply keep his distance from any direct campaign involvement in order not to run afoul of the prohibitions.

Gainesville council prepared to pass alcohol ordinance changes

The Gainesville City Council will hold a final reading and vote on proposed changes to the alcohol ordinance when it meets tonight.

Changes include lowering seating requirements at restaurants; allowing for a monetary fine in place of a suspension of an alcohol license for ordinance violations; giving the city marshal full authority to approve or deny alcohol licenses; expanding taste tests at local farm wineries and growlers; and allowing nonrestaurant retail service businesses, such as a nail salon, to obtain on-site consumption licenses.

The move has been hailed by many local residents and business owners, who said the ordinance had stifled growth.

But the changes are adamantly opposed by Councilman George Wangemann, who cast the lone dissent in the first vote earlier this month.

Council will also hear a presentation about how students from the University of North Georgia built an online, interactive map to market downtown business space.

Working in collaboration with Main Street Gainesville, students from the Geographic Information Systems program developed the Web-based tool that lets prospective business owners actually see the available property and its surroundings rather than relying on building specs and other data, according to UNG communications specialist Michael Marshall.

City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. today in the municipal courtroom of the Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway in Gainesville.

Joshua Silavent covers government issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:


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