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Peachtree Corners Life

The Joro Spider in Peachtree Corners and What You Should Know [Podcast]

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One of the big concerns of homeowners in Gwinnett County is the appearance of the Joro Spider. These spiders have been causing quite the stir on the Next Door app and among neighbors all across Peachtree Corners. Tim Daly, an expert from the UGA Gwinnett Extension Program, is Rico’s guest on today’s episode. He and Rico chat as Tim sheds some light on where these spiders came from and how to handle them.

Gwinnett Extension Website: https://extension.uga.edu/county-offices/gwinnett.html

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:13] – Tim’s Background
[00:03:08] – Where the Joro Spider Came From
[00:05:03] – Dangerous Spiders
[00:06:12] – Where Joro Spiders Live
[00:06:55] – The Diet of the Spiders
[00:08:05] – Pest Control for Joro Spiders
[00:08:54] – Invasive Species of Pests and Plants
[00:14:36] – About Gwinnett Extension
[00:16:15] – Closing

“The spiders are no threat to people. They will not hurt people. They don’t hurt pets. They won’t hurt your plants. All they want to do is eat bugs and that’s what the webs are for. Now that’s where it’s really bothersome to some people because the webs can get to be pretty good size.”

Tim Daly

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate you joining us on this podcast, this special podcast, about a pest that’s out there that people have been talking about on Next Door and other sites. And it’s been in the news, although not just showing up today, it’s been around for several years. But I have an expert on from UGA Gwinnett Extension program and he’ll be speaking to us about it. For those that are familiar with the Joro Spider, I have one near the house, I have several actually. There’s actually four different webs that are hosting the spider, that they’ve built. And we’re going to be talking about that particular pest. And let me bring on with me, Tim Daly. Hey Tim.

[00:01:12] Tim: Hey, Rico.

[00:01:13] Rico: Thanks for joining me. Good morning. So I was out there this morning, videotaping that spider, and then I realized there were three other webs between two big trees I have, and they all have their own little, big spiders. And these spiders, you might not be able to tell from the video particularly, but they are the size of a palm, and they stretch out. So, Tim’s with the Gwinnett Extension Program, right? Well actually, tell us a bit about yourself, Tim. Give us some background in what you do.

Detial photos of Joro spider. (UGA Extension)

[00:01:40] Tim: All right. Well, I’m one of those rare local native Decatur, Dekalb area. I’ve got two degrees from UGA and the College of Agriculture. My master’s in Entomology. I’ve worked in a lot of ornamental horticulture, landscapings many years ago. I sold water conservation programs. And also I’ve been with the University of Georgia Extension here in Gwinnett county since 2006. I do a whole bunch of different things, from consulting with homeowners to programs for landscapers and what we call green industry. We have a large group of master gardener volunteers in doing school outreach programs amongst other things.

[00:02:19] Rico: And you’ve been recipient of the what was it, 2020 award of excellence presented by the Georgia Master Gardener Association as well?

[00:02:27] Tim: That’s correct.

[00:02:28] Rico: Yeah. So it’s kinda neat that so many different areas of outdoor environment that you’ve been involved in. So I’m glad to have you on the show about this. So, Joro spider. I mean, I hadn’t heard about it until only within the last few weeks. And in fact, when I started hearing about it, that’s when I noticed we had one on the side of the house. And you can’t not notice it, because it’s so darn big. And the web is not your typical web. My wife says, maybe you can pressure wash it off? And like, that web, if you tug on it, you can see how thick and hard that web is. So can you tell us a little bit, maybe some history or a little bit more about where the Joro spider came from and all that?

[00:03:08] Tim: First of all, just spiders, some people call them insects, but they’re not insects. They’re related. They’re in a class called arachnids, which are spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites. The Joro spider originated in East Asia, places like Japan. And it was ended up introduced this country probably around 2014. In the Northeastern part of the state, up along 95, you know there are a large number of warehouses and we got stock being moved in from out of the country, from the airport, from the coast. And our scientists believed that it somehow got in through there and got out into the environment. And over time, populations have exploded because it’s in a different environment as opposed to in its native environment, where there are controls on that population. Because it evolved there sometimes when organisms are taken out of that environment, put in an extra one, they grow or they can become invasive in nature. Now in time, perhaps, maybe their populations will decrease. It’s too hard to tell. But spiders, they can get up to three inches long. They’re yellow and black with some red markings on it. They’re similar to our Orb Weaver, spiders that are common this time of the year. But anyhow, they, the spiders just to let you know, are no threat to people. They will not hurt people. They don’t hurt pets. They won’t hurt your plants. All they want to do is eat bugs and that’s what the webs are for. Now that’s where it’s really bothersome to some people because the webs can get to be pretty good size. They’re real sticky, strong webs. And I get calls, how do I get rid of Joro spiders? And the webs are bothering me. I saw some web being around some streetlights the other night, driving home and things like that. The spider can be a nuisance, bothersome, but it’s not a threat. Some invasive species can be a threat. This really isn’t a threat to anybody.

[00:05:03] Rico: I was going to say most spiders are venomous to a degree, but they say that pretty much it’s almost like a bee bite, right? It might hurt or sting a bit.

[00:05:12] Tim: Some spiders, yes. Some though won’t even do that. Their spines are too small to pierce human skin. The only spiders in Georgia that are poisonous are the Brown Recluse spider and the Black Widow. The Brown Recluse spider, when it bites, it injects a venom that causes the skin to die in an area. However, these bites are quite rare and Brown Recluse spiders are quite rare in the Gwinnett area. It’s more north and west of here. And even if they have them in your house, that doesn’t guarantee that you will be bitten. There was some family out in the Midwest, they determined they had a couple thousand in their home. They had been living in there years and have never had trouble with them. But as again, as I said, here in Georgia, they’re quite rare. The other one is the Black Widow spider. It’s a shiny black spider with red markings on his abdomen. They are poisonous, but often they’re under things. You’ll find them under rocks, under boards, logs and things like that. So really, it’s quite rare that people get bitten by them. They’re really not that bothersome.

[00:06:12] Rico: So Tim, with the Joro spider, where’s the natural? I see them outside, I see them between trees, I see them hanging on the side of the house with their spiderwebs. Some spiders tend to make homes inside our home, like in an attic. Do Joro spiders do that normally?

[00:06:29] Tim: No. By nature, they don’t. They’re an outdoor spider. Some spiders like a house spider will come in and you may have seen them in your home. I mean, they’re totally harmless. They’re just a nuisance pest. Joro Spiders now, if you find one in your home, it wandered in there by accident. Didn’t mean to get in there. It’s what we call an occasional accidental invader. But it’s not, that’s not where it wants to be. It wants to be outside to catch the bugs.

[00:06:55] Rico: And what normally, I’ve heard actually, that because of the spiderwebs can be so big and so resilient that sometimes hummingbirds might get caught in them. What is the natural diet of a Joro spider? What would they prefer eating?

[00:07:09] Tim: There’s a variety of insects. Basically anything that flies to their web. Now there’s an invasive pest around here called a brown marmorated stink bug Well, it eats plants. It will also congregate in large numbers on people’s homes and can get into the homes. And that’s a nuisance. Joro spiders love to feast on those. I’ve seen their nest with several of them. Which is a good thing.

[00:07:33] Rico: Alright And has the Gwinnett extension or have you noticed with your professional peers, are there a lot more people calling in about these spiders?

[00:07:44] Tim: Oh yeah, I’ve gotten numerous calls about, oh, I got these spiders in my backyard. I know my sister called me. She lives in Jackson county. She called me about what’s this big old spider in front of my window. And I explained it. She says, they’re all over the place up there. I have some, a lot of people in Athens I know. And they’re telling me it’s really big over there. Lot of them there everywhere.

[00:08:05] Rico: It’s amazing because I’m just hearing about it all over the last couple of weeks. And then all of a sudden seeing, at least five or six. If I see five or six outside on webs now, I can imagine how many more I would see if I don’t do anything, right? So is there a way? How would you control, you know, pest control this type of species?

[00:08:25] Tim: The thing is one of the best control is a broom and knocking their webs, and smashing them with the broom is probably a good way. You can try to use like a raid or one of those flying insects sprays to spray on their webs. That might work. But there’s really not that much you can do to control them. That’s the best couple of ways right there. The birds will like sometime eat them, but those about the only ways you can control them.

[00:08:48] Rico: I wonder what the natural predator was for it, in like Japan or other Asian countries.

[00:08:54] Tim: I would say certain species of birds, lizards, snakes over there. And some of our native organisms will prey on it as well, but they’re not as used to it. That’s why what it does is that, it’s like any invasive species. Where it comes from, but has evolved in that environment over the thousands or millions of years. And it’s been in under control where it fits into that environment. And then it was removed from that environment, which is not true for all species of insects and plants and other things that are not native here. But for some it is. And they don’t have those natural controls. The environment is conducive to their growth and development. And next thing you know, they take advantage of that and can produce in large numbers. I mean, you see that a lot with plants. With, of course, kudzu is one. Privet is probably even worse. English Ivy. Avoid planting English Ivy, and get rid of if you have it. So that’s what basically, it is. And of course, an insect like Fire Ants. That’s a perfect example of an invasive species there. And I think we’ve all had little run-ins with them and they have very painful stings.

[00:10:03] Rico: Oh yeah. I think my son actually had an allergic attack once when he was a young kid, like five, six years old. He was bitten up. They were running up his legs pretty much. Yeah, kudzu. I mean, I moved down here in 1995 just before the Olympics. Never seen kudzu before. And that’s, it looks beautiful. When you see rolling areas of kudzu, it does look beautiful. But I can see how it just takes over an area and just smothers everything that might be under it.

[00:10:33] Tim: It was brought into this country back in the earlier part of the last century for erosion control and also for animal forage. And it was planted wildly, like the soil conservation service was doing that, other entities. But by the 1950s, they realized they had a problem with it. And you can see where it is today.

[00:10:53] Rico: Yes, yes. So it’s amazing how we’re a global society now. Everything comes in, China, we import probably 70, 80% of our products come from Asia and South Pacific area.

[00:11:06] Tim: The reason why, if you look we’ve got so many things that come from that part of the world, it’s because that part of China especially is at the same latitude we are. And it’s East and Southeast facing an ocean, the Pacific ocean. So that’s why the climate is very similar in a lot of ways to what we have over here. So that’s why so many invasive pests well, not all of course, but so many do come from that part of the world.

[00:11:36] Rico: So contacting a pest control company might not necessarily be any better than just taking a broom to it, I’m assuming?

[00:11:42] Tim: That’s correct. Because pest control companies, that’s what they would do. They have some sprays, they can get rid of them, but it really isn’t worth it. You can get rid of them just by the brooms or if you want to use an insecticide and spray.

[00:11:59] Rico: What’s the gestation period of a spider like that? Because I mean, they can have a spider sack right, with a hundred.

[00:12:05] Tim: Well, basically they overwinter and they hatch out. They’re quite small during the spring. And about late summer to fall they really grow and get large and they reproduce.

[00:12:15] Rico: And their lifespan?

[00:12:17] Tim: Just the season. They all will die when the weather gets cold. Well, some folks say we might have a cold winter, but that doesn’t matter. It’s just the lifespan.

[00:12:25] Rico: I was going to say it might get cold, who knows? It’s been raining a lot. So, maybe that’ll come in. So besides this type of spider coming in, are there other, have you heard of insects and other spider types that may be? That you’re hearing more of lately in the past year?

[00:12:41] Tim: Well, not so much spiders, but I mentioned the brown marmorated stink bug was one. There’s one called an Emerald Ash borer. It got into, I’m thinking maybe 15 plus years ago and up and around Chicago and Great Lakes area. And it spread all over destroying Ash trees. Although we don’t have a very large number of Ash trees, but they’ve been found in Georgia. I always say just because you haven’t found, an invasive species hadn’t been found in your county doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just hasn’t been found. And now down on coastal Georgia about 20 years ago, an insect called Red Bay Ambrosia beetle got in. And what it does is it attacks plants and Laurel family in down on the coast is the red bay tree. And this little insect goes into the tree and introduces a fungus that causes the vascular system to be clogged up. So if you take and cut a branch off of it, and you’ll see the darkening on the inside of the branch is the fungus, and that has killed a lot of red bay. Down on the Georgia Coast you will you’ll see them. There’s concern that it’s moved into Florida and is threatening the avocado crop, because avocados are related to that. And up here in north Georgia, we don’t have much, we don’t have any red bays, but we have sassafras trees. There’s been reports of it on sassafras. I know cobs had it. One was found here in Gwinnett. But it doesn’t seem to be really detrimental to this tree and sassafras are not that numerous.

[00:14:15] Rico: So there are challenges that show up year by year and such on this?

[00:14:19] Tim: Those are the ones we know about. There’s probably more that we don’t know about that are here.

[00:14:24] Rico: Yeah, I would think. There’s so many.

[00:14:26] Tim: I would say it’s kinda like the COVID situation. They say we had our first report in January or February, 2020. But it may have been here earlier. That’s sort of analogous.

[00:14:36] Rico: Yeah, that makes sense. And that’s certainly likely because we weren’t testing for it. So how would we know otherwise? Gwinnett Extension, if people wanted to find out a bit more about what does Gwinnett extension provide as far as services to it’s Gwinnett citizens? Maybe you can just share that with us as well.

[00:14:53] Tim: Okay. Well, we provide a variety of services in our, what we call the agricultural natural resources, which I’m in. We consult with homeowners on various issues in their natural environment. Whether it be their yards, trees, insect pests, and soil and water issues. Same with what we call the green industry, which is landscape, turf, tree care people. You see them all over the place. There a few small farmers, but they’re not that many in Gwinnett. Equine, there is some of that. But we have done some forage programs. We have a large master gardener program. This is a volunteer program. We train people to be volunteers and to do outreach programs working with that and school outreach programs. One of our program assistants works and has done extensive work in doing school and youth education. We also have our 4-H youth group. They have our 4-H agent, Pamela Bloch does a fantastic job. I would recommend if you have kids in your family, get them involved in 4H. And then we have family and consumers, that Ines Beltran’s our FACS agent. And they do things like financial, literacy, health, nutrition, things in that area. What used to be called home economics. And if you would like to find out more about us, go to UGAExtension.org/Gwinett.

[00:16:15] Rico: Excellent. And so if a individual homeowner would like to have a discussion about maybe the soil quality or what soil erosion, they would come to Gwinnett extension as well?

[00:16:28] Tim: They can come or call or email me.

[00:16:32] Rico: Alright, cool. We’ve been speaking to Tim Daly county extension agent here in Gwinnett county, UGA associated about Joro spiders. Which is that invasive species that’s taken over the discussions online when it comes to pests here in Gwinnett county. I know on Next Door it’s been like, everyone’s been talking about it and how do you get rid of it and stuff. And certainly I have, like I said, four webs out there around the house and I’m sure there’ll be more if I let it go. But I do appreciate Tim educating me a bit more on Joro Spiders. Tim, thank you for being with me this morning and thank you everyone for listening in.

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Peachtree Corners Life

Ruwa Romman on Recent Georgia Legislation and Gaza [Podcast]

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Georgia State Representative Ruwa Romman shares insights into the legislative session, highlighting the dynamic of having a third of the House composed of new members. She addresses the complex issues of balancing public safety and civil liberties in immigration status checks, the political landscape challenges during an election year, and experiences of changing positions on bills after hearing new information. Plus, Romman shared her view on the war in Gaza. With your host Rico Figliolini.

Resources:
Ruwa’s Website: https://www.ruwa4georgia.com/

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Discussing Important Issues
00:03:07 – First-Year Freshman Dynamics
00:04:19 – Concerns over Misuse of Immigration Enforcement Legislation
00:07:03 – Concerns Over Police Funding and Immigration Checks
00:10:43 – Balancing Immigration Enforcement and Community Trust
00:12:41 – Navigating Student Loan Forgiveness and Data Center Legislation
00:15:18 – Changing Perspectives on Film Tax Credits
00:16:59 – Balancing Film Industry Incentives and School Funding
00:18:47 – Navigating Legislation: Freshman Lawmaker’s Perspective
00:25:04 – Improving Early Literacy through Education Reform
00:26:43 – Balancing Work, Campaigns, and Local Elections
00:32:21 – Unsolicited Home Selling Offers
00:33:19 – Engaging the Community and Addressing International Challenges

Podcast Transcript:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:01

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. We have a great guest today, Ruwa Romman, the Georgia State Rep, District 97. Hey, Ruwa, how are you?

Ruwa Romman 0:00:11

Hi. I’m good, thanks. Thanks for having me. How are you doing?

Rico Figliolini 0:00:14

Yeah, good. It’s a beautiful day. Just came back from lunch, so all good. Mojito’s at the forum. Excellent.

Ruwa Romman 0:00:20

Delicious.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:21

And I actually had breakfast this morning at First Watch, so I’m just doing dinner, lunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner tonight at a new restaurant that just, that’s opening or media preview called Dahlia’s restaurant at the Hilton Northeast here in Peachtree Corners. We’ll see how that food is, but we have more important things to discuss rather than food. So let’s get.

Ruwa Romman 0:00:48

 I don’t know if there’s, honestly, to me, that’s like, top number one priority in my life.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:53

Well, actually, you know what? That’s funny, because in my family growing up, italian, italian heritage, everything around the dinner table was game, essentially. So that’s the best place to talk about stuff sometimes.

Ruwa Romman 0:01:05

Totally.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:06

Yeah. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on because the session’s over. And it’s interesting because, you know, most people coming from New York state, reps in the House and House Senate seats and stuff, they’re almost practically full time. They work, like, in session, like nine months out of the year here in the state of Georgia. How many days is it that you’re in session?

Ruwa Romman 0:01:31

Yeah, we’re about 40 days, all of January, all of February and all of March. And so the intent, but, you know, the reason it’s 40 days is because we also have, like, committee work days, and we try to have some time to actually go through the bills that gets harder at the end of it. But, yeah, we’re about three months of.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:47

The year, so there’s quite a few bills that cat looked at. I don’t know what the numbers are. Maybe you could share that with us. You know, how many actually got looked at and how many ended up passing? Quite a few passed, I think. And I think we actually vetoed a few also.

Ruwa Romman 0:02:02

Yeah, there were definitely some vetoes, of course. And actually, people can go on legislation. So legis.ga.gov, and you can actually see every single vote that we have done. We took a total of 890 votes this year, or I guess, like this session. And that includes everything from attendance to bills. And to be clear, when we talk about a session. So there’s, like, this year’s session and then last year’s session is technically part of this one because it’s a biannual. So over the course of those, I guess like eight month period, we took over 890 votes. So that was attendance. But a lot of it was on, you know, bills and moving things and, and stuff like that. So we voted on a lot. I think it was. Somebody said we had almost 1200 bills that moved through per like four month period, but only about 200 of them get signed.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:01

That could be good because some of those bills aren’t that great. And this is your first year, really, isn’t it? Is it your first full year?

Ruwa Romman 0:03:11

I am a brand new freshman, as they call us. What was really, actually unique about us this year is about a third of the House was freshmen. So it gave us an opportunity to get to know each other and start on a blank slate. And I think it really made the dynamics of the House a little different in a good way.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:29

Good. Yeah. Because it can be frustrating. I’m sure Congress has their issues, but. Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:35

Yeah. We actually voted on our speaker on the first try in about 15 minutes. So we did what we were supposed to.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:43

Yes. The grownups are in the room here in Georgia as opposed to Washington.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:48

I don’t know about the Senate, but the House. We’re good.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:51

Yeah. The Senate had its issues, from what I understand. Right. And if they weren’t in session, probably would have been good in some cases.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:59

It’s a fun ride. It’s a fun ride.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:01

Yes. I would think one of the important bills that you were, that you mentioned before we started was House bill 1105 that you wanted to talk about too. Why don’t we start with that one? Let’s go. Because you said that actually wasn’t turned into legislation. I mean, it’s legislation, but it was never signed, right?

Ruwa Romman 0:04:22

No, it was signed. And this seems to happen every election year. And I’ve actually noticed this. I try to watch a wide range of news, or at least follow them, and a lot of news organizations suddenly will start talking about immigration. Everything terrible with immigration, suddenly it becomes every headline. And then as soon as election year is over, it literally go. And I wish I was joking, but it literally does go away. And because of the tragedy that happened with Lake and Riley, all of a sudden, that was all we talked about for the last few weeks of session. And it was a real tragedy. I mean, parents lost their daughter, friends lost a loved one. I mean, and it really shook the UGA campus. But I was left wondering with the fact that if the perpetrator was any other person, any other type of person, if it would have gotten that kind of attention. And so what ended up happening was, unfortunately, some of my republican colleagues used that as an opportunity to push through this bill. And what it does is it mandates that our local law enforcement, so, like Gwinnett Duluth, any, any local law enforcement is now required to do federal type work, which is ensure or I guess, check to make sure that somebody is a documented individual in the United States. There’s a couple problems with that. One, it opens up the door for discrimination, because now a police officer feels like they have to check people’s papers, for lack of a better word, if they seem suspicious. And frankly, you know, those who are, who don’t look brown are not going to be impacted by this, but those who do could be. The other problem with the bill is that our driver’s licenses are not good enough documentation to prove our citizenship. Even though our licenses here in Georgia are verified. You could travel with them. I believe you can even go to Canada driving using your license. And that creates a host of problems, because now police can detain you for 48 hours. Right. So if you’ve got a job, if you got kids, if you got any set of responsibilities, suddenly your whole life can be derailed. Mistaken.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:27

Yeah. Is that prior to being. Being arrested and for a crime? Correct.

Ruwa Romman 0:06:33

So it.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:34

Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.

Ruwa Romman 0:06:38

The problem is that the bill is written badly. I think a lot of times people think that because we pass a bill that it’s written well, there are some inconsistencies and lack of clarity. So, like, do you actually have to be booked, or could it be that somebody arrested you because you were being annoying and then they decide to hold you to check your immigration status? And the other piece about this bill, again, along with the contradictions that a lot of people don’t realize, is it defunds the police. And I mean that sincerely. If. If a local police department chooses not to engage on this basically quota system, they could lose state funding as a result. And so it opens up this, like, wide range of issues from how we treat people holding them unfairly and now losing funding if they’re not doing federal level work, which they’re not getting more money for either.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:25

So let me ask you this. I mean, from a common sense point of view, from the way I look at it, is that I can appreciate what you’re saying as far as if you’re being stopped on a road. Yes, I can see that discrimination is. Will never go away. Right. As much as we try. But if you’re arrested and you’re booked for a crime. Right? And you’re mugshot and everything. You’re in prison. Wouldn’t that be a reasonable time then to check because you’ve committed a crime now, you’re not judged yet guilty, haven’t had a court case yet, but you’ve been booked, officially booked on that crime. Would that not be a good time to check to see if there’s an illegal immigrant?

Ruwa Romman 0:08:08

Yeah. The problem. The problem, though, is who do they normally check to make sure it’s not an illegal immigrant? Right. So you then have discrimination on that side of it. So not only are people more likely to be arrested, for example, if they are black or brown, they’re now more likely to have that 48 hours hold. So they could have been released that night, but now, because they have to check their immigration status, they’re now being booked for 48 more hours. And suddenly the problems start to add up on each other, and you end up having to spend valuable jail space on somebody that you wouldn’t have normally had to hold to begin with. Right. Because, remember, our prisons and jails are already overcrowded. You know, our justice system is already at its brink, and so you’re just adding more problems without actually providing any more funding is the other piece of it. So.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:54

So if you hold someone that I want to. Not that I want to get into the weeds or anything, and I won’t say bills, bills are not, God, their intent, you know, they sound good until they’re not. And I heard you and Scott Hilton at a recent legislative panel, and you were giving out some details of particular bills, and had I not heard you say those facts about those bills, I’d be like, well, on the face of it, it sounds good, but apparently it’s not because it’s this. Right? If I was fact checking or if I was able to see further into it, and most citizens don’t have that time or that interest to look at certain things further than a one sentence descriptive. But if a person’s booked and they’re in jail, they’re booked for a reason, right? So they’re going to be there regardless for 24 to 48 hours anyway. So why not check the status during that time?

Ruwa Romman 0:09:49

Totally. And, you know, so, first off, I do, like, I feel like I do need to give voice to the fact that people who are more likely to be booked, and I’ve seen this happen in front of me are, you know, again, black and brown folks. However, to your point, if they’re already there, why not check there’s a couple of problems with that. One, it can be really, really cumbersome depending on the kind of software that they’re using, whether or not they are on a special system that can do that kind of checking. But that’s why, for example, there is that 48 hours hold to give time for that check is my point. Right. So in order to allow for that check to happen, it does take up to 48 hours. And now you’re holding somebody for two days that you normally wouldn’t have to hold otherwise.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:32

Okay, understood. I mean, in a perfect world, it would be fine. You release them as they normally would be released. And if it comes back that they were illegal and they should have been held, then you go back out and get them at residence that they declined.

Ruwa Romman 0:10:51

Have to take care of that. Right. That’s what federal, like, we spend federal money on this kind of stuff that’s under the purview of the federal government and federal agents, because the other thing people don’t realize is when you do this kind of stuff, it reduces, there’s already a lot of distrust between law enforcement and community members. And so now you’re reducing that little bit of trust. So someone, for example, who is seeing a crime or is a victim of domestic abuse and might be undocumented, they’re now choosing not to seek help because they’re scared of this specific piece.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:20

And again, going back to legislation and details, I mean, it could be then that it would be checked for felons. Felon felony level crimes versus a misdemeanor crime would be better. I mean, so there, there’s some pathway there, right, to be able to do this. Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:11:36

And to be clear, you know, we have, with things like this, a lot of times when I engage with my colleagues, I try really hard to engage on implementation because I know sometimes we come at it from a different perspective. Like you said, it’s not a perfect world. I wish it was, but it’s not. And so a lot of times we do offer straight up, just technical feedback, but the reality is, especially in an election year, it sort of ends up with a mind of its own and kind of just, you know, goes. But in the meantime, I tell folks, like, make sure your passport is up to date. We’re now at that kind of situation, truly. Like, I’m actually, because an expired passport does not count. So if they were to book me, for example, for whatever reason, and my husband brings my passport, it’s expired, they will not accept it, and I could be held for 48 hours. So, yeah, yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:29

Difficult national identification code. That’s what it comes down to at some point, I guess. Yep. What are the bills? Are two closest to you that you’d like to talk about?

Ruwa Romman 0:12:43

Yeah. So we actually had some really great movement this year on things like student loan forgiveness. There were a few bills that we passed, but they were specifically related to student loan forgiveness on sectors that we needed more people in. So, for example, mental health care, those who provide drug addiction services, which kind of do overlap a little bit, which was really great to work on. I think last year we did something similar. It was the governor’s bill on law enforcement. I was kind of hoping we would do the same for teachers. So, like, if a teacher teaches for however many years, specifically in a rural area, we could provide a student loan forgiveness faster than the federal government. I think that would go a really long way with retention and recruitment. But it was really heartening to see that we were beginning to, as a body, recognize the importance of sort of filling in those stopgaps. We also, unfortunately, the Okefenokee, the one bill that I got a lot of emails on was actually to protect the Okefenokee. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass. But I do encourage people to reach out to our senators, Senator Ossoff and Senator Warnock. From my understanding. I think specifically Senator Ossoff’s team is looking at ways to designate it as a UNESCO heritage site. It is a heritage site, but it’s not the right kind of heritage site list, I guess. But there is a way to protect it from that angle. So we’re hoping to maybe try to get around it. There. There was some back and forth on data centers to. Tax break. Yeah, I actually originally was a. And this is kind of my favorite kind of legislation where I. I’m not sure what I think about it, and I like to hear the arguments because, you know, it’s just, you learn a lot and.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:25

Yeah, for sure.

Ruwa Romman 0:14:26

I originally was a yes on that bill, particularly from an environmental perspective. But what had changed my mind was one of my colleagues. Her district relies on jobs in data centers. And apparently a lot of data centers now are moving towards, like, multiple elements of energy, like solar. So they are less, I guess, bad in terms of, like, energy consumption. So I learned a lot through that bill, and it did end up getting. It did not pass to take away their tax break, which was good because we need to study it a little bit more. But I learned a lot. Right. I went in with, like, one idea, and I heard from my colleagues who had better experience than I I did. I thought, okay, I’ve got new information. I’m going to adjust accordingly.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:08

And that’s a great way of doing that. And I’m assuming your colleagues were from both sides of the aisle, maybe on the subject.

Ruwa Romman 0:15:13

Oh, yeah. There were no’s on both sides of the aisle. There were yeses on both sides of the aisle. Same thing with the film tax credit, by the way, which also didn’t make it to the finish line. You know, I remember going into. Because they were trying to reduce the film tax credit. And originally I went in as a no, and I actually walked out. Yes. And same thing. We had some. Because for me, I actually had a constituent. And again, this is like my favorite thing to tell people, and I hope more people hear this. I had a constituent reach out to me, and she is in the film industry. And she told me about how, like, job to job. Yes. It’s not how much we’re giving in tax breaks, but if you look at, for example, when a movie comes to a town, how much revenue provides that town in hotels, food, lodging, et cetera. And so she gave me some, like, really, really great information, and I found myself going, huh. Maybe I don’t fully agree with this. And I would much rather be able to study it more and the downward effects more. So it was just. It was just like, really, really interesting. And then I think. So I. So sorry. Now I mix it up. I originally went in. No, I ended up with that.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:18

Okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:20

I originally went in, No. End up being confused myself. Hold on.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:24

It’s okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:27

Yeah, yeah. So the reason I went in. Yes. Is because of my constituent. And then I end up being a no because the bill itself doesn’t actually talk about the. Or it didn’t address, like, the smaller. Like, how are they called? They’re like little companies. Right? Like there’s little builds of film and then there’s like, the big budget films.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:47

So the.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:49

Correct. So the bill made a distinction between those two things. So what she actually told me about wasn’t. Wasn’t going to be impacted by this bill. So I ended up being a yes. But I would have. I don’t even think I would have considered a no on a bill like this because it meant more revenue for schools, as an example, had it not been for that constituent. So I.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:06

More revenue for schools because. Less tax credits.

Ruwa Romman 0:17:10

Correct. Because right now we’re losing. We’re losing out on revenue that these film studios. Because they’re big film studios. Right. We’re not talking about the small films. We’re talking about huge film studios that are currently not paying taxes, even though they’re using a lot of our roads, a lot of our infrastructure, things like that.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:29

But don’t they bring. So. Okay. This pedestrian a little bit on my part because I don’t know all the facts on it, but I would think, because I think was North Carolina or South Carolina ended theirs, and we got a lot of business moving south to our state, and we’re the biggest one.

Ruwa Romman 0:17:46

Yeah. Normally, I’m a yes on bills like this. I was a no for a little bit because of that constituent. So what happened? Because so many of us were no, they actually limited the bill on the House side. The reason it failed on the Senate side is because they tried to expand it way further than a lot of us were comfortable with. And had it not been for that constituent, I wouldn’t have even thought to ask my colleagues to limit the bill that way.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:07

Okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:08

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:08

All right. All right.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:09

Yeah. All right. I use, like, my yeses and my nos, but, like, I was just trying to explain the details. Like, again, for us, the details are where this kind of gets lost in the sauce. And so when we have constituents come to us and say, this is what I think about this bill, I can go to my colleagues and say, here’s a concern I’ve heard. Normally, I would be a yes on this. Can you fix it? And then they fixed it. Okay.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:31

So, you know, it’s interesting, because when people are voting sometimes on legislation or resolutions that are not a yes or no. Well, yes or no, but not for someone, that’s. Sometimes it’s written in such a way that if you put no or yes, it could be the wrong way of going. Right of the way you’d want to.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:51

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:51

Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:52

And there are. And part of the confusion, to be clear, like, you will sometimes see a legislator vote one way the first time on a bill and a different way the second time on a bill, it’s because the bill changes in the process. Right. For us, as the House, we could. The version of the bill, it goes to the Senate, it comes back a different version, or in committee. That’s the other piece of, like, why I was originally, I became a no because of this constituent. Because originally in the committee, because I do follow committee stuff, too. Like, if I know a bill is definitely making it to the floor, I try to go back and watch the committee. So I remember watching the committee hearing and marking it down as a no again, truly because of this constituent. And when it then the committee actually changed it to address the concerns that I had and others had. And so then it became. Yes, because that’s actually the best part of the legislative process.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:41

Yes, it does. Everyone gets the two cent to put in on it. Did it end up. Did that bill end up having amendments to it?

Ruwa Romman 0:19:49

Yeah, it got amended in the Senate, and that’s why it didn’t pass at all.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:52

Okay. Okay. Sometimes unrelated stuff.

Ruwa Romman 0:19:56

Correct.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:57

There was another bill that ended up dying in the Senate, but I thought it was interesting how brought it up. It was the EMS changing that to essential or identifying it as essential services. So tell me a little bit about that one.

Ruwa Romman 0:20:09

That was actually my bill. I was incredibly grateful that House leadership allowed me to pass a bill as a freshman Democrat, which doesn’t always happen, but, you know, that goes to show the importance of, like, building relationships and sort of treating this as a professional job like you would anything else, because it goes a long way, and my husband’s in a part time EMT, and I was chatting with his co workers, and they said, yeah, we’re not considered an essential service. And I go, why not? And it’s because EMS actually started after law enforcement and fire. So law enforcement and fire have been around for almost a century. EMS started in the 1970s. Sorry, they started in, like, the 18 hundreds. EMS started in the 1970s. So it never got, like, put into all these laws that we’ve created around EMS and fire or around police and fire. And so what the bill would have done is actually would have reduced a lot of red tape for our EMS personnel and, frankly, recognize them as the essential service that they are. It ran out of time on the Senate side, so my hope is, if I get reelected, is to continue working on that bill and get it across the finish line.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:09

Congratulations, because I know how difficult it is for a freshman to get. To get their own bill, and this was a really good bill. I’m just surprised it didn’t get passed this year. I’m actually surprised hearing you saying it wasn’t essential services.

Ruwa Romman 0:21:23

So, yeah, only 15 would have been the 15th state to designate EMS as an essential service.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:29

Oh, wow. Sometimes I wonder about how we do things. Was there other legislation that you’d like to. I know there was one that I saw, HB Senate. Well, it was a Senate bill, so I didn’t even know if it went to the House. Senate Bill 233 was Georgia promise scholarship. It’s a $6,500 voucher for students attending lower performing public schools. But I guess they never get to the House. It looks like maybe, or no, it.

Ruwa Romman 0:22:01

Unfortunately passed and got signed by the governor. I was actually opposition to this bill. It passed the House by only one vote. And there was, yeah, there was actually bipartisan opposition to it. Only one Democrat voted in favor. And the problem with bills like this, frankly, is that no matter how, which way you parse it, taking money out of public schools is not a solution. And you’ll hear people say that we have spent a record amount of money on public schools this year, but we forget that after the great Recession, we actually defunded education for almost ten years. Right. We have a hole that we still need to fill because of those ten years and be able to meet our obligations now. And I feel like people forget that just because, yes, we’re spending a lot of money on education right now does not mean we’ve actually met our obligation. And what some of my colleagues think is that it’s best to just let some kids leave these failing schools rather than just fixing the failing schools. And I don’t think that’s a good path forward. The other thing is that this $6,500 that is technically supposed to be for a kid in a quote, unquote, failing school does not address getting there, like transportation, any extra supplies that they might need, any extra expenses that might come up in tuition and fees. The majority of private schools in Georgia charge way more than $6,500.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:27

Yeah, yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:23:29

And so I just, for me personally, I don’t like school vouchers. I would much rather, for example, allow a student to pick a public school in their county to go to. That’s what I got. I grew up in Forsyth county, and each, each school had like a kind of, what I call it, almost a magnet program. Right? So had the IB program. Central has the humanities program. So each of these high schools had something that would attract students. And if you signed up for those programs, you could go to that school, even though it’s not in your district. And I would much rather be able to have public schools compete together rather than move them to a private school system where, by the way, these dollars, there’s not a lot of good oversight for them, because technically, those who homeschool can use this money, but there is no way, for example, to claw back that money if it was being improperly used.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:18

True. Yeah, I can see that. But, and to your point about tuition being much higher than that 6500, it’s like double or triple that, depending where. And even with scholarships, you still can’t. So, I mean, if you’re going to do a voucher program, in my mind, it either has to be more money or you have to do it differently, like you said. And quite frankly, I think we just need to change the way we do education altogether. And it’s just not, I mean, yeah, it’s just not working. I think that it needs to be more attention than, personally, I feel it needs more attention. The first four grades, four years of education to get the kids set in the right path before they even get to middle school.

Ruwa Romman 0:24:59

And so you do smaller class sizes, reducing the standardized testing so that we teachers can teach students rather than teach a test. Focus on them. One thing I will say on education is we actually did pass another set of bills over the past two years about how we test if a kid is dyslexic. Because right now what’s happening is that students are getting to the third and fourth grade. They can’t actually read, but they’ve been able to get away with it because of, like, everything has pictures on it. And then in third and fourth grade, those pictures go away and you realize, oh, no, this kid does not read. We did pass legislation to have better testing for that kind of stuff earlier on so we can catch it earlier. And we are trying to kind of get to a place where other school systems have done this and they are now seeing their literacy rate just exponentially increase. It’ll just take a little bit of.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:52

Time to fully set in this type of thing takes a lot of political will to be able to do, to change because you have to change.

Ruwa Romman 0:26:03

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:04

Yes. Process the whole mental attitude of what people look at and maybe they can do it nicely. Yeah. Instead of, yeah. Burnett County, I think, has had some issues so far, but. Well, so we’re done. So I’m curious, we’re done with the house and stuff. What do you do the rest of the year for your job? What do you do?

Ruwa Romman 0:26:27

So unless somebody is independently wealthy or retired, they go back to their work in an election year. We are also campaigning. So our, the primary is coming up here May 21. I don’t have a primary. Senator Islam does have a primary and our commissioner, Kirkland Carden, doesn’t have a primary. But if you are in the part of Peachtree corners that has Sally Harrell, she does have a primary. So please come out and make sure you vote. We also have a bunch of judgeships up for reelection, including a Supreme Court judge in Georgia. So please make sure you go to the bottom of your ballot to vote on that. There is also school board. So we have school board seat that is open again. Go back to the bottom of your ballot to see that seat. And last but not least, there.

Rico Figliolini 0:27:12

And that’s. So then people know that’s a non partisan. So whoever wins in this May 21 on the school board is the school board person.

Ruwa Romman 0:27:21

Yeah. So unlike, for example, myself and our commissioner and our senators, we. This is like the end for judges and school board. There might be a runoff, but again, we can prevent one if we all come out and vote. And last but not least, there are two tax exemptions on our ballot. One is a broader tax exemption for a homestead exemption that would save about 20, $30 a month for most people, which I know for some is a lot, but for some, they’re kind of like, what’s the point? So definitely make sure you vote on that. And then the one I personally signed on to and co sponsored is the one for teachers and public, any kind of public service employee to get an extra tax exemption because it’s becoming harder to afford to live in Gwinnett for those who provide our most needed services. So that’s where we are.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:09

All right. That’s cool. Yeah. And it’s not only difficult to live here, but it’s also. And maybe that’s why it’s difficult even higher. I mean, I know the school system has budget money for positions they can’t even find people to and even the police elected. It’s sad when you have the money sitting there and you can’t find anywhere to fill the spot.

Ruwa Romman 0:28:30

You know, it’s interesting you say this. Unfortunately, Georgia law preempts Hoas from preventing companies from purchasing single family homes. And what we’re seeing is all these hedge funds are coming into states like Georgia and buying single family homes and forcing all these prices to artificially kind of increase. And they’re artificially reducing supply. Definitely. That’s something I want to be working on this year. What I did is actually co sponsored legislation with Stephen Fry, and we actually co wrote it where right now, if you buy a business, a commercial space, you actually get a tax break because it depreciates over time. What we’re seeing is that these companies are getting that tax exemption for homes that appreciate in value. So they actually double dipping. And with the way the bill and unfortunately didn’t move, and I hope it does next year, but the way the bill would have done it is that if a business bought a home and that business owner does not live in Georgia. Cause I know sometimes, like, small business owners will, like, for asset purposes and stuff, purchase it through their business.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:30

Yeah, sure.

Ruwa Romman 0:29:31

Yeah. If the business owner does not live in Georgia. They will no longer be, like, allowed to get that tax credit, for lack of better word, and hopefully disincentivize some of this purchasing of single family homes. And I really wanna repeal the law that preempts Hoas from. From prevent cause. I will tell you this, I think, like, seven or eight homes in my neighborhood have been bought by cash from hedge funds, and they put them on the market for, like, an insane amount of money per month. That is even higher than a mortgage.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:58

Yeah. I don’t even understand how people can afford to pay that rent, unless what happens, too, sometimes is that they split pad the house and you get four people, let’s say, living in four separate rooms. And I know in our neighborhood, there’s 84 homes here, at least I’m sure about three of them are owned by companies like American Federation homes, I think is one of them. Yeah, no, I totally agree with you. I mean, my oldest son, he’s like, he has enough money for a down payment, and he’s like, why? There’s not enough property out there for me to even look through to see what I want to buy because. Because Vanguard and Blackrock and all these other companies are out there purchasing. Yeah. So we’re essentially becoming, as he says, and I agree, a subscription society. Right. You can’t buy Adobe software anymore. It’s subscription.

Ruwa Romman 0:30:50

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:50

You can’t buy stock photos. It’s subscription. Can’t buy your home. It will be subscription, essentially through a lease of rent.

Ruwa Romman 0:30:58

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:58

It’s kind of sad. Everything’s like, then. And then you. So instead of owning it outright, at some point you’re going to end up just continuing to pay someone who’s making that money. Exactly.

Ruwa Romman 0:31:10

That’s an important piece of wealth for people to be able to build that wealth for themselves. So that’s why I’m in the state house. That’s why I ran, is to try to kind of bring some of that sanity back into our society.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:21

Yeah, no, that’s great. And I would love to see, I don’t know if anyone’s really done this. I think it was in Atlanta, maybe I saw some. Something about maybe in Atlanta was like, forget what the percentage was. That was company owned. I’d love to see a study like that done in Gwinnett county specifically, especially because I’m in pastry corners to see how much, how many home housing stock is owned percentage wise by these types of companies.

Ruwa Romman 0:31:47

In Atlanta, it’s 35% of single family homes are owned by corporations.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:52

That’s nuts. That’s just crazy. Yeah, let’s just. If you already own a home, maybe that value. I mean, I get texted every day and same, you know, are you ready to sell? Or. The messages are the weirdest things because, like, it’s me. It’s Bobby again. And I’d like to know, you know, from our discussion last time, are you ready now? And I’m like, we didn’t even talk last time. What’s going on?

Ruwa Romman 0:32:19

We. We started getting. So we were very lucky. We actually got our home right before, like, the market went really crazy during COVID So that was the only reason we could afford. It was, like, right when the market was perfect. But within a month of us moving into our house, we started getting solicitation to sell it.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:35

And the value has gone up. I think I have to. What do you call it? I just got my tax bill from the assessment I’m looking at. I’m like, really? Where do they even called them up? And I said, how is this figured out? Can you guys give me a formula? No one can give me a formula. And it’s just like, are you kidding me? You think it’s this much? That’s crazy.

Ruwa Romman 0:32:58

So, you know, we want more people involved in this process. The more of y’all that come down people’s house, the less influence these other special interests have. So I always love to invite people to come down and talk to us about this kind of stuff.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:09

Good.

Ruwa Romman 0:33:10

But, you know, really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this. And I’m always open to meet with people, talk about legislation. We try to host what I call mini town hall. So I’ll go sit around coffee shops in the district. Usually it’s either peachy corners, even though it’s not in my district. I do try to go down there. 45 south cafe. Unme coffee and break coffee are usually where we kind of try. We try to, like, spread out across the district, but I usually post up there for a few hours about once a month for folks to come down and chat. So.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:37

Cool. And I’m going to have you give your website and all that. It’ll be in the show notes also. But before we get there, it should be remiss in not acknowledging the things going on internationally a little bit. We had spoken about that. You’d be cool talking about it a little bit. You’re the only palestinian in the state house on either side, I think, right. Of the. Of the house. How does that, by the way, how does that feel? I mean, how have. Has it been fine.

Ruwa Romman 0:34:10

Not even a little bit you know, I think it feels like my obligations have sort of burst past the boundaries of our district, for lack of a better word. I am the only elected Palestinian in the state, in much of the southeast. The only other elected Palestinian, Isam Rasul, up in Virginia. So it’s just the two of us, which meant that a lot of Palestinians, regardless of whether or not they’re in our district, are coming to us and asking us for help to sort of navigate what resources they can use. It’s mostly to either get their family out or get food in has been sort of the biggest ask of people. And so it’s been hard. I have tried to be as communicative as possible with the public. I really do try to shy away from interviews, but this is a very serious moment, and I know that I have a platform and I have a duty to use it. And so I try really hard to educate people, to get them to sort of understand a perspective they might not have thought about and to recognize that at the end of the day, we are dealing with people. They’re not human shields. They are women, men, and children who had nothing to do with what’s going on and had no voice in what’s going on. And I’ve always believed in protecting lives, all life, as much as possible. And that is where my advocacy and politics will continue to go.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:24

Good to hear. Appreciate you sharing that with us.

Ruwa Romman 0:35:27

Thanks.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:28

If people want to reach out to you or find out a little bit more about what you’re doing, where can they find that information?

Ruwa Romman 0:35:35

You can sign up for our newsletter. You can send a contact form which goes to my email at Ruwa4georgia.com. You’ll also find us under the same handle, Ruwa for Georgia everywhere. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, if you’re interested. And social media is something you’re passionate about. I am currently hiring a social media fellow. I didn’t have a primary, so I’m in a big, like, hiring spree. So if you’re interested in getting politically involved, reach out.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:02

Excellent. Good. And I see you on TikTok, so it’s all good. You, good job out there. You and Scott Hilton, I saw him on there, too, a little bit. We tried. I appreciate you sharing time with me today and talking about these things. We’ll get together, no. And we’ll get together again soon about more things that are going on, I’m sure. So hang in there for a second. But thank you, everyone, for joining us. Peachtree Corners Life. We’re working on. What are we working on? We’re working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners magazine, the best of issue. You can always find more information at livinginpeacetreecorners.com. Follow us also on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn if you’re listening to the podcast, Spotify or I heart radio, YouTube and all that. And we are on TikTok also as well. We’re putting out some stuff. So it’s all good. It’s all good. Thank you, everyone, for being with us. Appreciate it.

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Peachtree Corners Life

Peachtree Corners Development Pressures Lead to a Moratorium and More Proactive City Planning

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This episode features special guest Shaun Adams, Peachtree Corners’ new Community Development Director who continues as Assistant City Attorney. Shaun’s responsibilities include identifying areas that could benefit from redevelopment, planning, administering, and implementing redevelopment projects, and helping to identify and obtain public funding for projects. Part of our discussions include the 6-month moratorium on new residential development in the central business district which reflects a reassessment of the city’s needs. Included in the podcast discussion was a discussion on zoning and development, emerging market trends, navigating development pressures, and community and business roles. Hosted by Rico Figliolini.

Related Links
Redevelopment Authority of Peachtree Corners: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/21… Peachtree Corners City Meeting Calendar: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/Ca…

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Shaun Adams: New Community Development Director
00:01:21 – Peachtree Corners Resident Balances Legal and Community Roles
00:03:26 – Community Development: Zoning, Permitting, and Collaboration
00:07:24 – Adapting City Codes to Changing Needs
00:09:54 – Adapting Zoning to Emerging Market Trends
00:12:37 – Navigating Zoning Overlays and Mixed-Use Developments
00:15:07 – Examining Zoning and Development Trends
00:20:01 – The Impact of COVID-19 on Cities and the Growth of Smaller Communities 00:21:30 – Navigating Development Pressures and Public Input
00:25:28 – Leveraging Comprehensive Plans for Strategic Development
00:29:43 – Exploring Proactive City Planning
00:32:23 – Upcoming Agenda and Code Updates
00:33:57 – Upcoming Planning Commission and City Council Meetings

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Peachtree Corners Life

Why Baron Reinhold is Running for Gwinnett County Sheriff

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“You have to have a force that people want to join, and that is incumbent upon the leader to create the environment where people love to work. Where they know that their boss has their back. They know that their boss is looking out for their career. They’re invested in training, equipping them, and so on.” Baron Reinhold talks about his run to be the next Gwinnett County Sheriff.

Baron Reinhold, who has a 30-year military background, discusses his varied experiences in the Navy, including leadership roles in nuclear command and reconnaissance. He aims to enhance transparency and accountability within the sheriff’s department through measures like budget audits and public forums. He stresses the importance of restoring public trust by addressing organizational issues promptly and effectively, including staffing shortages and jail safety concerns. Listen in with your host Rico Figliolini.

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Baron Reinhold’s Extensive Military and Community Service
00:01:53 – From Naval Academy to Military Consulting: A Military Career Spanning Decades
00:04:50 – Running for Gwinnett County Sheriff
00:07:05 – Addressing Gwinnett County’s Challenges
00:10:14 – Lack of Transparency in Sheriff’s Budget
00:12:21 – Implementing Command Climate Surveys for Organizational Improvement
00:14:14 – Navigating Jail Budget and Safety Challenges
00:18:21 – Understaffed Jail Struggles with Inmate Safety
00:21:56 – Importance of Effective Leadership in Law Enforcement
00:24:13 – Addressing Staffing Challenges in Law Enforcement
00:28:12 – The Sheriff’s Role in Upholding Constitutional Rights
00:31:20 – Balancing Constitutional Rights and Public Health
00:34:40 – Abuse of Public Funds for Personal Branding
00:36:28 – Exploring Alternatives to Traditional Law Enforcement
00:38:54 – Experienced and Qualified Candidate for Gwinnett County Sheriff

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:29

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliollini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the city of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett county. And lately we’ve had election candidates on the show. Today we have a special candidate who’s running for Gwinnett county sheriff. His name is Baron Reinhold. Hey, Baron, thanks for joining us.

Baron Reinhold 0:00:48

Thanks. It’s great to be on your show.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:49

Yeah, no, I appreciate you being here with us. Barron has a long resume of participation in all sorts of things, certainly in the military. Right. And different posts, different positions that you’ve been in, from everything from a professor of naval science to director of military community management, you’ve been part of nuclear command and control operations, team three. I was looking at that. I was like, wow. Squadron commanding officer, United States Air Force. You on the admiral staff in Bahrain, I guess, during deployment in 2003 to 2004, is that correct?

Baron Reinhold 0:01:32

Well, there’s about three different things in there. I was at US strategic command, and I was also on, that was a combatant command in Omaha, Nebraska, but I was also on an admiral staff out in Bahrain for two years and another admiral staff in Norfolk for two years.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:48

Okay. Yeah. And the list goes on. It’s just. It’s an expansive list of accomplishments. And you’ve been involved in a lot of volunteer work in organizations quite involved in Europe. Some of the past groups included Boy scouts, Kiwanis club. But what I’d like you to do is tell us a little bit about yourself, beyond the resume, if you will, and you know what you’re currently doing, and give us a brief, a little bit about that.

Baron Reinhold 0:02:18

Sure. Well, thanks again, Rico.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:19

Yeah.

Baron Reinhold 0:02:19

My background, I joined the Navy right out of high school. I enlisted for a year and then went to the Naval Academy prep school that year, and then on to the naval academy when I graduated from there. I ended up going to flight school, finishing up flight school, and spent 30, 30 years as an officer all over the world. Just kind of look at the last half of my career, which is most of my senior leadership positions. Right after 911, I was the officer in charge of a number of combat detachments. Our squadron got surged for the next 20 years, doing the most important missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. And after that, I was on that admiral staff, brought the family out to Bahrain, right there in the Gulf region. It was a couple years there, then was in charge of global strike planning at US strategic command for two years. Then the third year there, I was the deputy commander’s executive assistant, went on to command the nation’s, one of the nation’s two highest reconnaissance squadrons, and again spent most of that time in Afghanistan. And then was the officer in charge or the senior officer on the nuclear command and control 747. So, literally, if we had nuclear war, we would be at a different base every night, were constantly on the move. And if nuclear war happened, our ground nodes would be gone, and I would personally be briefing with the president on his nuclear options and executing his war orders from the 747. So that was totally different than my reconnaissance days over land in the combat zones. And anyway, then from there, I went on to command a unit that was in charge of the entire Navy’s 388,000 community management. So we made sure that the entire Navy, over a moving 30 year period, was properly manned in every subspecialty, which was a pretty wild job. And then I finished up, like you said, I was the commanding officer of NROTC Atlanta region. So I had a battalion at Morehouse that had Spelman and Clark Atlanta attached to that, and then a battalion at Georgia Tech that Georgia state and Kennesaw state attached. And we trained all the naval officers and, you know, future Marine Corps officers at those six schools. So that’s kind of a quick 35 year round the horn.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:41

Yeah. Where did you originally come from, Baron? Where did you.

Baron Reinhold 0:04:46

I was born in Rochester, New York, but we moved around a lot when I was a kid, and we settled in Miami when I was in first grade. So I considered Miami until Hurricane Andrew wiped out the house, and my family moved up to Melbourne, Florida. By then, though, I was out of the house and in the navy, blasting around the world. So Miami was the home that I grew up in.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:06

Gotcha. And when did you move back, actually, to. When did you move to Atlanta? Let’s put it.

Baron Reinhold 0:05:12

Well, we did 16 moves since I’ve been married, which is, you know, that’s kind of wild to think about. My oldest daughter did 15 of those. So we moved here in 2015, built a house here in Gwinnett in Suwanee, and, you know, made the commute down 95 or 85, rather, every day. So I got up really, really early, got down there before the traffic got insane. And we usually either try to beat the traffic home or stay until the traffic that dissipated.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:42

Yeah, God knows the traffic has continued to build. Doesn’t disappear.

Baron Reinhold 0:05:48

Yep. But when I heard January 1 of 2020 and then since then, I started a consulting business. So I still do a lot of work down in Pensacola, which is the cradle of naval aviation, which has been a lot of fun because all the senior officers down there, you know, buddies of mine and the admirals and whatnot, and then the students, a lot of them were my former students at my Georgia Tech and Morehouse battalion. So I always get together with them. So I’ve got both ends of the spectrum. The senior most, the junior most people every time I go down there.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:21

That must be fascinating. My youngest wants to go into military history. He’s actually attending Kennesaw. Not quite the place for that, but that’s where he’s starting at, right? Yeah, he’s all into. Especially prior to World War two. World War two and prior, actually, that part. So it’s fascinating to be able to see and talk to people that are involved. So your consulting work is still with the military, I’m assuming? Correct. Okay. And so I guess the biggest question. The first question would be, why? Why run for Gwinnett county sheriff then? Why run for that post? Why do you see that you need to do that?

Baron Reinhold 0:07:05

Well, I mean, really, there are a lot of reasons. First, we did exhaustive study. We could have lived anywhere we wanted to when we moved here, and we did a lot of study, a lot of research, and Gwinnett county was the place to move to, you know, in 2015. And, you know, it’s been great. And, you know, we’ve seen a lot of changes, and almost all of those have been in the wrong direction in the last three to four years, whether it’s, you know, school board problems or taxation rates, you know, we have high. I think, well, I don’t think. I know. We had the highest number of people, you know, having a problem with their property taxes and appealing those. So those are going the wrong direction. And then certainly crime and just everything that the sheriff’s office is supposed to be doing, they’re failing in a major way. And so seeing what Butch Conway did for a quarter century and then seeing what’s happened since Sheriff Taylor took over, it’s night and day, and any county can only really be as good as the sheriff and the law enforcement. And since the sheriff is the senior law enforcement officer in the county, that’s a direct reflection on who’s doing that job. So, bottom line is, I think Sheriff Taylor’s doing a horrible job, and I think I can do. I think I could turn the county around completely.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:27

Now, the sheriff, so then people understand the difference, right? Gwinnett county police and the sheriff department. Two separate entities. Right. Gwinnett county police has the police officers that arrive on the scene of a crime that patrol the streets and stuff. Right. Gwinnett county sheriff has other responsibilities, including the jail system, serving subpoenas and such. Right? Correct. So two different. Just want people to know that two different areas. One of the things that, quite frankly, to my audience, we’re not fact checking any of this, but Baron is one of two candidates running. We have the incumbent, Sheriff Kebo, and we have Baron running. One of the things you want to do, based on what you’re saying, is that you want to be able to do full audit. How will you ensure that the audit’s done correctly and that it’s. That it’s open, impartial, transparent. How would you plan to do that?

Baron Reinhold 0:09:30

Well, just one thing before we go on. There’s actually five people running against the incumbent right now.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:37

I’m sorry, you’re right.

Baron Reinhold 0:09:39

So there’s three.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:40

Yeah.

Baron Reinhold 0:09:41

Unfortunately, it’s a partisan race, which I don’t think it should be, but I guess people aren’t interested in what I think on that. So there’s two Republicans and three other Democrats that are running against the incumbent on the Democrat side. But so, obviously, nobody is happy with how he’s doing, otherwise we wouldn’t have so many people running for that position. But, yeah, so the issue is when Butch Conway, who was the sheriff for 24 years here in Gwinnett county, who incidentally, endorsed me over all the other candidates, even though a couple of them worked for him or with him, one of them worked directly for him for about twelve years. Butch, when he left, he had a budget of $105 million. Right now, Sheriff Taylor has a budget of about $170 million, and he’s got almost about half of the deputies and jailers have left. So he’s got a force that’s half the size, and he’s got a budget that’s $65 million ish more. And so there’s money being spent in crazy places. Obviously. We know that from day one when he repainted all the sheriff’s cars with his name on the back of them. Again, a waste of taxpayers money. But there’s a lot. Where is the money? That’s the whole issue. You can’t trust government, you can’t trust law enforcement when money’s being squandered on frivolous things. And you can’t. I mean, I’ve put in all kinds of requests for, you know, freedom of information act stuff, but I didn’t know that you have to pay for all that. So I figure, okay, I’m a taxpayer. I want to know where this money’s being spent, or I want to know how many. How many deputies we’ve lost every year for the last four years. And, you know, if you want to know that, which is right on a spreadsheet, you got to pay $150, or you got to pay this, or they slow you the information, even if you do pay. So those kinds of things are frustrating. You know, you talked about transparency. I mean, I want to do an audit. You’d have a professional, reputable agency come in and do that, or organization and find out where all this money’s been spent. I mean, if you ground zero of building trust with the citizens of the county, it’s based on knowing facts. And I can’t find facts. And I’m in this race without paying a lot of money. So I think we need to do this audit. We need to flip the table, make it public facing, even if it’s pretty damning, whatever the results are of that, the public needs to know. And you need to snap a chalk line and say, okay, this is what happened before. This is when I took over. And this is what happens from here on out. And it’s not just a budgetary chalk line. I’m talking about in the Navy, every time a commanding officer takes over, they do something called a command climate survey. And again, that’s snapping another chalk line, but that’s more typically with personnel and programs. So what that does is the entire unit gets to give an anonymous. Takes an anonymous survey that’s very in depth. And then they get a free flow. They can type whatever they want at the end of that. And so as a new CEO coming in, new commanding officer coming in, you get the results of all that, and you get to see, okay, if it’s just one or two things, you know, maybe it’s a. You know, maybe it’s not all that important, but it’s good to know. But if there’s huge blocks of ink on, okay, this is a major problem, then it gives you, the new person, the information you need to, a, know that there’s a problem, b, address that, bring all your people in and say, this is obviously a huge issue here in this command. Here is my plan. You bring in people so you can all talk about what that issue is, what the background, why there’s that problem, and then come up with a solution. And then you brief personally, as the CEO, you brief all your different levels of rank, and then you give them an opportunity to give you feedback face to face. And so those kinds of things are critically important for a new boss coming in. And we will do something like that, not only with the people who are currently at the sheriff’s office, the deputies and jailers, but I’ll have surveys sent out to those that left because obviously they left for a reason, and I know why a lot, a lot of them left because I’ve talked to scores of them. So that’s important information.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:04

Sure. I would imagine also that a place like the county jail system, the sheriff system department, I mean, if they’re, if they’re expending money, there’s probably usually bids for certain things, contractual bids. There’s discretionary funds that can be spent on certain things because you don’t want to hamstring a department. There’s usually a budget level where you can spend money up to before it needs to go out on a bid system or some other thing. It could be in $170 million. Budget could be complicated doing that. It could take some months doing that. In the meantime, whatever you find, like you said, you will be able to address at that point. In the meantime, while that’s happening, because that could take several months, you’re going to be hitting the ground. You would hit the ground running. I know there was some other things that you were talking about, like measures that would implement, that you might implement to improve safety and reduce high rates of inmate injuries or deaths in the jail. Has that been an issue? Now, I haven’t myself looked at those issues. So tell us a little bit about that, about what you’re looking at and what you would implement day one for that week. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:15:23

So right off the bat, well, literally on day one, during his press conference, Sheriff Taylor implemented. He did away with something called the rapid response team. So the rapid response team are trained personnel where if there is an issue going sideways and deputy is in danger or a jailer is in danger, then the rapid response team is rapid. They’re in there within seconds and making sure that you, you know, the deputies are okay and that the inmates are okay, too, because, you know, obviously, if things get out of control, people are getting hurt. So you take away the most important tool of, on day one of how to keep your own personnel safe, and you give them no tools to replace that. It turned into an immediate catastrophe. I mean, one of the people that’s been helping me on my campaign was the 2019 deputy of the year, and she was in the, in our jail, which is one of the biggest in the country as a jailer for, you know, I think, 18 years. And so she was training other deputies and other jailers how to do their job, not only ours, but, you know, other sheriffs would send theirs in, too. And they begged her to stay on and continue training. She was going to leave when Sheriff Conway left. She stayed on for six. Well, she stay. Asked her to stay for six months. She agreed to, and within two weeks, she left. Now, she left because she saw what was going on and how she saw the writing on the wall immediately that, okay, we’ve got no way to maintain control because, you know, if we’re, if people are getting hurt, we can’t protect ourselves, let alone the inmates.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:02

And let me ask you a question, though. Obviously, I would imagine when Sheriff Akibo came in, there was a reason why he stopped it because there might have been, there was all these things going on right there.

Baron Reinhold 0:17:15

Well, yeah. He said if you go back and read the news clips in 2019, 2020, his justification for that was that there were some charges leveled against the rapid response team of using excessive force. And if that’s true or if that’s not true is a new leader. You come in and you, you, you deal with the problem. What he did was he came in and got rid of the tool. He even said, hey, it’s a good tool, but it’s being misused. So, you know, you don’t get rid of the tool. You, if people were being abusive, then you discipline them or you fire them and you keep the tool and you train more with those data points to make sure that, you know, abuse isn’t taking place.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:00

Okay, fair enough.

Baron Reinhold 0:18:01

But obviously, you don’t come in and you undercut your, your entire, all of your deputies and all of your jailers and don’t give them any tools to maintain control of the jail. So as they started leaving, things just have continued to spiral out of control. A jail that is supposed to have about 50 people per shift currently has about 20 people per shift. They used to have, the inmates used to have 8 hours a day out of the cell. Now they’ve got 1 hour a day. They’re locked up 23 hours a day. It’s crazy what’s going on in the jail right now.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:34

It seems like there’s not enough people. I know I’ve spoken to people in the Gwinnett police and such. There’s budget money there to hire, but there’s not enough applicants should say qualified applicants.

Baron Reinhold 0:18:47

Well, that’s only part of the issue. I mean, yes, law enforcement has had its challenges since 2020, but the reality is if you are an. An agency or a sheriff’s office that is, you know, is led by a good leader, then guess what? People don’t leave.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:07

People come there.

Baron Reinhold 0:19:08

So what we have seen in Gwinnett county is we’ve seen sheriff deputies and jailers flee this leadership because it’s untenable. As a matter of fact, I did, a couple years ago, I did this Suwannee Citizens Academy police academy, and it just so happened I got teamed up with a officer who worked for six months under Butch Conway, made the transition, and after a year, he took a significant pay cut to leave the sheriff’s office to go work for the city of Suwanee. And talking to him that night, it’s what every deputy I’ve talked to has said, whether I solicit the question or not, they’re like, yeah, it’s ridiculous. It became untenable, and they left inmate safety.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:53

I mean, it’s always been a problem, I think, in any jail, right, there’s only a certain amount of leeway you can do. Sometimes it can’t be helped, you know, with. You hear about these things all the time on, like, not in Gwinnett sheriff jails, but in federal jails or state jails, where there’s drugs in the jail, sometimes there’s other things going on, and that actually increases the inmate safety issue because other people causing problems among the population, if you will. What tools would you use to improve that or to reduce that? I mean, so it’s not just happening because. I don’t think it’s just happening because officers are being abusive, and some of them have been. It’s also being the other side of that. So what tools can a sheriff have to do? Do you plan on restructuring that whole command of how things are done?

Baron Reinhold 0:20:53

Yeah, I mean, immediately. I’ll reinstate and train a rapid response team. What we need is we need the proper numbers of deputies back in the jail cell. It’s a horribly dangerous job when you are critically undermanned. So the issue now is instead of being in charge of one cell block, they’ve got deputies, at times in charge of two, three, and up to four cell blocks. You know, that is. That is sheer insanity. And when you’ve got that type of. I mean, the inmates know that you can’t maintain control of them, and so things get. You know, things get crazy, and you can’t stop it. So what’s the answer to that? The answer is to keep people locked behind, you know, in their room 23 or in their cells 23 hours a day because you can’t control them. What’s that? Due to the mental health that makes people, you know, more angry. And when they do get out, there’s more problems. So all of these things are precipitated by the fact that, you know, the deputies in the law enforcement is a very tight knit community. So I just went through that, you know, quote unquote police academy. I’m post certified now. I went back in September through December. And, you know, all the guys, you know, a bunch of them were prior, you know, jail or were jailers before they were coming back to get their, you know, their full post certifications. And, you know, those guys, you know, talked in depth about all the different sheriff’s offices around the various counties and about all the different police. But, I mean, they know. And the word. It doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t say it doesn’t matter.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:21

The money.

Baron Reinhold 0:22:22

I mean, money is always attractive. But you know what? You have to have a force that people want to join, and that is incumbent upon the leader to create the environment where people love to work, where they know that their boss has their back. They know that their boss is, you know, is looking out for their career. They’re invested in, you know, in training and equipping them and so forth and so on. And that’s. I mean, the history of, you know, my background for 35 years is training and equipping and leading high, you know, high, highly performing organizations that are the number one of their type in the entire Navy. And you get, you know, there’s a. There’s a specific award called the Battle Efficiency Award. Now, they call it battle effectiveness Award. Same award, just. They changed the name, but you get that when it’s the number one unit of its type in the Navy. We won. We were awarded that back to. Back to back three years in a row when I was the commanding officer. So I know how to build organizations that people love to work in and love to do their job. And that’s what we need here. We need that type of leadership to bring people back. And I know that they’ll be back. I mean, people want to come back. I’ve talked to deputies all the time. They want to work here and Gwinnett, but they won’t work for this sheriff.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:37

Do you. Do you think that salaries or benefits have to change also?

Baron Reinhold 0:23:42

I mean, there needs to be. I mean, right now, if you listen on the radio, you can hear. You know, you can hear the. The Gwinnett county sheriff’s office, you know, spots on there all the time, and they’re, you know, attractive numbers and this, that and the other. But they’re not hiring anybody. I mean, they’re. Their numbers are single digits. You know, people are not coming to their hiring conferences, and they’re not responding to those ads, even though, you know, on the surface it sounds good because they know. They know that, you know, it’s better to work someplace for less money than it is for a boss that doesn’t support you. To answer your question, all of that stuff needs to be looked at, and we need to be the most competitive, pay in the area, and have the best leadership. And because the thing is, after you’ve trained people and you’ve equipped them and built the organization that they don’t want to leave, you don’t want to lose that talent. And those are the two key factors, to have the leadership and to have the money to support maintaining them there so they don’t train, move on.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:45

Yeah. And that’s been, I guess, the problem with law enforcement in the metro area. Right. They get trained in one place, like Gwinnett county has had that, where they train police officers, they work for two years, and then all of a sudden, they get hired away to a different county. Right. Maybe it’s closer to their home. You know, it’s a lot of different reasons. Right. I mean, our peach recorders. Sheriff Restrepo, chief. Sheriff Restrepo is a former Gwinnett county police officer, decided this would be a good place for him to be. Right. So people do leave. So, yeah, I mean, it’s hard enough to find people, even in the private sector, to do things, and it’s difficult all around. So unemployment is low, they say. I guess it’s low, but, yeah, paying bonuses do make a difference, and that’s something a sheriff has control over. Right. That’s not something that has to be decided at the city council level, at the county level, I don’t think.

Baron Reinhold 0:25:46

Well, I mean, certainly the budgets and the money come from the commissioners.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:51

Right. Total budgets. Right. But if you have, like, positions for 40 positions to be filled, but you can’t fill it, you still have that budget money in that line, I guess.

Baron Reinhold 0:26:02

And the other. Your point when you talk about personnel and money is, you know, this. The current sheriff, Sheriff Taylor, you know, has a command staff that’s completely bloated. He’s got all these really high level, high paying positions that he created, and, you know, and it’s like a three for one. The guy who’s actually doing the heavy lifting in the jails or serving warrants. Their pay compared to all of these created positions is way out of whack compared to what’s normative. And that’ll be something that we’ll go back through and rescale that to the right number and have the positions that are needed. But we’re not going to have fat in there, just collecting a paycheck and, you know, having duplicative jobs or whatever else. It’s not happening.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:52

So you’re not just auditing budgets and stuff. You’re going to be auditing the structure of the command. Who’s there? Okay. One of the things that you point out, too is constitutional training, mandating constitutional education, how to enhance the daily responsibilities of the deputies and jailers. So tell us a little bit about that. What you mean by that?

Baron Reinhold 0:27:16

Well, it’s interesting because, you know, 35 years in the navy and every time you have a promotion, you reaffirm your oath to protect the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And, you know, it might seem a little more intuitive, possibly for military personnel because we’re typically overseas and worrying about the people attacking the country and protecting our constitution in that capacity. But in order to do your job in law enforcement, you need to understand how the constitution applies to you. And that has to factor in to, I mean, you have to know because you’re swearing an oath to it, too. So what does it mean? You know, there’s, there are laws on the books and we’ve seen throughout history that there are times when, you know, mandates can come down that are not constitutional. So then the question becomes, is the senior law enforcement officer in the county, what are you going to do about that? And if people don’t understand the constitution, then they can’t work through that. And that’s important. I mean, I think it’s a big problem in America that the Constitution is more and more being ignored. And when you have a mandate that is a potential massive violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens, then the sheriff is the one that needs to engage them and let people know this will or this will not happen. And so, you know the sheriff to know it, then everybody also needs to know it because they need to understand why their command is taking a certain stand.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:50

Okay. That almost begs the question, though. Okay. That if you’re, if you’re, if the sheriff is supposed to enforce mandates that come down, these are, these are laws just like anything else that needs to be implemented. Sheriff can’t, I mean, it’s been done. Obviously, we see it at the federal level where certain laws are being ignored right now, is that right to do, can you slow walk that law, if you will, and not do it? You know, I get it that there’s priorities and that sometimes you might say, well, the priority is not that law. We’re not going to, we’re going to, we’re not going to step through and enforce that right. We’re going to be enforcing these other laws that really are important.

Baron Reinhold 0:29:38

But I wouldn’t put it that way because, yeah, I wouldn’t say, I mean, the laws are the laws and they need to be enforced as long as they’re not violated. For example, you know, you saw, I mean, I guess probably the best current example might be that in some counties during COVID you saw sheriffs arresting pastors for having church on Sunday. And in other counties, you saw sheriffs standing literally in the doors of churches, preventing, you know, state police from coming in and disrupting the services. So the question then becomes, you know, if the constitution is the authoritative law of the land and our Georgia constitution is also, you know, the authoritative law in Georgia, then unless there is something that says, okay, there’s no more religious freedom, then your job is to understand what is and what is not a legal declaration. And so you have to, because at the end of the day, the individual citizen, the last person between their constitutional rights being violated or not, is the sheriff of that county. So I’m not saying it’s normative that that happens, but I’m saying you have to recognize if something comes down that is not constitutional, it’s your oath. It’s your obligation, if you actually are going to fulfill your oath, to make sure that your citizens rights aren’t violated.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:03

Okay, I don’t disagree with you. I just. And we could leave it at that. But it’s just, someone has to, it’s like everything else. Someone has to decide then whether that’s unconstitutional. Now do we leave it up to the courts to decide that or the individual sheriff, lead sheriff, chief sheriff in a county to decide that? You know, and every county needs to be different.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:26

Yeah, if there are subtle things. That’s right. But yeah, something as egregious is, okay, you are not allowed to go to church. I mean, that is a gross violation of your religious freedoms, period.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:37

It is.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:38

I mean, you can, people might want to argue that, but it’s a gross violation.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:44

Okay. I could see that, you know, of course, the CDC and we don’t have to get into the politics of this, but, you know, if they feel it’s a health issue.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:52

You know, they’re, their feelings don’t. Don’t get to supersede the constitution, that’s for sure.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:00

Yeah, no, I get it.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:02

And whenever it does, that puts our entire society at risk. I mean, I’ve seen societies collapse, and I spent most of my life in those areas because of, you know, things getting out of control.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:15

And so, and I agree, it’s. It’s a fragile.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:18

We can’t allow that to happen here in the United States.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:21

It’s a fragile system. And we’re constantly fighting to keep democracy or our republic alive, if you will, because it doesn’t take much for, like you said, it really doesn’t take much, especially when we had the riots during the COVID time. Remember what CNN was almost broken into during the riots then? I just, like.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:44

You forgot the mostly peaceful riots.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:46

The mostly. Yes. Yeah, we could talk about that at some point, right.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:52

But, yeah, if you’re a cigar guy, come over the house and we can.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:56

Cigar and bourbon. There you go. Jail dogs program. So, I mean, that. That’s one of the things you mentioned, I think, in your. In your program about jail dogs, about branding. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:33:12

This is another example of. That’s insane that that program went away. Okay, so here’s a program that literally cost the taxpayers zero, not $0.01. It’s a phenomenal program for the mental health of the inmates. And, I mean, it’s a huge incentive for them to be on good conduct so that they can actually get an animal, so that they can train that animal. The mental health aspects of that are off the chart. And the jailers loved it because people would behave so that they could be in line to get a jail dog assigned. They would train the thing, have all this feeling of accomplishments, this, that and the other. The dog obviously is good for the dogs because they got saved, they got adopted out. And it was just, like I said, it didn’t cost a penny.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:03

So why was that? Is, is just.

Baron Reinhold 0:34:04

That’s just another example of failed leadership.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:09

Other things. You’ve mentioned vehicle branding. Right? So we’ll hit some of these other things quick. So vehicle branding was one. What’s with that?

Baron Reinhold 0:34:19

Yeah, exactly. What is with that? So right when we were right, when sheriff Taylor took over, he took all the county cars that belonged to the sheriff’s office and he. Yeah. Had his name painted on the back of him. I was like, okay, okay, seriously, you paid 100. Who God only knows how much money, you know, however much it is, if it’s over one cent, the Navy would call that fraud, waste and abuse. But the bottom line is, you know, he’s got his name spray painted all over these vehicles and county expense. The irony now is he, he can’t drive a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle up to a polling place because that’s, that’s, you know, campaigning. So if there’s a problem at a polling station, he can’t respond.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:01

Think about that.

Baron Reinhold 0:35:01

Yeah, so anyway, but it’s, it’s just ridiculous. That is, that is the pinnacle of arrogance and egotism in my mind. And, you know, to spend that money that frivolously on something like that.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:14

All right, beyond that, let’s talk about reassigning personnel. Part of it was bodyguards and drivers to other roles that benefit the short.

Baron Reinhold 0:35:23

So when, when you’re critically short of personnel to begin with, he’s got a bodyguard that goes around with them. He’s also got a driver. Actually, I think he’s got two drivers or has had two drivers. So, I mean, that’s manpower that’s critically needed in our jails or serving warrants because right now we have about 50,000 unserved warrants because more warrants come in than can get served every day because we’re critically short and people won’t work for this sheriff. So every day the warrants stack up. They can only serve so many. So every day he’s in office, you know, we’re just going to keep getting more and more warrants. I mean, I should say that aren’t, that haven’t been served.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:04

Okay. I don’t have anything against bodyguards. I mean, things can happen, right. It’s not, it’s not a study. It’s a violent society sometimes. So I don’t see why not have a bodyguard. But serving warrants, though, it’s a different story. Can’t that be done by private services contracted for, to be able to stem through that? I mean, a reasonable thing?

Baron Reinhold 0:36:27

Yeah, I think it’s reasonable. Especially when you don’t have the manpower or they won’t work for you, then, yeah, you better figure out a solution. And, but, you know, the last official number that I got, it was, you know, am I allowed to say leaked to me it wasn’t gotten through FOIA because I don’t have that much money to keep asking these questions to try to get official numbers. But this was an official number. It was 48,632 as of about a month ago. And every month it’s been going up.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:57

So, and to be fair, I mean, a lot of that may have been before his.

Baron Reinhold 0:37:02

Oh, yeah, like you said. But the fact that the numbers skyrocket because it’s warrant division is, you know, is been decimated. And by people leaving, we’re not getting. Every day that those individuals are walking around without having been brought in is a potential death or a potential violent act or a potential robbery or whatever else. So these are important things to get our arms around.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:31

It’s good to have that discussion. I mean, definitely, especially. It’s one thing to, to be one of, to voting for one of over 330 house reps. You know, they do make laws that affect people and stuff, but the sheriff system really has to be taken more seriously. Have we, towards the end of our time together, Baron, is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you want to share?

Baron Reinhold 0:37:58

Well, I would just again ask people to go on my website, it’s Baron Forgwinnett, and look up my background and look up all my proposals. At least my initial day one proposals are on there. Like I said, there’s a reason why Sheriff Conway, who was the sheriff for a quarter century here in Gwinnett county, endorsed me. And he sat down and he said, Baron, you’re the only person with the background and the senior level experience in command and the senior knowledge of budgets and how to make things happen and how to apply for money and how to engage the commissioners and on and on and on and with the personnel experience with running the entire Navy’s 388,000 personnel and keeping that manned. And part of that responsibility was the bonus structure for the entire navy and administering that. I mean, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses across the Navy. So, yeah, it’s obvious from his perspective that I’m the only person qualified that’s running to do that in a manner of sustained, superior performance, which is my track record. So I’ve always loved people. I’ve loved serving people my entire career. That’s the biggest thing I miss about the Navy is the fact that as I got more responsibility and more seniority, I could affect more and more people’s lives and their families lives and advocate for them more powerfully in their career. So I’m, you know, I’m looking forward to, you know, doing that leadership aspect, but also bringing our county and making our county safe and our jails safe and, you know, basically making it safe for, you know, the taxpayer or the tailor for the deputies and for our inmates. That’s, that’s the bottom line.

Rico Figliolini 0:39:49

Okay, so, okay, cool. People know where to find out more information. You’ve been out. There’s early voting going on, but we’ve recorded this. This was recorded on the 8th, on Wednesday. And so there’s early voting going on. I think that, I’m not sure when that ends.

Baron Reinhold 0:40:07

Early voting ends the 17th.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:09

17Th. Okay. The Friday before election day, which is May 21. And you’re running on the democratic?

Baron Reinhold 0:40:19

I’m running on the republican ticket.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:21

Republican ticket.

Baron Reinhold 0:40:22

And the primary. You know, it’s Mike Baker and I that are running against each other on the republican side. And then Kebo Taylor, who’s the incumbent, and Curtis Clemens, Joe Mark and Brian Whiteside are running on the Democrat against.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:38

So as opposed to people listening to this, as opposed to school board races, which are decided on this election May 21, since it’s a nonpartisan or deemed nonpartisan this race, once the ballots are decided. So if you’re looking to want to support Barron, obviously you need to pull the republican ballot to be able to do that. Or the democratic ballot if you want to vote on that side, too. Either way. And then the election actually runs through until November where decisions are made. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:41:11

So November, if I’m the candidate, then it’ll be running against. Well, there was probably going to be a runoff, my guess, on the Democrat side, since there’s not. But whoever wins that is going to be hopefully who I’m running against.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:26

Yeah, that seems like it. Well, Baron Reinhold, I appreciate you taking your time speaking to me about the issues of where you feel passionate about and how you feel you would handle the Gwinnett County Sheriff Department. People know where to reach you now, or at least where to find your information. And if they want to reach you via email or phone, the information is on your website, I’m assuming.

Baron Reinhold 0:41:50

Absolutely right.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:52

So hang in there with me for a minute. Everyone else, I appreciate you joining us listening to this. We’ll be doing some other candidate podcasts over the next week or so a few days. There’s a few more that I’ll be interviewing different races, so check it out and, you know, share this with your friends. Appreciate your time. Thank you everyone.

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