I-85 traffic and legislation from the latest session of the Georgia General Assembly were the topics of discussion at the April 13 Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting.

District 6 Councilman Alex Wan said he has heard the construction to replace the section of I-85 that collapsed is ahead of schedule and as long as rainy weather holds off it can remain that way.

Wan said he believes the Georgia Department of Transportation “wants to get this behind them as quickly as possible because of the material they were storing under the bridge.”

Beth Beskin, a Georgia state representative for District 54 in Buckhead, said she believes the responsibility for the collapse falls on the Georgia Department of Transportation, which was storing the conduit under the overpass that caught fire after a chair was allegedly ignited by Basil Eleby.

“I think ultimately it’s going to kind of be like the responsibility you have as a parent if your toddler picks up a gun and shoots someone,” the Republican representative said. “Why was all that stuff that’s so flammable under the freeway?”

Jeff Clark, the president of the Garden Hills Neighborhood Association, asked Wan if the city can use the navigation app Waze, which Clark partly blames for the increase in traffic, to mark neighborhood roads as blocked or to discourage people from cutting through neighborhoods. The conversation is especially timely now as neighborhood congestion has gotten worse following the I-85 collapse, Clark said. Nobody looks at the signs that prohibit through traffic, but they pay attention to the Waze app, Clark said.

Wan responded that the city doesn’t use Waze to mark roads that are for local traffic, only for roads or lanes that are blocked for everyone. However, the city was using Waze for that purpose, but stopped April 13, citing driver confusion. 

Using Waze and finding solutions for neighborhood traffic will have to wait until I-85 is reconstructed, or at least until people adjust to commute changes, Wan said.

Beskin and another Republican state representative at the meeting, Deborah Silcox, who represents District 52, discussed several pieces of legislation proposed during the latest legislative session, including campus carry, adoption reform, assaulting of police officers and medical marijuana. 

A medical marijuana bill passed this session expands the list of eligible conditions, and Silcox said she supports it based on the anecdotal evidence she heard during testimony on the bill.

Silcox also discussed a bill passed that imposes a $5,000 fine for people convicted of assaulting a police officer, saying that she supports it given what she sees as rising violence against cops in the past few years.

“We have to have police, and no one’s going to want to be a policeman if they’re going to get shot,” Silcox said.

A campus carry bill passed for the second year, which both Beskin and Silcox voted against. It was vetoed in 2016 by Gov. Nathan Deal because the bill did not prohibit guns in childcare areas or areas where high schoolers are taking classes on campuses, both of which the 2017 bill prohibits.

“We’ll see whether that’s really what the Governor was concerned about last year,” Beskin said, adding that she doesn’t know if he will veto it or not.

The general assembly was close to passing a bill that would reform the adoption process in Georgia, which the state desperately needs, Beskin said, but at the last minute the Senate added an amendment to the bill that resembles so-called “religious freedom” bills that have been proposed in previous sessions, she said. The amendment allowed private adoption agencies that receive state funding to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.  The Speaker of the House took the last minute addition “very personally”, Beskin said, and the Senate never relented on the amendment so the bill ultimately failed.

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