Between the ongoing battle on the dais and letters to the editor, it’s looking like the biggest battle of the election year is going to be waged between a candidate and an incumbent who isn’t even running for anything.
This past weekend, Peachtree City Eric Imker penned an article condemning votes and comments made by not only incumbent Mayor Don Haddix but also his wife Cathy, who is running for a council seat. This came on the heels of a heated war of words from the dais at the Thursday night council meeting.
Both Haddix’ took exception to the onslaught from Imker, both from the dais and the newspaper.
The arguments range from parking meters at city hall to budgets, tax increases, strategic plans and the disbanded development authority.
Imker’s initial volley came at the council meeting where he said he was upset that “his name had been used improperly” by candidates.” The comments erupted into an angry discussion of blogging, misrepresented statements and budgeting meetings.
The incumbent councilman, in a weekend guest column, talked about Haddix’s desire to double the mayoral and council salaries, took issue with Don Haddix’ statement that “we haven’t looked at all incoming income and outgoing expenses,” pointing out that the city held a two-day budget workshop to review all department budgets in detail.
“Every expense item including contracts were reviewed to the nearest dollar to develop a five year budget recovery plan,” claimed Imker.
According to Haddix, in the budget projections, property values will increase two percent each year, compounded annually, with no millage rollback.
“There is another tax increase proposed for next year. So, you will be paying 2.14 mills per year on homes of increased value. You will pay more in property tax every year.
Imker has repeatedly stated a goal of their budget plan is to spend the reserve down to 20 percent. So, if home values do not increase, it will spend down even faster.” Haddix shot back. “He [Imker] keeps claiming their budget thinking has solved a $22 million problem, with only a $1 million problem in 2015. Reality is, using his basis for the $22 million claim, we now have a $35 million plus short fall. There is $15 million in debt in the budget and there is about a $20 million unfunded need for paths and streets. Plus, yet to be proposed, a new Facilities bond. “
Imker also took issue with Haddix’ stressing of a Strategic Comprehensive Plan.
“They’re offering a plan to develop a plan we already have. Last year, Haddix was asked over a dozen times and given the chance to offer up what he’d do to change the budget but said he wasn’t going to tell us.”
“He claims the budget is the plan,” said Haddix. “But, as all you business people know, a budget is not a business plan. A business plan sets goals, priorities, spending limits and sources of revenue, in example. The budget is a result of the business plan, but not the business plan itself. The city equivalent of a business plan is a Comprehensive Strategic Plan.”
Haddix said Imker and the members of the council disregarded the findings of the citizens needs assessment committee for budget allocations.
One ongoing bone of conention for both elected officials has been the disbanding of the city’s development authority.
“This is the same authority that got Peachtree City into trouble costing the tax payers $1 million for the tennis center debacle AND borrowing an outrageous amount to obtain swamp land on the GA54 West corridor with the highest interest rate and terms so bad we can't even pay it off because of penalty clauses. This is the same development authority the Haddix’ want to bring back. The same non-accountability to the citizens and power to incur debt that tax payers would ultimately be responsible to pay,” said Imker.
“This is a total evasion of the truth,” says Haddix. “Also, how would Imker have a clue who did what in all these efforts when he was never involved? I had taken part in the meetings held locally and at Georgia Tech. All of those meetings were DAPC initiated and led.”
Imker says that Haddix believes the money spent on the Fayette County Development Authority’s involvement to sell and retain business in Peachtree City is a waste of money.
“Please explain how $55M in new business the FCDA got us this year with more to come is not beneficial,” Imker asked.
“The Fayette County Development Authority does not do small or middle sized businesses. Nor do they do redevelopment, which we need in Peachtree City. At the last council meeting even Imker noted the FCDA focus was on Tier 1 Industries and businesses, not Tier 2 or Tier 3.
“As anyone in economic development will tell you, big is great, but medium to small drive a local economy.”
“What the heck is Imker talking about in his rant about special interest groups? My platform clearly states I will be an advocate for citizens,” said Cathy Haddix, “not belonging to any special interest groups. This was not about him or any mention of him. One point of my platform he failed to criticize was adhering to the city charter. This is not surprising.”
“On the 54 West Traffic Light issue, Imker says, ‘there is no support for an additional traffic light on Georgia 54 west. There is no plan for rail. Ideas are bandied about, considered and then dismissed’,” said Haddix.
“On the agenda asking council to take a stance against adding another traffic light onto 54W, Imker, [Kim] Learnard and [Vanessa] Fleisch tried to stop the vote. When I did not allow it, they abstained, claiming they first needed to see a development plan to see if they liked the proposal enough to allow a light,” said Haddix.
“Imker tried to argue an abstain was a neutral vote, no position. The city attorney rejected his argument. It counts as a 'no' vote.
“If no support for a traffic light, the correct vote was 'yes.' Anything else says they could very well vote for a light.”
Haddix addressed each point Imker brought up in his editorial with Cathy Haddix ultimately pointing out, “As he invited Don, repeatedly, to resign, if we both get elected, which will obviously greatly upset Imker, maybe he should realize the voters have rejected his agenda and that he maybe should take his own advice.”