With a fair sized slate of candidates for the Peachtree City council thanks to three open slots, voters popped up in several political forums this season to try to get a handle on what the candidates stood for.
Fayette Newspapers asked the council candidates a series of questions to give voters an idea where each stood.
The candidates will be presented will be presented by Post (2,3,4) and in alphabetical order in the first question. In succeeding questions, they will be identified by initial preceding their responses.
(Ed note: Despite frequent attempts, candidate Austin Chanslor had not responded by press time)
What do you propose to do, in conjunction with the rest of the council members, to help promote economic development in Peachtree City?
City Council Post 2
Mike King: First, allow the Fayette County Development Authority to continue its good work. Having an employee as part of FCDA and actually funded by Peachtree City assures the interests of our city are maintained. I have no intention of resurrecting Peachtree City's former development authority as long as FCDA continues to be as successful as it has over the past two years.
Shayne Robinson: I will encourage the City to continue to work closely with Emily Poole, PTC’s representative on the Fayette County Development Authority, on incentive programs for existing and future businesses. The City needs to look at our land use ordinances ensuring that we are well situated to encourage new business.
City Council Post 3
Kim Learnard: I will continue to support the city staff position of Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) manager. It pays to have a full time professional dedicated to the job: our BRE manager is already ushering in four expansions, two new businesses, more than 200 new jobs, and $55M in new investment to Peachtree City. Additionally, dozens of Georgia communities are recognizing significant positive economic impact as a result of creating education programs that are linked to local jobs. I will continue to cultivate partnerships between our public school system, local colleges, and Peachtree City industries to facilitate these important programs.
Cathy Haddix: Small and medium businesses along with re-development would bring in good paying job opportunities. Jobs would bring in young families, who buy homes, thereby enlarging the PTC revenue base. A restored and enhanced DAPC, with a director and seven volunteers, working for PTC, is definitely needed for PTC. With separate funding capabilities and duties from FCDA, it worked before and will work again. I would advocate to council to move this agenda forward. It is currently not working with only the FCDA. We need DAPC and the FCDA working in partnership. It is not one or the other.
Council Post 4
Terry L. Ernst: Once the new council is in place we will review each council members thoughts and the thoughts and desires submitted by our community citizens. We will work together as a team with the Fayette County Development Authority to promote our economic development. With Pinewood Studios moving to the area we have a golden opportunity to promote our great city as a place to open a business and move here to raise a family. There is no safer place to live in our county than Peachtree City.
Stephanie Franz: We need to identify industries that are a good fit for PTC and present ourselves to them. We have something different from every other suburban city in the U.S. and we need to let people know why we are different and what we have to offer. The tech industry and medical research industry could be a good fit for us. Let's see if we can get them here and build businesses.
What are your proposed resolutions for the traffic problem on the city’s western boundary?
MK: First, I have to say that I'm no magician as I possess no cure-all to the problem. The first thing I believe Council should do is to ask the police Department to make suggestions based upon traffic statistics they have maintained over the years. Realizing this is simplistic, but can anyone say that we have involved our police force regarding the issue? The entity that actually has the authority to do something is Georgia DOT as Hwys 54 and 74 are state roads, and as a city council we can only make a recommendation. It is my belief that further studies, especially those funded by the residents of Peachtree City, will accomplish very little.
The upgrades to the Interstate 85 intersections at Hwy 74, Exit 56 going to Tyrone, and the exit at Fischer Road will certainly relieve a good bit of the pressure, but as long as the industrial areas to our north and east provide employment opportunities, and to our west Coweta County continues to offer affordable housing with a similar lifestyle to what we have in Peachtree City, we're simply caught in the middle. Additional traffic lights are not the answer, but if we judiciously have some intersections be right turn lanes only, such as between The Avenue and Smokey Bones, we may well shorten the time spent in bumper to bumper traffic.
SR: GA 54 and GA 74 are State highways. The City has been and will continue to work with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Coweta County to find resolutions to the traffic problems on those roads.
KL: The new Council will formulate and prioritize a list of solutions, to include a comprehensive traffic study of the entire corridor; adaptive and/or responsive traffic control systems; an additional interior lane in both directions from the intersection of 54/74 going west; and the possibility of connecting MacDuff Parkway at Kedron Drive north. (By the way, if anyone reports that Council approved $500,000 for a traffic study, they are mistaken. I will be happy to share with them the facts relative to the SPLOST list revision dated September 13, 2013.)
CH: The solution to the congestion of 54W will rely on diverting Coweta traffic away from 54/74. Redesigning the intersection, adding a traffic light or two more traffic lanes does nothing to alleviate the amount of traffic passing through that corridor. The Fischer Road connection to I-85, contrary to others, is in fact on the GDOT list, is a partial answer. The other being the MacDuff extension, which would be completed via a developer agreement, not by PTC taxpayers. In about four years studies for the 2020 Transportation Plan are required with 80% Federal Funding. Why pay $500,000 now? Logic, not politics.
TE: First of all I would ask Chief Clark and his department for their input and suggestions. I am not sure the current council has done that. The police department has a history of traffic studies done on both highway 54 and highway 74 using their SMART trailer to obtain records of traffic flow, speed, etc. Sometimes it pays to ask the day to day experts who work this issue. There are some very intelligent officers in the department who seem to come up with some ingenious ideas. Completing MacDuff Parkway is a necessity as well as being a positive working partner with DOT to help them help us.
SF: Our traffic problems on the western boundaries can not directly be solved by City Council. These are State roads and in order to get our problems addressed we need to build a better relationship with GDOT.
How will you go about maintaining accord among council members, without the vitriol that has been a pattern at too many meetings of late?
MK: I do not propose to dictate how other Council members react to one another, but I do believe that as mature adults we can disagree without being disagreeable. I have no reservation about reminding anyone in public service that as representatives of Peachtree City we should be held to a higher standard of decorum. In other words, as a Councilman I will take the high road.
SR: Peachtree City interests come first and foremost. Conducting oneself in a professional manner earns the respect of those you work with. Respect breeds a healthy working environment.
KL: Voters will solve this problem on November 5th. I’m looking forward to working with a new Mayor and Council comprised of positive leaders who will conduct themselves in a dignified and professional manner worthy of our wonderful city.
CH: Conflict vs. Animosity vs. Differences of opinion. Personal attacks and gotcha agendas must end. Give and take, research of issues and a willingness to work with the entire Council should be priority one. Currently, both by the City Charter and Legal Counsel, merely having a three vote can set a discussion into a tail-spin by overruling the Mayor. Calling it out of order when it gets contentious and lacks decorum should be above challenge.
The City Charter should contain rules of conduct and clearly define what each elected can and cannot do. Then make it enforceable.
TE: When I declared to run as a public servant to continue to serve my community after retiring from the police department, one of my main issues was to stop the embarrassment the current council was causing to our city. I have been working together with people as a leader for over 40 years now. I believe most all of the candidates running in this election want to see a council come together and work as a team to promote our city as one of the very best cities in America to live and raise a family. I will do my best to be a positive influence on each council member and bring them together as a team so we can handle the important issues of our city and move us forward.
SF: By paying attention and following the rules of Boundaries, Authority, Role, and Task – rather than getting mired with personal issues that do nothing to further a solution. Personal issues are simply a means to avoid doing your work. I will stick to the task at hand without being distracted by external influences – such as differences in personality and approach.
Are you in favor of the currently proposed Core Infrastructure Local Option Sales Tax? Why? If not, why not? If the SPLOST doesn’t pass, how do you propose to handle paying for the repairs and maintenance on the city’s golf cart paths and streets?
MK: I am not in favor of the proposed SPLOST because local governments have a core responsibility to budget for roads and, in Peachtree City, cart paths. To simply state that if the SPLOST fails, we'll raise taxes is simply an abdication of the Council's responsibility. Who on Council can guarantee that if the current SPLOST passes all funds will be directed to roads and paths. We've been down this road far too many times before. I propose that should the SPLOST fail, we take the total cost of the revenue required to pay for both road and path maintenance and pay for it over a period of three to five years by reducing the city's budget, the cash reserves, and a tax increase by an equal amount in order to fully fund the projects. This way, we can specify that these funds are explicit for road and path maintenance without exception, and not have to resort to borrowing additional funds to pay for what is actually an operating expense.
SR: I am opposed to the SPLOST. Those taxes are always a short-term fix that enables the politician to avoid the tough decisions. Council and staff already are exploring budget options to fund our beautiful cart system. I would like to look at possible grant money programs since golf carts and bicycles are alternative forms of transportation that may qualify us for grant money.
KL: In a recent City Council meeting, we reviewed seven options for funding roads and cart paths in the coming years. The least costly option for PTC taxpayers is the Core Infrastructure SPLOST. I support the SPLOST because it is a smart business decision for our citizens. If the SPLOST does not pass, then we will consider several other options such as issuing General Obligation Bonds, raising the millage rate, or a combination of other options, starting in FY2015.
CH: What has become disturbing and depressing about the SPLOST is some saying it is a good stop gap measure until we can do something else later. Let me translate; keep taxing me now, spend it all, find ourselves right back where we are now, and then repeat the cycle, changing nothing. No more. If it does not stop now, when? First, get our house (PTC) in order, via a Comprehensive Strategic Plan, and then move forward with a long term Plan, not more fingers in the leaky dam. If the SPLOST does not pass, reread above.
TE: I believe this proposed SPLOST needs to be approved but only because it is for only two years. Every indication is that passing this SPLOST would bring the city almost 14 million dollars to be used for cart path and road repairs that the current council did not budget for. This will give the city staff and the new council time to budget for the future in these areas so we never again encounter the situation we have put ourselves in today. If the SPLOST does not pass we will be required to limit repairs and purge the budget to find the necessary funds to make the repairs that must be made. No one wants to consider the other alternative.
SF: Yes. I have researched the proposal and it is the best way to get needed monies for the repairs that we have been putting off and avoiding for to long. At this point there aren't any popular options; we need at least $1.5 million a year for our roads and cart paths and our city budget is about as slim as it gets. Plan B is to finance by using a bond and to increase property tax, which is very unpopular.
By any standard, Peachtree City’s residents are a graying community, as young people leave the community after receiving an excellent education in the county’s school system. What do you propose to bring back the youth to our community?
MK: First, we must focus on bringing in the types of retail outlets that attract younger families. We then must insure that the cost of living in Peachtree City is comparable to our surrounding cities and towns while offering the quality of life that many of us long time residents have enjoyed over the years and have come to expect. Revitalization efforts in our aging subdivisions will require the coordination and cooperation between private enterprise and the city government, but if done properly, this can go a long way to attract younger families.
SR: Our Convention and Visitors Bureau is an awesome tool! I will support their efforts promoting PTC and our quality of life. We need to continue highlighting the award winning schools in Peachtree City, our parks and recreation facilities along with the many and diverse recreation programs, our multi-use path system, our cultural events and amphitheater, our regional airport and proximity to the Atlanta airport, and our proximity to Atlanta since PTC is a commuter city for the jobs in the Metro Atlanta area.
KL: Incredibly, Peachtree City businesses and industries currently have jobs available that they cannot fill. CEOs and HR Directors attest that they do not have the technically skilled workforce they need, yet they are willing to offer metrizing, job shadowing, internships, and other opportunities to today’s students in order to add relevance to the learning and value to the businesses. It is these relationships and these jobs that will attract technical workers (and, intrinsically, young families) back to our community once they finish college. Partnering our businesses with the public school system and local colleges will benefit the entire Fayette community.
CH: Jobs are the key and economic development is the path to achieving success.
Young families value family time and neighborhoods. Commuting takes them away from both for too much of their day. They do not want to commute.
We already have the amenities, but they have proven to not be the answer, so what is the answer? Through economic development and redevelopment of PTC.
We currently are not even in the game. DAP was in the game until dissolved. The FCDA's focus is large employers, not middle or small.
We need it all. We need DAP back.
TE: Current council member Kim Learnard is currently working very hard and making significant progress in bringing a college to Peachtree City. As a hopeful new council member I would like to work with the local high schools to allow our council members the opportunity to meet with students before they graduate and leave high school to remind them of what Peachtree City has to offer young families. Safety and security are on top of the list. Job opportunities, education for children and a pretty easy commute to and from downtown Atlanta make our city a very attractive option. When I returned from Germany my military sponsor sent me the Peachtree City magazine. The information provided and the people I met once I arrived here made my family decide this is the place we wanted to retire and raise our children and grandchildren. This is and will continue to be our home.
SF: Focus on industries that young people find appealing and see a future in: Technology. Let them know what we have to offer to them as a community and how they can participate and build something new here. The first impression most young people have of a city comes from online research – thus our online presence should be dynamic, responsive, and informative beyond the scope of a run-of-the-mill website that provides only cursory information. Today's young adults are not looking to live in bedrooms communities, they are looking to live somewhere where they can be a part of something. We offer what they want and we need to let them know this through our website.
What do you see is Peachtree City’s single biggest problem and what do you recommend to help fix the problem?
MK: Our biggest problem is our aging population. Not enough has been done over the past decade to reverse this trend. The advent of the movie industry coming to Fayette, specifically Pinewood, will certainly bring with it an influx of younger residents, and we must take full advantage of this. We must also acknowledge the expansion of NCR and Panasonic and other businesses that have been with us for much longer and Peachtree City must continue to be the host these businesses expect us to be.
SR: Managing the budget has always been a difficult task for council. The key to us successfully moving forward is to work closely with staff to audit our assets, budget and schedule work for immediate issues, and plan for the long term maintenance of our infrastructure. That will require council and staff to be on the same page by developing a plan and sticking to it.
KL: Sadly, in the last couple of years, Peachtree City has made quite a name for ourselves at the county, region, and state levels, and it isn’t positive. Our city is now famous for conflict, negative headlines and embarrassing news stories. On November 5th we have the opportunity to right these wrongs. Please join me in declining to vote for candidates who blog, raise their voices, walk out of meetings, or put others down. Let’s elect leaders who truly strive to make our city a better place. Peachtree City, our best years are ahead of us – let’s make something positive happen!
CH: We need to fund our city, which is not happening now. That requires two things.
First, a Comprehensive Strategic Plan. A goal requires a Plan.
Second, jobs fuel the economic engine that generates the money that runs the city.
Take back the $75,000 we are furnishing the FCDA for one person. A Director plus 7 professional volunteers in PTC can do more. It is a partnership, not competition.
DAP accomplished great things with only $35,000 a year and 7 volunteers. When dissolved, redevelopment and small to medium industrial recruitment ended.
DAP = jobs = home sales = retail = broader revenue base.
TE: When you look around the Metro Atlanta area, Peachtree City has few major problems. We do have issues that need to be corrected but overall this is a great place to live. The City Council represents the people and these representatives need to work together for the good of the people and the city. The current Council has exhibited difficulty in coming together as a team and their behavior at times has been less than professional. I think this is where we need to start: Bring together a team of professionals that are dedicated to the development and security of Peachtree City and its residents.
SF: PTC’s greatest problem is our need to attract more young people and new industry here. As we grow older we no longer pay the school portion of our property taxes. If a large portion of the residents aren't paying into the school system, the schools become under-funded. Without good schools, we lose some of our property value and find it harder to sell our homes. I firmly believe we can attract new industries here that people will want to be a part of. We need to work with FCDA and CVB to do the footwork to bring them here.