Thursday, October 23, 2014

GOP commission candidates go head to head


By Pat Cooper

On Monday night, three former Peachtree City mayors locked horns in the single debate marking the 2014 county commission race.
With the recent redistricting shifting, a swath of Peachtree City has been carved out to make up the bulk of the new District 3.
Right out of the gate, candidates handed out pointed references to their competition in a forum that bounced from discussion of the Fayette County Development Authority, what do they feel are duties that would be most important for Fayette residents, their position on switching from the Atlanta Regional Commission to the Three Rivers Commission, current issues with the county’s stormwater problems, and, ultimately, their stance on district voting.
“For seven years I’ve stressed the need for good paying office and industrial jobs,” noted Don Haddix. “In contrast, Harold Logsdon has pursued retail - Wilshire rezoning, Southern Pines annexation and rezoning, the Horse Farm annexation and rezoning, a traffic light at Line Creek and Hwy. 54 - all for the purposes of building more retail and another traffic light to cause more congestion on 54 that we do not need.
“As for Steve Brown, I’m really not sure what his focus is on development because he gets involved in everything. I believe that when you handle problems, you have to handle them correctly. The water department problem is a long known problem, but it was not handled until there was a crisis. They said it was unknown and the issues were hidden. That’s not true, because I had filed a lot of issues with the county. And when there was still bad water coming out of the tap, they were telling people to go ahead and drink the water, it was safe. Water problems are legal issues, not public service issues.”
Haddix went on to point out that the county’s stormwater infrastructure problems had not been handled properly, calling the proposed Core Infrastructure Special Local Option Sales
--See Commission Debate, page 2

Tax defeated in the November General Election was “total confusion and unwarranted.” Haddix also took issue with the $1.4 million the county had spent on the unfunded bypass project.
“That’s just like the $850,000 spent in Peachtree City on an unfunded golf cart project.”
Haddix put Logsdon in the center of the tennis center ‘fiasco,’ when he bailed out that issue and “sunk the city for $1.5 million. To this very day, the taxpayers are still paying that.”
Haddix also said that, at the time, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the matter needed to be investigated.
“Also conduct like forming a partnership with the city manager - that’s just not right folks. You don’t do that. And Harold Logsdon is a close friend and supporter of Jack Smith, former county commission chairman. We don’t need to go back to that thinking. And Steve Brown is four more years of what we went through. I think we can do better. I’m a fiscal conservative, who stands up for his constituents, and not special interests.”
Current county commission chairman Steve Brown said that “2013 signaled significant changes in the way business is handled at the county level. We’ve seen an economic momentum like you’ve never seen and it is going to continue. You’ve seen a change in the way business is handled and there is an openness and transparency like there has never been before in Fayette County. You’ve got a college campus starting in the center of the county. It’s something I’ve been working on since 2002 when I was mayor of Peachtree City. It was 2002 when we brought the first Clayton State satellite to the tennis center now it’s starting to bud in the center of the county.”
Brown said that the interchange at interstate 85 and highway 74 is “a reality” whose improvements will happen as they have already been budgeted and scheduled for 2015.
“We’ve made tough decisions. Don was right about the water. We have completely dismantled the system we had, we put in new personnel and we’ve put millions of dollars into it and have hired the best engineering firm in the world who are doing marvelous things for the system. The 2013 county commission has been accountable to the voters. You will have one of the best systems in the state when we are finished.”
As far as the county’s stormwater problems go, Brown agreed that there were decades of repair that needed to be done, specifically on three major dams in the county.
“One is ready to go, really. And it’s going to cause a loss of life and/or property if we dont’ do something about it. We have invested millions of dollars going after those problems.
“The board of commissioners, at our first meeting in January, gave a list of our values and our beliefs, starting with the Golden Rule, saying we want to treat you the way we want to be treated. We mounted that on a wall; we didn’t hide it in a book someplace. We challenge our citizens each and every meeting to see that we live up to that.”
Brown called the county cooperation with Fayetteville over the Pinewood annexation and rezoning “an award winning collaboration.”
Former mayor Harold Logsdon said the county was on the threshold of “enormous opportunities but needs the right person in office to effectively address these opportunities.
“Education ahs been one of our assets in the county. The superintendent and the board of education ensure that we have the highest possible education in the public schools but we can do more and look for new opportunities. Fayette is one of the largest communities in Georgia but doesn’t not have a technical college. Something else we can do better. With Pinewood Studios here in Fayette County, they’ve already kickstarted an era of higher education. Leaders need to come together, step forward and take advantage of this chance to have a direct impact on education at every possible opportunity. Over the next four years, we’re going to face major issues and our continued success will depend on planning and vision. Planning and visioning is the hub of the wheel that will drive us into the future. The spokes represent the issues and their connectivity will determine the viability of our county. These issues will be the impact of quality growth versus our desire to maintain a small town image. Addressing the needs of growing senior population. Attracting young professionals to this community by promoting live, work and play. Working with business and industry to provide skilled a workforce and building positive relationships with our cities and state. Successful communities select own path and you do that through strong, effective leadership.”
When questioned on their stance on district voting and whether they believed the new district map was severely gerrymandered, candidates werent’ hesitant to step up to the plate.
“Well, we voted to send it to the appellate court, so I think we’re opposed to it,” said Brown. “ The NAACP map is also heavily gerrymandered based on race. Case law says you can’t do that and we’re going to set a precedent in the United States if this goes through. I don’t know how it’s going to end up. There was a possible solution. My board gave me the approval to go and talk with the plaintiffs about a resolution. We were outright denied the ability to speak with them. We tried everything in our power. We weren’t told the case was going to land until it landed. I know the plaintiffs personally and I’m disappointed in the way this has turned out. I don’t see it doing anything to help this. I think it’s making things more contentious and I’m sad to see it. One of the plaintiffs said, in a letter to the newspaper, that it wasn’t about electing African Americans, but it was about electing who we wanted. That’s not what they said in their legal briefs. We think it’s about electing Democrats. And there is no constitutional protection for electing Democrats. You put your best ideas on the table, you fight the good fight and at the end of the day we’ll see. What we have now is a rift in our county and I hope we can heal it. We have a lot at stake.”
Logsdon said he thought the current county commission actually had the advantage of the advice of counsel on the appeal that he didn’t have access to.
“We gave to trust elected officials; they’ve decided to go forward with this appeal. I’ve been told that the attorneys for county are convinced that they will win on appeal. That they will prevail, much like Cynthia McKinney district that was thrown out on unlawful gerrymandering. This looks same way according to what I’ve been told by some attorneys. The cost isn’t going to be that much more going forward since we have spent it up front. They’re just making same argument to a group of judges. The percentage of cost will be small going foward. We’ve gotten in the fight whether wanted to not. When I’m elected, and get to sit down with the attorney and have advantage of the information the current commission has, then I can make an informed decision on that. Right now, the people talked to that our attorneys are convinced they can win this on appeal.”
Similarly, Haddix also pointed to a lack of information that is protected by attorney/client privilege.
“It’s hard to land on a definitive statement, so I’ll paint the best picture I can. I do not support preferential voting. I don’t support preferential treatment. I’ve lived in places where this has happened before. It’s never proved to be constructive. It’s always proved to be destructive. It divides the county, not unites it. To say yes or no to pursue it-- I don’t have the chance to review original pleadings or original case law. Without that, it would not be right to land on a definitive statement. I don’t like district voting. I never have. I wanted the county to be one district so anybody could run and everybody could vote.”


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