Qualifying for our municipal elections in Peachtree City will be conducted Monday, August 16 to Friday, August 20 at City Hall. Three posts are up for grabs: mayor, council post 3, council post 4. We will know what our options are on August 21.
While we await the final slate of candidates, it is certainly worth looking at some of the more telling details leading up to qualifying.
Three former city elected officials have announced an interest in running for mayor, each has a voting record.
Current council member Terry Ernst has expressed that he will also quality to run for mayor. Likewise, first term current council member Kevin Madden is eligible to run again for council post 3.
Both Ernst and Madden are affable fellas that I have known for well over a decade. Even though I appreciate their courteous, easy ways, their actions as city council members have me running in the opposite direction, offering zero support.
We have had previous administrations who showed a disregard for the city’s celebrated land plan and zoning strategy. A couple of administrations, including the current one, have simply thrown the land plans of our award-winning “master planned community” to the ground, stomped on it and lit them on fire.
Council Member Ernst was part of the complot to wedge a massive Great Wolf Lodge water park adjacent to several subdivisions. Obviously, the will of the people was not to build such behemoth developments to the detriment of our subdivisions. Undeterred, Council Members Ernst and Mike King along with Mayor Vanessa Fleisch pressed hard to ram the project through. Council Members Eric Imker and Kim Learnard were solid “no” votes.
The citizens rose up, stormed the City Council meeting and here is The Citizen Editor Cal Beverly’s firsthand observation of our response on the Great Wolf Lodge and its City Council supporters, “Well-prepared and unemotional residents schooled the council on what city zoning ordinances actually say. Ordinary citizens shredded the city planner’s rationalization for approving a variance.” Beverly continued, “Had not the citizens risen up in protest, the final vote would have been a victory for GWL, 3-to-2,” (https://thecitizen.com/2015/04/21/trail-wolf/).
Council Member Kevin Madden joined the City Council in 2018. Unfortunately, the new council members did not alter the wayward direction of the elected body and the attempted land use carnage persisted.
Ernst, Madden and colleagues found that the way to solve any problem is to keep raising taxes and fees. They proceeded to move on a list of non-essential projects, creating more long-term maintenance costs, and added a hefty pay raise for themselves, only taking a serious look at taming the city budget this year (surprise, surprise an election year).
Other City Councils in the past would try to sneak exceptions to our vaulted land plan through without anyone looking. However, this current council is content to cram it down our throats. First came the over-built Aberdeen Center plan that met riotous opposition. It was their first attempt at force-feeding the citizens more apartment complexes.
Mayor Fleisch complained we were “being stuck in our ways,” and our planning efforts that have kept us in the top-tier of cities in the southeastern United States for the past 20 years was no longer viable (https://thecitizen.com/2020/08/23/mayor-fleisch-peachtree-citys-village-concept-is-changing/). The City Council was determined to replace retail and industrial developments with apartment complexes, the antithesis of what the city needs.
Next Ernst, Madden and colleagues pushed the Calistoa project, converting prized industrial land to apartments and retail shops, all at the end of the airport runway. A filled council chamber shouted that one down (https://thecitizen.com/2019/05/21/council-was-correct-to-deny-calistoa-rezoning/).
Recently, Ernst, Madden and colleagues defended the shocking and contemptible Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) plans that calls for thousands of apartment units built in each quadrant surrounding the ever-clogged intersection at Highways 74 and 54. Even worse, some of those multi-family complexes were planned to be build over city parks, playgrounds and protected greenspaces, how shamefully anti-Peachtree City (https://thecitizen.com/2020/11/01/lci-meeting-insult-to-peachtree-city-residents/).
Ernst, Madden and colleagues approved a hotel to be built on prized industrial land that the Planning Commission voted down. The Planning Commission also disapproved of 308 apartment units going in next the approved hotel (https://thecitizen.com/2021/02/24/planning-commission-seems-to-dislike-rezoning-for-308-apartments-in-south-peachtree-city/).
Tired of a volunteer citizen commission looking out for the taxpayers, the City Council stripped our long-standing Planning Commission of all its authority (https://thecitizen.com/2021/02/25/demoted-planning-commission-can-no-longer-protect-residents-from-bait-and-switch-apartment-rezonings/).
If you think that retaliating against the citizen volunteer Planning Commission was disgraceful, Ernst, Madden and colleagues also officially limited the number of citizens who took their valuable time to be at the council meeting to only five citizens who get only two minutes each. That’s right out of 39,000 citizens only five are allowed to speak at the meeting. Obviously, they are not “public servants” and silencing the constituents has become their forte. The taxpayers get a whopping 10 minutes!
The council members have reminded us that if they feel like deeming someone worthy of speaking, if they want to make the time, they can allow additional serfs to speak for two minutes, but only if they feel like it as they are under no obligation to do so.
Both Ernst and Madden were also part of one of the most atrocious acts ever taken by a local government in Georgia. This current City Council attempted to pass a resolution allowing them to use taxpayer funds to sue local citizens who complained about their unsavory actions, so appalling it takes your breath away.
Editor Cal Beverly laid it out quite well, the resolution “would allow a thin-skinned elected council member or a self-important city official to turn the money, power and legal apparatus of a local government like a loaded gun into the faces of ordinary citizens and haul them at great expense into Fayette Superior Court and sue them for ‘defamation,’” (https://thecitizen.com/2019/04/17/a-dangerous-ordinance-in-the-service-of-self-important-egos/).
As you can imagine, we all rallied at the City Council meeting, young and old, and lambasted our elected officials for their brazen, arrogant and self-centered conduct. The motion failed.
So for the average observer who can digest the facts and review the linked articles enclosed, why on earth would anyone vote for candidates who constantly push massive projects that the citizens have to pack the council chamber to fight on a consistent basis?
The flawed logic that somehow building large apartment complexes on prized industrial and city park land is of any value to us is reprehensible. Likewise, the audacity of demolishing the Planning Commission and showing a total disregard for the constituents deserves no support on Election Day.
Don’t tolerate the disrespect. Early voting begins in October, please make it a point to vote.
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Commission.]