Election time is upon us as early voting has begun for Fayette County’s municipalities.
The Peachtree City mayoral election has an interesting cast of characters worthy of a Netflix series. If you will allow the parody, with our cast of candidate characters in Peachtree City, let’s call this drama “House of Carts.”
I have known Terry Ernst (a current city councilman) for over 15 years. Like many others, I have been totally shocked by his actions on the City Council.
Ernst supported building more apartment complexes and the public backlash forced his retreat. He removed all authority from the citizens on the city’s Planning Commission. New developments are now ‘smoke and mirror’ presentations with details subject to change at a moment’s notice.
Furthermore, Ernst’s voting record consistently supports creating higher taxes and fees. Likewise, angry citizens filed into the council chambers when Ernst supported using taxpayer funds to file lawsuits against citizens who criticized the acts and conduct of the City Council. (His rating is one golf cart out of five.)
The antagonist in our “House of Carts” drama is the far-left Nick Ferrante. This young avid Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jon Ossoff, and Stacey Abrams devotee wants to bring the far-left change to Georgia and Peachtree City.
Ferrante has received a glowing endorsement from the political group Down Ballot Dems and their “change starts locally” campaign that includes voting with no identification, ballot harvesting, and voting rights for illegal aliens.
Peachtree City is a top-tier city and we do not need woke safe-spaces and left-leaning politicians constantly reprimanding the micro-aggressions of the Baby Boomers who appreciate the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement, and refuse to kneel for the National Anthem.
The rallying cry against Ferrante is, “Don’t California our Peachtree City!” (His rating is one golf cart out of five.)
A hard-wearing character actor in “House of Carts” is the well-informed curmudgeon Don Haddix. Out of all the mayoral candidates, Haddix supplies the deepest knowledge of the issues and provides the most definitive responses.
Love him or hate him, Haddix’s Achilles heel has always been coalition building. You cannot get anything accomplished without three votes of the City Council. (His rating is three golf carts out of five.)
The hot-blooded rivalry on “House of Carts” is between two former Peachtree City Council Members, Kim Learnard and Eric Imker.
Democrat Kim Learnard spent a great deal of her time on City Council pursuing Board of Education matters.
Learnard spent nearly two full years of a four-year City Council term chasing and exploring the creation of an educational facility she called the Fayette College and Career Academy. The problem was the Fayette County Board of Education was not interested in the proposal and it would be their responsibility to facilitate the project.
It was awkward as Learnard circumvented the Board of Education and led the creation of a local corporation, making herself the CEO, to pursue a very expensive educational project that the Board of Education had no desire to build. The Board of Education decided it was better to create some in-house programming on student career development.
The inability of Learnard to coalesce with other Fayette jurisdictions and her taking the focus off important issues facing the city to chase a project where the city had no responsibility is troubling.
Learnard raised traffic concerns as an issue in the platform section of her website, but her eight years on the City Council was devoid of any real movement on creating a solution for the highways 74 and 54 intersection. In fact, she voted on rezoning and development that intensified the traffic debacle on highway 54-West. Her website says we need to talk about it some more.
A major concern with Learnard is her failure to address governmental finance issues, including increasing expenditures without generating enough revenue. Her voting record shows continual support for higher taxes and fees, drawing deep from reserves to balance budgets some years.
Learnard’s attempt at budget cuts was suspect with the wholesale gutting of the Public Works ground/facilities maintenance, leaving the city’s appearance to deteriorate rapidly. Future City Councils spent huge sums of tax dollars re-purchasing grounds equipment and hiring new employees to compensate for the fiasco.
The alarm bells go off when reading Learnard’s position on rezoning and adopting what appears to be the disgraced Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) plans for Huddleston Road right in the epicenter of our massive traffic dilemma on highway 54-West. Pouring gasoline on that traffic fire would be an absolute disaster! (She gets three carts out of five.)
The other real contender in the “House of Carts” series is former City Council Member Eric Imker. He might be the only candidate in any of the races who have taken serious positions on the traffic crisis at the intersection of highways 74 and 54 towards Coweta County.
Imker was the only candidate to say, “Work with GDOT to stop the no-value added $9M expenditure on the intersection of GA54/74 and retarget that money to better improve GA54 East & West bound.” I was personally in the meeting with the GDOT engineer who referred to the lame intersection proposal as a “budget-constrained project” which means they only had $9-10 million in the budget so we have to settle for a project that will provide almost no traffic relief.
I was impressed that Imker realized that if the city accepts the GDOT’s ineffective low-ball proposal that it will put us at the back of the line for funding a viable long-term solution for the intersection.
He also stands with most local citizens on not wasting tax dollars saying, “We’re not doing yet another ‘Traffic Study’ [on the 74/54 intersection]. We know the problem. No need to waste another $100,000 on it.” Also, Imker has made it clear he is opposing residential and commercial rezoning on Huddleston Road which would be a nightmare and a significant burden to the existing traffic calamity in that area.
Out of all the candidates, Imker definitely has the best grasp of the government finances, other candidates have acknowledged this. The city budget and the ability to hold costs down, maintain reserves, and prioritize expenditures in what could be a rocky economy is paramount. (He gets four carts out of five.)
Now for some housekeeping on the other two races.
The quick view on the other two City Council races is as follows. The solid selections for candidates who oppose building thousands of apartments and rezoning corporate/industrial land to residential zoning are Phil Crane in Post 4 (https://www.facebook.com/VoteCranePTC/) and Gretchen Caola in Post 3 (https://www.caolaforptcouncil.com/meet_gretchen).
If you want to know why you should not vote for an incumbent on the current City Council, it’s all in this piece: https://thecitizen.com/2021/07/22/council-members-ernst-and-madden-get-thumbs-down-for-4-more-years/.
Turnout for municipal elections is normally very low. We cannot afford the low turnout this time around. Please go downstairs at the Peachtree City Library and cast an early vote.
Peachtree City, Ga
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Commission.]