I am gearing up for writing on the upcoming city council race and fuming over the cold-hearted increases in our property tax bills. While I have been preparing, several people asked if I was going to write about “Mayor Pickle Ball?” I asked what that meant?
Look, you just cannot make this stuff up!
We have an important election only weeks away, a mayor under a cloud of an ethics quid pro quo allegation, a pot full of boiling city council controversy, and then there is Picklegate.
Yes, Mayor Kim Learnard did herself a personal favor and elevated her favorite recreational activity, pickleball, in the new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) hierarchical project list, and the Picklegate scandal is born.
Because there is not an infinite amount of one-cent sale tax dollars in the SPLOST for every proposed project in the city, the list must be stratified by priority into a funding tier system. Obviously, the higher priority tier gets funded and the lower tier projects may never come to fruition.
For some perspective, we are suffering from some of the worst inflation in 40 years, traffic backs up two miles in either direction at the major intersection, current city facilities and parks need maintenance, cart paths and roads need to be paved, we are hit by huge property tax increases, and the mayor puts all her effort into moving the building of new low priority pickleball courts from the lower tier up to the top tier list. Are you kidding?
The pickleball Mayor dug into the spreadsheets and moved priority projects downward so that she could elevate her personal favorite. Don’t you wish she had put that much effort into finding ways to build efficiency with city operations so we will not be burdened with a record tax increase?
Things are so bad now that the mayor and council felt compelled to hit us with a significant tax increase when we can least afford it and they are asking us to vote for tens of millions of dollars in additional sales taxes on those inflated groceries we buy so that we can make new pickleball courts a top priority because the mayor plays pickle ball.
It will only cost you $770,000 of your taxes (not a joke). Truthfully, city’s SPLOST project cost estimates have been so off the mark that the real cost is probably around $950,000.
She pulled the projects you wanted most
So, to be perfectly clear, the heavily used Battery Way Park on Lake Peachtree (tens of thousands going through the park annually) was supposed to get the long-awaited restrooms that people have been requesting for two decades.
Now, you and your children will just have to keep your legs crossed and turn blue as the mayor killed it specifically so she can get her pickleball courts. The anticipated and higher tier shoreline swim access project, with a water safety purpose, at Lake Peachtree was also pickledballed by the mayor.
The city cannot pay the bills now, hence the demand for record tax increases (see: https://thecitizen.com/2019/08/13/tax-increase-public-hearings-coming-to-a-governing-body-near-you/ ). Then how will the new pickleball courts be maintained? Will Mayor Learnard will maintain them? Nah! She will just raise your taxes again next year to take care of her pet project.
After all the recent controversy, you would have to believe that the council deception would stop, it’s not happening. Residents can play pickleball already at the Tennis Center, the local country clubs and at some local gyms.
Who defends us from the mayor and the two lame ducks?
The second-place finisher in the recent mayor’s race, Eric Imker, identified that Council Members Phil Prebor and Mike King have nothing to lose on voting for things they previously would not support. They are both out on term limits. (See Imker’s comments here: https://thecitizen.com/2022/09/16/imker-council-race-would-be-futile-but-peachtree-city-is-in-deep-trouble/ )
Please do your homework on the candidates running for Post 3 this November. Don’t select another Mike King or Phil Prebor. Demand that candidates for elected office tell you precisely where they stand on the local issues.
Here are the candidates and the political affiliation they listed on their forms: Phil Crane (Republican), Mark D. Gelhardt, Sr. (Blank Line), Kenneth Hamner (Non-Partisan), Clint Holland (Republican), and Kevin Madden (Non-Partisan).
Madden was recently defeated in a re-election bid for city council last November. He is a Democrat activist and most likely wrote “non-partisan” to disguise it. (For more on Madden’s voting record on the city council, see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/07/22/council-members-ernst-and-madden-get-thumbs-down-for-4-more-years/ )
No more fluffy responses on the issues from local candidates. We do not need to go back to the days when the real estate developer interests ran the city as a company town.
Let’s drill down on these candidates together and put the train back on the tracks.
Take five minutes and tell the mayor and city council members how you feel. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Commission.]