Many taxpaying citizens in Peachtree City have been dissatisfied with the behavior of the City Council. If the voters are paying attention, all the mistrust, ethical lapses, disobeying the law, lack of transparency, ignoring the constituents, poor communication, and backdoor dealing can be eliminated over the next 18 months as a three-member majority will open on the council.
Start with Post 3 on November 8
Concerned Peachtree City voters have five candidates to choose from for Post 3. Three refused to offer their political affiliation: Mark D. Gelhardt, Sr., Kenneth Hamner, and Kevin Madden. Two gave their political affiliation: Phil Crane (Republican) and Clint Holland (Republican).
Former council member 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” on his qualifying paperwork 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/)
Early voting downstairs at the Peachtree City Library begins Monday, October 17 (9:00 – 5:00) with Saturday voting on October 22 and 29 (9:00 – 5:00). Voting at your precinct on Election Day is November 8 (7:00 – 7:00).
No more fluff, serious answers only
The Citizen dispatched some thought-provoking questions to the candidates last week. Serious responses with explanations are expected.
Citizen Editor Cal Beverly has posted the answers to those questions on this website.
The questions get down to the marrow of core issues like taxes, abandoning our traditional and successful development character, packing in new residents with more multi-family housing, annexation, citizen speech, and basic knowledge of the council position.
I caution concerned voters not to rush to the library in the first few days of early voting without reading the candidate responses and the commentary. You will then be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Hold them accountable moving forward
Candidly, do not vote for someone based upon them being a “nice person,” a member of your organization, or some other characteristic that has absolutely nothing to do with how they will vote on critical issues. Likewise, a candidate dodging a serious question deserves a no-vote.
When Mayor Kim Learnard campaigned, she was extremely vague, lacking specifics on key issues and her intentions. Self-dealing is nothing new and we should not stand for it, see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/09/19/mayor-pickle-ball-says-battery-way-park-bathrooms-can-wait-while-local-taxes-skyrocket/.
The future of the community depends on voters being able to discern which candidates are trustworthy, see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/10/03/opinion-you-just-cant-fight-city-hall/.
There is also the “second-term dilemma” when term-limits are involved. We have a term-limit of two consecutive four-year terms in Peachtree City. The “lame duck” second term is where all hell can break loose.
Many a lame duck elected official focuses hard on special interests rather than the constituents during their last four years in office. There is no longer a threat of losing an election and their personal priorities take center stage. Former Mayor Vanessa Fleisch and Council Members Mike King and Phil Prebor, all lame ducks, went hog-wild over the last couple of years.
Go vote with knowledge and purpose
Read the candidate responses in The Citizen. If you see a lot of deflecting, go to the next candidate. Look for decisive leadership. It has been quite wishy-washy over the last decade.
Remember, each member of the city council has the power to keep us a top tier community or ruin us. If you do not believe me, take a drive around some of the metro Atlanta cities that have fallen into decline to see what is possible.
Here are my observations on the responses from the candidates and the Peachtree City base grading scale of 1 to 5 golf carts (5 = best rating).
Kevin Madden: 0.5 golf cart
Madden is the only candidate with a clear city council voting track record. That track record, more like a derailment, caused him to lose a re-election bid this past November. See the web link for Madden above, it speaks for itself.
Kenneth Hamner: 2.5 golf carts
A McIntosh High School graduate who returned to live in the city with his wife in 2012, Hamner states he “would have encouraged the city to consider alternative plans to minimize our tax bills.” He minces his words on a rollback of the millage rate during a nasty economy, expressing a willingness to dip into the reserve funds, so maybe that implies a partial rollback, he does not say.
His position on the citizens’ right to speak at public meetings is strong and appears pro-constituent.
Hamner would not restore the city’s recently terminated moratorium on multi-family housing, and he likes the idea of multi-story multi-family buildings with retail stores underneath. His reply to the annexation question was vague.
Reviewing his answers, I am wondering why Hamner did not move to Alpharetta where intense multi-family construction is accepted and densifying the population to around 70,000 is appreciated instead of Peachtree City. He speaks of maintaining the village concept while wanting to veer from our traditional planning, and you cannot do both.
Mark Gelhardt, Sr.: 1 golf cart
Candidate Gelhardt had a problem with The Citizen asking specific questions on hot topics and asking for a specific position to allow the voters to know where he stood, finding them to be “leading and slanted.” The readers can judge for themselves.
He “agrees[s] with keeping the millage rate flat at this time.” However, Gelhardt gave a complete fluff answer on removing the recent changes in the city’s comprehensive plan allowing more multi-family housing. His answer shows he has no understanding of the legal standing the land plans have in the courts when a real estate developer sues the city.
Gelhardt provides an interesting dilemma with stating he does not support more multi-family but he refuses to change the comprehensive plan back to reflect that stance. On annexation, he describes it as “a necessary tool to be used as needed” but provides no explanation of what constitutes “needed.”
Gelhardt is big “no” on allowing local citizens to petition the city council in public meetings for a redress of their grievances. Ouch.
Phil Crane: 3 golf carts
A McIntosh High School graduate, Crane says his decision would be not to rollback the millage rate while local taxpayers are hit with severe inflation. He then offers a puzzling statement that next year might be a time to rollback or “actually decrease” the millage rate.
Crane gives a maybe, kind of, sort of answer on removing the recent changes to the comprehensive plan that allows for more multi-family buildings. His general inference on urbanizing with multi-family housing boils down to a “you’ll have to trust me” approach. He will approve what he prefers in multi-family housing.
He generally adds a qualifier to his answers like, “At this point, I do not see the benefits of annexation outweighing the cost.” Does that mean at another point, say next year, you will be in favor of annexation?
Crane is thinking outside of the box on allowing more public comment at public meetings. He suggests using public workshop meetings for hot topic items. However, he would still use the block of time method of public comment which is a significant limitation that has been criticized.
He stresses the need for better communication from the city government, a universal concern. He is putting a lot of faith in a new city app that may not be widely adopted and could exclude the senior citizen population.
Clint Holland: 4 golf carts
Holland is a relatively new resident of Peachtree City. His answers reflect an appreciation for the community assets that attracted his family to reside here. Significantly raising taxes during high inflation is a no-no for him.
Holland is a staunch opponent of veering sharply from our traditional land planning and urbanizing the city. He says he is willing to un-do some of the recent votes of council that allow urbanization with stacked multi-family units.
He supports remodeling the police and fire stations where maintenance for those facilities is already in the budget. Later in his answers, he proposes a “teen center” and does not explain how that would be funded or where the operating cost comes from. His stance on annexation is shaky and he favors allowing citizens a little more time to speak at meetings.
Most of his answers are decisive, no wiggle room to come back and say later on “that’s not what I meant.”
Is there a 100% dyed in the wool candidate who is pro-constituent on allowing public speech, protecting the built environment of the city, showing fiduciary accountability, and protecting the city’s assets that brought us all here? No, it’s a difficult ask.
Can you count on candidates to keep their promises if they are elected? No, and some have gone nearly 180-degrees opposite in the past decade.
One thing this exercise of democracy through questioning our candidates has given us is who not to vote for this year. Whether it’s a previous voting record or a candidate’s unwillingness to provide specifics, it helps to have this format.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.]