OPINION — Do you reside in a city within Fayette County, do you care about your city, and are you planning to vote in this year’s municipal elections?
Candidates qualifying for all the municipal elections begin on August 21.
Early voting begins in October. You have ample opportunity to vote.
Candidates and wayward intentions
There are political organizations truly hoping you are not paying attention and that you are not intending to vote in this year’s municipal election. This is not a conspiracy theory.
There are officially registered groups in Fayette actively pursuing a political advantage locally like Marxist-oriented “Black Hammer” in Fayetteville, pro-apartment development “Plan for PTC” (see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/07/28/plan-for-ptc-pac-funding-candidates-intent-on-remaking-peachtree-city/), and the avid socialist supporters of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in “We Push Progress” (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/04/03/opinion-what-and-who-is-behind-push-for-stacked-multi-family-complexes/).
Thus far, the leadership in Plan for PTC and We Push Progress have thrown their support behind only one successful candidate, the mayor of Peachtree City. Both political organizations offer financial support and volunteers to candidates if they will adopt their positions on key issues.
The easiest way to topple these fractious groups and create an honest and effective government is our public participation in the voting booth.
What’s at stake?
I grew up in DeKalb County, a county similar in land size to Fayette. For the 18 years that I resided in DeKalb, like Fayette, the county went from rural farms and woodlands to suburban. DeKalb was a top contender, a well-educated community, a top-notch school system, and developed a notable quality of life.
DeKalb’s downfall began with political actions on expanded sewer capacity, increased density with residential zoning, participation in the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and the escalated construction of multi-family complexes.
Imagine a county the size of Fayette having 770,000 residents and many more driving into local places of employment. Also, imagine losing your best civic-minded and well-educated residents because of failing schools, congestion, and a rapidly declining quality of life. That is DeKalb.
DeKalb does not currently have sufficient human capital to regain a higher quality of life because of a much greater transient rental population, more traffic, sinking schools, and more crime. Don’t allow Peachtree City and Fayetteville to pull us in this direction.
What do elected officials owe the taxpayers?
First and foremost, elected officials need to adhere to state law, local ordinances, and ethics standards. Numerous instances exist where the current Kim Learnard administration in Peachtree City has clearly violated the law (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/07/24/councilman-calls-out-council-for-open-meetings-violations-gets-slammed-for-doing-it-in-public/).
If elected officials violate the law without apology, showing absolutely no remorse as we have witnessed with Learnard, the taxpayers have no reason to show confidence in any of their decisions.
Every elected official should be able to justify all their votes. An explanation is mandatory when radical changes significantly deviate from traditional planning. We are not getting this from Peachtree City or Fayetteville right now.
To date, we have not been given a sufficient explanation of why $10 million worth of vital infrastructure repairs were never considered for Peachtree City’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) list (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/06/19/who-knew-10-million-in-unfunded-maintenance-needs-suddenly-appears/).
Likewise, officials have not told us why giving away 50-percent of the zoning setback as an administrative variance without a vote of the city council is a good idea (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/07/10/opinion-if-city-oks-half-of-all-variance-requests-in-private-how-can-zoning-ordinance-survive/).
Neither Fayetteville nor Peachtree City has sufficiently vindicated their decisions on creating more dense residential development.
Fayetteville has made a generational miscalculation with the continuous construction of stacked multi-family housing. No, it’s not a walkable community. Unless you want tacos, beer, or doughnuts, everyone in the multi-family complexes is driving.
The overbuilding of rental capacity will lead to substantial problems countywide in the future. The question for officials in Fayetteville and Peachtree City shows us in metro Atlanta where their high-density building philosophy is working (see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/12/13/peachtree-city-fayetteville-both-on-downslope-to-decline/). Additionally, consider why we all moved to Fayette County.
Want to be a candidate?
I am always amazed when people who have never attended public government meetings, never been involved and know little about the key issues run for a position of leadership. It happens all the time.
If you come to candidacy spewing a bunch of bland platitudes, don’t be surprised if you are heavily criticized. Everybody wants a safe community and excellent city services.
Everybody says they want to solve the traffic issues. Tell us specifically what you propose to make it happen. Double-digit tax increases are becoming the norm. What specifically do you plan to do about it?
Current elected officials Councilman Phil Prebor and Mayor Kim Learnard campaigned using nebulous catchphrases, no specifics, and they have been a raging tire fire burning out of control. Disapproval and condemnation have followed, deservedly so.
Do your homework, express your views, and offer valid solutions. Otherwise, don’t run for elected office. Every elected official must be held accountable for lack of research, false promises, and corruption.
If you accept the services and campaign funds from activist political groups wanting to radically change our quality of life, it will be noted, and you deserve to lose.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]