OPINION — Looking into November, I see a dreadful tempest brewing in the form of untethered election campaigns attempting to fool the local voters. I chose the words “dreadful tempest” deliberately to avoid hyperbole.
Unless the Peachtree City taxpaying voters take the necessary steps on Election Day, we risk the chance of a self-absorbed urbanization redevelopment faction sanctioning that which would have been previously thought unimaginably, more devastating to our economic prosperity and quality of life than any fool-hardy decision made before.
This time of year, I usually provide a rating on each of the candidates in our local elections. Change of plans this week. Today, I will tell you who unquestionably does not deserve your vote. I will discuss the others next week.
Candidates Tamara Moore and Victor Painter refused to answer the candidate questions routinely offered by The Citizen (see the question here: https://thecitizen.com/2023/10/05/questions-for-peachtree-city-council-candidates-from-the-citizen/). They are campaigning as a team. Neither deserves your vote (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/10/13/moore-painter-refuse-to-answer-questions-moore-says-she-will-keep-her-dignity/).
Here’s what you likely don’t know
There is a secretive local political group called Plan for PTC. The group is a registered political committee with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office (see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/07/28/plan-for-ptc-pac-funding-candidates-intent-on-remaking-peachtree-city/). It was not officially registered until I outed the PAC in a column.
Plan for PTC tries to front itself as a concerned mom’s group, but behind the facade is a handful of real estate developer insiders who want to play kingmaker behind the scenes by raising cash to push their chosen candidates and their group’s agenda across the finish line on Election Day.
Of course, that kind of financial support comes with heavy strings attached, like following the urbanization development whims of the group’s leadership and the people they are fronting.
Many members who were lured into the organization have no idea what they are really supporting.
One of the two candidates who refused to answer the modest candidate questions from The Citizen, Tamara Moore, is one of the founders of Plan for PTC.
Moore hiding background, offering vague positions
The average voter would never know Moore created a group devoted to building densely stacked apartment complexes across the city because she never mentions her affiliation with the political leverage group on any of her campaign pages.
As of October 15, I have taken screenshots of all of Moore’s internet campaign offerings and Plan for PTC never shows up in any of her pages even though she was the group’s treasurer. Wonder why?
Moore resigned as treasurer of Plan for PTC in July of this year, announcing she made a “big decision” and hoped for the group’s “continued support.” Moore definitely has Plan for PTC and Mayor Kim Learnard’s support.
The chairperson of Plan for PTC, Emily Winkle, wrote a very large campaign contribution check for Moore. Winkle is a senior vice president in real estate developer Pace Lynch, a significant local player in the urbanization scheme. Additionally, Winkle proudly displayed a post of support for Moore on the Plan for PTC Facebook page with Moore’s campaign photo and campaign logo.
Are you beginning to understand why candidate Moore refused to reply to questions about allowing new multi-story mixed-use developments, annexations, and approving large apartment complexes? It’s the old adage, “What the voters don’t know won’t hurt them.”
Some of their supporters are making a U-turn and social media photos with the candidates are coming down. One gentleman remarked to me, “If you can’t answer those simple questions, you’re hiding something.” The anonymous and fake Facebook account posters are in full spin mode, trying to control the wreckage.
Unless you have been sleepwalking through the last four to six years, you will already know that a band of elected officials took office and began the “urbanization movement” in Peachtree City. It started in then-Mayor Vanessa Fleisch’s administration and the torch was passed to Mayor Kim Learnard.
Enemy of an award-winning master-planned community
The urbanization combatants had several objectives: (A) squelch public participation; (B) discard our traditional land planning; (C) push high-density stacked multi-family complexes on commercial lots, industrial tracts, and city parkland; (D) rezone valuable industrial zoned land to residential; and (E) build more high-density developments on the city’s borders via annexation.
So destructive were their efforts that incumbent Councilmen Terry Ernst and Kevin Madden were voted out of office by alert voters who knew better (see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/07/22/council-members-ernst-and-madden-get-thumbs-down-for-4-more-years/). Their collaborators, Councilmen Mike King and Phil Prebor, head to the exit at year’s end due to term-limits. That leaves only Mayor Learnard to push the urbanization agenda.
Two new councilmen, Frank Destadio and Clint Holland, were elected in the past two elections as guardians of reviving our traditional land planning and quality of life.
Our only problem is that it takes three votes on the city council to pass anything. Destadio and Holland have taken bold stands for what the people want but lack the crucial third vote.
Sly, underhanded, and surreptitious
Mayor Learnard was elected two years ago and took over where her predecessor left off. She ran on a campaign of feel-good platitudes, offering no significant positions on anything, and managed to win.
Along with King and Prebor, Learnard has been leading the charge to facilitate the construction of apartment complexes at the large developers’ request. They would love to see the Livable Centers Initiative plan implemented. Over 6,000 local residents have read this damning expose on their actions — see it here: https://thecitizen.com/2020/11/01/lci-meeting-insult-to-peachtree-city-residents/.
Learnard, King, and Prebor have laid the groundwork for the urbanization redevelopment revolution by altering our comprehensive land plans to allow for dense apartment complexes to be constructed almost anywhere within the city limits.
Learnard got the first one passed as a return for someone providing campaign funding support with absolutely no disclosure (see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/09/12/mayor-was-deciding-vote-to-ok-rezoning-for-unreported-campaign-contributor/).
The Citizen Publisher and Editor Cal Beverly unearthed attempts by the local planning officials to bury any mention of our traditional villages and the policies that created them (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/08/19/opinion-requiem-for-our-villages-or-a-new-unexpected-arrival/).
Beverly also found that Planning Director Robin Cailloux is promoting a revisionist history plan that adds villages where none exist or has even been discussed in an effort to justify more dense development on our borders, something that was prohibited in our traditional planning.
This revisionism is a falsification and distortion intended to validate the need for more annexation of land for real estate developers and create more ultra-dense residential development. It’s genuinely difficult to get away with tricks like that in a well-educated community.
The force behind the candidates
Learnard and her real estate developer friends are desperately trying to push two of their candidates, Tamara Moore and Victor Painter, over the finish line so they can finish what the others started.
Knowing that not responding could be troublesome, Moore shot an email to Publisher and Editor Cal Beverly with some excuses. Her terse email to Cal Beverly said, “I won’t be answering your ‘questions.’ I’ll keep my dignity.” I am not sure what keeping voters in the dark has to do with Moore’s dignity.
In another excuse tantrum, she said candidate Eric Imker’s letter to the editor honestly stating that many of his campaign signs were disappearing and Moore’s signs appearing in their place made her angry at Cal Beverly. The claims in Imker’s letter were correct and Moore’s signs are where Imker’s used to be.
Frustrated, Moore commented the simple “questions were already biased against myself and Painter.” Now, why would the questions be biased against Team Plan for PTC (Moore and Painter)? Could the questions be considered “biased” because neither Moore nor Painter wanted to admit they supported Plan for PTC’s construction of dense stacked multi-family complexes and large annexations for residential use, draining our city services and creating the need for continued tax increases?
Moore said The Citizen questions put her “in a no win position.” I agree. If the voters knew where they really stood, they would surely lose.
Moore continues on her campaign website saying, “She [Tamara] isn’t interested in getting into interactions that lead to nowhere online, or in the papers.” Translated into Voter English: She will not debate the issues and she wants to sneak into office like Kim Learnard without having to lie about her secret intentions.
As of October 15, Moore has not posted meaningful positions on any issue
She has never participated in city issues (except for wanting to name our library after her mother) and is totally inexperienced. Her recorded comments at the Rotary Candidate Forum were a nonsensical assemblage of words and incoherent statements.
For example, here is all she offers on development issues facing the city: “First people — then buildings. It won’t work the other way around. As Peachtree City’s original infrastructure and developments are aging, they will need to be thoughtfully redeveloped with careful planning that aligns with Peachtree City’s original plan. Economic development needs to begin here at home. The city needs to ensure it retains relationships with our current corporations and businesses. We don’t just want great spaces at the start, but also great places for the long term.”
Many words saying nothing. It appears she is going to avoid serious questions on real issues and do whatever Kim Learnard and Plan for PTC tell her to do.
Painter offers responses when forced
Many were wondering why candidate Victor Painter was functioning as a team with Moore and campaigning together. Eventually, it became evident why both candidates campaigned together, did not answer any questions from The Citizen, and had nothing meaningful to say on any issue.
Obtaining and reviewing the campaign contribution forms required by state law, I found that Painter received a large monetary contribution from Wink and Gal, LLC. Yes, that limited liability corporation is Emily Winkle, the chairperson of Plan for PTC.
Whose candidates are these?
Both Moore and Painter are Mayor Kim Learnard and Plan for PTC’s candidates. So, there are two candidates with no relevant experience working on any issues facing the city and no idea how the system works. The development interests in Plan for PTC will tell them how they need to vote.
After refusing to answer questions from The Citizen, Painter was embarrassed into piecemealing some positions together after being criticized, still not addressing The Citizen’s questions.
Keep in mind that Painter had no position on any issues at all until October 15, after he refused to respond to the newspaper. I read his newfound positions and I honestly believe he will now say anything to get elected. At this point, I do not trust a single thing Painter says.
Painter was attempting to sneak through on only color pictures of his good-looking family, his dog, and him at various locations around town without saying much of anything meaningful.
Painter is my neighbor and a nice fellow. He is a Senior Vice President and banking leader at Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in Peachtree City. Our city has a long history of bankers using government to their advantage (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/09/11/opinion-examine-carefully-nice-candidates-can-be-disaster-for-residents/).
Real estate developers use leverage on the promise of financing projects with the government official’s bank if the developers gain a favorable vote from the city council. The real estate developer may have accounts with the bank already. The inverse is also true with government officials approving annexations, rezonings, or variances in the hopes of luring the developer’s business.
It is extremely easy to land in monstrous unethical situations. I have seen it personally. The key is to avoid putting the city in jeopardy with your vote.
We paid a dear price by having real estate agent Vanessa Fleisch in office, surrendering our planning standards to appease every residential developer in town. Fleisch was also a dirty campaigner and ended up being sued into oblivion by a political opponent for her tactics.
Another common tie of note between candidates Moore and Painter is the local owners of BlackJack Paving, funding each one with healthy contributions. The company does government contracts locally.
Equal time from Tamara Moore
I contacted candidate Moore informing her that I was writing a column on Victor Painter and her not responding to the candidate’s questions from The Citizen.
I wanted to ask her about a comment she made on why she chose not to respond to the questions. I promised to run her response complete and unedited. I was expecting a more thoughtful and nuanced response, but it comes off as resentful and grudging.
When Moore says to me, “You would have to be in my position as a candidate,” well, I have and so have all the others who answered all of The Citizen’s candidate questions. Additionally, it has to be noted that the Editor gave all the candidates unlimited space to reply and asked for specifics on positions. Certainly, Moore had free reign to pitch whatever she desired, unedited, with no limitations. I cannot conceive how that is biased.
Tamara Moore’s statement is followed by two questions from me:
“I took a stand to not answer the questions after Cal allowed Imker to post a column calling me and my supporters thieves. The questions were already biased against myself and Painter. They want other candidates to win and I am in a no win position. He refused to run an ad for me. Mr. Beverly is supposed to be unbiased. I don’t play games and I refuse to give them any words that they will just use against me. I’m writing a position paper. And will share. The main reason I am running is to get away from the chaos that The Citizen churns up. Not healthy or productive — and embarrassing for the whole city.”
[Editor Beverly replies: Mrs. Moore’s assertion that I “refused to run an ad for” her in the context of this political campaign is untrue. I don’t know what she’s talking about. I have not received any communication of any kind from her or her representatives to purchase a political ad at any time in 2023. I would have gladly sold her — or any other candidate — an ad, at our standard retail price. And will still, if she wants one. Our ad price is a genuine bargain.]
Tamara Moore replies:
1. Is it your official position that no one from your campaign took any action to remove Eric Imker’s signs?
To my knowledge, no one from my campaign took any proactive action to contact residents to remove any of Mr. Imker’s signs — nor any other candidates for that matter. 2 or 3 citizens reached out to candidate Moore in early September stating, “they did not know she was running when prematurely agreeing to place an Imker or another candidates sign, in their yards”, and now wanted to replace with a MOORE sign. The signs were delivered as requested. I also have no knowledge of any other Imker or Johnson signs “going missing” — and I was never contacted by anyone to ask if this was the case before an opinion piece was written.
2. Why do you believe that the questions are biased against you and Victor?
I am not speaking for Candidate Painter. You would have to be in my position as a candidate and long-time resident, to understand all the nuances that led up to this year’s questions. Any entity that calls itself a “newspaper” (or in this case a website) should strive to provide unbiased and objective content. In this case: questions. The questions should have been written in a manner as to elicit a response from the candidates and then THE READER should decide for themselves what the content means. I am running on open and transparent communication and in my opinion, The Citizen has not covered the campaign in good faith.
In his email to us personally, Owner and Editor Mr. Beverly writes the following directional biased phrase:
“…so please answer with details and specificity, rather than in sweeping strokes and broad (and usually worthless) generalities. There are no word limits on your answers, other than your sympathy for the reader.”
Additionally, many of the questions were written in a manner to favor certain candidates while placing others in a no-win position. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The Citizen’s past behavior is very biased reporting and you definitely know what candidates they like, and save their condemnation for the ones they seek to see lose. Please don’t deny that “opinion pieces” were almost certain to follow with bloated biased follow-ups to fit the writer’s narrative should I have submitted answers.
The bias was kicked off with one of the candidates in Post 1 being allowed to essentially call me a thief one day ahead of the deadline. I found this very unprofessional, and unbecoming of anyone seeking office. Additionally, Editor Beverly made my point in spades with his immediate un-journalistic, biased temper tantrum wrapped in his “opinion” less than 12 hours after I declined to participate.
I will not speak on this topic further, as I still contend that all of this rhetoric is unhealthy and damaging to the city’s reputation and is not befitting of anyone seeking public office for Peachtree City.
Anyone wishing to know anything about me can go to my website, follow me on social media, and/or contact me directly.
15 minutes of your time makes a huge difference
It’s time for all our concerned taxpaying voters to do the research and vote, heading to the voting machines for early voting from October 16 to November 3 or on Election Day on November 7, 2023.
I will highlight the remaining three candidates with long-standing citizen advocacy on government issues next week.
[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.]