Elect Steve Brown For County Commissioner

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title: A New Vision for FAyette County 
Restoring What We Like About Fayette County and Removing Harmful Changes That Will Impede Our Lifestyle

 

Serve As An Exemplary Steward of Citizens' Resources:

1. Stop wasteful spending on the WFB; immediately re-prioritize unspent WFB monies for worthwhile projects

2. Reject Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOSTs)

3. Create Low Income Senior Homestead Exemption

4. Explore a unified operations and maintenance strategy for programs and services with all county jurisdictions , focusing on collaboration and avoiding duplication

   
 

Preserve Fayette County's Rural Character:

5. Block Fayette County mass transit bus projects like MARTA from the regional transit plan, avoiding over development and more urbanization

6. Preserve Fayette County's rural character; closely adhere to our approved land use plan and reject increases in residential unit density

7. Require developers and builders to submit Educational Impact Statements on all re-zoning requests to protect our schools from overcrowding and school districts from shifting

   
 

Put the Citizens of Fayette County First:

8.  Respect and serve citizens: listen to them, follow best business practices, and adhere to the highest ethical standards

9. Establish a two-term limit for Fayette County Commissioners

10. Open up government to citizens: eliminate the current severe limitations on their free speech at Board of Commissioners meetings, comply with laws on open meetings, and make government readily available to the citizen

 


 

Learn More About Steve's Vision for Fayette County ...

 

 
 

1. Stop wasteful spending on the West Fayetteville Bypass (WFB); immediately re-prioritize unspent WFB monies for more worthwhile projects

Construction on the West Fayetteville Bypass
On the whole, the general public correctly perceives the West Fayetteville Bypass as a government boondoggle that does not even function as a bypass. In addition, the West Fayetteville Bypass was not the top priority for transportation projects, and the current County Commissioners decided to sidestep better projects on the list to divert money to it.

 

 

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe ...

Commissioners Maxwell & Smith use an ever-changing rationalse for their $52m WFB:

"Traffic Relief"  Both commissioners initially argued that the project was necessary to relieve commuter traffic in Fayetteville by moving it around the city.  Informed citizens argued, however, that there are no models or studies to show the bypass would have any effect on that traffic, and the road's terminus is a remote intersection with no readily accesible arterials to Atlanta, the airport, or I-85.  Further, the road and its natural feeder routes would go through multiple school zones, whose bus traffic and 25 MPH morning speed limits would severely impede commuter traffic.

Map of 2003 transportation projectsIncumbent Commissioner Jack Smith wanted a new interchange at GA Hwy. 92 with “an access road stretching from GA Hwy 74 to GA Hwy 92, with Hwy 74 losing its direct I-85 access,” (The Citizen, Jan. 13, “Who needs the W. F’ville Bypass?”). Imagine the traumatic affect on our commuters from Tyrone, Peachtree City, Brooks, and Senoia by closing the GA Hwy 74 interchange ar I-85. And Smith lacks any support whatsoever from the Federal Highway Administration, which would have to approve & fund this dream.

"The Voters Made Us Do It Maxwell and Smith then claimed they were bound to build it because voters mandated it when they approved the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).  See the actual 2004 ballot question here.  Commissioner Eric Maxwell: “Now, I understand the criticism that it [West Fayetteville Bypass] was hidden in the documents,” (Tea Party Candidates Forum); “I didn’t write those documents … Now, you are going to have to talk to someone else, I’m sorry, they wrote the transportation SPLOST that we’re mandated to be under.”

Oops, wrong again- voters simply approved a list of projects that COULD be built, not that any of them HAD to be built.  The decision to sidestep the other SPLOST projects, including priority projects, was unmistakably made by incumbent Commissioners Smith, Maxwell and their colleagues on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, not by a citizen mandate.  When you speak to the previous County Commissioners, as incumbent Maxwell suggested, they are in utter disbelief that the West Fayetteville Bypass was given preference over the other projects on the list.

"It's Cheaper"  At the May 2010 TBFC forum, Commissioner Maxwell claimed the project will cost $24m, yet its cost on the authoritative planing document (the Atlanta Regional Commission's Envision6 Regional Transportation Plan, FY 2008 – 2013 TIP), is $52m - twice what the project was estimated to cost.  Why is commissioner Maxwell citing obsolete costs that differ so much from what the county inputs to the Atlanta Regional Commission?   Even if it is cheaper, what value is it if it doesn't accomplish its purpose?

Road to nowhere"It's For Future Use"  In his June 17th letter to a local county newspaper, Fayetteville Mayor and Jack Smith supporter Ken Steele did not cite any of the reasons above, but added yet another, saying the project "...  will provide an alternate transportation corridor for [future growth] north/south traffic."

 

 

The West Fayetteville Bypass- our own Road To Nowhere ...



 

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2. Reject Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOSTs)

Fayette County Commissioner Lee Hearn admitted the commissioners had not even seen the road projects on the recent SPLOST list until the evening they voted on them.

When you have $137 million on the table, shouldn't we expect there to be a thorough and extensive vetting process, weighing each multi-million dollar project on its merits? Smith’s tactics simply follow Nancy Pelosi’s leadership model in pushing through the stimulus bill without anyone reading it.

Fayette County Justice CenterLocal governments were literally scrambling to find ways to spend the potential windfall from extending a local sales tax increase.

Smith’s top priority project was to pay the outstanding $55m debt of the county Justice Center with the SPLOST funds. Now why would anyone want to pay off the 4.1% to 5% long-term debt obligations of the county all at one time, on our backs, in a horrible economy?

The Justice Center will be used for generations to come, so why not let the people who move to town over the next 25 or so years help pay for the facility?

The county wanted the current residents to pay everyone’s future use of the Justice Center. No, “we” would not be saving $21.5 million in interest payments; instead, we would have been eating the entire $55 million payoff.  The taxpayers of the future were going to be spared the interest and the principal.

Many were offended by the “speculative” university campus appearing on the SPLOST list. The GA Board of Regents is mandating substantial cuts on every college and university under its authority due to the depressed economy. Again, why would anyone introduce a speculative building in our current circumstances?

The people residing in cities were being asked to replace the county’s heavy equipment. Why can’t the county cover that expense in their budget just like Tyrone, Fayetteville and Peachtree City? Why were we asked to pay off the libraries for certain cities?

We were also being asked to pay the outstanding debts of the Peachtree City Airport Authority, an autonomous governmental body over which the voter/taxpayer has absolutely no control.

The SPLOST ballot also included vague language like the “including, but not limited to” phrases, all throughout the document. That is nothing but legal cover for doing whatever they want with the funds.  Someone is going to have to prove that our county commissioners were not outright negligent on this one.

Fiduciary obligations were abandoned. It made no sense to hear County Commissioner Jack Smith boasting about dropping the budget by $7 million in line with falling revenue, then trying to burden us with a $137 million sales tax increase that included no critical projects.

See the very low 4.1% - 5% bond rates here.

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3. Create a Low Income Senior Homestead Exemption

As mayor, Steve Brown led the effort to help low income senior citizens reduce their annual tax burden. The additional homestead exemption for senior citizens was placed on the referendum ballot and won by a wide margin.

Senior citizens couple by their homeThe same exemption needs to be applied to your county tax bill.

Senior citizens are an asset to our community. They are law abiding, community oriented citizens who do little in the way of services. They also occupy residential space in the county without adding to the student population, lessening the burden on our schools and recreational facilities.
Qualifying Fayette County homeowners would have to meet the following criteria:
• Age 65 by January 1
• Already have the County Homestead Exemption for school taxes
• Household income under $30,000 (Federal Adjusted Gross Income of the applicant and spouse)
Qualifying seniors would be required to bring proof of age and income (a copy of their previous year’s tax returns).

The rate of the exemption could begin at around $5,000. This measure would be put before the voters via a referendum.

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4. Explore a unified operations and maintenance strategy with all county jurisdictions for programs and services, focusing on collaboration and avoiding duplication

Little league ball playersIt is time to focus on common sense ways to build more efficient systems between the county and the cities.

When services are duplicated, we need to study ways to unify the service or eliminate the duplication. It makes no sense to pay for certain services twice.

We need to review ways to collaborate in order to avoid competing services between the county and all of the cities.

There has never been a better time than this period of weak economy to examine ways to build efficiency.

There are some local government services that are common to all jurisdictions.  We are willing to look at building efficiencies in providing government services.

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5. Block Fayette County mass transit bus projects like MARTA from the regional transit plan, avoiding over development and more urbanization

Fayette County Commission Chairman Jack Smith had been telling everyone he was opposed to mass transit in our wonderful slow-growth county. Unfortunately, the minutes of the regional mass transit boards, commissions and committees tell a much different story. (This sounds reminiscent of Senator John’s Kerry’s famous quote, “I voted for it before I voted against it.”) So different, in fact, he tried frantically to weave his way out of the web he created in a Citizen article entitled, “Commission Chairman Smith explains his vote for mass transit in Fayette.”

Marta conveyancesPhil Mallon, our County Engineer, knew about the mass transit proposals for Fayette County, too, voting in favor of them at an Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Transportation Coordinating Committee meeting on Nov. 11, 2008.

Seriously, to think the entire current Board of Commissioners is not aware of the transit plan situation is plain foolishness. Yes, we are being set up, quietly.

Mayor Don Rehwaldt of Tyrone and Mayor Don Haddix of Peachtree City are opposed to Fayette’s inclusion in regional mass transit and have made their opinions known.

Mayor Ken Steele of Fayetteville, on the other hand, voted in favor of our participation in the regional mass transit plan alongside Chairman Smith at the Nov. 13, 2008 meeting of the ARC Transportation and Air Quality Committee (TAQC).

It is astounding that Steele approved of a mass transit plan that included a Fayetteville to Riverdale bus route, listing his city as a regional transit center.

According to Cheryl King, TPB staff director, Smith’s and Steele’s affirmative vote at the TAQC meeting “will formally incorporate Concept 3 *mass transit plan+ into the regional transportation planning process and will facilitate actions towards the advancement of regional transit” (TPB Combined Committee minutes, Sept. 25, 2008).

In his wobbly series of excuses, Smith pleaded that he attempted to remove bus and rail projects from the regional plan without success. There are no commission resolutions or correspondence that I could find, not even a mention in the minutes of the transit board meetings Smith attended, suggesting he tried to delete anything.

What is reflected in the minutes when Smith attended the TPB meeting is staff stating, “The TPB is looking for input from the Board members on the projects that are included, if there are others that need to be added or if some listed should be dropped” (TPB minutes, Feb. 22, 2007).

bus accidentMany of the TPB meeting minutes refer to board member interviews (that would be Smith), but not a single negative comment from Fayette County is mentioned.

Truth be told, the “project evaluation methodology” for creating the regional transit plan called for “member input” (that would be Smith, again) (TPB minutes, June 28, 2007).

Smith constantly voted in favor of a plan he disagreed with — make sense to you? In fact, in several instances, Smith voted to move the regional transit process, including Fayette, forward to the next step toward implementation.

The wobbling continued in The Citizen article as Smith said he was merely preserving a space for Fayette in terms of transit, stating it is not funded yet.

Smith chimed, “My position is I have no interest in footing the bill for any mass transit into Fayette County.” We cannot believe him, again, because the system he is creating will leave us no choice. He is saying one thing and doing another.

The funding method of choice from Smith and his colleagues is an additional one-cent sales tax covering 14 counties (including Fayette) (Concept 3 Illustrative Program Financial Analysis Report for the TPB, Nov. 2008 and staff presentations). Our entire region votes on the new tax, but no county within the region can opt out of the measure, locking even counties that voted against the tax into paying it.

Think about it, the entire Fayette population is about 9-percent of the Fulton County’s population; they are always going to win.

Mass transit is certainly not cost-effective for Fayette or counties currently funding transit. The TPB admits, “All of our operators are struggling with how to pay for and contain operating and maintenance costs” (Minutes, TPB’s Planning and Funding Committee, Jan. 25, 2007).

He voted in favor of the mass transit plan and said given another opportunity that he “would vote the exact same way.” At the Tea Party Candidates Forum, Smith said, “That plan that was put together was what I refer to was a camel. A camel is a horse designed by committee. Any time you get the disparate interests of Metro Atlanta together to try to solve a problem, which is transportation and gridlock in Atlanta, you wind up with a plan such as this. It is not the best plan that I would put together, but I was only one voice in the group.” Even though Chairman Smith stated the plan was badly flawed, he voted in favor of it 100 percent of the time.

We did not move to Fayette County for mass transit buses rolling through our streets. We did not elect Jack Smith to our county commission to represent Atlanta’s interests.

Elect us and we will get our county out of the mass transit plans.

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6. Preserve Fayette County’s rural character; closely adhere to our approved land use plan and reject increases in residential unit density

Fayette County has a comprehensive land use plan and we need to follow it, period.

We are a slow growth, low housing density county and it works. We intend to keep it that way.

No special developer pork-barrel projects like the West Fayetteville Bypass will be allowed. We will not build roads for developers. They will pay for their own roads.

Starr's Mill, FAyette CountyA tight housing market surrounded with beautiful green spaces ensures the value of our homes will continue to climb.

In 15 years, the least dense area with the most green space and quality schools will be the most sought-after place in Metro Atlanta. We want Fayette County to be that place.

We will not engage in activities that will cause conflicts of interest and jeopardize our quality of life decisions.

Incumbent Commissioner Jack Smith, after his election to county office, accepted a board of directors’ position of the developer-driven Bank of Georgia with 80 percent of its loan portfolio in homebuilding and development loans.

“[Bank of GA Chief Financial Officer] Gable and [Bank of GA President] Shepherd said since the bank’s inception nearly a decade ago loans went primarily to support the local residential housing market that has been thriving for years. They said the BOG loan business was geared primarily to support the front-end of the building and construction industry in Fayette and Coweta counties rather than the back end where home mortgages are purchased.” (Source: The Citizen, “Bank of Ga. officials protest FDIC ‘interference,’” 8-5-09)

“Like many of its peers, Bank of Georgia lent heavily to home builders and developers during the boom years, especially in Fayette and Coweta counties.” (Source: AJC, “One bank’s course to safer seas,” 9-29-09)

Fayette County's old court houseWe detest these arranged marriages between politicians and developers. Of course, the average taxpayers are always trampled in these scenarios.
Without hesitation, you should know why Smith is pushing the West Fayetteville Bypass with all his might.

The bypass, as clearly seen on the map, opens up huge tracts of farmland to residential development. The county commission has had to admit the bypass is for “future traffic.” Who benefits from that type of activity: the Bank of Georgia? Who benefits from the Bank of Georgia: Chairman Smith?
At the Tea Party Candidates Forum, Smith made the following statement regarding the conflicts, “In the cases where that may be the appearance of a conflict, and that has not arisen in the last two years or a year that I’ve been on the board, I’ve excused myself from the entire room and the discussion of any loans for any entity, and I think in that year there has been none.”

What the incumbent Commissioner Smith neglects to tell you is that neither the public nor the news media are allowed in the private The Bank of Georgia board meetings. It is all done behind closed doors.

We will not put ourselves in the position where our private business interests and profits are affected by governmental decisions before us.
We will stick to the land plan and keep the low density, rural lifestyle that attracted us to Fayette County.

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7. Require developers and builders to submit Educational Impact Statements on all re-zoning requests to protect our schools from overcrowding and school districts from shifting

As mayor, Steve Brown developed an Educational Impact Statement that was applied to all rezoning requests in Peachtree City. We need to do the same in unincorporated county.

Elementary school kids

The petitioning developer has to complete a form that is given to the Board of Education for evaluation to determine how the potential new development would impact our school system.

The Educational Impact Statement makes our local government and the general public aware of how potential new developments can cause overcrowding of certain schools or create shifts in school districting.

The results from the statement can be used as a justification for rezoning denial and show the developer what would be necessary to meet our community’s standards.

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8. Respect the citizens: listen to them, protect their interests, serve as an exemplary steward of their resources and eliminate conflicts of interest

When a citizen requires an audience with his/her County Commissioner, one will be given.

We will ensure that constituents will always be treated with respect at a Fayette County Board of Commissioners meeting. The days of talking down to the citizens will be over.

citizens at a commission meetingWhen anyone wants access to county government documents or records, the material will be promptly retrieved and provided to the person making the request, no questions asked.

When the revenues drop, so will the expenditures in the budget.

We refuse to spring a tax hike or a new sales tax on our constituents, especially in the midst of a very weak economy.

We will not insult our constituents by asking them to pay for frivolous projects when they are challenged with their own family bills.

We will solicit the opinions of the county’s youth, senior citizens and everyone in-between.

We will not put ourselves in a position where even the appearance of a conflict of interest exists.

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9. Establish a two-term limit for Fayette County Commissioners

We will work to have the county’s charter amended to include a two-term limit for all commissioners.
citizen advocating term limits

My original thought on district voting was that citizens residing in our cities were not being adequately represented at the county level. The majority of the population in Fayette County lives in cities. There were several problems, chief amongst them was that city dwellers were being taxed by the county for services they were not receiving.

Even incumbent Jack Smith agreed the problem existed, and did enact one moderate change by making the necessary legislative adjustments so Peachtree City residents no longer had to pay for county fire and EMS services which were not provided within the city limits (note: A reversal occurred when the current County Commission approved the 2009 SPLOST referendum asking for countywide sales taxes to pay for new county fire and EMS infrastructure. The SPLOST failed handily).

Today, with the advent of the Tea Party movement and cries for major change from "government as usual", which certainly perked my interests, we may end up with a more representative government anyway.  Entrenched incumbents are being voted out all over the country.

I received a lot of negative feedback from local citizens related to district voting, so I dropped it; everyone wishes that incumbent commissioners Smith and Maxwell would be so receptive to the overwhelming cries of the public against the West Fayetteville Bypass.

My solution for keeping entrenched special interests and their politicians out of the common good now is to change the county's charter to include term limitations for all elected county commission posts. I believe term limitations will accomplish the same goal and be more universally accepted

Term limits also create a regular infusion of fresh ideas and new perspectives onto the Board of Commissioners. They create a regular awareness of the county’s status and produce innovation through changing group dynamics.

So I think a limitation set at two terms would be just as effective and there would be no need to consider district voting. I have run this idea by a couple of hundred voters and they love the idea.

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10. Open up government to citizens by eliminating the current severe limitations on their free speech at Board of Commission meetings and make government readily available to the citizens

A citizen of Fayette County should be allowed to speak on any topic of concern to them and on any agenda item on the commission meeting agenda, at the time the item is heard, without a government employee timing them with a stopwatch. The current practice of confining local citizens to the very beginning of the commission meeting is unacceptable. Prohibiting citizens from addressing a specific commissioner is unacceptable.

If a citizen takes the time to attend a commission meeting, that person deserves to be heard by the elected “public servants” as part of the discussion at the time the agenda item is heard.

The focus of our commission meetings will be the public, not the commissioners. This is a radical change from what we have today.
If your homeowners association has a problem that needs to be addressed by the local government, we will attend your homeowners association meeting and hear what you have to say.

Our ears belong to the citizens of this county, not the special interests.

If you send correspondence to the County Commission, you will get a written reply. Government was created to serve the people, not the other way around.

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