Election Day 2009

Election Day is Tuesday (I support Why Tuesday? in changing it to a weekend or a holiday), November 3. Since this is an off year, there aren’t any big contests.

Here in the city of Milton in North Fulton county, we have some city council elections.

The current mayor, Joe Lockwood, is running unopposed. So we are left with three city council members. Interestingly, the council members are elected at large, i.e. by all of Milton, with the condition being that the candidates must reside in the district which they want to represent. The at-large election means that voters like me have to think strategically about the balance of power in the city council rather than just the suitability of individual candidates.

Two good resources for the election are the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Voter Guide, which provides information about all of the Atlanta metro area, and the Access Milton blog for local Milton news.

The main issue for the city council election is development and growth. This area of Fulton county used to be very rural in the recent past and even now there are big farms in most of Milton. However, there has been some development too, especially in the Crabapple area and on Highway 9. Lots of people here want to keep the “rural character” and oppose extension of sewer and “high density” development. I put high density in quotes because around here 1 acre lots count as high density. We come from much higher density of course. We lived in the AtlantaPiscataway, NJ (density: 2,688.6/sq mi). Milton’s density is about 556/sq mi.

I don’t mind growth. In fact, I like growth. And I don’t like the idea of local governments limiting growth and encumbering the free market. Of course, growth can be dumb or smart. And mindless growth at the time of a real estate boom can leave lots of ghost neighborhoods. But that is something that can be managed such that the city grows naturally and in a smart and sustainable way. I should probably also mention that I live on a quarter acre lot which is tiny by Milton standards. I don’t know why the people who like free markets and dislike the government, like they do here in North Fulton, are so big on using the municipal government to stop the evil developers.

Let’s look at the individual races for the Milton City Council.

In District 1, where I live, the contest is between the incumbent Karen Thurman. According to her detractors, Thurman is in the pocket of developers. Wolff wants to keep the rural character of the city. I was leaning towards Thurman but what pushed me over to her was the discovery that Wolff was part of the dishonest Swift Boat Sailors & POWs for Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004.

In District 3, incumbent Bill Lusk is the only one on the ballot but Al Trevillyan is running as a write-in candidate. Al’s basically the anti-sewer candidate. I am not entirely sure about this one, especially since I can’t find much information about Lusk’s position on the issues. But I am leaning towards voting for Lusk.

In District 5, incumbent Tina D’Aversa is running against Joe Longoria. D’Aversa is supporting the challenges to Lusk and Thurman, so she’s on the anti-development side, though Milton’s local politics has been very acrimonious and personal, so there might be more to it than a difference of opinion on the issues. I must say I have found reading D’Aversa’s website, press releases and campaign literature difficult because of over-the-top self-praise. Also, D’Aversa has an ethics complaint filed against her for trying to bribe her opponent to withdraw. I agree with Longoria that Milton’s top challenge is raising enough revenue to provide good services and infrastructure. Thus, I am supporting Longoria.

Going over the candidates’ biographies, it’s interesting that I am supporting a Georgia Tech graduate (I am one too) and two engineers (Software and Civil Engineering) while I am an Electrical Engineer.

UPDATE (Nov 3 11:57am): Just voted at my local precinct. There was almost nobody there.

UPDATE (Nov 4 8:09am): The candidates I endorsed for the city council, Thurman, Lusk and Longoria, won. The turnout was 19.4%.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

5 thoughts on “Election Day 2009”

  1. Hi Zack,

    The situation is much more complex that you indicate in your political choices.

    Having been involved in local politics both here and in Massachuetts I can tell you that development does NOT pay for itself. That’s why so many municipalities have “impact fees” charged to developers. (Milton is not one.) Sewer allows for dense development. This increases the need for more schools, wider roads, infrastructure, etc. Without fees this puts pressure to increase property taxes, not even addressing the “quality of life” issue or the effect on the environment. It’s incredibly complicated when you also consider environmental issues such as water issues and inter-basin transfers, something that also depresses property values over time.

    You need to be aware of the Fulton County sewer maps, how they are being expanded and who support this expansion. (Lusk and Thurman had done so in the past.) Now I hear that Fulton County wants even more area. (It gets it’s money from sewer fees.) Who is driving development? The ones making money on it – developers, real estate agents, chamber of commerce types, etc. They are the driving force because it’s always about money. So who, on the current city council, represents the average citizen? I fear we are becoming an oligarchy of a few special interests.

    I’m attaching a site address to maps to look at what’s happened to your area 2000 then look at 2007. http://wms.co.fulton.ga.us/ms/zoning/top.php
    Note that although a tremendous area is now under private development, the feeder roads remain virtually the same. This lack of planning will eventually be “our” problem after the developers have long left the scene.

    Francia

  2. One more thing. Not all development is bad. There is a sustainable, eco-friendly community model in Georgia called Serenbe; “we hold the notion that a community is a living part of its natural surroundings, not something to be built at nature’s expense.” It’s in the Chattahoochee Hill Country south east of Atlanta. The 900 acres of Serenbe lie in the heart of 40,000 acres protected with a master plan that calls for 80% green space. Within this space are 3 distinct hamlets with what could be called dense development but these are balanced with the open space. Building sites are limited to 220 homes, including live/work spaces, and commercial buildings. There is a 25-acre organic farm so food can be grown locally. Check it out: http://www.serenbecommunity.com/home.html

    Francia

  3. Francia: Good to see you commenting here.

    My point of view is that we should let the free market do more of the work at the municipal level. That includes pricing in the infrastructure and environmental effects of development etc. The way things are set up in a lot of municipalities right now, restricting development is just a way for current residents to be selfish and don’t really serve the community or the wider region well.

    As for sewer and dense development, even if sewer is extended to all of Milton, this area won’t become Buckhead or Manhattan. With the housing market in complete collapse and the commercial real estate in free fall right now, it will be a few years before new development happens around here.

    The Serenbe community sounds interesting. I think there should be lots of experimentation with community models, from Serenbe to dense development.

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