Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mayoral Madness

Even though the election is still over a year away, the Athens mayor's race is already getting pretty consistent press. But before our local punditocracy gets too jiggy with speculations about who's in and who's out, and who's going to win, we've got a few questions.

1. Is current Mayor Heidi Davison going to run or not?
This is the biggest question of all. With three announced candidates in the race, Heidi has been strangely silent. Biding her time, or weighing her options? Even as the incumbent, a win for the Mayor isn't exactly a lock (isn't that right, Doc?), and as the most identifiable driving force behind the rental registration debacle, as well as the downtown surveillance system, and the smoking ban, she has, as Desi might say, "some 'splainin' to do" to the downtown community that she talks up so frequently. Oh, and did we mention the whole Judge Simpson/Judge Giese thing? Rest assured that the local lawyers will mention it. Probably frequently, and probably to her challengers as they write a check or two.

2. What exactly is the difference between Tom Chasteen and States McCarter?
Well, one is a moderate (business-friendly although not completely chamber-friendly) Commissioner from the east side, while the other is...well...a moderate (business-friendly although not completely chamber-friendly) Commissioner from the east side. Oh, and they both pissed off Pete McCommons from Flagpole, which isn't a bright move for any politician. (Link here) Pete is probably supporting Heidi, judging by his writing, but he's also a fair and scrupulous journalist who has no axe to grind.

3. How does the new non-partisan election referendum affect things?
At this point, it probably doesn't affect things much. States, Tom, and Heidi are well-known with their constituents. Charlie Maddox does have a pretty tough road ahead though. When it gets interesting is when (and if) the Chamber of Commerce runs a relative political unknown as the "Chamber candidate," which brings us to...

4. Who will be the Chamber candidate?
(Because we love nothing more than a good segue) The Athens Chamber of Commerce has a balls to the wall president (Larry McKinney) and a shiny new PAC to spread the developer-friendly love around. So, which business owner can they connive into a quixotic run for the mayor's job? Unclear. Perhaps calling the candidacy of a chamber-endorsed candidate "quixotic" is a little premature, at least until the word gets around that said candidate is, in fact, chamber-endorsed.

Now that we've got that off our chest, let the punditry begin in earnest!

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(All sources are kept anonymous, unless the tip involves a federal grand jury, because we ain't going out like Judith Miller.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Athens politics.....some of the best in the state! There's lots of gossip, plenty of speculation, and little validity....particularly when people begin speaking of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. Few people realize that former Mayor Doc Eldridge was part of the coup that stripped Economic Development from the Chamber. In essentially 8 out of 10 counties on average across this state, economic development is a function of the Chamber-but not in Athens.
The answer to why is it different here is simple. Various parties- some of which who currently sit behind the "rail" at City Hall would have Athens remain a small service town where the working class serve the bourgeois who occupy the Senior ranks at UGA, Old Line/Old Money Athenians, Senior Government and medical Officials, and those lucky enough to be successful in small private business...mainly insurance, sales, real estate, and financial services.
If you don't believe this tell me why development is severely limited in fact denied out in the Perimeter of the County..also known as the Greenbelt? Tell me why the Mayor and Commission denied the full extension of sewer during the infamous Shoals Creek Drainage Basin vote this year? If you don't believe this theory of an existence of no growth policies coming out of City Hall, tell me why the Mayor and Commission voted for the most expensive option available to them during the Stormwater Utility debate this past year? And to top it off, just a month ago the Mayor and Commission voted to implement an Ordinance with respect to grading that severly limited development options and density here in town, in town being the very place where they have stated they prefer growth.
There seems to be lots of forked tongues on the part of our local elected officials, particularly as it pertains to growth and economic development. Whether people admit it or not, perception is reality. I challenge anyone...go to Atlanta and ask the Georgia Chamber, ask the State Legislature, hell...ask our neighbors in Oglethorpe, Hull, Barrow, etc. what is the impression that you have of Athens as it relates to welcoming business, growth, jobs, economic development......overwhelmingly the response will be alarming and possibly a shock to many!
The Chamber of Commerce in Athens will always stand on the side of economic development and jobs that equate to great wages and health insurance...all it takes is a trip to the jail to see those who lost hope and saw no opportunity. The Chamber will always stand on the side of less taxes, and reduced fees, or at a minimum a more equitable system of rate increases- one that does not reflect numerous increases in (1) fiscal year.....just check the bills/taxes of any small business owner today who owns property in Athens....things arent great people.
And the Chamber will always stand on the side of pro-business policies that encourages outside investment through tax base and above average wages. If you check the property tax rates in this county you will discover that we are maxing stuff out. Sure UGA owns much of the land here, but surely our local government can do more to spur outside investment into our county.
So when writers and people suggest that hypothetical Chamber candidates are marginalized, or should be marginalized, you might want to re-think your logic, and review the local status of economic opportunity here. I say Chamber candidates desire for all Athens citizens to enjoy infrastructure, fair business opportunities, and the availability of great wages and jobs that ultimately will balance the tax burden that local property owners bare-These are just a few items that a Chamber candidate would endorse and support. I wonder, what has the current Mayor and Commission done in this regard? Where is the leadership?