Thursday, December 30, 2010

Big promises, high hopes...

Newly elected Fayette County Commissioner's Allen McCarty and Steve Brown were sworn in Monday morning. Brown brought a 10-point list of promises to constituents and McCarty spoke of changes that would be made when the pair were sworn into office.

It all sounded good, especially to the crowd attending the early morning ceremony.

However, all one had to do was take a look at the faces of Commissioner Herb Frady and County Manager Jack Krakeel as they watched to see how difficult it is going to be for the two new commissioners to keep some of their promises.

The two new commissioners are going to be in the minority. If the other three commissioners stick together, as is expected, the West Fayetteville Bypass will continue to move ahead. With Frady as the new Commission Chairman, as is expected, much will be hidden and more deals will be cut behind closed doors.

The one wild card I see in the mix over the next two years is that at least two of the Commissioners will be running for re-election in 2012. Speculation is that Frady will have achieved his goal to be Chairman and, given his age, will decide not to run again. Robert Horgan has expressed a desire to run for re-election despite ethics problems resulting from his arrest for marijuana possession and use. Lee Hearn, who is recovering from a fairly serious operation that turned out to be not as serious as it could have been (thank goodness) will also probably run again.

The public is adamant that what is most often called the 'bypass to nowhere' should go nowhere. They want it stopped. The three remaining commissioners from the 'old batch' have consistently voted to move it forward.

Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell, Hearn, Frady and Horgan made the decision during their tenure to stop building the East Fayetteville Bypass (one of the projects included in the SPLOST), wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars, and chose to start work on the three-phase West Fayetteville Bypass. Phase one was a high priority, taking traffic around the hospital. Phase two and three were low priorities. They bypassed much needed road projects in the SPLOST and opted to move forward on the last two phases of the Bypass. Per those who included the bypass in the SPLOST, the last two phases of the road shouldn't have been considered for many years to come, and then ONLY if conditions in the county changed substantially.

Smith, Maxwell and the remaining trio on the Commission have said all along that they were forced to do it because we voted for it in the SPLOST... yet they chose not to do other projects on that same list, and, as said earlier, chose to stop another project already in progress. Make sense to anyone? It sure gives rise to head scratching as to why.

If Horgan and Hearn stick with the project it's a sure thing they'll go down in flames when they run for re-election. The crowd that attended the swearing in was larger than any in past ceremonies. These folks are active and they are working to make some changes on the Board. It's part of the movement that has been sweeping across the country - people are paying attention and they want accountability. Those who worked locally to unseat Maxwell and Smith will not go away and are already working on the next election.

Over the next two years, well four since that's the term of elections, we're going to be hearing about everything that happens during commission meetings. Any secret deals will be made public --- Steve Brown is known for speaking his mind and sharing with the public, so that one is a given. McCarty comes across as a quiet, thoughtful person, but I gather he is not shy when it comes to issues he feels strongly about. No matter what, like the votes or not, we will know what is going on.

McCarty and Brown may not be able to do anything other than shout from the rooftops if the other three vote in lock-step though.

My expectation is that sometimes one or more of the others will break ranks and vote with McCarty and Brown, but not on issues of any importance. I expect the other three to conspire to shut them out. I expect the three remaining commissioners to continue to vote in ways that irk the majority of voters on projects favorable to developers. Frady has a reputation for being fairly crafty when it comes to determining public opinion. I expect he'll throw the public some bones to make us think he's listening, do some things that'll garner some nice headlines and have a chunk of voters saying "awww, that's a good vote". But when it comes to substance and the direction they're taking the county, we'll be reeling for years to come.

I  hope I'm wrong. I hope that ALL of the commissioners will be able to put aside their own personal quirks, desires, and friendships to vote for what is best for the county. The problem with voting on what is best for the county is that I'm pretty sure Jack Smith was voting in ways that he felt were best for the county. Most of us have a different vision of the future than he seems to have. I suppose I should amend the sentiment in that first sentence to say I hope they'll vote for what the majority of us feel is best for the county.

It's going to be an interesting next few years!

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