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Former candidate Wilkerson: Fayette must move to district voting

How much longer can the two main governing bodies of Fayette County (County Commission and School Board) pretend to be living on an island? As much as our leaders try to ignore it and convince us likewise, Fayette does not exist on an island unto itself. Actually, the School Board has done a far superior job than the County Commission in governing as part of a much larger society than just the island of Fayette. However, this cannot be said of the County Commission.

The newly seated commission is bickering about the West Fayetteville Bypass and whether Fayette citizens should approve the 1 cent regional transportation tax. Both of these issues are “forward” thinking issues since they propose to address problems before they become insurmountable. One need only look to the west to see the traffic log jam that exists over in Coweta County from governing leadership that did not act to put in the proper infrastructure to support the growth that has occurred in my former hometown. Is that what the citizens of Fayette want to leave as a legacy for their children and grandchildren? I don’t think so.

But this article is not just about “forward” thinking on much needed transportation improvements, it is really about the failure of the County Commission and the School Board to Fast Forward Fayette to the 21st century and agree to elect local representatives in district voting instead of at-large voting.

It’s disappointing that the Tea Party activists don’t see how important this issue is and grab hold of it since it is so reminiscent of the original Boston Tea Party movement resulting from “taxation without representation.”

At-large voting in Fayette was an acceptable form of electing local representatives when the county had a population of 29,000 back in 1980 (data taken from County Commission website Fayette County Facts). It was reasonable for a 5-person commission and school board to be able to fairly represent and be in touch with about 6,000 residents each. But that is not the case today.

Based on data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population in Fayette from the 2010 census is over 105,000 persons. That means that each member of the Commission or the School Board is attempting to represent over 20,000 people. Talk about a living example of “taxation without representation.”

There is a large contingent of the Fayette population who has little to no contact with their elected commissioner or school board member since they are elected “at-large” by every single voter in the county. The commissioners claim this makes them accountable to everyone, when in fact they are accountable to no one. Example: remember the punishment that fellow commissioners handed out to current Commissioner Horgan after his brush with the law in 2009.

It is past time for the leaders of the two main governing bodies in this county of over 105,000 persons to Fast Forward Fayette and stop objecting to the move and call for district voting.

Isn’t it interesting that the City Council of Peachtree City got it right when they were first formulated and instituted district voting? Is district voting good enough for the citizens of Peachtree City but not for those of Fayette County as a whole?

Maybe our elected Fayette delegation to the Georgia legislature will have the leadership courage to lead us where our local leaders are too selfish to go.

Emory Wilkerson

Fayetteville, Ga.

[Attorney Emory Wilkerson ran against and lost to incumbent Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam in the July 2010 Democratic Party primary.]

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Comments

Sorry Emery, I like you but I must disagree. I don't support District Voting.
And, I am not quite sure if you mean that Peachtree City used to have District Voting, "when they were first formulated"? I don't know if they used to, but they don't now. No government in Fayette County has District Voting; Commission, Constitutional Officers, School Board, Peachtree City, Fayetteville, Tyrone, Brooks or Woolsey. None.
Regards, Peter

PTC Observer's picture

I believe Clayton and Fulton counties both have district voting, isn't this reason enough not to have it?

mudcat's picture

for district voting. Peachtree City would certainly be one of the districts they created and that would mean we would not be able to have Brown and Frady on the commission at the same time. And only 1 commissioner would be allowed to live in Whitewater Creek.

You sound like a broken record, "Clayton and Fulton counties both have district voting, isn't this reason enough not to have it". Come up with something new. What about Cobb, Gwinnett, Clarke, Douglas, all have district voting. Stop being so obvious with your "coded" comments.

What in those Counties do you think is better than Fayette? School Systems? Crime Rates? Let's hear it.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Huh? That seems like it is exactly what you would have with district voting - 20,000 people, 1 representative, although only about 600 actual voters turning out to elect that 1 representative.

Seems to me that having the entire county voting for all the representatives you get a better quality candidate as they have to impress voters throughout the county rather than just those in the "neighborhood" of 20,000, which is only about 5,000 households. After all, the elected reps have to conduct business for the entire county - not just their neighborhood. District voting could allow some narrow-minded single-issue candidate get elected to county commission. Someone who has no interest in or knowledge about county-wide issues, only caring about hot button issues in his or her district. Can't see how that helps.

What am I missing? What is the real reason for wanting district voting? What good does it do?

Live free or die!

TinCan's picture

[quote]District voting could allow some narrow-minded single-issue candidate get elected to county commission. Someone who has no interest in or knowledge about county-wide issues, only caring about hot button issues in his or her district.[/quote]

I believe we just got that result without district voting.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

But wth district voting we could get one of them every election. One clown is comedy. Two would be bearable. Three or more and it becomes a serious problem. Gridlock. Nothing gets voted on. No raises for staff. No roads get built. No silly new regulations.

Live free or die!

Mike King's picture

You do mean like we have on Council in Peachtree City currently?

Folks are free to elect clowns. I walk among them in my hometown. Or maybe it's not unfortunate. Sometimes we need a hard lesson in voting.

Mike King's picture

Very well said indeed.

TinCan's picture

Now what made you add "no roads" as an example? I'm afraid that after the rabble is aroused enough to eliminate the 3 old, mostly sane, commissioners and bulldoze the WFB (figuratively), that district voting will again rear its ugly head. Regarding the rabble rousing I'm almost at the point of starting a direct driveway to recycling bin process for my twice weekly Brown report. Bring back the district voting bloviating and it's a done deal.

SPQR's picture

That about sums it up. County wide candidates need to have the big picture.

District candidates go forward with a little picture.

thank you very much. Best County in Metro Atlanta, hands down. Name a better one if you can.

Maybe he got the Peachtree City Council election method wrong, but Mr. Pfifer just made his argument for why distric voting is needed since he makes it clear that no governing authority in Fayette County has it. Why do Fayette current and former leaders like Mr. Pfifer insist on shutting out a more representative form of government. Do they like controlling things and are they afraid of a diverse set of ideas from different people?

It’s “Pfeifer”, not “Pfifer”, Southside.

I don’t understand your argument. If Fayette is the best County, with the best Cities and the best School System on the Southside, and it is, why would you change the way we elect people?

You sound like yardman5508. He made the same argument; “I moved here because I liked it, and now that I’m here I want to change it!” It still doesn’t make any sense to me.

As far as “controlling things” and “a diverse set of ideas from different people” goes, I don’t control things and I do think we need ideas from different people. We just don’t agree on how to get them. I don’t believe that District Voting would provide the benefit that you think it would. The negatives outweigh any positives.

Regards

Mr. "Pfeifer" tell me why you think not going to a more representative form of electing our elected officials in Fayette is not the right thing to do? The Founding Fathers gave us district voting in the form of electing members to the U.S. House of Representatives. Did they get it wrong?

What would you say if all 13 of Georgia's current U.S. House delegation were elected statewide? District voting brings greater accountability. The idea is to have 3 members elected in districts and 2 elected county-wide. Then you can have individual members who are accountable to the 3 districts they represent but who will need to still work for the good of the whole county since they will have to convince at least 2 more that the idea they are proposing is of benefit to the county.

Tell us the negatives you refer to.

I would certainly be for that. That's what the Founding Fathers set up.

The Wedge's picture

The original method of getting into the US Senate was to be appointed from your statehouse.

But the American "founding fathers" are 250 years old!

Have you thought about the Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian, and British founding fathers? Now there are some "old" ones!

Actually King David's idea of a sling shot defeated a whole army. That would cut our defense budget somewhat!

Wonder why we changed the "founding fathers," rules of slavery, no women involved in anything except cooking and birthing, no voting for ordinary people.

Someone in the Bible slew 10,000 idiots while standing behind a rock with the jaw-bone of a "founding father!" Or, a jawbone of a few on here.

Then there were the 300 homos in Greece who fought off conquerers and won one battle anyway!

Check out that plan!

mudcat's picture

If the voters in one district are stupid, they may pick a stupid or ineffective representative. Having the entire body of voters involved prevents someone from getting elected by fooling the stupid voters in just one district. We wouldn't want to allow that to happen. Would we?

That's not a good argument Southside. Our Founding Fathers gave us a system of U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and a U.S. President. That is U.S. as in United States. They gave us a FEDERAL Government, they did not give us LOCAL Government. They wisely left that up to the LOCAL people, who they knew would choose the government they wanted locally.

One of the negatives of district voting is vote trading as in "I'll vote for this in your district if you'll vote for that in mine". That approach doesn't consider what might be best for the entire county.

In another post, you say that Cobb, Gwinnett, Clarke, Douglas, all have district voting. I think you're implying that those who point to Fulton and Clayton are making "coded" racist remarks.

I don't agree with your racial implications Southside. I don't "code" things.

The bottom line is, Fayette isn't any of those places. You never responded to my statement, "You sound like yardman5508. He made the same argument; “I moved here because I liked it, and now that I’m here I want to change it!” It still doesn’t make any sense to me."

Why would you choose to live here if you don't like it, if you think Cobb or Gwinnett or Douglas etc. are better?

Regards.

mudcat's picture

What is your point? Specifically, why do you think district voting would make things better? Anybody can run for anything they want and present any ideas they want. How does district voting change any of that. I don't understand, it sounds like change for the sake of change unless I'm missing something.

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