Brown: Smith votes for roads to nowhere, mass transit for Fayette
Incumbent Commissioner Jack Smith is getting very worried. People are not going to take accusations without supporting evidence anymore.
Hard-working people in Fayette County have watched as our county-level governments have built expensive schools (some empty, others around 60 percent empty) while they cut teachers’ pay and reduced the services.
We watched as commissioners approved expensive roads that go nowhere, voted in favor of official plans to bring mass transit buses here and asked us for pork-barrel projects via a SLOST priced in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And it all happened in the worst economic period of my lifetime.
When I was mayor, Smith’s friends accused me of holding up construction of the TDK Extension.
Do not get me wrong. I really tried to work things out on the TDK Extension, having nothing against the road, but the developers kept insisting on huge plans that would literally crush our roads with traffic. I had no choice but to stop it.
In an Oct. 12, 2005 letter is this paper, former Mayor Bob Lenox described my efforts to terminate TDK with: “For the next two years Steve Brown personally stonewalled this project [TDK]. You don’t have to take my word for this. Pick up your telephone and call Greg Dunn, Fayette County Commission chairman, or any member of the Fayette County Commission. Call Ken Steele, mayor of Fayetteville, or any member of his council. Call Mitch Seabaugh, our state senator at the time. Call Lynn Westmoreland, then our state representative, now our representative to the U.S. Congress. Call the chairman or any member of the Coweta County Commission.”
With the quote from my ardent political rival, you have listed 19 government witnesses saying I did everything in my power to kill the TDK Extension. So who are you going to believe, the 19 government officials or incumbent Commissioner Jack Smith? (Hint: go with the 19 officials from the five different jurisdictions because I have quotes from them, too.)
The TDK Extension project is dead, but it is a forceful symbol of just how bad some of the development interests can be with trying to deceive the public. However, much to former Commission Chairman Greg Dunn’s credit, he pulled all the county funding from TDK once the massive developments were exposed.
Giving it his best effort, incumbent Commissioner Smith tried to say I was previously in favor of the West Fayetteville Bypass (did not cite a reference, though). I opposed the entire SPLOST.
An Oct. 29, 2004 article in The Citizen states, “Peachtree City Mayor Steve Brown has taken his opposition to Tuesday’s vote on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax [SPLOST] to television.”
An Oct. 18, 2005 article in The Citizen talks about a developer political action committee called Direct PAC saying, “Brown himself should have registered as a political action committee when he campaigned against passage of the Fayette County Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax issue last year.” The Direct PAC people are friends of incumbent Smith.
The phrases “his opposition” and “campaigned against passage” pretty much tell the story.
Another anemic claim from incumbent Smith is he is opposed to having mass transit buses in Fayette County, but he voted in favor of the mass transit plan, including the buses in Fayette, 100 percent of the time.
In The Citizen article entitled, “Commission Chairman Smith explains his vote for mass transit in Fayette,” (The Citizen, March 16, 2010) Smith tried, painfully, to explain why he keeps voting for something had been telling us, publicly, he opposed.
Remember when Senator John Kerry was trying to explain his vote against a military funding bill for our troops in Iraq after being caught saying something to the contrary? He said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it.” That quote is the perfect parallel to what Commissioner Smith is trying to do on the mass transit issue. You cannot have it both ways, Jack.
The double-talk on the West Fayetteville Bypass is no better. Commissioner Smith says he has absolutely “no choice” but to build the road to nowhere. However, there are a slew of unfunded SPLOST projects to choose from that would actually reduce traffic congestion.
The West Fayetteville Bypass is such a dysfunctional road project that Commissioner Smith actually considered closing the Ga. Highway 74 and I-85 interchange and opening up a new interchange on Ga. Highway 92, so the bypass commuters would have somewhere to go (The Citizen, Jan 12, 2010, “Who needs W. F’ville Bypass?”).
Commissioner Smith is acting like Congress, getting his developer welfare bypass project while deflecting the responsibility and claiming there is nothing he can do about it.
He is flipping a coin saying, “heads he wins and tails we lose.” In fact, at the Tea Party Forum, PTC Councilman Eric Imker asked incumbent Commissioner Eric Maxwell, “Can you legally change the allocation of SPLOST money — you currently dedicated money for the West Fayetteville Bypass — can you re-direct it to some other SPLOST designated project?”
And Maxwell answered, “The answer is ‘yes,’” (Tea Party Forum DVD or go to www.sb4faycom.com, click “video”).
Another glaring concern is incumbent Commissioner Smith’s seat on the board of directors of the Bank of Georgia. At the candidates’ forum sponsored by the Tea Party people, Smith admitted conflicts of interest can arise with his bank specializing in lending to the development community while he is also in charge of voting on land use plans, rezoning requests and the placement of infrastructure such as the West Fayetteville Bypass in his role as commissioner.
Like the letter writer from Tyrone said a couple of weeks ago, Jack Smith either needs to be a county commissioner or a development banker (The Citizen, June 8, 2010, “Brown, McCarty will take Fayette back from ‘good old boy developer crowd”).
Remember, whenever incumbent Smith makes a claim about his developer-driven bank, we have no way to verify anything because we do not have access to the bank’s private records; that’s the problem.
But we all know this: officials at Smith’s bank told reporters, “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. And at first, the strategy paid off, helping the bank double its earnings between 2004 and 2006 to nearly $4 million.”
Those same bank officials “admit they bet too heavily on real estate, devoting more than 80 percent of the bank’s total loan portfolio to the sector,” (AJC, Aug. 29, 2009). The FDIC slammed this bank and the actions of the board where incumbent Smith serves.
What Commissioner Smith does with his own money is his business. What he does with tax money is our business. When the two are intertwined, there should be NO business. It is conflicts like these that lead to government corruption.
Smith was right on this: I filed an ethics complaint against myself some 40 minutes after I found that my assistant took my child to a nearby summer camp (she knew I had a meeting with the County Commissioners) without asking for the time off from her supervisor. When I found out what happened, I honestly and quickly filed a public apology in this newspaper and an official complaint because I could not be a good leader and expect the city employees to be ethical if I was not willing to set the example.
I paid the city back for my assistant’s time, a total of $8.94.
The incumbent Commissioner Smith gave a new Chinese corporation huge, multi-year tax abatements and then accepted a luxury trip with first-class lodging, tours and meals from the same corporation, an obvious violation (The Citizen, Nov. 2, 2008, “Officials back from China junket”).
But the “spotless” commissioner offered no apology, no ethics citation and refused to pay back the thousands of dollars in expenses he racked up.
Be extremely careful of people who go all out to prove they are blameless, never seeing a need to apologize or ask forgiveness.
Your choices are unmistakable. The incumbent commissioner voted in favor of the official plan for mass transit buses in Fayette County, and, at the Tea Party candidates’ forum, he said he “would vote the exact same way” if given another chance (Tea Party Forum DVD or go to www.sb4faycom.com, click “video”).
As for the district voting issue, many people did not like the idea, so I came up with a better way. My new solution for keeping entrenched special interests and their politicians out of the common good’s way is to change the county’s charter to include term limitations (two terms) for all elected county commission posts.
I have run term limit idea by a couple of hundred voters and they love it.
The incumbent commissioner is unwavering in his support to construct the expensive West Fayetteville Bypass that will not function as a bypass. Likewise, Commissioner Smith stubbornly refused to resign from the board of the developer-driven bank, allowing for conflict and mistrust.
You can take the incumbent’s road-to-nowhere, mass transit and his $137 million SPLOSTs or you can vote for someone who opposes mass transit in Fayette, will terminate the West Fayetteville Bypass and refuses to accept compromised behavior.
Things will not get any better if you do not vote on July 20. You have got to check out the fabulous job one of my campaign volunteers did with the video on each candidate for the County Commission.
Candidate for Post 4, County Commission
Peachtree City, Ga.