Commission candidates face off

Tue, 06/24/2008 - 9:35pm
By: The Citizen

The political darts flew between candidates for the Fayette County Commission seats at tonight’s candidate forum at the Sams Auditorium.

Incumbents faced off against their challengers, with each candidate scoring at least a few valid points. Incumbent Robert Horgan had to fend off pressure from former commission chairman Greg Dunn, his opponent in the Post 1 race, about the current commission’s progression toward a defined benefit retirement plan, which Dunn contends will be costly for taxpayers. Horgan contended that the new plan, which has not yet been given final approval, would actually save the county money.

Horgan, meanwhile, asked Dunn about his acceptance of a $2,000 contribution from an attorney who has consulted the county on issues surrounding the Lake McIntosh reservoir. Dunn said he didn’t solicit the contribution, and he told the attorney, Larry Craig of Carrollton, that the contribution meant he (Dunn) would no longer be able to support the county doing business with him (Craig) and Dunn said Craig understood.

Horgan noted that Craig was paid thousands of dollars by the county over a period of several years, dating back to when Dunn started on the commission.

Post 2 challenger Bob Fuhrman and incumbent Herb Frady ultimately had to disagree about whether Frady is supporting the defined benefits plan. Frady said he does not, rather he likes the county’s current retirement system. But Furhman pressed, saying that Frady’s vote in December was in favor of the defined benefits plan.
Frady said no, that vote merely authorized the study of switching to such a plan.

Frady, noting his 26 years of service on the commission, asked Fuhrman how he would improve Fayette County. Fuhrman said he’d like the county commission to return to its former process of publishing detailed written minutes of commission meetings instead of the new “summary” that is now published instead that has far fewer details.

In the three-way race for Peter Pfeifer’s Post 3 seat, challenger Stuart Kourajian asked fellow challenger Lee Hearn if his position as transportation director in Henry County would put him in a conflict of interest because he would also be privy to confidential information shared with commissioners in executive (closed) sessions.

Hearn replied that he would be able to keep his professional life separate from his political life, but no matter what he would be able to put Fayette County first, noting his family heritage in the county.

Pfeifer asked Kourajian about why the Peachtree City Council, which Kourajian served on from 2003-2007, last year didn’t immediately respond to a request from state legislator Dan Lakly for a declaration in support of the county’s current district voting process.

Kourajian replied that he and several other council members at first didn’t think it was their place to get involved in the issue, but ultimately such a declaration was approved by the council. Kourajian added that he thinks district voting is fair because it gives everyone a chance to vote on all the candidates, and he would support district voting unless someone could prove to him that it was preventing certain groups from being engaged in the political process.

Pfeifer, responding to a question from a fellow candidate, said his greatest disappointment has been his lack of ability to stop the latest round of employee raises, which he has previously said worked out to about 9 percent each, especially given the current poor state of the economy. Dunn shared that sentiment, saying he’d rather go through the budget to find more cuts.

Horgan said in the past 18 months since the new commission took over, relationships have improved between the county and the other cities in Fayette in addition to the constitutional officers. Fuhrman said he wants to continue that trend.

Hearn implored the crowd to do “background checks” on all candidates, specifically asking people on the Peachtree City Council what they think about Kourajian and employees in the Fayette County road department, which he formerly headed, what they felt about him. He also suggested that others such as Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele would have insight to share on Pfeifer.

Hearn said he thought transportation should be Fayette’s top priority, and he has the experience in dealing with the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Transportation on such matters.

Horgan said he would like to see the county improve its recreational offerings in a bid to attract more people to move to Fayette County, such as an aquatic center.

Dunn said he would like to take a look at the current budget that’s about to be adopted by the commission to find other areas to cut to lessen the load on taxpayers. Dunn noted that during his eight-year tenure on the board it always reduced the millage rate instead of increasing it.

The forum, sponsored by the Fayette Metro Kiwanis Club, was attended by roughly 50 people. A similar forum will be held Thursday night at 7, also at Sams Auditorium in downtown Fayetteville, for the four candidates facing off for the position of Fayette County sheriff.

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Submitted by ograce on Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:37pm.

I know that we need to take care of this planet we are on, (though I believe Global Warming is a crock), and transportation is a big thing in that. I would really hate to see buses in our beautiful county I would much rather see trolley type cars or something more unique,(and less expensive), for us. When considering this issue why not sponsor a contest of a unique, inexpensive vehicle that of course runs on something other than fossil fuel, maybe solar power. Make Fayetteville a positive example.

yardman5508's picture
Submitted by yardman5508 on Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:47pm.

own one of the old Disney monorails? How about running one of those up and down the 74 corridor? Keep the faith.

Even a dead fish can go with the flow.

Submitted by CI5835 on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 2:37pm.

The comment from loanranger demonstrates much of what is wrong with this country and the political process. People rely on others to inform them and to do things for them they should be doing themselves. Go out and get informed for yourself. You are the best judge for yourself, not some blogger or second-rate local writer. Goodbye.

Submitted by Howard Beale on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 1:41am.

Not a bad summary, but I was at the forum and I don’t know every member of the citizen’s news team, but I sure didn’t see anyone that I recognized. Whoever wrote the story did a decent job summarizing the events, but I’d like to know who it was and where he/she was hiding (Cal, please stop signing news stories as “The citizen” because it makes you look like you covered the story on cable access where it was televised. I did notice the married couple that is your competition in the crowd, by the way).

It obviously wasn’t Ben Nelms covering the event, because he would have been in the front row and the reporting would have been better.

A couple things the story does not mention: Bob Fuhrman looked like a fish out of water.
The man stalled the debate by repeatedly forgetting to speak into the microphone and he repeatedly accused Frady of supporting a defined benefit retirement plan for county employees even though Frady was the only council member to recently vote against such a plan.

In my opinion, anyone bringing up the defined benefit plan is pandering for votes. The whole issue is much too complicated to talk about in the two minutes allotted for each candidate.

(Jack Smith, please write a letter to the editor)

The Fuhrman v. Frady ruckus, initiated by Fuhrman, was the most embarrassing/least civil part of the event.

Also, the entire forum proved what the informed followers already know: Dunn, Pfeifer and Fuhrman are running on the (non) issues that Pfeifer has been raising in his letters to the editors of our local papers.

Pfeifer, Dunn and Fuhrman all came out against pay raises for our county employees, against the defined benefit plan and wholeheartedly in support of lowering our county services to a bare minimum.

Plain and simple: Dunn wants to retake control of this county. He has lined up a leftover incumbent (Pfeifer) a barely functional pawn (Fuhrman) and a little revenge for spite (Wells…who thankfully didn’t speak tonight) and his plan seems to be to turn Fayette County into a nice little retirement community.

Kourajian was by far the most eloquent speaker of the group. If there are reruns on cable access, do watch them.

Hearn looked decent and made me wish that I could vote for him instead of Fuhrman or Frady.

Although Horgan stumbled on his words here and there, his ideas make sense:
We need to continue to make Fayette attractive to families. Our great schools alone will not cut it. Underpaying and under-appreciating county employees (including county staff, teachers and sheriff deputies) will undermine our quality of life. We save money by keeping and investing in the people we spend taxpayers’ funds to train.

The message I got from Tuesdays forum was two-fold:
1. nobody cares about this July 15th election (there where about 30 people there)
2. Dunn, Pfeifer and Fuhrman are a collective nightmare… Frady and Horgan will get my vote. For me it is a toss-up between Kourajian and Hearn, but I’m currently leaning toward Kourajian.

Submitted by boo boo on Fri, 06/27/2008 - 12:19am.

These are my Tax dollars you are talking about. Everything these people do, that we elect, affects all of us. A bunch of us use to go to all the meetings every month for years and years. Now we pretty much depend on our Newspapers and the county web site and talking to others in the know about what exactly is going on.
We stopped going to the meetings When Dunn, Wells, and the Pfeifer group sat on the Commission seats. Why you ask, because they really were honest, intelligent, fair and showed real empathy with the people, the TAXPAYERS. I saw a lot of Self Serving Good OLD BOYS in those seats over the years and THE Dunn Group really were the best at what they did, period. This group of Commissioner' now...they need to go. Also we need a whole new group of School Board members, yep went to those meetings many years too, after all that is where most of my tax dollars go..
Sheriff's office, how bout none of the above...don't we have a Woman that could run..
Maybe more later

Submitted by loanarranger707 on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 10:35am.

That few prospective voters attend these meetings is not necessarily a sign nobody cares about the election. Many of us rely on the reports that are published afterwards. Some TV shows have no audience, yet they have great influence. These political meetings have considerable significance so long as good reports of them are published afterwards. Like yours, which is appreciated.

After reading accounts of this meeting, I find it regrettable that we have no groups who encourage good people to run against those who don’t perform. I specifically have in mind the Fuhrman-Frady contest, where there seems to be a consensus that neither candidate is worthy of being elected. Having to choose a least bad candidate is not an enviable task.

I am also finding that issues don’t matter all that much, because there are always plenty of unexpected other issues that come up during a term of office. If raising the salaries of county employees and providing them a defined benefit pension plan was an issue during the 2006 election, I must have been asleep at the switch.

What I find counts the most is the character of the people we elect, their basic honesty, their intelligence, their sense of fairness and empathy for people, and their ability to lead and inspire them. That’s what we need to look for and divine through all the noise.

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