Answers from Paul Oddo (incumbent), candidate for Post 5, Fayetteville

Wed, 10/28/2009 - 2:18pm
By: Paul Oddo

Questions for Fayetteville candidates:

1. Whether an incumbent or challenger, what things do you bring to the table that would convince voters to cast their vote for you?

2. There has been some previous discussion about the area on the north side of Ga. Highway 54 between the hospital and Tyrone Road in terms of future development and possible annexation. What is your position on that or other potential annexations?

3. Fayetteville often has a very low voter turnout for municipal elections. Why is that and what can you do to increase voter participation past the 10 percent level?

4. The retail areas on Fayetteville’s north side continue to age and diminish. What will you do about that?

5. Grade the current City Council on openness and transparency to city residents. What will you do to improve the council’s “user-friendliness”?

6. Will you vote for or against the countywide SPLOST renewal? Why or why not?

7. Describe your general political philosophy, particularly regarding local government.

Answers from Paul Oddo (incumbent), candidate for Post 5

1. When a citizen casts his or her vote for Paul Oddo, the voter will know they are getting a competent official who knows his primary goal is to serve the citizens of Fayetteville.

Paul Oddo has over 35 years experience in the business world as a certified public accountant, so he understands the issues important to small business. His analytical skills along with his conservative philosophy and common sense make him a positive addition to the City Council. And his first term on the City Council proves he can work alongside those of differing opinions.

He is married to Nohemi, an attorney and college professor. And his family owns a residence in the city of Fayetteville, where he has lived at the same address for over 39 years. So he is familiar with and understands the issues of homeowners. Paul Oddo is active in his church and is a member of numerous civic organizations.

He has served on the board of the statewide Georgia Society of Certified Public accountants and has served as president of the Educational Foundation of the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants. He has served as treasurer of Rotary District 6900 and as treasurer of the Fayette County Republican Party.

In 1980 Paul Oddo became the first president of the Fayetteville Rotary Club of which he is still a member. He has been a member of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce since 1980 and he is a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

2. Annexations that are not thought through and done simply to benefit a favored party over another can result in negative unintended consequences that certainly are not in the best interests of the citizens of either city or county.

However, at times annexations can be beneficial to both city and county when pursued with the best interests of both parties in mind.

For example, it would be beneficial to the city if certain small adjacent tracts could be annexed so that the development would be within the city guidelines rather than under guidelines acceptable for the larger, more undeveloped county.

That being said, the development of the area on the north side of Ga. Highway 54 has been proposed within the past few years, but that was before the residential housing market came to a standstill.

As the development of that area is now several years away, at best, I believe that now is the time to open up discussions on how this area can be developed when that time comes that more development can be absorbed into the economy.

To this end, the free market will help nicely because you will not find lenders so willing to bankroll a large tract of unsold houses. It is just not economically feasible.

3. 10 percent: It is that high? The reason that there is a low turnout is because the cities in the state of Georgia decided a number of years ago to hold municipal elections in odd-numbered years, that is, in the years between the national elections, which are always held in even numbered years. The reason for the selection of the odd-year elections is because turnout is historically low and that favors the incumbents.

In 2007 I was working with the late state Representative Dan Lakly on a proposal to get the legislature to allow Fayetteville to return to holding elections in even-numbered years. Unfortunately, Rep. Lakly passed away in November 2007, and I have not been able to re-start the discussions with any other representative at this time.

However, it is a much needed change. Not only will participation in elections improve, but also it will save the taxpayers of the city money, since there will be no need for these additional off-year elections.

4. Well, I can agree that something should be done, but since I am not the property owner, I can’t do anything directly about it. That being said, it is my opinion that city government should make those areas attractive to business. This should be done in two ways.

The first is easy. Put some common sense back into the sign ordinance. The city is dogmatic that no off-premises signs are permitted, yet it violates this provision of its own ordinance by using four off-premises signs on highways 85 and 54 to promote its own amphitheater. Not to mention all the light pole banners the city uses to promote its activities and special events.

There is the argument that the city’s signs are to give direction to a governmental building. True. But the fact is, no one really needs to know where the amphitheater is. People do need to know where the Tax Commissioner’s office is.

The city owns a venue that competes directly with private enterprise for the entertainment dollar and whose operations, unlike its private enterprise counterparts, are underwritten by the full faith and credit of the city. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Signs are needed and they are beneficial to the amphitheater and the city. But I say the city should either allow businesses the same type of sign privileges that the city has, or else the city should comply with the sign ordinance the same way that businesses must comply.

The second way the city can help is to provide economic incentives to redevelop the north side. This has been discussed by city planning staff and it has not been overlooked by the city in its temporary reduction in the impact fees. These are all positive steps taken.

But the next step in this progression is to allow businesses to improve their properties without having to bring their entire grandfathered edifices into full compliance with the existing ordinances.

For example, if someone wanted to simply pave over an existing gravel parking lot, I say allow them the opportunity to upgrade their parking lot so that the lot only would be brought into compliance with the ordinances. Let the other parts of the property remain grandfathered until the business has the money to upgrade. It is better to move forward one step at a time rather than to forego all improvement because the business can’t afford to rebuild the entire facility all at once.

5. First, I think all departments of the city staff do a good job at being open and transparent. Whether handling a water billing problem or responding to a request for information or to an emergency call, they handle the citizens’ inquiries timely, efficiently and with detail appropriate for the matter at hand.

As to the council, the newspaper reporters who cover the council meetings are a big part of the transparency. But the council should not rely on newspaper reporters. I believe that minutes of council meetings, though technically adequate, should be broader in scope and more detailed with regard to comments by citizens and council members. Minutes are a historical record of the city.

I will continue working to add more detail to minutes of council meetings which, in my opinion, will improve the transparency of the council

As to the “user-friendliness” of the council, I will only speak for myself. Citizens know that they can call me whenever they have a concern. The citizens also know that I will take their concern as far as I can and do my best to get a resolution for them.

But they also know that I as one member of the council must work with four other council members to implement solutions. Sometimes the resolution is not what they were looking for, but they know that I will be fair to all parties concerned. As their representative, the citizens most certainly have a “user-friendly” member of council. I ask them to give me a grade.

6. The question is a good one. And the answer should be easy. But there are many factors to consider. So here are some of my thoughts as I work through this issue with the rest of you.

Without getting into the merit of the many projects to be paid for with the SPLOST, I realize that at the present time Fayette County is in this recession too. And if I could provide tax relief, I would. So letting the existing SPLOST expire at this time would provide some tax relief to our citizens who purchase goods and services in Fayette County.

Then I believe that if the existing SPLOST expired, our 1 percent sales tax differential would be a tangible selling point for our retail businesses. And if I can help the businesses, which contribute significantly towards our Fayette County quality of life, I would.

I believe that overall our local retail stores would realize an increase in customers from adjacent counties. And if there is improvement in overall sales, then aggregate sales tax collections would increase. And if aggregate sales tax collections increase, the city and county would collect more sales tax dollars.

So, perhaps, some or even all of the 1 percent SPLOST can be compensated for by increases in general sales tax collections. But there are those who say that shoppers from other counties will not come to Fayette County just for a 1 percent sales tax savings.

There is a countervailing thought that property taxes will go up to cover the deficit of the 1 percent sales tax should the SPLOST not pass this year. (They would not go up if overall sales tax dollars increased as a result of the tax cut.)

Well, since my friends who are still “Reagan Republicans” believe that lowering tax rates will increase overall tax collections, they say let’s vote this one for the “Gipper.” If it doesn’t work, the tax can always be levied next year. (When the general election in that even-numbered year of 2010 will draw many more voters than will turn out this November 2009.)

So, how will I vote? I really would like a tax cut.

7. I guess that John Wayne summed up my general political philosophy when, in his role of Davy Crockett in “The Alamo” he said, “Republic. ... It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell ... however they choose.” This philosophy means government’s function should be generally to act as a referee between citizens.

It means that government should not be in business to compete with private enterprise.

It means government should provide public safety and ensure domestic tranquility.

Government should promote (not pay for) the general welfare. And all this should be done with the least amount of taxes possible.

To put it another way, I believe that we will be more successful in our lives if we, as citizens, are allowed to make our own decisions and, yes, even make our own mistakes, than if we allow our government to govern every dimension of our lives and our business

I ask for your vote on Nov. 3. Thank you.

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