Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 District Election
District Four Macon-Bibb County Georgia
Information Meeting

Last Thursday, August 22, 2013 My Bride and I took the opportunity to attend the information meeting sponsored by the Macon League of Women Voters at Vineville Methodist Church.  The League of Women Voters (LWV) Vice-President, Christine Redding Lauder was the Moderator  for the District Four Candidates.  All the Candidates were present:

Mallory Jones - Identified with a "J" for the rest of this post
Beverly Olson - Identified with an "O" for the rest of this post
Theron Ussery - Identified with a "U" for the rest of this post

Ms. Lauder introduced herself and the timekeeper.  It should be noted that each candidate adhered to the assigned times in an excellent manner.

Basic Information:  Each Candidate was asked to provide basic information about their Campaign
  • O - Resided in Macon since 1978.  Involved in the Community Resource Committee.  Member of Macon City Council.  Loves Macon.  We have an excellent Music Legacy as well as a Great Location.  Macon is a diamond in the rough.  We need new business.  We must keep up to date.  Macon's  Airport needs to be improved to handle the potential for new industry and/or new business
  • J - A 1970 College Graduate.  Involved in the Family Business and has been a Realtor for the past 24 years.  Has negotiation skills which were honed as a realtor.  For the past two years has attended 95% of the Bibb Commission Meetings proving that he is aware of the local situation.  Macon has untapped potential.
  • U - A UGA graduate.  A life long Macon Resident.  Next three years will be critical as we move to one government.  Currently serving on the SPLOST implementation committee.  The consolidation Task Force is working well; however we face a lot of challenges as we implement one government.  Sited his twenty years on the City Council.
Question  from the Moderator - What specific action/s will you do to represent the District
  • J - Listen to the people.  Be available to the voters.  Must have the Voter's trust.  Be ready to take advantage of our dynamic assets.
  • O - Already on City Council.  Will continue to donate her salary to the Community Foundation.  Work on funding at risk youth.  Will be available via Cell Phone.  Ready and Willing to continue representing the citizens.  Stressed being available.
  • U - Will be retiring soon so will be available.  Ready to represent the people full time.  Will make self available.  His phone number will be available.  Ready to coordinate with the Mayor and fellow commissioners.
Question from the Moderator - How do you plan to interact with the Full Commission and the Mayor
  • O - Never met a stranger.  Has always been a coordinator.  Will work together.  A team player.  Looking forward to the smaller group of elected officials.
  • U - Pledged to be part of the Team.  Has interacted with the Mayor and the Council and will continue to do so in the new government.  Will rebuild trust.  Work to develop long range plans.  Will be a Team Player willing to work with others.
  • J - Give respect to earn respect.  Has a good relationship/s with the current commission members.  During his Real Estate work has worked with both buyers and sellers for twenty-four years.
Question from the Moderator - The Music Hall of Fame.  What can be done to bring Music Hall/Music Back to Macon
  • U - It is a shame we lost the Hall.  We must develop a funding mechanism to bring it back.  We need to honor the past.  Macon must become a destination rather than a pass through.  Funding for the future is critical.
  • O - The Hall of Fame Inductions are held in Atlanta.  The funds generated during this event have remained in Atlanta rather than being used for the Hall of Fame in Macon.  We must stress our current Music assets - Bragg Jam, the 567, the Music Events during the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival as well as the abundance of music events we already have.  Each of these events/venues need the support of more local citizens.
  • J - The loss of the Music Hall of Fame was a shame.  We have a great music heritage.  Must capitalize on this legacy of Macon, Georgia.  We have an abundance of great music/musicians.
Question from the Moderator - Goals for the District
  • J - Must be transparent and accountable to the citizens to earn their faith and trust.  Expand the airport to bring in new industry and/or business.  The Bronson Year is a great asset.  Currently number 2 in Georgia.  It has the potential to do more.
  • O - Getting the new government functioning well.  The "new" consolidated budget for the year commencing 1 July 2014 is critical.  Work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Push for Airport runway expansion.  The College Hill Corridor and the work of the Knight Foundation has generated a lot of interest and improvement in Macon.  This must continue.  
  • U - Create positive attitude.  Work to improve the image of Macon.  1) We lack respect for each other and we are often viewed as a dysfunctional city.  2) We must bring in new jobs.  3) Fight Crime. 

Question from a Citizen - During a recent Mayoral Candidate Forum there was a discussion about Budget Cuts.  Please be specific with your response.
  • U - As the new consolidated budget for 2015 is developed the commissioners must look at every item.  Personal (People) and Benefits are always the big items.  Investigate the privatization of trash as currently done in the County.  The new commissioners must develop a "Mean, Mean Working Machine" when it comes to establishing the government and the employees.  There will be tough decisions.
  • O - The new budget will have major challenges.  The initial expenses of badges/uniforms/car markings of the Law Enforcement and other government vehicles will have to be expended.  The first budget the commissioners will have to develop will the the FY 2015 budget, which will require much effort on the part of all involved.
  • J - The year ending in 2015 will be the first one to see budget cuts.  There are many situations where savings can be achieved.  For example the current county attorney is paid over $700,000.00.  Two attorneys could be put on the Staff at $150,000.00 each and considerable savings could be achieved.
Note:  All the Candidates agreed that attrition of current employees will assist in budget and employee reduction concerns.  

Question from a Citizen - What will you do for Macon's Law Enforcement Officials.  This is dangerous work and there are concerns about salaries.
  • J - There is an ongoing study to develop fair pay.  Duplication of services/duties will allow equal pay between the current Police Department and the Bibb Sheriff employees.  Additionally savings in other areas will allow parity in pay for all Law Enforcement Officials.
  • O - We must have parity in salaries for all members of the Law Enforcement employees.  Hopefully  savings in trash/garbage collections will also free up funds.  Other potential savings in the number of employees for the new government will also free up funds for Law Enforcement.
  • U -Salaries/Benefits are a major challenge.  We must have parity.  A study must be conducted to ascertain if there could be savings in some the services currently performed by both governments could be privatized.  We are really talking about millions of dollars.
Question from a Citizen - The current Bibb County Deputies salaries are low when compared with surrounding counties.  We are a training ground for our neighbors.
  • U - We need to achieve parity with neighboring counties so we can keep our well trained deputies.
  • O - We must strive for parity within our new government, but also with the surrounding counties.
  • J - Public Safety is absolutely the number 1 Concern.  We must grow Macon which will also improve the tax base.  Grow/stimulate job opportunities, which will help.
Question from a Citizen - All too often candidates for all offices stress education.  We have a Board of Education for that.  What will you do to assist that Board to achieve improved result.
  • O - Develop Tudor Programs in the Recreation Centers.  Enforce the Truancy Laws we already have on the books.  Our school system generally lacks parental support.  We as a society have a crisis in public education.  Education is a life long experience/opportunity.  The current situation where we have children raising children must be stopped.  
  • U - Crime must be stopped.  Crack houses must be eliminated.  This is a major challenge for law enforcement.  Open up our recreation centers at more times.  Be ready to help, not hinder the Board of Education.
  • J -We the people must hold the Board of Education responsible.  The Board needs support.  Did we do the right thing when we took the budget approval process for the School System away from the current county commissioners.
Question from a Citizen - What can be done to eliminate the pockets of poverty.
  • O - The government must work with many organizations to allow children to see a dynamic future.  Challenges promoting poverty are gangs and lack of education.  We must keep children active and straight.
  • J - Create jobs.  We will now have "One Voice" when it comes to attracting new industry/business to our area.  We have great opportunities in the future.
  • U - Have a positive attitude/outlook for the future.  We need to investigate what we can do better and then do it.
A Statement from the Moderator -  We need to focus on education.  She announced that she was a former educator in Los Angeles, California.  Pre-school makes a difference.  We can not fight poverty in Macon when so many citizens are only working 30 hours a week at minimum wage.  This situation does not promote a good family situation.  We must all know our community.

Question from a Citizen - When Elected then  as you reflect back on your first term in the new government what will be your most significant accomplishment.
  • J - We will be using Middle Georgia Tech to develop a higher trained work force.  We will have expanded the airport runway.  We will have created jobs.  We will make this a fine place to live.
  • U - I will be able to say that I was a great Team Player.  We will have our act together.  We did what we said we would do.  We established a government.
  • O - Helped put the new government into operation.  Was a team player.  Was an Ambassador for Macon!!! throughout the U.S.A.  Enticed new business/industry.  Achieved a safer community.  
Question/Concern from a Citizen - The Arts.  They are important to the quality of life.  Can a 20% cut impact this inasmuch as it is important to sustain the Arts.
  • U - Quality of life is vital.  Our community has the Macon Symphony/Many Arts Organizations/First Friday.  However as regards budget development there will be no sacred cows.
  • O - Arts in the Schools, which is a Board responsibility.  We already have a wonderful quality of life in Macon, unfortunately many to not take the opportunity to participate.  There will be budget challenges.  At this time the impact of available funds is an unknown.
  • J - I am a big supporter of the Arts.  Again we all will face challenges.
Question from a Citizen - If you are not Elected - What will you continue to do.
  • O - I will continue to be a "Macon Ambassador."
  • U - Currently a member of the SPLOST Advisory Committee.  I will work to keep government focused on the funding for buildings.
  • J - Reported that Vineville Methodist is where he is a Member.  He will continue to be involved in the 1) Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful Executive Committee.  2) Macon Touch Down Club.  3) Continue being a Macon Booster.  He reported that he had received the Realtors "Community Service Award."
Question from the Moderator - The Children's Museum is a wonderful asset.  Would like to ride the Nancy Hanks in the future.  
  • U - Financing will be a problem.  A better community in the future will see these types of activities/situations flourish.
  • O - The Children's Museum on Cherry Street.  As a member of City Council it was a requirement to have a financial summary from each organization seeking city funds.  The Museum never submit/generate a summary or an audit report for their consideration.  The museum is a great place/a good idea but currently lacks fiscal responsibility.
  • J - The Children's Museum is a good idea.  Accountability concerns generate a lack of governmental support.  The Nancy Hanks may come after we grow.
Question from a Citizen - Cut backs on employees in government.  What steps will the government employ to help terminated employees.
  • O - Hopefully Quality People can be retained.  Attrition through retirements can also help resolve job reductions.
  • U - 75% of the budget is people/benefits.  Strive for efficiences.   Develop severance packages.   No one knows at this time.
  • J -Attrition will help.  Upper management will suffer the most.  
Question from a Citizen - Why should I vote for you.

Mallory Jones Responded:
  • We are at a crossroads.
  • I will work so that we will realize our potential
  • The people we elect this election is critical
  • We must use common sense solutions
  • We must reduce Crime.
Mallory Jones has the experience to usher in new leadership.

Beverly Olson Responded:
  • Honored to Receive the vote
  • Dedicated
  • Will be responsive to voters
  • Vote Early - Early voting starts on Monday, August 26th
Theron Ussery Responded:
  • A Track Record on City Council
  • I realize that I a not able to accomplish all by myself
  • Team Player
  • With over 100,000 citizens we will have more access to grants which he will assist to seek out
  • Not a Lone Wolf
  • Will restore respect and dignity to our government
Note from the Blog Editor:   Please be aware that this Post is compiled from my notes that I personally took at this event.  The notes are recorded as I understood the comments.  This post is provided so that everyone can possibly acquire information from the District Four Candidates.

Thank You!!!!

Alan F. E. Thiese

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