In 3-2 vote, Tyrone Mayor Dial to replace Steele on ARC

Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial. File photo from November 2011.

The defeat of former Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele in November’s election insured that Fayette County’s cities would have a new representative sitting on the board of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

And with a split 3-2 vote Monday from Fayette’s five mayors, new Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial was elected to the position over Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix.

Voting for Dial were Brooks Mayor Dan Langford Jr., Gary Laggis of Woolsey and Dial himself. Voting for Haddix were new Fayetteville mayor Greg Clifton and Haddix himself.

Dial will serve as one of Fayette County’s two representatives on the ARC: the other representative is Herb Frady, who was re-elected chairman by his fellow commissioners on a 3-2 vote Thursday night over Commissioner Steve Brown.

Dial said the five mayors have little to disagree about policy-wise and also on regional governance. But Dial said he felt he and Haddix have different styles and operate differently, though both respect each other’s commitment.

“I appreciate the confidence of those who voted for me,” Dial said. “I’m not assuming this role to carry on anyone’s legacy. I’m there to vote my conscience and do what I believe is right for the people of Fayette County.”

Haddix said, however, that he and Dial “aren’t very far apart” in their view on regional issues, but the major difference between the two men is a matter of their operating style.

“He believes in doing behind the scenes, the diplomacy and just being courteous and trying to persuade,” Haddix said. “Whereas my approach is, of course you’ve got to be courteous and use diplomacy, but you also have to take a firm stand and you can’t do everything behind the scenes.”

Haddix’s distaste for ARC has been well-publicized, as he was a fierce critic of the proposed regional transportation sales tax and advocated Fayette leaving ARC for the Three Rivers regional planning agency, largely on the theory that Three Rivers voters would not approve the sales tax.

The sales tax referendum and the process of developing regional transportation projects was approved last year by the Georgia legislature as part of the Transportation Investment Act (TIA).

Prior to the vote, Haddix contended that he would be the ideal ARC representative for Fayette’s municipalities because of what he claims ARC’s goal is: to urbanize the entire region including trains, buses and high-density development.

Haddix also warns that a push to create a new regional transit agency will make it easier to impose a “transit tax” on the entire region, “bypassing all home rule and local control.”

“I think we need a strong voice to stand up and say ‘no’ and say we need to go in a different direction,” Haddix said. “... We can’t stay the same course.”

On the other side is Dial, who prior to the vote said there is a need for “regional collaboration” but there is no necessity for implementing any kind of “regional governance” which could take control away from local governments.

“There is simply no framework provided for such a thing and I would hope that no elected official would allow him or herself to fall into the trap of thinking regional governance is a good idea,” Dial said. “Anytime additional layers of government are created, you’re setting a bad precedent. I think the more responsible way to look at it is through regional collaboration. The reality is that our neighboring counties and cities have an impact on us and we have an impact on our neighbors when it comes to issues like air, water, and transportation. We can collaborate with our neighboring municipalities to solve current and potential problems, but we have to maintain our unique nature. What’s good for Fulton, Clayton, and DeKalb is not necessarily good for Fayette.”

Although its arguable that Peachtree City and Fayetteville have more to gain and lose from participation with ARC, rural Fayette does not lack a need for representation at the regional level either. Years ago, the tiny rural town of Brooks was dead smack in the path of a regional road dubbed the “outer perimeter” which would have encircled metro Atlanta and sent a significant amount of traffic through Brooks.

That plan ultimately fell by the wayside, but it would have dealt a blow to the more rural lifestyle enjoyed in the south Fayette town.

Prior to the vote Monday, Laggis told The Citizen that he had not met either Clifton or Dial yet, and he had not decided who to vote for. Laggis said while local governments should think regionally in terms of the impact they have on their neighbors, he “believes first and foremost in local governance, but with regional consideration and cooperation.”

“This holds true first for us locally as neighboring cities and county government,” Laggis said. “Secondly, we must consider collectively the impact we then have on our neighbors beyond our county and vice versa.”

The Citizen was unable to reach Brooks Mayor Langford for comment by press time Tuesday.

Prior to the vote, Clifton said he does not favor regional government, noting that in Fayette County each of the five municipal governments have a different take on governance.

“A regional government for the Atlanta area would be far worse than a unified county government, in my estimation,” Clifton said.

Clifton said he would vote for the candidate who “does not support the TIA and regional governance.”