Tyrone candidates for mayor, council have their say at forum

Nearly 200 people packed the Tyrone Depot on Oct. 11 to hear from the six candidates running for three town council seats in the Nov. 8 election. A sampling of the large number of questions asked is provided below. The forum also featured a straw poll showing a razor thin preference in all races.

Candidates for mayor included marketer Derrick L. Jackson and Post 1 Councilman Eric Dial. Post 1 candidates included bookkeeper Linda Howard and volunteer Tammy Proctor. And the candidates for the Post 2 seat included career consultant Pota Coston and small business owner Ryan Housley.

The Tyrone forum was sponsored by the Fayette Local Issues Tea Party and was moderated by Fayette County resident Bonnie Willis. The forum included a host of questions, including many submitted in writing by audience members during the event.

A sampling of the questions included the topics of transportation, education, recreation, budgetary issues, businesses and specifics about the individual candidates.

One of the questions put to the mayoral candidates centered on their familiarity with the regional transportation 1-cent sales tax that will go before voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta area in July 2012 and their opinion on the initiative and on mass transit. Though it is an issue that would impact the town, county and region, the question was not surprising since some on the Town Council and a number of town residents have for months been very vocal on the initiative, especially in their opposition to it both at Town Council meetings, County Commission meetings and regional gatherings.

Dial responded first, commenting that the Town Council had been tracking the initiative from the beginning.

“I’m opposed to it,” Dial said, equating the initiative to a tax increase and noting the ongoing traffic predicament faced by metro Atlanta. “I don’t believe it has the impact or benefit that Tyrone needs to see. The benefit is not there.”

Jackson responding to the same question said he had attended a meeting on the issue at the Fayette County Commission.

“We did not solicit input from the residents and taxpayers. We continue to have these meetings without soliciting input from the taxpayers,” Jackson said, noting the need to secure that response to more accurately assess their perspective on the issue. “So what I would do if I was mayor of Tyrone, before anything is imposed on Tyrone I would make sure, by way of mail, email (and other electronic methods) that I would solicit your input.”

Council candidates were also asked the same question.

In her response, Howard said she attended meetings on the proposal and heard the considerations for and against the plan, adding that she did not believe Tyrone needs the 1-cent regional transportation sales tax.

Proctor, too, said she opposed the initiative, noting her belief that the tax would not benefit the town.

Coston said she had attended one of the first meetings on the issue and subsequent ones in Fayetteville, where associated issues such as transportation for seniors was discussed. Coston noted the importance of attending such meetings where issues such as the 1-cent sales tax are being proposed.

And in his response, Housley said he believes that mass transit and public transportation are important in areas like metro Atlanta, adding the caveat that such importance might not extend to smaller communities. That said, Housley said he was hesitantly opposed to the proposal, adding that he was not certain that communities such as Tyrone would see a return on their tax dollars.

 Another question centered on the area of code enforcement and how those ordinances might be enforced in the absence of a code enforcement officer.
Coston said she would talk with town staff and the town manager to determine the areas of need.

“I want the town to be well-maintained and I would try to come up with ways to accomplish that,” she said.

Housley in his response said that the town would likely not be able to afford a code enforcement officer given the current economic situation. Housley said he would work with law enforcement, town staff and others to meet code enforcement needs.

A question posed to the mayoral candidates asked their opinion on the proper role of a mayor.  

Jackson in response said he would, “deal with the town manager and staff with a spirit of empowerment. I would do things as a leader to make sure you don’t have conflict and to optimize skills and boost morale.”

Dial in answering the question noted the town’s charter that maintains a weak mayor who votes only as a tie-breaker.

“So that’s not much power,” Dial said. “I would be supportive and work on conflict management. I have no desire to be a dictator.”

On the issue of recreation and whether a portion of the town’s reserve funds should be used for recreational purposes, Howard said the reserves should be kept in place. Proctor agreed, saying that she did not believe in spending down the reserves, including for recreation.

On another question pertaining to recreation, Housley and Coston were asked if the town’s provided too many or too few recreational offerings.

“I believe the level could be (higher). Demand increases over time and we have to look for ways to get the youth involved. So I’m very much in favor (of increasing recreational offerings),” Coston said.

Housley in his response said, “For a town our size recreation is adequate. And as a council our job is to listen to the people and act if (the existing recreational offerings) are inadequate.”

On a question pertaining to Tyrone’s future, the mayoral candidates were asked to look four years ahead to assess the state of the town and its priorities.
“We need to maintain fiscal accountability and infrastructure. We made the decision not to have a stormwater fee to keep taxes down,” Dial said, adding that the town must do what it can to continue to grow despite the state of the economy.

Jackson agreed, adding that, “Tyrone is going to grow due to its geographical position. So we have to look (to the future with) a smart growth perspective.” That perspective, Jackson said, also contains variables such as education, parks and recreation and a nice community feel and community spirit.

An addition to the forum that has seldom if ever been done before around Fayette County was the inclusion of a straw poll after the event concluded. Though not a scientific poll, the exercise, said forum organizer Leslie Edwards, gave those in attendance the opportunity to have their say on the candidates they preferred to hold office.

The straw poll results showed:
For mayor
Derrick Jackson - 48
Eric Dial - 46

Post 1:
Linda Howard - 44
Tammy Proctor - 41

Post 2
Ryan Housley - 47
Pota Coston - 44

Unlike some communities, the large number of residents attending the forum is the norm, not the exception, for Tyrone. As with many meetings of the Town Council and Planning Commission, Tyrone residents are known for their high level of attendance and participation when it comes to local governance.

The candidates fielded a large number of questions that filled the two-hour forum. To view the entire event visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpuNgUAUmBY