NEWS ANALYSIS — Challengers sweep F’ville races; longtime Mayor Steele loses to political newcomer

Fayetteville Mayor-elect Greg Clifton. Photo/Ben Nelms.

NEWS ANALYSIS — A continuing wave of voter unrest Tuesday night brought a sea change to previously placid Fayetteville politics as three challengers swept two incumbents out of office and defeated an establishment-anointed first-timer for an open slot on the City Council.

In the process, voters ended the political career of veteran Fayetteville Mayor Kenneth Steele, ousted incumbent Wilson Price and thwarted Mainstreet Fayetteville board member Cathy Cochran’s effort to win an open seat on the council.

And just to mark the historic nature of the city election, a majority of Fayetteville voters elected the first black member of the council, past NAACP President and Flat Rock AME Church pastor Edward Johnson.

Defeating Steele in his first run for elective office was Greg Clifton, son of a former Fayetteville City councilman. The final, unofficial vote tally was Clifton 716, Steele 514.

Johnson beat incumbent Price 743 to 473, and businessman Mickey J. Edwards topped Cochran 650 to 559.

Clifton, Johnson and Edwards will be sworn in for 4-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

Under Fayetteville’s charter, the council has six members — five council members and a non-voting mayor. The mayor presides over meetings and has veto power but no vote except in case of a tie.

The change in January will bring a new presiding officer to City Hall meetings but will not necessarily shift voting power on the council.

Holdover Steele supporters Larry Dell and Walt White remain, while Councilman Paul Oddo will be the wild card.

New councilmen Edwards and Johnson will have to come up with a third vote from among the three incumbents to swing the power pendulum their way.

Clifton under most circumstances won’t get a vote.

Clifton’s win Tuesday marks the unlikely defeat of the second-longest serving Fayetteville mayor in a half-century.

Ken Steele served as a volunteer member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and was sworn in as a member of council Aug. 1, 1994 after being appointed to serve the unexpired term of Post 1 Councilman Robert Sprayberry, who resigned to run for County Commission.

Steele was elected mayor in 1999 and has served as Fayetteville’s top elected official since Jan. 1, 2000.

Steele’s political obituary will note that he was never seriously challenged until this year, which was punctuated by a growing controversy over Steele’s votes for regional mass transit plans as a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Steele until earlier this year was president of the Georgia Municipal Association, the lobbying group for Georgia’s municipalities.

What ultimately may have undone the veteran politician, however, was Steele’s public feud during the past year with Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix and local Tea Party activists over local representation on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, the group charged with approving a list of $6 billion in metro transportation projects to be funded by a controversial region-wide one-cent sales tax to be voted on in 2012.

After Haddix suggested in a column in The Citizen that Fayette might be better served by leaving the Atlanta Regional Commission, Steele engineered Haddix’s removal from the RTR and thus became closely associated with the unpopular proposed sales tax, despite his protestations that his role was simply to make sure Fayette’s interests were looked after as the massive sales tax pie was being carved up.

In the end, Steele drew the unrelenting ire of West Fayetteville Bypass opponents, especially after a massive proposed development requiring annexation into Fayetteville was revealed last month in The Citizen.

If Steele were seeking an explanation of his fall, he might start with his fervent support of regional planning and an unpopular regional sales tax.

It was just a year ago that agitated voters shocked incumbent County Commission Chairman Jack Smith and Commissioner Eric Maxwell in a grassroots campaign that saw two bypass opponents swept into office on a wave of voter displeasure with incumbents.

Steele might well find that some of those same voters helped end his political career Tuesday. Price and Cochran likely were collateral damage.

Local and regional officeholders looking ahead to 2012 may be encouraged to start discerning the tsunami currents in the tea leaves.

citizenal
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3 Cheers for Fayetteville

I am sad that more of my neighbors didn't come to the polls in Fayetteville but I am glad for the change - even if it is less "professional" as some have stated I feel it will be less tied to a manipulative establishment and closer to the people. We have a long way to go to clean house. We have to start developing strong candidates now. County commission needs to be in our sights. We need a good Commission chair candidate. Brown have been VERY helpful in the current fight with 3 commissioners who obviously have their own agenda but we can NEVER allow him to become chairman. Beat the bushes and find some men and women of good character and superior intelligence willing to lead us.

Randy Boyett
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HADDIX and ARC

From a personal perspective, I have not completed my research. But from what I have pieced together so far, there appears to be substantive reasons why Haddix was kicked off. And if we have to be in a Regional, there seems to be good reason to be in ARC rather than 3 Rivers (does everyone know that Fayette was a member of 3 rivers about 20 years back and left it?).

So if we have to belong to one of the Regionals, the question is the benefits and negatives of belonging to either. Personally, I think that I would prefer to belong to neither. But if that is possible is a question some research to answer.

Once I think I have facts, I'll post them with sources. It is amazing how facts take the fog, or deceit, out of decisions.

efdrakejr
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ARC is an MPO

The ARC is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) which was authorized by Congress in 1962 to ensure regional coordination of transportation projects. Three Rivers is also an MPO. Here is a link about MPO's in general and another about all the MPO's in GA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_planning_organization

http://www.gampo.org/

ginga1414
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The Problem With ARC And Any MPO

Mr. Drake, I know that your bread and butter is directly connected to concrete, the ARC, and the 2012 Regional Transportation SPLOST. It is understandable that you would be here promoting anything and anybody connected to the building of roads. However, you must realize that a whole lot of American citizens really resent having their lives planned by officials they have not elected.

You represent a "special interest group," and your hopes are that the ARC will plan your group into their plans for the citizens' tax money.

efdrakejr
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It Is What It Is

I am not advocating for or against an MPO, I was simply trying to help Randy with his question because I happened to know the answer. You may be surprised to know that I also think decisions should be made on the local level as much as possible, however, I do support the idea that you have to have some sort of regional cooperation, particularly on roads, because they almost always go from county to county. Additionally, congress required MPO's for any metropolitan area with a population greater than 50,000 so it does me no good (or anyone else for that matter) to just be against regional planning because it is the law of the land. Having said that, that doesn't mean you have to be taxed on a regional basis in order to cooperate on a regional basis.

I understand your opposition to the regional sales tax on the grounds that we can be taxed for projects that we do not agree with. On the other hand though, this process allows for direct involvement of our elected officials in deciding projects through the 21 member roundtable as opposed to some nameless, faceless bureaucrat at GDOT selecting them. Additionally, it is a pay as you go system that finances projects through the sales tax as opposed to just borrowing the money and passing the debt down to our kids. I certainly don't think it's a perfect system but I don't think it is as flawed as you think it is.

Ginga, I admire your steadfast dedication and determination but I think you have a real problem that you see the worst in people, especially if they happen to hold a different opinion than you. I am not a special interest. I am a Professional Engineer who truly believes in the product that I am trying to promote. It just so happens that my product, by its very nature, generally has to be purchased with tax dollars. That doesn't mean I'm trying to pull one over on the taxpayers. On the contrary, it is incumbent on me to provide the taxpayers with the best value I can so that my product will be selected when it's time to build a road. And on that note, I definitely think it is time for GA to invest in its transportation infrastructure.

I'd love to talk to you about this in more detail any time you like.

suggarfoot
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sorry but you couldn't be further from the truth

"Ginga, I admire your steadfast dedication and determination but I think you have a real problem that you see the worst in people, especially if they happen to hold a different opinion than you."

I've known her for several years and that isn't true.

As far as someone with a 'real problem' that see the worst in people with a different opinion, well come to the Commissioners meetings and watch the sanctimonious Frady, Horgan, and Hearn!

hutch866
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ginga

You don't consider yourself a "special interest group"? How many concrete roads you ever seen in Fayette County?

ginga1414
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hutch866

I'm not a group. I am an individual taxpayer with opinions as to how I want my money spent.

Don't you think that is true of everyone?

hutch866
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ginga

A response worthy of Steve Brown himself. Discount anyone's opinion but your own. Now, about those concrete roads here in Fayette, how many we got?

suggarfoot
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Concrete roads

I don't know how much concrete are in those roads, but I do know they hold the heat (contributing to global warming). Cold blooded reptiles like to curl up on them and suck up what they can. Horgan, Hearn, and Frady continually wrap themselves around the West Fayette Bypass!

ginga1414
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Mr. Drake

Thanks so much for the information about concrete. You have provided me with something I did not know.

I hope you know that I have no ill feelings toward you. I am just completely fed up with watching politicians promote and indulge in the process that solicits favoritism.

efdrakejr
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Concrete Is Cooler Than Asphalt

It is interesting that you mention that because it is asphalt roads, not concrete, that hold the heat and contribute to what is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect. That is primarily because asphalt is black and absorbs most heat and concrete is white/grey and reflects most heat. You'll notice that you can walk comfortably barefoot on your concrete sidewalk on a hot summer day but things heat up when you walk across the asphalt road. It is not uncommon for the temperature in downtown Atlanta, with all of their asphalt, to be 9 degrees hotter than the suburbs in the middle of the summer.

ginga1414
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hutch866

I have absolutely no idea how many concrete roads there are in Fayette County.

Obviously you must know the answer to the question, otherwise you wouldn't have asked it. You should enlighten all of us as to how many concrete roads there are in Fayette County.

I'm not against concrete, I haven't discounted anyone's opinion, and I haven't denied anyone the right to having their own opinion.

However, I am against a regional governing body deciding issues that will affect my life. I'm entitled to that opinion.

I understand that you and Mr. Drake have to make a living. My husband and I worked for 50 years supporting ourselves and our family. We have to be very careful in how we spend our retirement funds. Therefore, we are very mindful of where each dollar goes. If you can't understand that now, maybe someday you and Mr. Drake will.

Right now, hutch, we are helping to pay for the bulldozer in our backyard that is plowing down trees we don't want plowed down. Not only are the bulldozers plowing down thousands of trees for the W. Bypass, they will plow down thousands and thousands more on our property to build a permanent slope easement. Imagine that, we will still own the permanent slope easement and we will still have to pay taxes on it, but we won't have any voice in what happens to that portion of our property.

We aren't the only ones in this situation. There are many other people who are having their property/investment destroyed by the W. Bypass. Then, there are other people who will benefit financially because our property is being destroyed. And think about this, hutch, some of the people who will be benefiting financially are relatives of a Fayette County Government Official. In fact, hutch, Commissioner Hearn's cousin holds a tax paid position on the Fayetteville Downtown Development Authority and was instrumental in planning the development of his land that sits along side the W. Bypass.

ginga1414
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One More Issue, hutch

Yes, I am part of a "special interest group." My interest has nothing whatsoever to do with making money for myself or anyone else. People all over this county are losing their homes and property. That is the issue that drives me.

Even though you seem to think that I am a selfish evil person, please know that I have fought for the people along the East Bypass from the beginning. There are documents that prove that statement to be true.

The Coalition invited our East Bypass neighbors to join our group over three years ago. It was apparent that they wanted to fight the system in their own way, and we respected that.

Several strategies have been tried for the folks along the E. Bypass over the last three + years. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed the minds of our commissioners concerning the East or West Bypasses.

If I explained all of our efforts here, I would be playing into the hands of the people bound and determined to destroy many neighborhoods in Fayette County.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be done to help stop the destruction of my property or my Phase II W. Bypass neighbors' property. Trying to negotiate with Frady, Horgan, Hearn, and Steele on any basis is like trying to negotiate with a three headed viper.

However, we have been successful in buying folks along Phase III of the West Bypass and folks along the East Bypass a little more time. The best hope Phase III homeowners have is to oust Frady, Horgan, and Hearn in 2012.

East Bypass folks have two opportunities left. They can help oust Frady, Horgan, and Hearn, and they can help stop the 2012 Regional Transportation SPLOST. Frady, Horgan, Hearn, and Steele diligently fought to have the East Bypass included in the 2012 Regional SPLOST, and they were successful. They have told us repeatedly that they would NEVER abandon construction on the East Bypass.

You only have my word for it, but I am truly not the evil person you have described.

hutch866
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Ginga

Well ginga, I also, ginga, have no idea how many concrete roads, ginga, are in Fayette County ginga. I don't believe I've seen one ginga, so to imply that Drake's opinion is worth less just because he deals in concrete, is to discount his opinion ginga.

In regards to how I make my living, I have nothing to do with concrete. But, I do like the way you imply that I'm in the same field as Drake. When you first came on these boards, I was behind you 100%. I installed your hardwood floor, and most of the trim carpentry on your house. I know what you have to lose. But you lost me ginga, for what it's worth ginga, when as long as the bypass funds were spent on the east and not the west one. That's when when you and your coalition became a special interest. You want truth lady? To quote Jack Nicholson, you can't handle the truth.

ginga1414
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hutch866, You Did A Beautiful Job

The artistry of your carpentry work within my home is beautiful. Many people have come into my home over the last 26 years and admired your work.

It is very distressing that I am not able to convey my thoughts in a way where folks are able to understand my feelings.

Two of our county commissioners were voted out of office by a majority of the votes cast because they had no respect for and discounted the people of Fayette County.

This past week, Fayetteville's Mayor and a council member were voted out of office for the same reasons.

If we cannot trust our locally elected officials to represent the citizens of Fayette County in the manner in which the citizens tell them, then how can we expect officials from other counties to care one whit about our issues.

From what Mr. Drake has said here, I truly believe that he understands my concerns.

I understand Mr. Drake's concerns and his point of view. I agree with his concerns. However, I don't agree with his point of view concerning the governing process we all live with. I do not believe in going along to get along.

Our county officials believe in going along to get along with the big guys in our government. When the people who represent us do that, you and I are the ones who pay for it. We are the ones who lose our homes, savings, retirement funds, and ultimately our way of life. The local officials soak up the accolades for their cooperation with the big guys, and the everyday citizen is left to make sure the process continues.

I am tired of that process. I am tired of working myself to death and watching my husband work himself into two strokes and a heart attack trying to pay for what our government officials want us to pay for.

My sister and our family had to watch as my brother-in-law worked for the children and parents of this county while he was fighting cancer that took his life in September. The man would go to the hospital, have chemo and radiation, then go immediately to work for the children of Fayette County. He would be so sick he could hardly hold his head up, but he went to work.

I know Mr. Drake has to make a living. I respect that. You have to make a living for your family. My husband and I have been there, too.

We had to work to pay the bill for your beautiful carpentry work. And, when I say "beautiful carpentry work," I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Your work has provided many, many years of happiness to our lives.

However, our local government, the Atlanta Regional Commission, current and a recently past governor, and our federal government are eating me and most of our nation out of house and home. I'm not willing to sit by and take it anymore. I will fight the process with every ounce of my being.

Hopefully, I have explained myself in a more clear manner. Please understand, I am not against you or Mr. Drake. I am against the process. My last thought on the subject is that if I had a job whereby my actions contributed to the process of people's lives being destroyed, I would find another way of doing my job or I would find another job. My whole life I have been a sweet, caring, cooperative person. I have learned how to be a very uncooperative person when it comes to allowing my local, state, or federal government to destroy my life, the lives of my family, or the lives of my neighbors.

I truly hope that you and other folks can relate to what I've said here.

MYTMITE
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Ginga, I don't think anyone who has not "walked in your shoes"

can know what you and your family must feel. To work hard all your life and get to where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and have it destroyed must be devastating. It is not a question of having a road nearby that will bring traffic, or a shopping center nearby, etc., This is having the government take a swath of your land, leaving your well on one side and your home on the other. I have ambivalent feelings re: eminent domain. In some instances it may be a necessity---I feel government has overstepped itself when it takes peoples' homes or part of their homesteads for developers, shopping centers etc., to make a profit even if the taxes paid by these entitites will add to the coffers of the city, etc. I feel this is so wrong and so not what this country is supposed to stand for. People are quick to point out that the homeowners are reimbursed for their land--but what of the person who does not want money--they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren what they have worked and built over years? We would be up in arms (or at least those affected by it would be) if the government took over a company and, after paying compensation, gave it to another company because they were more successful and would pay more taxes--but what is the difference? It has been shown that the council all along had ulterior motives. Their actions will benefit some citizens, all of them a select group with ties to the council, not the county as a whole. Should Ginga and others be angry and frustrated, damned right they should. I own a tiny little place that no one but me would probably ever want--and would probably accept an honest buy-out if it was for an honest reason, but I would fight like holy hell to hang on to it and show the liars and cheats for what they were if I were in the same position of Ginga and others along the route. I don't think anyone has the right to tell them to 'get over it'--I know I do not.

ginga1414
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MYTMITE

Thank you so very much for understanding.

ginga1414
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Thank You, Cal Beverly

Thank you for your "NEWS ANALYSIS."

The Tea Party and W. Bypass Coalition have been gathering facts over the last three years, but you were able to tie it all together by releasing the information you discovered concerning the West Fayetteville Neighborhoods development.

Thank you for publicly stating the facts surrounding Mayor Steele's participation in having Don Haddix removed from the Regional Transportation Roundtable.

THANK YOU FOR TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!!

DBarlow
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Congratulations to mayor-elect Greg Clifton

Congratulations to mayor-elect Greg Clifton, councilmen-elect Ed Johnson and Mickey Edwards of Fayetteville. May our awesome God guide and direct your path as you govern Fayetteville. God Bless America!

kimdet
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Scary time for Fayetteville

I don't normally get involved in politics, but I went to the Tea Party forum in Fayetteville a few weeks ago. The Tea Party candidates are not a sharp group, if their representation that night was any indication. Ed Johnson was the best candidate of the Tea Party group and I wish him well.

It's always easy to be "against" everything until you're in charge and you have to actually "do" something. These are challenging times and I fear for Fayette County with representatives who don't have a clue what they're doing.

BHH
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That's why they were voted out.

I think you will find that things will go very well with the new help.

Robert W. Morgan
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3 things come out of this election

1. Only 1200 people voted in Fayetteville - out of how many? Seems real light turnout
2. The NAACP must be happy at long last. Wonder if they are going to keep costing the county money on their frivilous lawsuit.
3. Steele will not be on ARC. Fayette has two seats that are traditionally held by the county commission chair (Frady) and the mayor from the Fayette city with the most senority, so since Fayetteville and Tyrone have brand new mayors, it won't be them, so that leaves - OH NO!
Then next year when Frady is voted out and Brown becomes commission chair our 2 representatives will be Brown and Haddix. Haddix will only be there for a year of course, but that will be the year after the transportation sales tax is approved and the ARC and DOT and others will be deciding on the final list of projects during that year. How do you think Fayette will do with those two representing us at the table.

Happy you voted Steele out to "send a message"? Look what you got us into at ARC.

mthom5436
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ARC represenatives

The seats are TRADITIONALLY chosen based on senority but they don't have to be. Correct? Since Haddix has already been kicked off once why would the committee automatically pick him to replace Steele.

Mike King
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RWM

I think you should review the 'seniority' issue. I believe the mayor of Woolsey would likely get the nod, and even after the next Commissioner's race it is not definite that Steve 'I will stop the WFB', Brown will be the next Commission Chair.

Just a thought.

suggarfoot
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Robert

I respect what you say, but I feel we will do fine with Brown and Haddix. I think they both want to do what the people want and that is all we have ever asked.

As far as Steele, he seemed lock step with the 3 commissioners that have run over the citizens for some time. It is still our county no matter how many relatives and friends developers get in power. Each household has probably paid at least 1500.00 toward that road to no where, not to mention the outlandish amount of taxes to the overbuilding to the schools by the strangle holt of 3, Smola, Smith and Wright had. Over 70% of our taxes go to the schools.

I think we have only begun the house cleaning. Wait till the next election. I'm just so sorry that some people, like the Smithfields, have already paid a dear price. If only we had been more selective in the previous elections.

madmike
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Did you really say this Suggarfoot?

"I feel we will do fine with Brown and Haddix. I think they both want to do what the people want and that is all we have ever asked."

Did you and Commissioner Horgan come up with this conclusion while passing the pipe?

ginga1414
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Actually, Robert W., It Is Called "Passion"

What you refer to, as "antics" is actually "passion."

Passion for what one believes is a magnificently powerful attribute.

Where would this country be if it had not been for the passion our forefathers had for the freedom to choose our public officials?

It is much harder to stand-up for what you believe in than it is to be a "yes man."

A lot of times just telling the truth or asking a question will get you smacked down.

It is so sad, however a fact, that the most important component of truth and passion is courage.

NUK_1
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Terrorists are very passionate and courageous too

Some will blow themselves to pieces in order to further whatever cause they have. Not a lot of people are brave/courageous/passionate enough to be a suicide bomber!

Robert W. Morgan
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I don't need an editor or an interpreter, ganga

What I refer to as "antics" are antics. Stupid political games frought with wealth and status envy along with a healthy dose of NIMBYism. Passion has nothing to do with it. Passion in Fayette County would be getting 30% voter turnout sometime.

And if you are closing in on comparing Steve Brown to the founding fathers, you will lose all credibility. Brown himself tried to get his name and Thomas Jefferson's together in the same sentence and was properly ridiculed, then ignored.

Mike King
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Ahhh, Ginga....

....If it were only true that the most important component of truth and passion is courage. I certainly hope you are not referring to the followers of that Jim Jones fellow. Courage without being right is at best a blunder.

Robert W. Morgan
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Will do fine with Brown and Haddix, Sugar? Huh?

and you also said "they both want to do what the people want" Are you seriously stating that you are comfortable with Brown and Haddix being the face of Fayette County at the ARC? Maybe you weren't here 10 years ago for Brown's antics in PTC and how poorly he interacted with state officials - especially those at DOT, but I know you were here for Mayor "let's quit ARC" Haddix.

I mean just think about how they act in front of other people and in a format where millions of tax dollar are being allocated. We are off to a bad start anyway with Haddix's talk of quitting ARC, then next year it is almost certain that the transportation tax will pass, even though Fayette voters will vote no. That's 2 strikes and then we send those two guys to represent us? I don't think that turns out good for Fayette County. Donor county indeed.

ginga1414
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suggarfoot

Suggar, thank you so very much for the support!