At the end of the day, public policy in Georgia is set by the Georgia General Assembly on the critical issues facing our state and communities’ future, including issues of transportation, education, crime, tax fairness, and economic development. Being an inside the perimeter Republican let me discuss eight critical races and why I believe it is important to vote for Fran Millar and Leigh Aldridge for State Senate, and Beth Beskin, Deborah Silcox, Megan Hanson, Matt Bentley, Alex Kaufman, and Ken Wright for the State House.
Caveat: As I stated in my first two parts, it bears repeating that while I endorse certain candidates here, I respect and like the people they are running against. They are not the “enemy” but merely political opponents on policy issues that I believe are critical for our state and my community to move forward. With that opening, let me lay out my case for the candidates I support.
“In the Room Where It Happens”
The musical “Hamilton” got it absolutely right in politics. It important to be “in the room where it happens.” The seven legislative candidates I have listed are in Republican enclaves in overwhelmingly Democratic areas — Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb. Assuming the best case scenario for Democrats tomorrow, the most state senate seats the Democrats can pick up are two and four or five in the House. This will still leave the Republican Party overwhelmingly in control of both Chambers of the General Assembly.
Contrary to popular belief, most issues in the General Assembly are not partisan or even ideological. They are primarily about “making the trains run on time” in terms of critical bread and butter issues that folks care about to improve their quality of life. Having a legislator from your community in the majority caucus room when decisions on public policy are made is critical to insure that your interest are advanced.Let me give a few examples to how this applies to more urban issues for those of us who live inside the I-285 doughnut:
- Transportation: By in the large we cannot build more roads in our area. Therefore, we must make better use of the area we have available. This means transit, better road traffic efficiencies, improved technology, and toll lanes.
- Education: In our area, we have school systems that spend the highest per student in the state but they also face some of the toughest issues as a result of poverty. Therefore, creative education reforms are necessary.
- Crime: Human Trafficking and gang violence are particularly of great concern to our area.
- Tax fairness: The present property tax reassessment system is fundamentally broken and must be fixed. By relying on a system that taxes homeowners on an unrealized gain in value, tabulated by a bureaucrat, squeezes many of the most vulnerable among us and is unfair to everyone but the tax man. While this is an issue that is a problem everywhere, it is especially a crisis in in town Atlanta.
- Economic Development: Often times, economic development in more developed areas of the state is not about simply building something new but redeveloping something that has outlived its old use.
Specific Accomplishments and Local Issues Raised by These Seven Candidates
State Senator Fran Millar (SD-40): Senator Millar represents portions of DeKalb and Fulton. He has advanced ethics reform in the DeKalb County government, authored the recent SPLOST bill to assist DeKalb County’s transportation, protected DeKalb’s HOST tax break, and been a leader on education reform in the state.
Leah Aldridge (SD-6): Ms. Aldridge has strong ties to the Buckhead, Sandy Springs, and Cobb communities she is seeking to represent. She is a lawyer, a business woman of a heath care company, and an active volunteer in such organizations as Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (Board Member). A central focus of her campaign is to fix the unfair property tax reassessment system cited above and to provide seniors in Fulton County the same level of protection from rising school taxes that her Cobb Constituents enjoy. She is also committed to continuing the fight against human trafficking and and gang violence.
Representative Beth Beskin (HD-56): Representative Beskin first came on the public seen in 2011 when she was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to be one of his emissaries to the troubled Atlanta School Board when it had been placed on academic probation. She helped the governor right the ship of the Board and get it pointed back in the right direction. Since being elected to the House in 2014, she has focused on protecting homeowners from the unfair reassessment actions by Fulton County in recent years, working to pass the TSPLOST passed in 2016 for the City of Atlanta to vote on a transit enhancement, and working to increase funding for public schools under Georgia’s QBE system.
Representative Deborah Silcox (HD-52): First elected in 2016, Representative Silcox worked with House leadership to pass the Mass Transit bill this year that sets up a pathway to regional governance of transit and the expansion of transit in Metro Atlanta.
Representative Megan Hanson (HD-80): Representative Hanson was also elected in 2016 and joined in the fight to pass the mass transit bill mentioned above. She has also sponsored legislation to improve the operation of the DeKalb County government and the operations of MARTA.
Matt Bentley (HD-40): Mr. Bentley is a lawyer and is running for the open seat vacated by the retirement of Representative Rich Gollick in a district that runs from west Buckhead to Smyrna. He enjoys wide bi-partisan and community support from Democrats like former Governor Roy Barnes and Republicans like Sheriff Neil Warren. He too is focusing his campaign on local issues like transportation, education reform, and tackling the opioid crisis.
Alex Kaufman (HD-51): Mr. Kaufman is also a lawyer running in an open seat being vacated by retiring Representative Wendell Willard. He also understands the importance of mass transit as well as other transportation initiatives like preparing us for autonomous vehicles and supporting legislation which will help deploy the new 5G mobile network.
Ken Wright (HD-79): Mr. Wright was the first Mayor of Dunwoody and was the President of Citizens for Dunwoody. He is running to succeed retiring Tom Taylor. After two terms he left office with no tax increases and a surplus for the city. His focus is getting state help on economic development in his area, especially the redevelopment of the old massive GM plant.
The issues that these Atlanta area candidates for senate and house tomorrow are focusing on non-sexy local issues that will improve and unite our communities. If we are to get them accomplished, we need to have our local voices “in the room when it happens.” I hope you will join me in supporting them tomorrow.