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Commission hopefuls debate topics
Candidates field mix of questions at Smart Growth Forsyth forum
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Forsyth County News
Candidates and commissioners tangled at a recent Smart Growth Forsyth County commission debate.
Moderators asked their own questions, as well as questions submitted either by e-mail or from residents in attendance.
About 50 people gathered at South Forsyth High School's performing arts center Thursday night as candidates fielded questions about green space funds, the Bethel Park lawsuit, whether Forsyth should incorporate townships and general concerns about fiscal responsibility.
Candidates each got 1 minute and 30 seconds to introduce themselves and the ideas behind their platforms.
One candidate, perturbed that he was asked to not use a visual aid during the debate, left the building immediately following his introduction -- but not before using a poster board to show the ideas behind his campaign.
"I didn't feel it was fair," District 5 Candidate Terry Sweeney said following the debate. "I wanted to be able to demonstrate my ideas."
Smart Growth moderators said they would not permit visual aids for any candidates during the debate and cautioned another candidate as well for presenting a poster board with his name on it during his introduction.
Following introductions, candidates were allowed 1 minute and 30 seconds to answer questions.
Smart Growth member Jerry Wickliffe was the chief moderator.

District 2
Moderators began the debate session for District 2 candidates. Candidates for all other districts were asked to wait outside the room so repetitive questions would be fresh for each district.
One moderator asked District 2 Candidate Charlie Smith if he felt a series of public hearings regarding the $100 million green space bond might be in order.
"If we don't have a process," Smith said, "where you've got representatives from all parts of the county as committed citizens to provide input and analysis, we will have not served our county as well as we could."
Commissioner Brian Tam took the next question: "What is your position on the creation of townships instead of districts in Forsyth County?"
"We are one municipality," Tam said. "We are one county, one community and I would support leaving it the way it is right now ... services are evenly distributed. That's the best way for right now."
Candidate Mike Busse was asked how he felt about the county's lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding Bethel Park.
"The corps of engineers doesn't care what happens to the people of Forsyth," Busse said. "Bethel Park should have been offered to Forsyth County first. I support the decision to sue the corps."
Candidate Joseph Moore was not present at the debate.

District 4
Commissioner David Richard was also asked how he felt about townships in Forsyth County.
"I'm opposed," Richard said. "And I'm opposed to electing commissioners by district. The best way to balkanize a community is to separate it out into tiny enclaves. Look at the Balkans and what happened with the infighting between them over the years. It's the worst thing you can do."
When candidate Jon Flack, the only Democrat in the debate, was asked how he felt about spot rezoning in the county, he took a moment first to rebut Richard's statement.
"In the state of Georgia," Flack said, "only 19 percent of counties elect commissioners countywide, so I don't think we see the modern day equivalent of Yugoslavia in the remaining 80 percent of the counties that elect county commissioners."
He was then stopped by moderators and told it was not a rebuttal period.
One moderator asked candidate Patrick Bell how he would handle the county's transportation problems.
"I will work closely with our state delegation," Bell said. "Most of the roads we have concerns about are state roads. We need to attract funds that help build our road projects by building a relationship with state delegation."

District 5
Candidate Julie Tressler was asked how she felt about the Bethel Park lawsuit.
"Obviously, as a resident," Tressler said, "I'd like to see the park reserved for our citizens. One thing that concerns me though ... the corps did offer that park to Forsyth on several occasions to several different boards of commissioners. It concerns me that in the 11th hour the county has decided they now want it."
Candidate Jim Boff addressed fiscal responsibility for the county.
"There are cracks between county departments," he said. "I'd like to see a better accounting of the money we have. I'd like to see departments have a program called ISO 9000. Businesses use it to determine what the outcome is of each department.
"This allows everyone to see up front what the actual output of any department is ... it allows the county to become consistent in its policies."
Moderators asked Candidate Walter Waddell what kind of business he would like to see in the county.
"I'd let the people decide," he said. "Commissioners are here to listen to the people. That's what I'd do."
Current District 5 Commissioner Linda Ledbetter is not seeking re-election and did not attend the debate.