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Candidates speak on ways to better Fulton County
by Nicole Dow
March 14, 2014 12:56 PM | 2883 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lee Morris, Cory Ruth and Bernie Tokarz — three of the four Republican primary candidates running for the redrawn District 3 seat on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners — visited the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting Thursday night to pitch themselves and their campaigns to the community’s constituents.

The fourth candidate in the race, Alexander Palacios, was not present for the informal candidate forum held at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, where the council meets monthly. Palacios qualified March 7, the last day to do so, and council leadership was unaware of his candidacy. District 3 includes Buckhead and part of Midtown and Sandy Springs. It is geographically similar to the old District 4, where incumbent Commissioner Tom Lowe is retiring.

Tokarz told potential voters he is running for three reasons: to reduce the size, scope and spending of the county government, to break the gridlock between the county and other municipalities and to repeal the property tax increase the county passed in January.

“Fulton County is the second largest item on our tax bills. We get very little for it,” said Tokarz, a Buckhead resident.

He said the county needs to improve the “very poor working relationship with the cities and the state.” Tokarz also said he wants the county to focus its scope and be the most efficient provider of the mandated services the state requires it to perform.

The candidate gained first-hand experience working with county government while working for Progress Partners, the economic development arm of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

Ruth, also a Buckhead resident, said he is looking to improve the division amongst commissioners.

“The single most significant problem facing Fulton County is a culture of gridlock on the county commission,” he said, adding the issue is based in very deep cultural and economic differences. “I believe that I can navigate those cultural sensitivities. I believe I have that experience where I can actually build some consensus. This district sits geopolitically between north Fulton and south Fulton. We can leverage that to actually build back consensus.

“I have relationships with every single one of those south Fulton representatives. I have the credibility to go directly to their constituents.”

Ruth said his business background as a mergers and acquisitions consultant will aid him in the role of county commissioner.

Morris, another Buckhead resident and a former Atlanta City Council member, said his experience in local government and his law background gives him the credentials for the commission seat.

“Despite having a terrible relationship with a terrible mayor [while serving during Bill Campbell’s tenure from 1994-2001], I was able to get an awful lot of really unique things done,” the lawyer said

Morris said he helped the city find and save hundreds of thousands of dollars during his eight years on council. He said overspending is one of the big problems Fulton County currently faces.

“Fulton spends per capita 121 percent more than Gwinnett [County],” Morris said. “We’ve got to find some ways to privatize, find the waste and cut the waste and do some things a little more efficiently.”

What’s next?
The primary election will be May 20 with the runoff July 22.

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