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District 1: Commissioner Doug Lowry Answers Our Questions

Doug Lowry

Age: 57

Occupation: Commissioner

Party: None given

Address: 280 Robert Hardeman Road

Phone: 706-742-5212


Website: N/A

Athens-Clarke County has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. What should the local government be doing to alleviate poverty?

I believe that the only thing this local government can do to alleviate poverty is through an active and well-funded economic development effort to create good-paying jobs with benefits.

Downtown development has been a major issue the past few years. Is this a good trend for Athens, and if not, how can we curb it and/or encourage development other than student apartments?

Downtown development is a good thing, if it’s broad-based and does not only include building new student housing. In order to encourage development other than student housing, it will have to be clear that we want to create a neighborhood where there is now a bar district. One way to do that is to encourage the types of businesses that a vibrant neighborhood requires.

Do you support expanding Athens Transit, reducing fares and/or exploring a merger with the UGA bus system? If so, how would you pay for it?

I don’t support expanding Athens Transit; in fact, I believe we should analyze the system and learn which routes pay for themselves and then make some decisions on which routes to keep and which to eliminate. Eliminating some under-performing routes could allow the system to increase frequency on the busier routes and provide the frequency of service people tell us they want. It’s important to keep the general fund contribution at or below what it is now. I don’t believe the system could support a fare reduction, but if the analysis I spoke of earlier indicates that it would, then I would support a fare reduction. Because the funding for each system is so different and because the missions of the two organizations are dissimilar I don’t see how a merger with the UGA system is feasible.

Athens is often pigeonholed as “business unfriendly.” Do you support easing restrictions on businesses? If so, which ones?

I think there is a misunderstanding of how ACC has achieved the “business unfriendly” designation. In general, it’s not the ordinances, but rather how they are applied that is the basis of the problem. After having spoken to many people in economic development, architects, engineers and others about this issue, I have come to the understanding that the ACC staff has far too much leeway in how they are allowed to interpret and then apply the county codes and ordinances. Because of the ability to be overly subjective, ACC staff has often been seen as being arbitrary and capricious in how they carry out their duties. This is not to say that there are no ordinances that should be revised, but in general people who are unaccountable to the taxpayers should not be allowed to create policy.

The Eastside is lagging behind downtown and the Westside in terms of growth. What would you do to encourage investment in the Eastside?

I’m not sure I agree with the premise. In terms of economic development, a positive impact on jobs, the county tax base and an increase in sales tax I believe the Eastside compares favorably with all other areas of Clarke County. Of course, there is always more that can be done, but let’s take a look at a partial list of public and private projects that have been begun or completed on the Eastside during the past few years:

• $2.5 million renovation for Goodwill.

• $2 million renovation for Ollie’s (in old Rose’s).

• $4.65 million dollar construction of the new Cornerstone Church

• $25 million College Station Kroger re-development

• Dunkin’ Donuts on Cedar Shoals Road.

• My Pie Restaurant on Cedar Shoals Road.

• Taqueria La Parrilla on Gaines School Road.

• Bojangles on Lexington Road.

• New Dollar General next to the old Cornerstone church.

• New Dollar General on Whitehall Road.

• Old Shell and Williams Hardware redevelopment.

• New restaurant near Walmart.

• Whitehall Townhome Development

• $50 million UGA veterinary teaching hospital.

• $17 million airport runway extension.

• $63 million jail expansion.

• $3.7 million tennis center at Southeast Clarke Park.

• $1.9 million police evidence center.

• $2 million College Station bike lanes.

• $3.5 million gas-to-energy project at the landfill.

• $4 million College Station bridge reconstruction.

• $600,000 Animal Control building renovation.

• $600,000 Satterfield Park improvements.

• $600,000 Whitehall Road realignment.

I believe when you actually measure all the progress that has taken place on the Eastside of Clarke County, you will agree with me that this area is not lagging behind and is in many ways the leader in economic development in the county. In addition to the 24 projects on this list, there are other industrial developments that have already begun and more projects that will be announced soon that I believe the people on the Eastside will be very pleased with.

What other issues concern you?

I remember reading this, and I think it is relevant to the situation with the Athens-Clarke County government: J. A. Rohr [an author and commentator on public administration ethics and behavior] argues that politics and administration are not separate, but are present at the same time when a public administrator makes decisions. He states that the problem with public administrators “is not that bureaucrats are excessively involved in policy formulation, but that they are involved at all. This is a problem for a democratic society because to influence public policy as a public official is to govern.” (Rohr, J. A., p. 39. Ethics for bureaucrats: An essay on law and values. [1978] New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc.). In other words, those officials who are influencing decisions are taking on the role of those elected by the public without a responsibility of having to answer to the public for decisions made.”