From left, Bailey, Benson and Denson.
Jared Bailey, who is seeking a third term on the commission, has a long history of civic involvement, including founding Flagpole and AthFest, and has voted almost in lockstep with Athens for Everyone’s positions, yet the group’s founder, 2014 mayoral candidate Tim Denson, is running against him, arguing that Bailey has not been vocal enough in his support for progressive positions. Benson, meanwhile, has been running on cutting red tape and support for law enforcement. She has a history of donating to Republican candidates and voting in GOP primaries and has the support of a majority of Republicans who participated in the straw poll, although she denies that she is a Republican. A4E is, of course, backing Denson, while the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee has certified both Bailey and Denson.
Occupation: Commissioner and program manager for Accurus Aerospace
Residence: Marsha Court
Top priorities (from Bailey's candidate questionnaire):
I have worked with the ACC Staff and the Police Department to ensure that they have the equipment and training they need to oversee public safety. I have also supported the addition of another Superior Court Judge to make our courts more efficient as well as several diversion programs that help people who have been found guilty of a crime find a way to become more productive citizens. ACC has a low crime rate for a city this size and I want to help keep it that way.
Having a sustainable government and conserving the natural resources of our community have always been important to me. That is why I have worked to help ACC to purchase a new fleet of Hybrid transit buses, approve a solar array at the largest County operated user of electrical power, support ACC’s recycling and waste reduction efforts, and suppot the creation of more Greenways and Rails to Trails projects
We could not have a thriving community without the roads, water supply and sewage systems we have in place. I have worked to make our existing infrastructure as efficient infrastructure possible while expanding the network that we have. I have also paid close attention to other types of infrastructure that are important to all of us like public parks and facilities, bike lanes, sidewalks, and greenways.
Unfortunately Athens has a high poverty rate and it will take a lot of effort to turn that around. However, as a Commissioner I have voted to increase the wages of all of our 1600 plus employees to a living wage or better and have worked to assist and fund many of the organizations in our community that work to improve the lives of citizens in need.
Occupation: Construction and massage business owner
Residence: Moss Side Drive
Websites: Bensonforathens.com, facebook.com/BensonforAthens, twitter.com/bensonforathens, instagram.com/bensonforathens
Top priorities (from Benson's candidate questionnaire):
PROMOTING SMALL BUSINESSES
It is currently too hard to do business in Athens-Clarke County. We have a higher sales tax and a more stifling regulatory structure than surrounding counties. As commissioner, I will work to simplify those regulations and make us competitive with our neighbors again.
Athens needs a ready workforce to meet the demands of new business opportunities. I will create a youth development and workforce development program to ensure Athens always has a steady supply of skilled workers.
I will also explore options for the creation of a county-owned industrial park. This would give us the space and resources necessary to attract new businesses, investment, and jobs to the county. Athens needs a ready workforce to meet the demands of new business opportunities. I will create a youth development and workforce development program to ensure Athens always has a steady supply of skilled workers.
SUPPORTING PUBLIC SAFETY
The 5th district deserves prompt and full protection from crime. I will work with our law enforcement agencies to explore a site for a sub-station to be established in our district so that we can count on that protection without hesitation.
I am currently attending the Citizens Police Academy to fully educate myself on the needs and workings of our law enforcement community. I encourage all citizens to attend this educational and informative program; it truly is a life-changing experience and deepens my appreciation for our law enforcement community.
I will fight to improve recruiting and increase police retention by increasing pay and benefits for our public safety officers. We should not be incentivizing our police to train here and then move out to neighboring counties.
DEVELOPING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
There is a serious lack of affordable single-family housing in Athens and the problem continues to grow. Stifling ordinances have made it impossible for developers to address this crisis.
Our Planning Department process must be streamlined as currently this process takes a minimum of six months and is causing businesses to move their investments to other counties.
CREATING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
I will work closely with the Board of Education to find innovative ways to improve our schools and maximize student performance. Our students deserve all of the resources they need to succeed.
After-school activities are a cornerstone of youth education. They teach teamwork, social skills, and help children learn to follow their passions. It is essential that after school activities are fully funded and supported. I will ensure that every student has access to those activities.
RECONNECTING TO THE 5TH
As commissioner, I will host town hall meetings to hear resident concerns, questions, and feedback. I will be a servant to the public, and that means making myself available to my constituents.
I will also send out a monthly newsletter to the people of Athens and the 5th district to keep everyone appraised of what their government is doing. It is time to give the citizens of our district their voice back in government and making it easy to know what’s going on is the first step in making that happen.
In this newsletter I will inform the constituents of the reasoning of my votes – full transparency.
Occupation: Digital director, Barnes & Noble
Residence: Whitehead Road
Top priorities (from Denson's candidate questionnaire):
Open Door Democracy
I will prioritize engaging District 5 residents by holding monthly District 5 Assemblies so residents have a consistent forum to have their voices heard on issues that affect them. I am dedicated to making sure that the government is accessible, transparent, and actually represents the people.
Racial and Social Justice
I will tirelessly dedicate my service on the Commission to dismantling systems of oppression and advocating for policy changes that tackle deep-rooted poverty and racial injustice. This includes pushing for comprehensive local civil rights legislation that includes an Athens Civil Rights Committee; decriminalizing marijuana to help end mass incarceration; and supporting black-owned businesses and black workers.
A Reimagined Economy
Athens’ 38% poverty rate is unacceptable, and we currently have an economic system that works for the few. I will work to build a local economy that works for everyone by promoting policies that establish living wages for Athens workers, advocating for decent affordable housing, and fighting for a fare-free public transit system.