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Fulton's challenges don't overshadow advantages

August 01, 2007
After six months in office, I know as well as anyone that Fulton County has challenges before it. But we can read in any newspaper that even smaller units of government – including some of the newest cities in our great state – also face challenges, differences of opinion, and occasional missteps.

A study committee has been formed and the members will sit down to examine the way that Fulton County is governed. It is my great hope that they put aside any preconceptions they may have and truly examine the challenges – as well as the many successes – that make up Fulton County government.

Certainly the Board of Commissioners has made significant effort to tackle many of the major challenges facing all large counties. After problems were discovered in the Board of Assessors, a new board and Chief Appraiser were appointed. Funds have been allocated to address many of the concerns in the Fulton County Jail and the board is routinely updated on its progress.

Three years ago, two-thirds of Fulton County residents already lived in cities. So when citizens in Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek led the way into new city-hood – they were joining the majority of county residents.

The solution to meet these changing needs was simple – we adjusted our service delivery by transferring municipal services to the new cities and continued our existing countywide services.

Many of these countywide services have been nationally recognized for excellence. Fulton County provides outstanding senior services – one of the reasons that the AARP recognizes the Atlanta area as a haven for older adults. In 2007, we added over $1 million for new library materials – on top of the annual allocation for Georgia's largest local public library system.

'Fulton County is a leader in fiscal responsibility and management. We have demonstrated that by reducing citizens taxes for the past eight years.'
Fulton County is also the leading public funding source for the arts – granting more than $2 million to help our arts organizations leverage millions more. Likewise, Fulton is noted as the leading local government in Georgia supporting human services agencies – allocating over $6 million in county funds to support qualified nonprofit service providers.

Most importantly, Fulton County is a leader in fiscal responsibility and management. We have demonstrated that by reducing citizens taxes for the past eight years – approaching a 25 percent cut in that period.

We began this year with more than $100 million in reserves – and we are judiciously addressing the challenges before us.

Fulton County is the economic center of the Southeast. Looking across the Atlanta skyline, we see in those skyscrapers the tax base that helps keep this county in business, more so than any single residential development.

Yes, Fulton County is large. Yes, there are always challenges to meet. But our record is quite clear on service, funding and fiscal responsibility.

It concerns me greatly that there are those who wish to secede from the county at any cost. They have even chosen to use scare tactics to accomplish their goal. It has been proven time and time again in history that a scorched earth approach will result in the ultimate downfall of a society. I would much rather spend my energy trying to find a win-win solution and therefore creating a stronger society.

As the chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, I am committed to focusing on our many strengths and maximizing them for the benefit of all our citizens. I welcome changes which will add efficiency and productivity because we deserve the best in government and services.

I am certain that the future will shine brightly for Fulton County and all of its citizens.

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