By Ed Brock
Economic development and crime prevention are some of the key topics for the three candidates for chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.
Eldrin Bell, Terry Bizzell and Wade Starr will run to replace retiring Commission Chairman Crandle Bray in the Democratic primary on July 20. The winner will then go on to face Republican candidate Michael Onyemenam, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary, in a Nov. 2 election.
Bell, 68, of Jonesboro is a former chief of police in Atlanta who currently works as security consultant. His campaign is going very well, Bell said.
"I can feel the momentum building every day," Bell said.
The major issues that Bell wants to address are the economy, crime and zoning.
"Economic growth is at the apex," Bell said. "Our businesses are closing up. Our schools are overcrowded. Our students are coming in from apartments. Crime is on the rise and gangs are running rampant. It must be stopped immediately."
Along with developing incentives to lure new companies to the county and revitalizing the established shopping areas and businesses, Bell wants fair representation by women-owned and disadvantaged businesses in county contracts.
Also, Bell wants to reward businesses that chose to locate in Clayton County, and he wants to ensure that Clayton County businesses are given the opportunity to participate in state and federal grant programs in the county.
Bell also wants safer communities, more police officers and better security at the county's parks and recreation areas.
Bizzell, 52, of Lovejoy is currently the second in command for the criminal docket of Fulton County Superior Court. He has also held several other leadership positions including district commissioner and other positions for the Boy Scouts of America in Clayton County, two terms as vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and as a founding member of the HOPE Shelter for battered women.
This will be Bizzell's third run for commission chairman, and he is inspired by the fact that in 2000 he received 42 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary against current Chairman Crandle Bray.
"After running three times I guess a lot of the pressure that would be there is not there because the incumbent is not running," Bizzell said.
Bizzell has been basing his campaign on a three-point platform covering education, employment and empowerment. But there is an overriding concern, he said.
"The utmost important issue is that this election must be ethical," Bizzell said. "The voters deserve a chairman position that is not for sale."
If elected he will impel the commission to put in place far reaching campaign reform. Public service should never be about personal gain, Bizzell said.
By education Bizzell means informing the public about their government, holding consumer education forums, establish televised commission meetings and to enhance the Clayton County Community Services Authority.
As for the school system itself, Bizzell wants to establish a formal mechanism for communication between the county's planning and zoning department at the school system to further the school system's awareness of the county's future growth.
"That way we can eliminate trailer classrooms and school overcrowding," Bizzell said.
With a majority of residents driving outside the county to go to work, Bizzell said something must be done to match the skills of the citizens with the companies the county attracts to do business here.
Other issues Bizzell wants to tackle if elected included enhancing tourism, reducing traffic on Tara Boulevard, Mt. Zion Road and Jonesboro Road, establishing "small business incubators" and the creation of an environmental court to aid in better code enforcement.
Starr, 51, of Jonesboro is currently on leave from his position as administrative assistant to Bray so he can run for Bray's seat. He is also the owner of The Starr Agency.
He has been joining his volunteers in putting up signs around the county for his campaign.
"We feel good about where we are (in the campaign)," Starr said.
Starr said he is "running to help restore confidence in the leadership of the county."
"It's important for us to have somebody in the position who is knowledgeable and confident," Starr said.
He wants the people of Clayton County to be proud of where they live, Starr said, and he thinks the county should be clean and safe.
"Therefore I will aggressively enforce our codes and move immediately to hire more police officers," Starr said.
On growth in the county, Starr said he would fight for fewer apartment buildings in the county and for more single-family, upper middle range homes. He wants to redevelop the Mountain View area near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, add a retail component to and expand the Atlanta Farmer's Market and work to create an executive training and conference center in the Gateway Village development in Morrow.
"We need to address our ?amenity package' by expanding our recreational and cultural resources and opportunities," Starr said.
Starr would also seek to accelerate the building of the county's six planned recreational facilities and work with schools and organizations like Arts Clayton "to build a strong arts and cultural community."