By Joel Hall
State Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who is making a run for the Governor's office this year, will take questions from the public on Monday at the Morrow Municipal Complex Community Room.
The three-term attorney general will speak before the Clayton County Democratic Party, beginning at 7 p.m., during its first meeting of the new year.
Clayton County Democratic Party Chairman Kevin Thomas said that last year, gubernatorial candidates Roy Barnes, David Poythress, and DuBose Porter all spoke before the group. He said Baker's appearance was scheduled as part of an effort to inform local voters.
"One of the things that we are going to focus on this year is that we are going to hear from all the candidates," Thomas said. "We want to make sure that this year, we give Clayton residents a chance to hear from these candidates first-hand, and create an environment where they can ask these candidates some questions.
"We're concerned about transportation, employment opportunities, and economic development here in Clayton County," he said. "[However,] we definitely want to let the voters ask the majority of the questions."
Baker, who has spent the last 12 years as attorney general and nine previous years as a state representative, said education funding, health care, transportation, and water conservation will be among his talking points on Monday.
He said Clayton County is "an important piece of our Democratic puzzle" and that he would address issues impacting Clayton County, as well as the state.
"Clayton County is a growing area, the same issues we are dealing with around metro Atlanta, we are dealing with here," Baker said Thursday. "There is about $3 billion not put into Quality Basic Education [funding] that should have gone in there [in the 2011 state budget]. There is a formula that goes along with the funding, and we have not been funding education adequately for the last seven or eight years.
"You cannot improve the high school dropout rates in Georgia, if you are going to cut that kind of money out of education funding," he continued. "We have to get away from this idea that we are going to balance this budget on the backs of teachers in the state. We are seeing the highest unemployment rate that we have seen in the last decade. We need to have a governor who is willing to be more aggressive about attracting jobs to our state."
Baker said he would also discuss how Georgians can prepare for the next drought through stricter water conservation, and by building more reservoirs. He said he believes his experience makes him qualified to take the state through the next wave of tough decisions.
"Georgia is facing some of the most difficult challenges ... in the state's history," Baker said. "I believe I am capable and qualified to make those decisions, and move the state in a positive direction."
The Morrow Municipal Complex is located at 1500 Morrow Road, in Morrow. For more information, call (678) 914-1588.