By Maggie Lee

Dunwoody’s candidates for state House, state Senate and DeKalb County School Board pitched their messages to about 150 residents.

Their messages differ in degree, but most fit around a common refrain: DeKalb, Fulton and Georgia are doing it all wrong.

Start with Dunwoody senior statesman Fran Millar, for 12 years a state representative, now seeking north DeKalb’s vacant state Senate seat, representing District 40.

He’s one of the ones who passed the bill that froze state property taxes year, Millar pointed out in his opening statement, calculating that he saved homeowners from a roughly 5 percent hike.

He’s against this year’s new state transportation bill, which would allow groups of counties to vote themselves an extra tax to pay for transit.  Fulton and DeKalb residents already pay a MARTA penny and the transit system is too dysfunctional to merit a second, he believes.  Instead, the Georgia Regional Transit Authority ought to take over and integrate all the metro counties’ busses and trains.

Eric Christ, Democratic candidate for the Dist. 40 Senate seat, suggests new blood under the Gold Dome would be an improvement. He argues that if any industry gets state preference, Georgia ought to “seed the ground” for high-tech, high-skill industries like solar power.   As for transport, he thinks the legislature – which oversees MARTA’s budgeting – has “studied” the problem for too long.  He also wants an integrated system, because the metro is “in danger of fragmenting into several different job markets.”

Millar also said he will fight for GOP advantage in the congressional redistricting that will occur after the 2010 Census results come out.  Millar said he hopes to “emancipate” a few more blocks of Dunwoody by getting them moved to Rep. Tom Price’s 6th Congressional District, and to get a bit of Fulton moved into the north DeKalb state Senate district.

Christ asked if the Republican did not prefer redistricting free of party politics.

“Philosophically it would be nice,” said Millar, bringing up the former Democrat-gerrymandered congressional district that ran from Atlanta to Savannah, “but we’re talking about politics here.”

Millar also said he’d support a Milton County made of a secessionist north Fulton, but only if it takes Dunwoody with it.

The man running to replace Millar in the state house agreed.

“I’ve seen the frustration of paying for services you’re not getting,” said Tom Taylor, a founding member of Dunwoody City Council.

His opponent is environmental engineer Keith Kaylor, whose “pet issue” is the metro’s water use, or over-use.

Democrat Kaylor says that this year’s new laws for conservation are baby steps.  “We can’t conserve our way out of this,” Taylor said.  He predicts the metro will need more reservoirs.  Taylor wants the next  governor to negotiate some kind of Lanier-use settlement until those can be built.

In the school board race, the three Dunwoody candidates are looking at the ledger.

“We’ve got a problem with competency in budgeting,” said candidate Nancy Jester, a one-time actuarial consultant.

The school system budget runs some $1.5 billion this year. A bit less than a billion goes in the operating budget. The rest comes with strings attached, such as federal funds for schools in poorer neighborhoods.

Incumbent DeKalb School Board member Jim Redovian agreed there are money wastes.  However, he also said that fixing the schools is not as simple as it looks to a crusading outsider.  State and federal laws and limits on the board’s power are one constraint.  There are also eight other board members – though Redovian said he votes “no” more than any of them.

Redovian and Jester, plus third candidate Bobbe Gillis agree that the schools need a professional, data-based redistricting, but admit that will equalize the north side overcrowding, not eliminate it.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.