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County commissioners

Fulton power shift could bring changes

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DeKalb and Gwinnett have contested county commission races this year, but the highest stakes are in Fulton County.

Never a beacon of civility, the Fulton Commission sank over the last couple of years into a morass of grandstanding and petty obstructionism over the incorporation of Sandy Springs. If the fractious board is ever to recover, members must take responsibility for downsizing a government that's fast getting out of the business of zoning, road-building and public safety. Unfortunately, the three commissioners fighting the new governing paradigm aren't going anywhere, so the only hope for progress is for their votes to be outnumbered on the seven-member board.

As competent and reasonable as outgoing Chairwoman Karen Handel seems, she never was able to reign in the divisiveness and buffoonery that's made the board such a train wreck. What the commission needs is a persuasive, strong-willed chairman with a big-picture vision of how the county government must transform itself -- and a new at-large member to supply the crucial fourth vote needed to implement that vision.

Fulton County Commission chairman: While he boasts an impressive résumé and a record of community leadership, Democrat John Eaves is a political novice who could get eaten alive by the acrimonious commission. Republican Lee Morris, an ex-Atlanta councilman widely admired for his smarts, ability and integrity, is better prepared to repair Fulton's bridges to its new cities and the Legislature. As county chairman, Morris will hit the ground running; better still, he'll know in which direction he needs to lead.

Fulton County Commission District 2 (at-large): Ex-Council prez Robb Pitts, a Democrat, has managed the astonishing feat of alienating both ends of Fulton as he's blown with the wind on nearly every controversial issue; his loyalty lies with his own political ambitions. GOP challenger Bill Loughrey, a retired tech executive and longtime Grady Hospital board member, grasps the financial challenges facing Fulton. He is passionate and energetic, and holds strong opinions about reforming county government -- everything Pitts is not.

DeKalb County Commission District 2: Democrat Jeff Rader is an accomplished urban planner who's worked for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, headed the Regional Business Coalition and has the experience and temperament to be a consensus-builder on the DeKalb board. Opponent Hubert Rambo is so under-the-radar that even fellow Republicans don't know who he is.

Gwinnett County Commission District 4: It's been a delicious season of scandal, first as videos surfaced of veteran Commissioner Kevin Kenerly gambling with developer chums at Caesar's Palace, then as the political operatives behind the taping got indicted. But Kenerly narrowly survived his GOP primary despite being widely condemned as a servant of developer interests. Democrat John Kenney is the veteran of two failed, vitriolic campaigns for chairman, but perhaps he'd grow into the role of a genuine slow-growth district commissioner.

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