Another ARC meet, another stalemate

By Maria Saporta

Once again, the elected officials on the Atlanta Regional Commission reached a stalemate when trying to elect a citizen member from the 11th district.

It is the third time that the body has tried to elect a citizen member from a district that covers three different counties — more than 50 percent is in DeKalb County, the next greatest share is in north Fulton and then there is a sliver in east Cobb.

The citizen member for that district has been Tad Leithead, who is from east Cobb. Leithead was chairman of the ARC until the end of 2013 when he decided to not seek re-election. Leithead’s citizen member term also expired at the end of the year.

At the same time, DeKalb County CEO Lee May proposed Mickey McGuire, an urban planner and policy expert from Dunwoody, to be the citizen member from that district. That set up an election between Leithead and McGuire.

A citizen member needs 12 votes from the elected officials on ARC’s board in order to be elected. In December, the vote was 11-10 in McGuire’s favor. In January, several votes were taken that were 10 to 9 in Leithead’s favor. And on Wednesday, the group decided to take only one vote after the ARC’s official board meeting.

The result? 10 to 9 in Leithead’s favor. Another stalemate.

At that point, ARC’s executive director — Doug Hooker, said he needed to weigh in.

“There are some folks who have called into question our ability to govern ourselves,” Hooker said. “I might suggest that you table this for a few months and let this percolate. The seat will not be vacant. Tad will still be serving in that seat.”

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood made a motion to table the election until after the May board meeting.

Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner had to leave before Wednesday’s citizen member vote. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was not present.

Also, Atlanta has a City Council member position on that board. Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell had appointed himself to serve on the ARC board. But someone questioned whether he qualified as a councilmember since he presided over council.

Now there is bill going through the state legislature clarifying that matter and stating clearly that the president of the Atlanta City Council can serve at the council’s representative on ARC’s board. That legislation has already passed the Senate and it is headed to the House.

By May, it is quite possible that Mitchell also will be a voting member of the ARC board.

Meanwhile, several ARC board members have seemed embarrassed by the way decisions have unfolded in recent months. An effort is underway to change the organization’s bylaws. Also, there are some members who are questioning whether it is appropriate for elected members of community improvement districts to serve as citizen members.

Past ARC Chair Leithead is chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, and current ARC Chair Kerry Armstrong is chairman of the North Fulton Community Improvement District.

The board will hold will hold its annual retreat from April 3 to April 4.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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