Train crossings, teacher pay divide Ward 1 candidates
by Rachel Gray
October 13, 2013 12:38 AM | 3817 views | 21 21 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Candidate for Marietta City Council Ward 1 Stuart Fleming, left, makes a point on his feelings of several issues facing the city, while incumbent Annette Paige Lewis waits her turn to address a question posed by moderator Amanda Campbell. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Candidate for Marietta City Council Ward 1 Stuart Fleming, left, makes a point on his feelings of several issues facing the city, while incumbent Annette Paige Lewis waits her turn to address a question posed by moderator Amanda Campbell.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
Ward 1 Board of Education member Brett Bittner, left, stresses his position as he seeks another term on the panel, facing challenger Justin Clarke, right.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Ward 1 Board of Education member Brett Bittner, left, stresses his position as he seeks another term on the panel, facing challenger Justin Clarke, right.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
MARIETTA — Former, current and possibly future Marietta school board members answered rounds of questions late Saturday afternoon in hopes of gaining votes in this year’s City Council and Board of Education elections.

Ward 1, which encompasses the central portion of Marietta south of Roswell Road, is represented by Councilwoman Annette Lewis, who served on the Marietta school board from 1994 until 2005.

Contending for Lewis’ seat is Stuart Fleming, who is completing his first term on the Marietta school board for Ward 5, but was drawn out of the district and into Ward 1 when a new map was approved by the City Council.

Brett Bittner, who moved from Smyrna in 2009 and is the newest Marietta school board member, is being challenged by Chris Everett, who did not attend the event, and Justin Clarke, 36, who graduated from Harrison High School in 1996 and has not previously run for elected office.

Planning Commissioner Cheryl Richardson, who started off Saturday’s event, told the crowd all the candidates live within three-quarters of a mile from each other, and no matter who wins on Nov. 5, they will continue to be neighbors.

The neighborly feeling did not last long, as Flemming stated he was glad Ward 1 residents have a choice for the council post this year.

“There is a tremendous number of people who feel they are not being represented,” Flemming said.

Flemming added that the area he is hoping to represent is the most enticing location for new families moving into Marietta.

Jerry Mann, one of the 15 residents who attended the meeting, said he recently bought a home in Ward 1 that he hopes to turn into a rental property.

Mann said before the meeting he did not know much about the candidates and the forum was a chance to find out more.

“I am not sure how much we learn at these things,” Mann said.

Bittner said he was happy is see an “actively engaged group of citizens” at the event, ‘albeit small.”

The council debate

During the forum, each candidate was asked five questions with five minutes to answer each topic. City Council and Board of Education contenders were asked different questions.

The format was not a debate. There was no time allotted for rebuttals from opponents and the candidates did not receive the questions beforehand.

One of the most divisive questions was about discussions by the City Council, led by Mayor Steve Tumlin and the Vision 20/20 Committee, to silence railroad crossings within Marietta city limits.

Preliminary reports by city staff have shown it would cost nearly $2.6 million to upgrade five of the most concerning crossings.

Flemming said he fully supports using tax money to make the changes, which he said would improve experiences at downtown restaurants and church services. The improvements would also make the crossings safer, according to Flemming.

Lewis did not feel a sense of urgency on the matter, and said long-term residents grow accustomed to the whistles.

“Taking away the bells and whistles will not take away the noise of the trains on the tracks,” Lewis said. “It is an expensive fix for us to do.”

Another contentious item between the candidates for council was on imposing term limits for elected positions.

Lewis, who has represented Ward 1 since January 2006, said the four-year terms always end the same year, so each election there is a chance for a complete turnover.

Having term limits would make the concern greater, which could result in the loss of years of expertise all at once, Lewis said.

Flemming said if a change to the city ordinance to start term limits was brought before the City Council, he would vote “unequivocally” in favor of it.

“Reality is, once an incumbent is in, it is hard to get the person out of office,” Flemming said.

School board politics

The biggest contrast between the two school board candidates who were present Saturday was on compensation for Marietta teachers.

Bittner said he voted in favor of the latest proposal to redesign teacher compensation, which is not only based on test scores.

“Our current model is not sustainable,” said Bittner, who added the local board could be a pioneer in determining how educators are paid.

Clarke said teaching is an art, not a business, and the focus should be less on test scores and more on molding children to be productive citizens.

Bittner said, if re-elected, he would raise the graduation rate in Marietta by “five points” in the next four years.

Clarke said he would commit to a 100 percent graduation rate.

“We should not expect anything else,” said Clarke.

Clarke also said he is the only school board candidate running in Ward 1 who has a child in the school system. His daughter, Madilynn, 5, attends Hickory Hills Elementary School.

Comments
(21)
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Right or straight?
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October 20, 2013
As I approached the North Loop southbound on Church Street Friday after work, I faced my option of turning right and waiting thru the "right on Polk/Whitlock" backup or going straight through the Square and crossing at Crescent.

I heard the train and knew to turn right, passing under the tracks.

Without the train's horn, how do we make this decision?

I dislike waiting on trains FAR more than I dislike hearing trains, so silencing trains seems like the greater of two evils.

A silent crossing was a good idea for Vinings where knowlege of an oncoming makes no difference since there's only one way across the tracks.

For Marietta with 7 crossings, half at grade, half passing under, silent trains are a terrible terrible TERRIBLE idea.
Concerned Citizen
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October 15, 2013
In today's political enviroment I do not have a lot of faith in our government. I believe that the issue here is who is going to do a better job. Do we settle for the same failing government school system or do we wake up and set some high goals and go after them.
Donald Lair
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October 14, 2013
Two things I wonder about with this school board debate.

1) If a person COULDN'T have children, would he or she be incapable of serving on the school board? Or should adoption be a prerequisite for that person to serve us?

2) Is EVERY parent qualified to serve us on school board simply because they're a parent?
Get Real
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October 14, 2013
Thank you!
Maralee Clarke
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October 14, 2013
The question that was posed to the candiates was about unique qualifications. As both a parent and a voter, I would tend to look at someone more who has a vested interest and knowledge of what is actually going on at the school level rather than just someone who shows up for photo ops and special visits because you don't see the real situations or hear about what the teachers really are thinking. And no, not every parent is qualified but it does add to the qualifications when they have been involved with their community, church and schools for many years and has been involved in Ward 1 activities for a long time. Many voters that we have talked to feel that same thing, that having students who are students in the school district makes a difference to them and makes them take another look at the candidates. I am not impartial, as Justin is my son, but I also believe that what he can bring to the board is positive and hopefully, will be able to make some positive changes.
Marietta Voter
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October 14, 2013
Our schools are in need of real help. We, as parents and community members must expect our board to represent the goals of the community. I'm sure that most people who live in the Marietta School District don't look at their child and say "Just bring home a 62% on your test, that is good enough." So then why is that ok for our high school graduation rate? We should always set our expections higher than a failing grade. Who were the teachers that motivated you and helped you to attain your greatest potential? Were they the ones who pushed you harder, kept you on track and gave you the tools and techniques to succeed or were they the ones who said that as long as you had a passing grade it was acceptable? You remember the teachers who motivated you, right? Mr. Bittner, you stated that you only want to increase the graduation rate of 5%, which is just above a failing grade. We must aim higher or we are doing a disservice to our students, our community and to our future. While 100% may be a lofty goal it would still be preferable to a failing grade.
bells and whistles
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October 14, 2013


Considering we will gladly use eminent domain to force neighborhood residents out and then tear down houses for the car throughput benefit of the "buy bigger" jack ices in West Cobb and Paulding who think their quality of life is more important than our actual lives, I cannot imagine why we would want to shoot ourselves in the accelerator foot by silencing the "hey, a train is coming, don't head toward a crossing, go the other way, under the RR tracks" announcements that help all our traffic routing decisions whether or not we realize it. Perhaps we just do not realize it? Are we that clueless about our driving?
Get Real
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October 13, 2013
"Clarke also said he is the only school board candidate running in Ward 1 who has a child in the school system. His daughter, Madilynn, 5, attends Hickory Hills Elementary School."

So he has had a kid in the school system for all of two months? I'm pretty sure that means that Mr. Bittner has much more experience with the school system than Mr. Clarke. Talk about a non-issue.

A Marietta parent
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October 14, 2013
Mr. Bittner has only been on the school board for a just a year and this certainly doesn't make him overqualified but would still be considered a rookie in most leagues. Mr. Clarke has been involved with the Ward 1 community for years and represents them as a major fundraiser for the community, involved in Ward projects and again, is the only person who is running in Ward 1 with a child in the Marietta City Schools and who will represent his community the best. You may want to try to belittle that but it speaks volumes to me.
A Concerned Parent
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October 14, 2013
A child in the school system may be a "non-issue" to Mr. Bittner, but I can assure you that is because he doesn't have a child in the school system. I know as a parent that having a child in the school system affords one a special relationship with the teachers, administration and staff of the school. It also makes them aware of certain aspects of the school and the school system. I am also keenly aware of what my child tells me is happening at school, which a non-parent would not get to hear about. Finally, I believe having a child in the school system makes a person fully vested in the successes and failures of that school system. I am willing, as a parent, to do much more to see my child and school and school system succeed than ever before.
Get Real
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October 15, 2013
Does a parent know to file their required disclosures to the State Campaign Finance Commission?

Where are Mr. Clarke's filings? We can all see the fees he owes for non-filing.
Help Me Understand
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October 16, 2013
Help me Understand looks like Brett has the same fees? I guess he did not pay his in the past either.

http://media.ethics.ga.gov/search/Late/Late_Details.aspx?NameID=25820&FirstName=brett&LastName=bittner&City=marietta&FirstNameSearch=1&LastNameSearch=1&CitySearch=1&OfficeID=&FOName=
Get Real
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October 16, 2013
Now Justin has filed his CCDR 6:30pm on 10/16. That's a $125 late fee and it has to be paid out of personal funds - not campaign funds. Doesn't a parent knows that money could have been better spent elsewhere?

According to his CCDR, he has received $0 in cash and in-kind contributions. $0 in expenditures, too.

You know it's funny, I'm preety sure he paid a filing fee, and what about signs and fliers.

Not even in office yet, and already has ethics issues. Does Justin the parent even know?
Just wondering
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October 17, 2013
Is it just a coincidence or are the postings for Get Real at the same time as the postings on the incumbent's Facebook page? Just a thought.

Brett Bittner

10 hours ago via mobile

Get Real|

10 Hours Ago

Mary Beth Clarke
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October 17, 2013
Thank you, Get Real, for pointing out a mistake Mr. Clarke made. We always appreciate when someone informs us of an oversight. If we are going to broadcast these mistakes, let's do it for all of the candidates, shall we? Mr. Bittner has two outstanding late fees, one from 2012 and one from earlier 2013 that have yet to be paid according to the campaign finance website. Mr. Everett also has not filed his disclosure paperwork and has a late fee as well. While I do not mind that you are calling out my husband on a public forum, it makes me feel as though you have a personal vendetta against my husband. Yes, a parent does know when he/she makes a mistake and is willing to admit his/her mistake.
Pie In The Sky
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October 13, 2013
A 100% graduation rate? Spoken like a true bureaucrat. You have a choice between someone that is realistic about education goals and someone that obviously believes in unicorns. Is that really even a choice?
A Concerned parent
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October 14, 2013
While you may say it is a Pie in the Sky attitude it is better than a pie in the eye. That is what a 62% graduation rate is for Marietta High School (as of 2012)really reflects. We should always reach higher and aim for the stars rather than settling for a failing grade, which is what they are receiving with that low of a graduation rate. His opponent, Mr. Bittner, is failing the students in Marietta. While the real "bureaucrat" is being the executive director of the Libertarian party of Georgia.
Pie In The Sky
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October 14, 2013
I'm pretty sure that "A Concerned parent" is one of the candidates but I won't tell you which one. And not understanding what causes a 62% graduation rate automatically disqualifies them as a board member candidate in my book. Go for your 100% rate. You'd be as successful at finding your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
A Concerned parent
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October 16, 2013
Actually, no I am not any of the candidates but truly a concerned Marietta parent. These snide and nasty remarks and assumptions that are made on your part have no basis in truth but belong in a fairytale world. The talk about unicorns is senseless and that is why you don't have an understanding of why there is a failing grade. No school system should be proud of the fact that they only graduate 62% of a senior class. We can certainly as a community strive to do better for our children and our city. Please refrain from the snarky remarks. Be part of a solution rather than making those kinds of comments. My vote will be for someone other than the incumbent.

100% not realistic
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October 13, 2013
Unless you are going to change the law that no child can drop out, 100% is a fantasy. The law should be changed because no one should drop out but the Hispanic students and many others can't hang with the curriculum or don't desire to graduate.
High Hopes
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October 14, 2013
Maybe 100% graduation rate is not probable, but it is certainly possible. I have always been told and choose to believe that it is much better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for manure and hit a bulls eye. To me, a 67% graduation rate is aiming for manure. Our kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for and it is our job as parents, educators, and even neighbors to help them strive for more than just a failing grade.
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