Challenger Daniel McDonald, 32, is a graduate of the University of Georgia and an AmeriCorps alumnus who moved to Milledgeville in 2008 to report on local government for The Union Recorder. He has also worked at the downtown, non-profit Digital Bridges and is currently employed by the Georgia College Library. He is a member of the Leadership Baldwin Class of 2011 and a two-year member of the Campus Club Milledgeville board of directors. He volunteers time to the Oconee River Greenway Authority and the Bicycle Club of Milledgeville.
Q: Why should citizens of your district vote for you?
A: The residents of District 5 need to vote for their best interests. We need city leadership that has a vision for the ways government can help our community succeed in the next generation. We need leaders who are willing to engage in the hard work of making that vision a reality.
I put myself forward to take on that responsibility because I don’t feel our current representative is doing enough to plan strategically for our community’s future. I don’t have the immediate solutions to the challenges of joblessness and economic stagnation, but I will address these issues with a new set of eyes and ears and be open to the many ideas that we can find in our community and other cities across the state and nation. I’ve been walking our district for eight weeks and talking to you about our issues, but also, and more importantly, the opportunities to make this a better community for ourselves and our children. If I haven’t knocked on your door yet, I’m looking forward to the chance to talk with you about your vision for Milledgeville’s future.
Q: How would you define your job as mayor/councilman/councilwoman?
A: I view the role of city council as a conduit through which the community turns their vision for the future into city policy. Each year, council examines many different priorities and negotiates a budget document that attempts to balance the fundamental responsibilities of city government with the additional resources needed to build the city we want for ourselves and our children. The ideal council does not fight doggedly to secure every single thing its constituents want, but works to find a meaningful consensus that ensures the city’s resources — be they tax dollars or human resources like increased attention to stormwater runoff by the city engineer — are spread equitably amongst all parts of the community. At its worst, council is forced to make unpopular decisions that put off progress to ensure the city maintains its core responsibilities. At its best, council anticipates the trends that will improve quality of life today and develops the plan for success in the future.
Q: Will you support allowing a unification measure to go to ballot for citizens to decide yes or no? Please explain your answer.
A: I will support a ballot referendum on a unification measure that guarantees adequate representation for all residents, maintains opportunities for anyone to answer the call to leadership and creates a more effective government for our community. The proposal delivered this summer is a good start on the latter consideration, but can be improved to calm resident’s fears about the first two.
I believe any conversation about bringing our community closer together and how our government can better represent us is worth having, whether we implement the changes or not. We have all been very vocal about the current proposal and my sense is that we want a better one. When elected, I will work hard to make sure I am following the people’s will on whether or not to support a referendum on unification.
Q: How will you implement your vision for Milledgeville?
A: Hard work, dedication and an open heart. Our community will be more successful when we accept that we are all in this together and our efforts are more effective when we’re all pulling in the same direction. I have worked with many of our city, county, state and education leaders; I know a great number of the dedicated people that engage in behind-the-scenes work making our city a community; and I am out in the neighborhoods meeting many thoughtful and committed residents who have not yet accepted the call to leadership. I will work to bring us all to the table to plan our successful future.
Q: What should the city do to address emergency service issues/concerns with the county?
A: The creation of a shared 911 dispatch center is a positive step that can lead us to a safer community. But I think we need to go further and adopt service delivery maps that get our emergency responders to the scene faster, regardless of whether the incident is in the city or county. When there are people in danger in our community, saving lives should be the only priority.
Q: Do you feel the city’s ethics policy makes a strong enough statement? Should changes be made to the policy?
A: The policy is only as good as the people who are implementing it. I don't feel we need any changes to the policy at this time; we need to change the representatives who refuse to abide by and act upon it. I'm running because I don't believe we can move forward with a government that puts its own interests above those of the people it represents. Election is not an end, but a means to a future that benefits the common good of all residents. Danielle Fields and the other people who put forward the first ethics challenge exhibited great courage and spoke truth to power. City Council can take note and follow their example.
Q: What, if anything, do you feel the city should have done differently in handling its first ethics complaint under the new policy?
A: City Council still has time to act on the Ethics Board’s recommendations. That's what they can do differently.
Q: How can city officials strengthen communication between city and county leaders and departments?
A: I propose that we create a 'committee of the whole' that includes representatives from Council, the county commission, the board of education, representatives from the three colleges and other organizations for regular meetings to begin defining a shared vision for our entire community. This can be as formal or informal as the law will allow. We talk about city-county consolidation, how about setting our sights on something more meaningful and attainable — collaboration.
Q: As a member of Council, how will you support the Central State Hospital redevelopment efforts?
A: My experience reporting on CSH puts me in a good position to help the redevelopment effort. I am very familiar with the campus and have ideas about how its resources can be repurposed to benefit our long-term economic goals.
In addition to the ample opportunities for bringing a diverse base of tenants to the buildings, we need to think about how we can utilize infrastructure like the hospital's bio-mass generator and water and sewer treatment facilities to benefit economic development efforts throughout the county. It will not be easy, but we may be able to use the bio-mass generator’s ability to produce clean energy to contribute to Georgia Power's electric grid. The water and sewer treatment facilities could be used to increase the city's ability to service its existing customers or be repurposed specifically to treat water for industry and manufacturing around the community. Worldwide, we are learning that water will be the resource that determines a society's capacity to grow and prosper, we need to think carefully about how our ability to safely treat water and sewage can contribute to our long-term growth potential. My background in writing, reporting and public relations can help us tell an amazing story about how we turned our cities' economic catastrophe into a new direction for the future, but first we need to develop the plan that ensures a better tomorrow. I want to take this opportunity to discuss a related issue about which I feel very strongly: Just as important as the effort to redevelop the CSH campus, our leaders need to be working toward solutions to a growing crisis in mental health. The closing of CSH created opportunities for new forms of treatment at the same time it displaced many people who depended on Central State to maintain a positive quality of life. Many people in Georgia depend on the state’s mental health system to give them the long-term support they need to manage a mental illness, others may take advantages of its services to make it through one personal crisis and never need the system again. Despite the heroic efforts of the many mental health professionals who dedicate their lives to serving people, more members of our society are slipping through the cracks and winding up in places that only make their situations worse. We cannot ignore the plight of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children who live with a mental illness or developmental disability until the time when it affects us personally. We’ve got to use the creativity we’re putting to the challenge of repurposing the hospital’s physical assets to spark new ideas about revitalizing Central State’s original mission, helping people.
Q: What is your view of the chain of command in city government and who holds city officials accountable?
A: I am holding my city representative accountable by challenging his efforts to remain in office because I don’t think he’s adequately addressing the challenges facing our community. Danielle Fields held her representative accountable by filing ethics complaints against him because [she alleged] he abused the faith his constituents placed in him. If our elected officials won’t hold themselves accountable, we, as citizens, must rise to the occasion and take a greater role in our government.
Q: How will you support the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Communiversity project at the former Shaw building and what other efforts can be made to retain young professionals in this community after they graduate?
A: I like to think of Digital Bridges as Milledgeville's first Communiversity. The mission of making technology more accessible to all community members so that they can improve the quality of life in their community is one that I feel fits nicely with the growing Communiversity movement. Digital Bridges was ahead of its time and fell short of some of the things we hoped it could achieve, but my experience working at Digital Bridges can help us do better this time. One thing we can do to help retain young people in our community is invite them to the conversation about Milledgeville’s future. I am one of those young people, and I am putting myself forward to try and make our city a better place. I am asking for your vote. Please consider me when you vote for your next city councilperson. But more importantly, play an active role in your community by going out to vote for the person you feel will best represent your interests.