Published on March 30th, 2016 |1
Fulton County chairman sets 3 priorities in BBA speech
Eaves said Fulton is one of the most diverse counties—43 percent African-American and 44 percent white—and a commission that has four Democrats and three Republican members. “But you don’t see divisiveness among the members,” the chairman told the audience.
“About 95 percent of commission votes now are unanimous,” Eaves said without direct reference to earlier years when there was distinct racial, territorial and political party divide among the commission members on almost any vote.
Eaves told the audience, “It is working by forging a common agenda.” He referred to today’s commission as “fiscally responsible and socially sensitive.”
Eaves referred to a metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce poll in which Fulton County government got a 49 percent approval rating. He joked that 49 percent is not perfect, “but it is a lot better than the U.S. Congress.”
Delving into his three priorities, Eaves said he has been working with the mayors of the cities within the county on how to fund close to $1 billion in much needed road projects within the county.
He said the transportation funding bill would appropriate dollars to the cities based on population, with Atlanta to get about $500 million.
Eaves said he believes MARTA or rail expansions are very important. The legislation would allow a half-cent extra sales tax in Atlanta to fund transit. Fulton hopes next year to appropriate a quarter-cent extra tax for four years and then go to a half-cent extra tax.
On the issue of HIV/AIDS, Eaves said 15,000 people in the county have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, giving the county one of the highest rates of the illness in the nation.
“We’re going to address HIV/AIDS in aggressive ways,” Eaves told business group.
Eaves said county officials plan to expand routine opt-out testing for HIV/AIDS through county public health centers and Grady Hospital, which he said was the way many people discover they have contracted the virus. He added, a high percentage of new cases are teens.
“I believe HIV/AIDS can be eliminated in our county,” he said. “Right now, the medication is available” that can pretty much eliminate a person getting AIDS. That will be distributed through the county operated health clinics.
He also called for an end to school sex education programs based on teaching abstinence. “The day of having an abstinence-based sex education in our school system is over,” he said.
Turning to his third major initiative, Eaves said more emphasis needs to be put on reforming the criminal justice system—to reduce the number of people in local jails. He said, on any given day, there are 13,000 people in jail in the metro Atlanta’s five major counties.
Citing that 80 percent of those in jail are school dropouts, Eaves stated, “We’re beginning to look at reform of our criminal justice system to make sure the people who drop out of school don’t end up in the criminal justice system.”
He also pointed out that 60 percent of the county’s prisoners suffer from some form of mental illness. “Jails can’t be the default system for how you house people who are mentally ill,” he said.
Eaves said that because of the diversity of Fulton’s county commissioners, they have been able to find ways to work together and to avoid the divisiveness shown in national and state politics.