The following is a video interview with AllOnGeorgia-Camden about the candidacy of Artie Jones Jr. Most of the details of the topics can be viewed by playing the video.
Longtime St. Marys citizen Artie Jones Jr. is no stranger to St. Marys and Camden County politics.
Jones has lived in St. Marys all of his life and graduated from Ralph J. Bunche High School in 1965 in Camden County. Jones has held political office as a county commissioner five times representing St. Marys. Jones has been a successful businessman, with his wife as a partner, in Camden County for many decades and is a father of four children with 12 grandchildren.
Jones looks to re-enter the political arena once again as he is seeking votes to be the next city councilman for Post 1 in St. Marys.
Jones discusses a myriad of concerns and issues in the interview. One of the main areas Jones concentrates on in the interview is his deep understanding of the past of St. Marys governance and where it is heading for the future.
The key to making sure the future is bright for St. Marys is keeping taxation low, according to Jones.
“By understanding your past, you know what you can do in the future,” explained Jones.
Jones also applauds those who run for office and those currently in office. His understanding of the role of a publicly elected official is a commitment. Although he understands this commitment, he also says that consistent communication with citizens is needed for accountability.
“This council does not know the past of St. Marys; meaning 20-30 years ago. If you do not know your past, you are going to repeat certain things,” Jones stated. “It’s not that they are not concerned, but mistakes tend to make more mistakes; it keeps getting bigger and bigger. We need a hands-on approach to these problems.”
Campaign Platform –
Jones wants to focus on making newcomers welcome and keep the current citizens comfortable in terms of lifestyle. Jones said he has over 200 family members in the area and wants to preserve their lifestyle and everyone else so they can live and work in Camden County.
“I am afraid we are going to be taxed to the point where my father, aunts, and uncles won’t be able to stay in their homesteads,” Jones warns.
Top concerns/issues Jones will address –
- Reduce taxation –
- Jones is not in favor of the recent 16.89 percent tax increase voted unanimously from city council. “We can say what we should have done, but what council has done is in the past is causing taxes to increase,” said Jones.
- Be proactive and not reactive to the problems facing the city-
- “We know hurricanes are going to happen, so we have to prepare,” said Jones.
- Address and maintain drainage/infrastructure problems –
- “We have been short of manpower for a while and council should have planned for that,” said Jones.
- Jones tells about when St. Marys was growing rapidly many years ago due to the Submarine base, developers were building on swamps, and local leaders knew this. Jones states the drainage systems must be maintained consistently in the coastal area we live in. “We have a major problem,” he says.
- Communicate with citizens
Other issues :
Newly proposed zoning and planning codes –
- Jones wants the city to start over on the newly proposed codes and they should be thrown out. “We can’t enforce what we have now,” said Jones. If Jones and other new council members inherit the codes, he believes that there must be flexibility and a grandfather clause for residents as he feels the codes are too strict.
- Potential drainage issues related to excessive building – Jones wants to minimize the densification of the city to maintain drainage concerns and minimize flooding.
- Jones talks more about the drainage concerns and zoning codes as it relates to flexibility and working with the citizens. “Most people want to comply, but do not have the means to comply,” he explains.
Economic Development –
- Wharf of St. Marys Project – Jones feels all projects in the city are proposals at the moment. “It’s in the air,” said Jones. “Until there is a shovel going into the ground, there is nothing to really talk about.”
- Intercoastal Gateway Project – Eight years later, and there is still no developer. Jones was asked how he would handle the situation of the Gateway Project if he were elected to the council. The property is currently off the tax rolls. “We are throwing good money after bad,” said Jones. “ I do not think a developer is going to step in there and just lose money.” Jones further discusses the politics surrounding the underdeveloped property in the video.
- Public easement of the Gateway – Jones discusses what should be done with the easement to recruit private developers.
- “The city does not need to be into developing properties,” said Jones. “Private enterprise should take over. We are not going in the right direction of the Gateway Project.”
City and the Hospital Authority –
The Hospital Authority has had a lack of audits over the years and there appears to be some disagreement about how the expenditures should be approved running the operations and maintenance of the Senior Citizens Center. Jones was asked about how the relationship between the City and the Authority could be improved for the benefit of the senior citizens.
“We have to think about what is best for the seniors and stop thinking whose horse is the best,” explained Jones. “We can’t fight and waste tax dollars; the taxpayers lose. Sometimes we have to take red tape out of these issues. We also need to have the audits to find out where things are spent, just look at the PSA.”
Jones also thinks that putting the right people in place on the Authority who have the best interest of the senior citizens’ program is needed for the longevity of the program.
Public Service Authority financial fallout –
Jones is no stranger to the Public Service Authority’s operations. He was instrumental in starting the organization many years ago and has serious concerns about the current mismanagement.
The PSA, which is responsible for recreational and leisure services in Camden County, received a financial bailout from of $700,000 due to mismanagement. St. Marys’ contribution to the bailout was about $237,000. Currently, the PSA is working to reduce their IRS payroll tax liens. The audit has been completed and turned over to the GBI and the District Attorney’s office.
Jones was asked about the current PSA agreement, the financial fallout, and if the PSA Board, which includes the current Mayor, needs to be restructured along with the way that St. Marys paid for their portion of the bailout.
Jones believes the PSA Board has put all cities and the county in a tough position but understands that the agreement was pending required payment.
“They have to keep a better look at the purse strings,” said Jones.
Fees and business climate –
Jones was asked how he plans to implement the needed change of fees to increase a better business climate in St. Marys.
As a business person in St. Marys, Jones feels the issue of not favoring business growth has been a struggle and continues to be a struggle. According to Jones, the issue has become worse since 2006 as St. Marys looks too much toward large business incentives as opposed to helping smaller businesses.
Jones suggests the city needs to be more business minded and be open to discussions with the pro-business groups in the community.
Jones further discusses fees on businesses in the video.
Fair representation and voting districts in St. Marys –
Districts have been a topic of discussion since the newly proposed planning and zoning codes were published accompanied by ongoing drainage issues all over the city.
Jones discusses his opinions of having fairer representations in the city for voting as opposed to the current at-large system of selecting candidates.
“Now, it seems we do not have representation in our districts in St. Marys. People just feel like their vote does not count,” said Jones. “I think we need to look at that. We need representation in the area we live.”
Jones thinks the City Council should be reflective of the city’s demographic makeup.
More can be heard about districts and fair representation in the video –
Jones has lived in St. Marys all his life and knows the good, bad, and ugly of the community. Jones reflects on his upbringing and the integrity he learned from his dad. He hopes to instill his positive character qualities for the betterment of St. Marys. Jones prides himself on not missing a days work within a 27 years stretch and he hopes to bring that same work ethic to the city council if elected to Post 1.
“We are what we are. I love everyone in St. Marys. I would enjoy the opportunity to be the representative for Post 1 in St. Marys. After the dust settles, we still have to be St. Marys,” said Jones.
The municipal elections take place on November 6, 2018. The deadline to register to vote in the November 6 election is Tuesday, October 9, 2018.
More election information can be found by clicking, here.