Candidates don't support MARTA

LILBURN - Commission chairman candidates want to see transportation alternatives for Gwinnett, but they aren't sure if a MARTA rail or the Brain Train are viable options, the three said during a forum on environmental issues Thursday.

"Gwinnett County does need transit options in our future," said Commissioner Lorraine Green, one of three people vying for the Republican nomination on July 15. But she said she would not support a penny tax to extend MARTA, since $1.5 billion in taxes would be sent downtown before a Gwinnett rider hops on the system a decade later. "I don't think that's sound fiscal policy."

While the proposed passenger train from Atlanta to Athens drew more support, Green and challenger Glenn Pirkle said funding would be a major obstacle. Incumbent Chairman Charles Bannister's campaign manager Jeremy Brand, standing in because of an emergency, said Bannister has been working with other jurisdictions on the funding issues.

At the local Sierra Club forum, the three presented alternate styles on environmental issues.

Bannister, who arrived later, said he would support programs to reduce the county's carbon

footprint, if taxpayers were willing to back the idea financially.

But Pirkle said the county should lead on the issue. "Our government needs to be No. 1 to show the people what can be done," he said.

Pirkle also said the county should implement impact fees to build roads, but Green and Bannister said the funding method would be little help in the dwindling economy.

Bannister said the county leaders need to "lean on the Legislature" for better environmental laws.

"I think Gwinnett County does darn good with what we have to give the people of Gwinnett County a great place to live, work, play and raise a family," he said.

Green, an environmental engineer, said she wants to look at development regulations from an environmental viewpoint instead of just a business one.

"It's high time that Gwinnett County had a leader who will be a steward of the environment," she said.