Gating of Crooked Creek Reveals Importance of Local Government

Gates at Crooked Creek Subdivision

Several years ago, my wife Kelly and I hosted a Christmas party at our home in Canterbury on the Lake subdivision.  I was chatting with three neighbors.  As is often the case in Milton, the conversation turned to local traffic congestion.  A neighbor lamented that the traffic circle at Hopewell and Francis Roads had been overwhelmed just a few months after it had been built.  I asked my neighbors whether they had noticed that the back-up (stretching to Cambridge High School) at the roundabout had suddenly materialized.  And knowing that I was knowledgeable about the affairs of the city (at this point I was deep into city politics), they said (paraphrasing) “Uh oh.  Tim knows the story behind the overloaded traffic circle.  Tim, let’s hear it.”  And I did know the story.  The cause of the gridlock at several intersections–Highway 9-Bethany Bend; Cogburn-Bethany Bend; Cogburn-Hopewell-Francis, and Highway 9-Francis—was the result of the gating of the Crooked Creek subdivision.  Creek Club Drive, which bisects the subdivision and runs from Highway 9 to Francis Road, had served as a route for southeast/northwest-bound traffic in Milton for 20+ years.   Closing Creek Club Drive to the public forced all traffic around the subdivision, thereby increasing the volume of vehicles at nearby intersections.  The capacities of these nearby intersections were far exceeded, causing gridlock.  This was predictable . . . and in fact, had been predicted by the City Public Works Director, who recommended against the City’s abandoning (i.e, privatization of) the roads in Crooked Creek, which was a prerequisite for gating.  The City Attorney also advised against the privatization.  (More about this below.)

I relate this story because it highlights the importance of local government to Milton’s quality of life.  Although many people noticed the traffic congestion from the Crooked Creek gating, few citizens understood the reasons for the congestion and even fewer connected the congestion back to a City Council decision.  It was this gating of Crooked Creek that caused me to initially engage with our local government.  Up to this time, like most citizens, I had little noticed City government.  I was like most residents who don’t care/engage until a nearby issue forces municipal government into their consciousness.  And as I came to understand, if you wait to engage until an issue is on your doorstep, you are probably too late to the game.  A key lesson I learned is that citizens must engage on important community threats wherever they arise because, left unchallenged, such threats eventually metastasize to nearby properties.

The gating of Crooked Creek motivated me to finally engage in local politics.  For 20+ years, Creek Club Drive was a public road that I often used.  When I heard that the Crooked Creek HOA had petitioned the City to privatize the subdivision’s roads, I decided to express my opposition to the City.  I called the City and was put in touch with the Communications Director, Jason Wright.  He suggested that I appear before Council and speak.  I had never been to City Hall and did not even know where it was located.  I did attend the Council Meeting and I did speak.  I was surprised that many like-minded souls also spoke against privatization.  If memory serves, the speakers for and against were evenly split.  (Surprisingly, much of the opposition was comprised of Crooked Creek residents, including several who lived on Creek Club Drive.  I also discovered that I had friends on both sides of the issue.)  I was encouraged that both the City Public Works Director and City Attorney advised against privatization.  The Public Works Director articulated reasonable arguments.  His studies showed that 1) only 15% of traffic was through traffic and 2) the Cogburn-Bethany Bend intersection would become gridlocked by gating (and this was borne out).  The City Attorney stressed that council should focus on the “overall interests” (with a stress on “overall”) of Milton, not the interests of a “particular slice” of Milton. Well, as I came to realize was common practice, City Council brushed aside rational arguments and approved the road privatization 6-0.  My first taste of City Council left me disappointed and underwhelmed (by my elected representatives).  Some council members asked no questions; others provided no justification for their vote.  (This is typical and a strong justification for town hall meetings—a governance best practice–where citizens can question their council members in a formal setting.)  Many objections from citizens and staff were not even acknowledged, much less addressed.  The primary justification (for road abandonment) cited by Joe Lockwood and other council members was “local control”—a principle asserted by citizens in the Matilda’s hearings (where nearby opposition was nearly unanimous) but ignored by Council.  Of course, some City Council members asserted that there would be further hearings; that Creek Club Drive (part of Milton’s trail plan) would continue to be accessible; and road improvements would be made to mitigate congestion.  However, these were mostly empty promises, except that some improvements were made at Cogburn-Bethany Bend (but long after the Crooked Creek gates were closed and providing only a modest increase in the intersection’s capacity.)  In the aftermath of the vote, I did write a letter the Milton Herald.  Following is a link to my letter.

Letter to Milton Herald Opposing Crooked Creek

As a business professional, what most disturbed me about the Crooked Creek issue was not that I lost access to a road that I frequently used or that traffic congestion significantly increased.  It was rather that the City had given a valuable asset, worth many millions of dollars, to an HOA with really nothing provided in return.  (The only benefit was that the City no longer had the expense of maintaining the Crooked Creek roads.)

The lesson of this story is that local government matters.  City staff and City Council routinely make (often terrible) decisions that strongly impact your quality of life.  And many of these decisions get little, if any notice.  That is unfortunate and it is the reason why I started my blog, posted petitions, and have taken other actions to educate citizens and to encourage their active community engagement . . . it matters!

Unfortunately, Council’s decision to abandon the roads in Crooked Creek has continued to wreak havoc on Milton, the result of unintended consequences that I will discuss in Part 2 of this post.

Advocating For Citizen Engagement,


City Council Candidates Have a Lot of Studying To Do . . . Start with the CSO

Come January 2022, the City of Milton will have 3 new council members.  Only the District 1 race is competitive, with 3 candidates vying for the honor and privilege of representing the fine citizens of Milton.  Two candidates (for districts 2 and 3) are running unopposed. 

Candidates would be well-advised to study some of the zoning battles that have been fought in Milton over the past 5+ years.  I would recommend candidates begin their preparation with the battle over the “Conservation” Subdivision Ordinance (CSO).  This was a long and sordid affair consisting of 3 acts.  Failing to pass an ordinance, CSO proponents sought to achieve their goals through rezoning (of a property on Ebenezer Road) . . . the first of many successful rezonings, they hoped.  And they did prevail in the initial Ebenezer Road rezoning hearing before City Council.  However, the rezoning was vetoed (on procedural grounds) and the rezoning approval was reversed in a subsequent City Council hearing.  This June 20, 2016 hearing brought out so many “conservation” subdivision opponents that a second room, with a video monitor, was established to hold the overflow.  Ninety-nine citizens completed speaker cards and 1800+ citizens signed the Milton Coalition petition against the CSO.  Not to be deterred by overwhelming citizen opposition, CSO proponents pursued a rearguard action to implement the CSO by promoting community septic for residential development—i.e., private sewer systems run by HOA!  (Talk about your bad ideas . . . HOAs running sewer systems . . . what could go wrong?!?)  However, CSO proponents also failed in this endeavor, finally retreating to the shadows.  However, sensing an opportunity to resurrect “conservation” subdivisions, I suspect the CSO proponents will target Milton’s new council members, preying on their lack of historical context.  With this in mind, I have reactivated my anti-CSO blog, which was active from November 2015 to May 2016.  I have re-published (with some minor edits) a subset of the blog posts so that candidates (and citizens) can educate themselves on “conservation” subdivisions.  Several hundred hours of research and analysis went into this body of work.

Anti-CSO Blog

In closing, I must note that citizen opposition to the CSO in 2015-16 was based on theoretical arguments and anecdotal evidence from CSOs elsewhere in metro Atlanta.  However, because the CSO and subsequent Ebenezer Road rezonings were both denied and the property (now called Sweet Apple) is still being developed, we now have empirical evidence that “conservation” subdivisions would have increased density in Milton.  At various times, under AG-1 zoning rules, the Sweet Apple developer claimed the property could support (or under rezoning, he was approved for) 45, 48, 50, and 55 homes (although we definitively proved that percolation tests for individual septic systems would not support this number of homes).  Well, it turns out that the site plan (under AG-1 zoning) for Sweet Apple shows only 34 home sites, compelling evidence that the proposed Sweet Apple “conservation” subdivision would have entailed a 32% to 62% increase in density (vs. AG-1 zoning density).  Imagine such a density increase metastasizing across Milton through similar rezonings and the deleterious effects (e.g., increased traffic congestion).

(Note: The 2 lots at The Farm were not included in the original Sweet Apple property and hence are not included in the analysis of the rezoning homesites compared with AG-1 homesites.)

In addition to the CSO and (two) Ebenezer rezonings, candidates need to study other zoning battles (some were lost), such as the music venue approved (using 12 variances to bastardize a festival use permit) for the NW corner of Birmingham Crossroads; the abandonment of roads in Crooked Creek; the recent Painted Horse fiasco (Milton’s version of a Star Chamber); and, the special use permit and 15 (yes . . . 15 . . . a record in Milton) variances approved for Ashford Gardeners.

This is all to say to Milton’s City Council candidates:  Beware of the tired, retreaded agendas being schlepped by Special Interests and their agents in Milton.

(Still) Advocating Against the CSO and For Smart Land Use,


Bentley Withdraws. District 1 Three-Way Race Provides Remaining Opportunity for Debate About Milton’s Future.

On Monday, Council Member Laura Bentley withdrew from the District 2 City Council Election, citing serious health issues with a family member.  I wish Laura and her family all the best as they deal with a difficult family situation.

With Laura’s departure from the District 2 race, that leaves the District 1 Council seat as the only contested election in Milton.  And it is the District 1 race where the debate over Milton’s future will occur.  (I have looked over the candidate websites and Facebook pages and will provide some preliminary observations in future posts.)  However, it would be beneficial to citizens if candidates in uncontested races continued to “campaign.”  Particularly for those members new to Council, Jan Jacobus and Juliette Johnson, it is important that citizens get to know them and understand their stances.  A series of “Get to Know Your New City Council Members” meet-and-listen events, perhaps including soon-to-be-Mayor Jamison, would set a new and positive tone for 2022 City Council, which will be seating three new members—a turnover of Council seats never seen in Milton’s 15-year history (if memory serves).

At the blog, I will continue to provide a (chronological) account of my experience in Milton politics at the page About My Involvement in Milton Politics.  You can click on the following link to go directly to that page.  Today, I have posted another installment of my account.

About My Involvement in Milton Politics

Please contact me through the Contact page with comments, questions, or suggestions (for blog topics).

Advocating For Good Governance,


Pages Added to Blog: Candidate Guide; About Author; My Story

Today’s blog post is brief. I have added 3 pages to my blog. You will have to go to the blog to view these pages. They are included in the dropdown menu. Links to each page are provided below.

First, for your convenience, I have provided a consolidation of all the candidate websites and Facebook pages that are currently available.

2021 City Council Elections: Candidate Websites and Facebook Pages

Second, I have provided a brief biography about me so that readers better understand why I care about City government and my experience/expertise in good governance.

About the Author

Third, I have provided a page that provides my story about my involvement in Milton politics. This is an on-going project. I have provided an initial posting on my initial introduction to City politics. I will add to this story over time, so please return for subsequent chapters.

About My Involvement in Milton Politics: A History

Advocating For Good Governance,


2021 City of Milton Elections (Part 2): Summary of Races . . . District 2 Offers Stark Choice For Voters

Today I am publishing Part 2 of my post on the 2021 City Council elections.  I will briefly discuss each of the 4 seats up for election in 2021, beginning with the uncompetitive races.

Mayor.  Council Member Peyton Jamison is running un-opposed and is succeeding Mayor Joe Lockwood, who has served as Mayor since the City’s founding in 2006.  I know Peyton quite well, as we worked closely together on Laura Bentley’s 8-member campaign team in 2017.  (Peyton and I actually organized the campaign team, which always met at my home, but that is a story for another blog post.)  In 2017, I exposed the clandestine redrawing of the boundaries for District 1 (see below link to The Milton Herald’s Black Box article).  In the wake of this scandal, the incumbent Council Member opted not to run for re-election, and Peyton ran unopposed for his current council seat.

I have spoken frequently with Peyton since his election.  We don’t always agree, but I appreciate Peyton’s willingness to listen to all citizens and to consider all sides of an issue.  Peyton has a lot of energy and has matured during his 4 years in office.  However, to be successful as mayor, Peyton must be his own man—i.e., step out of Lockwood’s shadow.  He also must surround himself with smart people who offer him differing perspectives on Milton’s pressing issues.  He must stay above the fray and focus on process and principles, separating himself from the personality politics being pursued by Council Members Moore and Bentley—the sort of middle school nonsense that has plagued the city since its founding (and once necessitated the hiring of an industrial psychologist to address Council’s dysfunction).  Peyton must also demonstrate more courage (than in the past) in the face of threats to the community.  And lastly, Peyton must adopt a much stronger approach to ensuring accountability of the City’s non-elected leadership; the City is currently experiencing a serious Crisis of Competence.

District 3 covers the Highway 9 and Windward Parkway areas of Milton (and includes the expansive Crooked Creek subdivision). District 3 is Milton’s most dense district.  Jan Jacobus is the only candidate to qualify in District 3.  Mr. Jacobus has served on the Planning Commission for several years, so has some familiarity with City government, particularly land-use issues.  I do not know Mr. Jacobus, but have heard good things about him.  Even though running unopposed, I hope Mr. Jacobus nevertheless creates a web page that lays out his positions on issues of concern to citizens.  I hope his stances emphasize the critical importance of adhering to the highest principles of good governance.

District 1 encompasses Crabapple and the surrounding areas.  Three candidates are running for the District 1 seat.  Relatively speaking, all three candidates are political newbies.  The candidates are Adam D’Anella, Jami Tucker, and Andrea Verhoff.  At a later date, I will post links to their campaign websites.  My advice to these candidates is to focus on elements of good governance:  integrity/honesty, fairness, accountability, rigor, and transparency.  Good governance is prerequisite to good policy-making, but has not been a focus for the City of Milton, with predictably bad results.

District 2 encompasses the more rural, (much) less dense and mostly AG1 areas of Milton.  Insurgent candidate Juliette Johnson is taking on Old Guard candidate Laura Bentley.  Ms. Johnson is one of the owners of The Painted Horse.  Ms. Johnson has been accused of “running for the wrong reason”—i.e., revenge for the levying of (overly severe) restrictions on The Painted Horse.  However, such accusations are ridiculous . . . and self-serving, I might add.  Ms. Johnson and Ms. Jackson (the other co-owner of The Painted Horse) have experienced first-hand the dysfunction at City Hall and have been the victims of Milton’s version of a Star Chamber where they’ve had no opportunity to hear–moreover defend themselves from–“charges” leveled against them.  It is certainly a right (and excellent) reason to run (for Council) to expose and eliminate the governmental excesses and abuses that Ms. Johnson has directly experienced.  Furthermore, Integrity is an appropriate plank in Ms. Johnson’s campaign platform, given the low road being travelled by some politicians in Milton.  However, to win, Ms. Johnson must make her campaign about more than the Painted Horse, although her experience with Council overreach is certainly an issue she can (and should) lead with.  However, the past 4 years of city government are rich with failures, unsolved problems, broken campaign promises, abuses of power, etc. that Ms. Johnson can tap into.

In contrast to Ms. Johnson, Ms. Bentley represents the Old Guard in Milton.  In 2017, like Ms. Johnson (in 2021), Ms. Bentley ran as an insurgent (that I believed she was), but the reality is that Ms. Bentley (along Council Member Paul Moore) is an old hand at Milton politics—her involvement stretching back to the first city elections when she was a foot soldier for one of the two factions battling it out in Milton.  And unfortunately once in office, Ms. Bentley almost immediately put on her old faction’s jersey.  Laura reverted to the tired politics (e.g., favors for friends) of days past when Milton’s two factions spent much more time battling each other than focusing on pressing City problems.  Citizens need to carefully consider whether the time has come to reject the unproductive factionalism of yesteryear and to chart a new course for the City—a Milton united by principles of good governance.

The focus of the blog will be on the District 2 race, as that election really provides the best basis for discussing and understanding current city politics and governance.

Advocating For Truth in Politics and Governance,


2021 Elections: Two Competitive Races and Opportunity to Send Message to Council

The focus of today’s post is the 2021 City Council elections.  I will start with some of the basics as there are quite few new subscribers to the blog.  There will be 2 parts to this post, with the second part published tomorrow.

On August 19th, qualifying for upcoming City Council elections ended.  The qualification period lasted 3 days.  Qualification is when candidates officially declare their candidacy, filing the necessary paperwork at City Hall and paying fees to the City Clerk.  The City ascertains that filing candidates are residents of Milton and running in the correct district.  Qualifying ensures that candidates’ names appear on the November ballot. 

Milton’s elected government consists of a mayor plus a city council, comprised of 6 members–two from each of Milton’s three districts.  The Mayor sits on Council and has a vote; he/she also retains some special powers and serves as a kind of “head of state” for ceremonial functions (ribbon-cuttings, etc.).  In Milton, in 2021, voters will elect the Mayor and 3 Council members–one from each of Milton’s three districts.  (Elections are staggered every 2 years, so the remaining three Council members will be elected in 2023.)  The Mayor and Council Members serve four-year terms.  Voting is at-large, meaning that all Milton citizens vote for all council members, regardless of the candidate’s or the voter’s district.  So in 2021, all voters will vote for the Mayor and for three Council members.

Two of the four 2021 races will be competitive.  That is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that two races are competitive.  Milton needs competitive races to keep politicians honest and to foster debates about important city issues.  And one of the races features an upstart against an incumbent.  This race is especially encouraging as it gives citizens an opportunity to send a message to our city government about citizens’ satisfaction with the status quo and with the City government’s accomplishments (or lack thereof) over the past 4 years.  (I will have much more to say about this topic as I strongly believe things are not well in Milton and governance has sadly regressed over the past 4 years.) 

The bad news is that only 2 races are competitive.  It is troubling that more citizens do not enter the political arena; Milton desperately needs smart, honest, and caring elected representatives.  However, citizens’ reluctance to run is understandable given the often dysfunctional (and sometimes toxic) political environment in Milton (the Matilda’s and Painted Horse fiascos are Exhibits A and B of the dysfunction at City Hall.)  Many eminently qualified citizens do not run out of fear, disgust, or both.  In 2013 and 2015, things were so bad that there were actually no competitive elections in Milton.  However, through the hard work of a small group of citizens that I was proud to be a part of (and sometimes lead), citizens rebelled and ejected several City Council members in 2017 and 2019. 

Milton actually has a good track record when it comes to “throwing the bums out.”  Many incumbents have been voted out of office (or sometimes saw the writing on the wall and declined to run).  It is helpful that Milton’s elections occur in odd-numbered years, when there are (usually) no state or federal candidates on the ballot.  This means that only the most committed and informed voters show up at the polls . . . folks like you who are willing to invest to understand the election landscape and are much less likely to be persuaded by appeals based on incumbency and “experience.”

In tomorrow’s post, I will provide my observations on the four City Council seats up for election.

Advocating For Miltonites,


Citizen Education and Engagement Are Key to Good Governance

A few days ago, I sent an email to my email distribution list.  Thousands of Milton’s citizens received my email announcing that I had re-launched the Milton Coalition blog in advance of the 2021 City Council elections.  I was encouraged by the response.  My email program and my blog both provide aggregated statistics on citizen responses.  My dashboard shows that 44.1% of citizens opened my email and that 21.6% of these readers clicked through to the Milton Coalition Blog.  This compares with an average open rate of 19.34% and clickthrough rate of 12.66% for political emails.  Also, my dashboard indicates that, on average, each person opening the email forwarded the email to one other person, thereby doubling the email’s distribution.  Thank you.  My blog dashboard shows that the blog has been viewed over 450 times (over 10% coming from citizens’ posts on social media) in the past 48 hoursAround two dozen citizens became new subscribers.  Welcome.  I am humbled by your trust and confidence as indicated by these statistics.  And I am (once again) encouraged by the engagement of so many Miltonites in local good governance.  It is my firm belief that excellent local governance correlates closely with citizen engagement and that education is a necessary prerequisite to such engagement.

Screenshot From Milton Coalition Email Dashboard

When I first engaged in city government in late 2015, it was obvious to me that there was a need for well-reasoned, well-researched perspectives on City government.  The Milton Herald provided some coverage, but it lacked depth and analysis.  And the paper’s editor also seemed to be biased toward one of the two factions battling it out in Milton.  There were also communications from the City, but most were the equivalent of cotton candy—a lot of air and very little nutritional value.  And finally there were several partisan Facebook pages, where the back-and-forth dialogue resembled the verbal equivalent of a food fight.  A lot of nastiness, but little insight.  Does anyone really change their minds based on these Facebook battles? In view of this dearth of accurate and actionable information, I launched the Milton Coalition Blog and slowly built up readership.  It has been a labor of love for me.  Since the blog’s inception, I have published over 275 blog posts.  At times (the run-up to the 2017 election or key City Council meetings), the blog has attracted many hundreds of readers daily.

My hope is that the blog will once again provide citizens with a source of useful information and insights in the run-up to the City Council Elections.  Please feel free to reach out to me with comments and questions.  Please let me know if you find any factual errors, but realize that my opinions are my opinions (supported by facts).  Please feel free to challenge me . . . I welcome an honest, respectful debate.

Advocating for Citizen Engagement,


The Painted Horse (Part 2): City Council Pits Citizens Against Each Other . . . Yet Again

Paul Moore Campaigning At Matilda’s. The idea for the relocation of Matilda’s to Birmingham Crossroads was his brainchild.

I had intended a different post, but as often happens in Milton, better material (for the blog post) presented itself.  Today’s post is Painted Horse (Part 2).  (I will often post about Matilda’s and The Painted Horse as the proceedings for these venues bracket Council Member Bentley’s first term in office, and they tell The Tale of Two Zoning Hearings.)  Citizens are raging at each other about The Painted Horse on various social media platforms.  However, what these citizens don’t understand is that their ire is misdirected.  Through its poor decision-making, Milton’s City Council has pitted citizens against each other (while Council and staff have stepped aside to enjoy the show).  This happens on a regular basis, the result of either cronyism or incompetence (or both) at City Hall.  For example, most citizens may not realize that the bruising battle over the Southeast corner of Birmingham Crossroads, where single family homes are being built, resulted from Milton Community Development’s error in not documenting the conditions of a 2014 rezoning.  (And yet the some of same people are still employed and making the same mistakes.  There is no accountability, but that is a topic for another blog post.)  These regular battles pitting citizens against each other are hugely destructive to the community.  They consume vast resources, set dangerous precedents, divide the community, demoralize City staff, and erode trust in government.  And worst of all, they are often unnecessary—again, the result of incompetence or cronyism or both.  Citizens need to wake up and direct their ire not at each other but at their City government.  Miltonites deserve better from their elected representatives and from City leadership staff.

To get to the point, Council Members Laura Bentley and Paul Moore have a Matilda’s problem.  Laura and Paul were the primary champions on Council for Matilda’s.  (Ms. Bentley eventually recused herself from the Matilda’s vote—a disingenuous recusal that will be the subject of another blog post.)  Matilda’s was all about cronyism and set the threshold quite low for what development is acceptable in Milton.  A total of twelve variances were approved for Matilda’s—some eliminating fundamental zoning protections for the community.  For example, council eliminated buffers around the entire property.  Council allowed a developer to bastardize the festival use permit to create a music venue at Birmingham Crossroads that pumps out loud music every Saturday night (more than 30 times per year) to the quietude of the most rural area of the City of Milton; I have heard the music 1½ miles from the venue.  (With enough variances you can re-purpose a use permit to do nearly anything in Milton.  This must stop!)  The precedents set by Matilda’s will long haunt our community.  It is certainly true that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:8). 

Before Matilda’s, I might not have been very sympathetic to The Painted Horse’s owners.  Rule-of-law considerations and other principles of good governance might have prompted me to express concerns about the Painted Horse.  However, with the Matilda’s decision (and other recent decisions), Council has put principles of good governance, which are usually mutually re-enforcing, in conflict with each other.  Specifically, the rule of law has been put in conflict with the principle of fairness.  Viewed through the lens of Matilda’s, the severe restrictions put on The Painted Horse appear unfair.  Yes, there are differences between Matilda’s and the Painted Horse, but those differences seem to mostly militate for (not against) The Painted Horse.  And our city government officials know this.  They know that decisions on Matilda’s (and in other matters) create a strong case (in legal courts and the court of public opinion) for The Painted Horse and endanger re-election prospects for certain politicians.  The City cannot win on the merits of the issue.  This is why Painted Horse opponents are engaging in a behind-the-scenes campaign to disparage the owners and their patrons.  The Painted Horse is being characterized as a den of iniquity by Milton’s own self-appointed Morals Police.  The intent is to make the owners and even patrons pariahs in the community.  This is WRONG.  I will not dignify or give currency to the allegations (being made against The Painted Horse) by describing them, as such descriptions would only serve to perpetuate the rumors.  If Council members have justifications for restrictions on The Painted Horse that they will not publicly state, then I question the veracity of these justifications and the motives of those spreading scurrilous gossip.  Certain politicians in Milton know no boundaries.  The politics of personal destruction are alive and well in Milton.  As my readers know, I believe Miltonites need to have ferocious debate among friends about issues and governmental process.  This includes debate about the comportment of Council Members in the conduct of their office; that is fair game.  However, personal attacks having nothing to do with policy or principles should be off-limits.  And the debate needs to occur in the light of day and not in the shadows.

Speaking Truth to Power,


Note: I encourage readers to notify me if my blogs contain any factual errors. I will expeditiously correct any errors of fact. Of course, my opinions are my opinions . . . which I support with facts.

Council Member Bentley: Yet Another Promise Broken

(Trigger Warning:  I realize that some readers may find my blog harsh, although I prefer the descriptor “hard-hitting.”  However, I urge you to invest the time to read and understand my perspective.  I invested the better part of 2+ years of my life for the cause of good governance in Milton.  I partnered with Laura Bentley to achieve good governance in Milton; I know Laura (politically) better than probably anyone in Milton.  I have paid a very high price for my involvement in local politics, including spending over $10,000 on an attorney.  And I certainly deeply regret my support for certain politicians.  However, if you are in the I’ve-made-up-my-mind-so-don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts camp, feel free to unsubscribe from my blog.  Conversely, if you care about Milton and can handle the truth, I believe you will find my future blog posts enlightening.  I will be publishing 2-5 posts each week. Feel free to reach out to me with comments and questions or even suggestions for blog topics.)

Upon being elected to City Council, Laura Bentley stated to me and others:  “I intend to serve only one term.  Beginning day one, I am going to find a successor.”

Yesterday, the City of Milton posted the names of candidates who qualified for the Mayorship and for City Council seats.  (Two City Council seats will be competitive.  That is good; the community benefits from competitive local races.)  Surprise of surprises (tongue in cheek), Council Member Bentley paid her fees and qualified for re-election.  Laura’s reversal on re-election was predictable, following in the wake of so many other broken promises. 

Very early in her term, Ms. Bentley demonstrated a singular lack of integrity in the conduct of her office.  And I suppose at some point when engaging in deception, you cross a sort of Rubicon, where political dishonesty just becomes routine.  (See below passage from Dante’s Purgatorio.)  Frankly, I do not think Laura gave a second thought to breaking her promise to serve only one term.  As Laura’s longest and strongest supporter, I was shocked by Laura’s behavior during her first few months in office.  Many of her strongest supporters were similarly shocked.  The foundation of my and supporters’ political bond (and friendship) with Laura was our dedication to shared political principlesstrict adherence to zoning laws and practices (and more generally to the rule of law); improved transparency; shifting power to citizens (through structural changes to city government); enhanced accountability; improved government competence; reform of the zoning process; the end of cronyism; honesty; fairness; a level playing field for citizens (vs. developers); strong deference to residents most impacted by Council decisions;  and the highest ethical standards for conduct of our government.  Within a few short months after taking her oath of office, Laura had abandoned most/all of these principles; the Matilda’s debacle is Milton’s poster child for poor governance (as I will explain in future posts).  Sadly, our City has gone backwards over the last 4 years.  Many of Laura’s strongest supporters have disengaged in disgust . . . another victory of cynicism about politics and politicians.  I myself eventually went into quasi political exile, no longer actively engaged but still watching the terrible dysfunction at City Hall.  However, with election season upon us, I feel compelled to re-engage.  Voters need to understand the problems at Council and with City staff and the resulting ill effects on Milton’s quality of life.

I believe integrity (and more generally political ethics) will be a key issue in the upcoming District 2 election.  For me personally, professional integrity is a litmus test for politicians.  No integrity, no support.  Applying this standard, I will not be supporting Ms. Bentley for a second term.  

For those of you with a more literary bent, I end this blog post with a favorite passage from Dante’s Purgatorio:

He sank so low that all means

for his salvation were gone,

except showing him the lost people.

For this I visited the region of the dead . . .

Advocating For Integrity in Politics,


The Painted Horse and Back Stories: Sad Commentary on Politics in Milton

Our local city government steadily provides a rich source of material for this blog.  Yesterday was no exception.  Yesterday, the City published a Facebook post about the Painted Horse Winery that promotes the farm-winery.  Following is a link to the City’s Facebook page.  Scroll down to see the Painted Horse post:

And as with so much that happens in our local city government, there is the strong, fetid smell of a back story.  After 2 years steeped in city politics, I’ve developed a sixth sense for the ongoing shenanigans at City Hall.  For readers not following the story of the Painted Horse, let me connect a few dots for you.

  • First dot:  The City, led by a few Council Members, who have appointed themselves the Morals Police (the Taliban would be proud), has attempted to choke off this business.  Unfortunately, many of the main arguments against this enterprise—some irrelevant—are not being made in a public hearing but are rather being whispered in the shadows where the Painted Horse owners cannot defend themselves.  These sorts of whisper campaigns are all too common in Milton.
  • Second dot:  One of the owners of a business at this property, Juliette Johnson, is running for the City Council seat against a member of Council, Laura Bentley, who has strongly opposed The Painted Horse.
  • Third dot:  This week is qualification week for the upcoming City Council elections.  This is when Council candidates register their candidacy with the City and pay their qualification fees.

The timing of the City’s Facebook post is not a coincidence.  This posting (to quote Yogi Berra) is “too coincidental to be a coincidence.”  (This is true of many “coincidences” in Milton; I will post more about this in the future.)  Read the comments below the City’s Facebook post.  Citizens are smart; they have figured out what is going on.  CYA?  Definitely!  Politically motivated?  Of course!  Are Council members worried about keeping their seats?  Absolutely!  Are Council members worried about having to defend their bad behavior over the past four years?  Certainly!  Is the City’s posting a way to perhaps persuade Ms. Johnson (one owner of the Painted Horse and a candidate for City Council) to withdraw from the race—the carrot in the City’s “carrot-and-stick” strategy?  Positively.  And is it appropriate for city staff, who are supposed to be “above the fray” (a favorite phrase of City Manager Krokoff) to be using the City’s communications apparatus for thinly veiled political purposes?  NO.  (Over the past 4 years, the City has frequently waded into the fray.  The City government has increasingly adopted corporate and Washington tactics to promote/protect itself and certain politicians.  A recent example was the signing of a settlement agreement with a City employee that bought his/her silence.  The City Manager has done much to beef up his PR apparatus over the past 4 years.)

Ironically, the council members leading the charge against the Painted Horse are the same council members that led the charge for—that’s right FOR–the music venue, Matilda’s, approved for the northwest corner of Birmingham Crossroads.  Matilda’s regularly pumps out music every Saturday night, sometimes so loud it can be heard 1+ miles away.  The concern over alcohol consumption (and children) at Painted Horse is curious when Matilda’s is contrasted with the Painted Horse.  Matilda’s is BYOB (no regulation of alcohol consumption), any sort of alcohol is allowed, and children are present.  Contrast this with the Painted Horse, where an attendant is regulating alcohol consumption, only wine is served, and the farm is separated from the winery.  There are many such differences between Matilda’s and the Painted Horse, most of which militate in favor of the Painted Horse.

I have heard the “real reasons” why Painted Horse was restricted in its uses.  And these “reasons” have nothing to do with “intensity of use.”  If untrue, these allegations against Painted Horse are surely slanderous/libelous.  If true, these allegations need to be argued by Council Members in a public hearing where the Painted Horse owners can defend themselves.  Enough with the whisper campaign . . . a campaign of personal destruction all too common in Milton.

Advocating for Good Governance,


Disclosure:  I do not know the owners of the Painted Horse nor have I ever communicated with them.  I have never been to the Pamelot property.  I am not endorsing the farm-winery or any candidates for Milton City Council.  However, I do know well 6 of the 7 current council members; most have been to my home multiple times.  I know Laura Bentley especially well.  Laura and I partnered together for 2 years in furtherance of good governance in Milton.  I negotiated Laura’s candidacy, and organized and served on her campaign team, which always met at my home.  I was her longest and strongest supporter, working tirelessly for her election to Council. (I will have much more to say about my role in the 2017 campaign as my involvement is germane to the central issue of this blog:  good governance, accountability, and clean politics . . . or the lack thereof.)