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OPINION: Pat McGee is a voice of reason on Athens City Council

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Athens City Council candidate Patrick McGee. File photo by Hayley Harding.

Voters should care about City Council member and candidate Patrick McGee because he represents a voice of reason, opinion writer Cade Plotts says.

Patrick McGee is running for re-election on the Athens City Council. He has also worked at the Center for Student Legal Services for more than a decade. McGee was and is a Bernie Sanders supporter, and it is this, his run as an independent and, most importantly, his fiscal conservatism, that sets him apart from the other candidates.

He alone was skeptical of the Richland Tunnel Project, stating that “We may wish to look into other options to ease traffic flow through the area before starting a $3 million dollar project.” He was also critical of the $1.8 million dollar grant given by the state for this project, believing that Athens should do its best to not take federal and state money. That way, it cannot be pressured into following federal and state goals instead of Athens’ goals. McGee proposed a traffic cop as an alternative.

“I would like to promote our police so that people see that they’re here. Some of them do fantastic jobs,” McGee said.

“I’m a vocal critic of police, but at the same time, when they do a good job, I’m the first to jump up and tell them.”

It is of utmost importance to have a good community relationship with those protecting it, and McGee hit the nail on the head, advocating for police officers to be in situations where they might have good interactions with people so that mutual trust may form.

When he took office as a city council member last year, some things surprised McGee. While he believes wholeheartedly in renewable energy and recycling initiatives, he was more critical of them than his fellow members of city council were, because he wanted the initiatives to not just be sustainable for the environment but also for the economy.

One such program happened when Mayor Steve Patterson asked for $250,000 for 5,000 blue recyclable cans. With this purchase, they also received about $10,000 worth of informational material to pass out. That leaves $240,000 spent without a marked benefit to the people of Athens, their tax dollars gone. And not everyone wanted to or could use them, according to McGee. Many elderly residents said that they couldn’t use them, as they were too big, clumsy or heavy for the elderly residents to properly use.

In late spring, the mayor asked for $275,000 to go toward diesel generators for emergency use in the city building. Less than half an hour before this, Patterson and a city council member had touted the fact that Athens was an environmentally conscious city, and that they needed to pursue renewable energy for “our children’s children.” McGee thought this was a bit hypocritical. A city that claims to be so conscious of its environmental impact shouldn’t have large diesel generators, even if they may never be used. Or, if they are necessary, cut down on their size to reduce environmental impact.

Voters should care about McGee because he represents a voice of reason on City Council, someone who accurately represents Athens’ primarily liberal population while bringing unique fiscal values to the table that will ensure that your tax dollars will not go to waste. He is unafraid to voice an unpopular opinion and unafraid to stand up for something he thinks is right, against every one of his fellow City Council members if necessary.

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