Decision 2020: Meet Bonnie Thompson, candidate for District 7 Macon-Bibb Commissioner

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – 41NBC is continuing conversations with candidates running for office.

Candidate name: Bonnie Thompson

Running for: District 7 Macon-Bibb Commissioner

Occupation: Retired from U.S. Government Office of Personnel Management

Campaign Email: bonnie2020election@yahoo.com

Q: Why are you running for commission?

A:  I have watched Macon-Bibb County in what I feel like is waste money year after year after year, and numerous tax increases year after year after year, and I’m ready to change that. I think there are other income streams that we can bring into Macon-Bibb instead of taxing the people to death. I’m concerned about senior citizens, and I know that’s not directly related to my district, but I will be fighting that battle either at a state level or a federal level as I go along. If I’m elected commissioner, I’ll fight that battle right along with my commission seat. But I want school taxes removed from senior citizens. If senior citizens manage to get a raise, which they rarely do these days, then Medicare comes along and takes all of it, plus a few more dollars. So they’re never able to keep up with the cost of living. Some lower income seniors are actually losing their homes, because they can’t pay property taxes and school taxes, and there’s never any relief for them. So I’m a big advocate for senior citizens, but mostly I want to stop some of the waste in Macon-Bibb.

When we lost the Eisenhower Corridor, we lost a ton of sales tax. In District 7, I don’t shop in Macon. That mall on the north side of Macon, it’s too far away. I shop in Warner Robins, so guess where all my sales tax money goes? It goes to Warner Robins. I’m not alone in that plight. Many other people do the same thing. We need to restore that Eisenhower Corridor, put nice stores back in that mall and get it like what it used to be a long time ago, and that sales tax money will come back to Macon-Bibb County, and they won’t have to burden the homeowners and property owners with more taxes.

I’m also concerned about our law enforcement. I know many other candidates are also talking about that same issue. We don’t have enough. We’re way below what we should be. I’m concerned about how that happened. Why do you keep losing officers before you raise your hand and say, ‘Hey, I gotta have some help? What can we do to hire some more officers?’ So I’m blown away that’s it got to this point, but I want to be a commissioner so I can make sure we put stops in place that doesn’t let us go below a certain amount of officers.

I think we do have to raise our officer pay, but we need to be very careful about that, and we need to be competitive with other cities and counties. That goes for first responders also.

Q: You mentioned right off the bat you were strongly against tax increases, but you also mentioned we need to hire more officers. How do you go about doing that? How do you go about creating the revenue to do that?

A: First of all, we’ve got to get everybody working productively in Macon-Bibb. I feel like there’s a lot of wasted employees that are not doing their jobs or are not doing them at 100%. I think some of those probably can be combined, and we may be able to cut some employees and re-target that money somewhere else, like in law enforcement.

The big thing is Macon-Bibb is not growing. When a company like Chick-fil-A will skip Hartley Bridge Road and go to Byron, that concerns me. How are we taxing businesses to make them leave Macon and go to other counties? We’re doing something wrong there. If we can attract those businesses, we get more tax money, and that saves the property owners from having to pay taxes and it allows us to hire the proper amount of law enforcement.

Q: How big of a factor is crime in those businesses choosing not to come to Macon?

A: I think crime is not as big a part of it in my district, but part of it is, so I do think that affects businesses. It’s what caused the Macon Mall to shut down. Which, that’s not my district, but it’s right on the edge of my district. So yeah, crime plays a big part. But when you take all your officers, and you move them to the north side of town, and you tell those businesses in the Macon Mall, ‘You need to hire your own security,’ or, ‘You need to pay more taxes’: Why would you do that? That’s horrible. That was almost discrimination against the south side of town.

Q: Have you had a chance to look at or listen in on the mayor’s current proposed budget that commissioners are discussing now?

A: I have listened in on it, but there seems like a lot of stuff that’s not necessary. For instance, our Parks and Recreation is sucking up a lot of money. We could hire one person per recreation center with our county money and that person could use volunteers to run those recreation centers. And I’m just throwing out one person; it may take more than one. But it doesn’t take the level that we’re currently using now.

Q: And you mentioned that could be the case for a lot of different county titles.

A: Right. Exactly. Looking at all the county offices, figuring out if the people are working at 100%. If they’re not, getting them to work at 100%. Then if you get them working at 100%, you’re pretty soon, I think, going to realize, ‘We don’t need this many people. We can refocus this money and not fill this position and refocus this money for law enforcement or first responders or whatever is needed.’

And here’s why I think that: During COVID-19, a lot of the county offices sent their employees to work from home. Guess what happened? I know for a fact in Code Enforcement, you couldn’t get anybody on the phone. Why is that? Why couldn’t you get somebody on the phone when they’re working at home? Because they’re not working at home. We’re just paying them, and they’re just sitting at home. That’s not smart. Everybody has a phone. They can pick up the phone and answer it from home.

That’s just one little tiny instance of what I call waste. There’s a lot of it in Macon-Bibb, but somebody has to focus on all this. Look at different offices, get this ball rolling so we can save money and get back on the right track.

Q: We’ve talked about several things you’d like to fix. Most people who run for office want to fix something. What is one shining thing Macon-Bibb does have to offer?

A: North Macon is pretty nice. It’s a very nice place to shop. Planning and Zoning does a really good job on the north side of town, but they don’t do the same kind of job on the south side of town. I’d like to see that change. Planning and Zoning is standalone. They don’t answer to anybody. I want them back under mayoral control, so that they have to work with the commissioners in different districts.

For instance, in my district, we have four Dollar Generals: one on each corner. We want some restaurants. We want some Olive Gardens. We want some shopping. Some Walmarts, some department stores. We don’t want all these four Dollar Generals, one on each corner. We don’t want billboards down in our community. They belong at the interstate and in industrial areas.

But regardless of us saying that to Planning and Zoning, they still go ahead and do it, but they don’t do it on the north side of town. I’ll give you a good for instance how they discriminate between the north side of the town and the south side, and you can even see this yourself.

If you get on 75, let’s say Zebulon Road, and you drive south, all the communities that border the interstate have noise barriers until you get to Rocky Creek and Pio Nono, Hartley Bridge and Sardis Church. The people on Sardis Church are fixing to be burdened with a second truck stop, and they have no noise barriers. And there’s a community that sits right on 75. You can hear all the big trucks and the traffic. My mother lives there. I can’t spend the night with her. She’s got accustomed to listening to that, but I would venture to say she probably doesn’t get the deep sleep that people need. I can’t sleep through that, so I’m sure there are other people that are affected similarly. But why is that? Why would they put noise barriers for every community going down 75 until they get to District 7?

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add to sum up why people should vote for you?

A: Blight. I think that the laws need to be changed. I think one of the reasons Macon-Bibb has a problem with blight are the laws say that once they sell those blighted homes, the person that buys them has to hold them for a year before they can do anything to them. That law needs to be changed. It needs to be shortened. I don’t know that it even needs to have a time period. That’s the only other thing that I haven’t mentioned.

Thompson is running against Bill Howell and Timothy Rivers. Election Day is Tuesday, June 9.

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Categories: Bibb County, Elections, Local News

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