DeRito and Mitchell likely won’t debate

This post was supposed to be an event announcement. Unfortunately I get to write about what’s not going to happen. Alpharetta likely will not see a debate in its only contested Council race.

Mitchell BRAThe debate club at Alpharetta High School invited Donald Mitchell and challenger Doug DeRito to debate on Wednesday October 30th. The club has experience running these sorts of things, most recently hosting mayoral candidates in 2011. I’m told that DeRito accepted but Mitchell did not.

Other groups have also attempted to organize a debate to no avail. It’s disappointing the candidates couldn’t come together.

The result is that candidates will not be put on record for their views on key issues. And there are some biggies facing Alpharetta in the coming years. For example, the proposed convention center, residential density in downtown, and adherence to the comprehensive land use plan and its limits on apartments.

It also means that Mitchell won’t have to answer questions on his Big Rich Atlanta appearance in a public forum.

DeRito’s campaign hasn’t mentioned the reality TV controversy until very recently in an endorsement letter. A former Mitchell supporter wrote the letter and called out the Councilmen for his antics on the show. It was mailed out by the campaign and appeared in the Alpharetta Patch.

I believe it was a mistake on DeRito’s part to wait this long on the reality show issue. Nevertheless Mitchell was ready, blasting the tactic as negative campaigning on his Facebook page.

I disagree. Many have not seen the full episode where Mitchell appears drunk and belligerent. He calls women bitches and whores (excuse the language, it’s not mine).

Is it appropriate for a sitting Councilman to appear on television like this? Does it reflect poorly upon the city? These are questions Donald Mitchell should answer in a public forum during this campaign. And it’s not gonna happen.

21 Responses to “DeRito and Mitchell likely won’t debate”

  1. A October 28, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    To answer your questions at the end of the post, no it’s not OK for a sitting councilman to appear on a reality show, especially when he’s acting like a boar. And yes, it reflects poorly on the city of Alpharetta. I get sick every time I drive around and see his blue signs everywhere. He has the business owners in a stranglehold, but I hope in the privacy of the voting booth, Alpharetta residents will vote for the challenger.

  2. Larry Attig October 28, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Let me set the record straight. Donald Mitchell received and late invitation on October 22, 2013 for a debate On October 30, 2013. The release of information concerning the debate was publicized in The Neighborhood Newspaper, and on Doug Derito’s twitter feed prior to Councilman Mitchell’s even receiving the invitation. After finding out about the debate he immediately provided 4 alternate dates on which the debate could occur. Doug Derito was not willing to have the debate on another night or change his schedule to accommodate the debate.
    The candidates were announced on August 30th and Mr. Derito chose to posture a debate two weeks prior to the election. In the previous election all debates were concluded by this time. At this point in the campaign the schedules are very tight and many events are planned well in advance. This appears to be nothing more than political posturing by the Derito camp. Councilman Mitchell has welcomed a debate but the two candidates were unable to find a mutual time for a debate.

  3. Greg October 28, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    So what you’re saying Mr. Attig, is that Mr. Mitchell is in fact willing to address these issues publicly.

    Would he care to do that on this blog? Or some other forum? I have no doubt he’s reading this.

  4. S Lee Guy October 28, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    What’s Donald got going on Wednesday night that’s more important than this debate?

  5. Al Hamilton October 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Lee, while it is clear that you are not a journalist, you do have an ethical obligation to present actual facts when discussing an issue as important to our community as an election for City Council. Had you done your due diligence, you would know that Donald Mitchell was invited to the “debate” hosted by Doug DeRito’s beneficiaries at Alpharetta High School less than a week prior to the scheduled date. Mitchell informed the hosts of the debate that he had a previously scheduled campaign-related event on the evening of the 30th, but Mitchell offered four alternative dates for the debate to be held. Neither DeRito nor the venue for the debate were available on the nights that Mitchell proposed, so it would be much more accurate to say that the candidates’ respective schedules could not accommodate a hastily scheduled debate. Further, it is my understanding that DeRito personally called Appen Newspapers to request that they run a story very similar to the above story, but Appen chose to do the responsible thing by calling Mitchell for comment and fact-checking DeRito’s claims. After conducting proper journalistic due diligence, Appen determined that there was no “story” here and DeRito’s claims of Mitchell dodging him were obviously false. In addition, your statement, “candidates will not be put on record for their views on key issues” seems to indicate that you are not aware of the candidate forum that was hosted by the Alpharetta Business Association and was conducted at the Wells Fargo Bank on Main Street last Thursday evening. During that event, when attempting to answer specific questions related to the City Center project, DeRito asked Mitchell to answer the questions because he was so unprepared and poorly versed in the facts of the matter. Also, it is important to note that both candidates are clearly “on record for their views on key issues” considering they have both served on Councul and there is a combined decade worth of public record indicating their respective positions on key issues. It seems clear by your choice of photograph above as well as the not-so-subtle slant of this blog post that you are in opposition to Mitchell’s candidacy and if this is the case, that is absolutely your right as a citizen of…where is it that you live again? But you do have an ethical obligation to include facts in your opinion pieces and I would encourage you to consider that in the future.

  6. Roger October 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    This is an interesting election. In my opinion, both candidates carry there own baggage.

    I didn’t move to Alpharetta until 2006. What got me into voting in local races was the Gibson-Oakes race. Talk about nasty and destructive.

    Donald’s main and only baggage was the five minutes on that show looking like an ass.

    But, in my opinion, I think DeRito carries a little more. Some examples:

    - Calling former councilwomen Debbie Gibson “morally bankrupt” and suggested she was corrupt on WSB radio, I think that was a little low class.

    - The whole ACVB/Stan Thomas investigation at AHS. While Doug’s name was cleared, the mayor did say he entered in to a gray zone and the city attorney called it legal, but not kosher.

    - Last election, he promised to pay the money for the tickets well before the election took place. It wasn’t until the local media discovered right before the election that he did not repay the tickets as promised.

    This election has been a little interesting so far. Honestly, I think that Mitchell has by far out campaigned DeRito. In some of the city events I’ve been to I have seen Mitchell and his people engaging voters. Besides seeing a few DeRito signs on the streets I don’t know what else he’s done.

    I think that letter that the couple sent out was a little low class. I think the article on the patch was appropriate, but having DeRito pay for the literature anonymously so to speak was a little classless. Obliviously, that couple has personal grievances with Mitchell, I think there better ways to handle that. Honestly, if DeRito is going to use the show, I’d wish he would take the gloves off personally and not use other intermediaries to do so.

    When it comes to debating, I’ve only been to one in the last six years. There pretty low attended and not really covered well. I do believe that debates are a healthy part of the process and do hope that both candidates can work something out.

    My main issue with this debate is I believe that DeRito’s camp has been personally trying to push this because I think there behind setting it up. On DeRito’s website it states that he is the current president of the AHS foundation and has been very active in organizations with AHS. Before the debate was announced officially, DeRito tweeted saying that he looked forward to the debate and then later that day the newspaper ad said there was a debate, a little suspicious. If an ad was taken out in the newspaper it would have to been sent long before the day it came out, which leads me to believe that DeRito used his connections to set up the debate, pick a time, and forced Mitchell into a tight time frame. I would think that the debate team would have tried to contact both parties before they announced it.

    I hope they can get there schedules aligned and have a debate, its good for our democracy. But, having one just a few days before the election is not going to make a difference. Both sides will take credit and claim victory and probably send literature out there this weekend claiming so. It would have been nice if this was schedules weeks ago.

    This last week before the election is going to get nasty. Unfortunately, I think the DeRito camp is going to go that route. If you want to make a case against Mitchell in the show, fine. But, you’re also going to have to make a case for yourself. I don’t think DeRito has done that. Mitchell comes across as a likeable guy who works hard and listens. With that in mind and how the state of the city has never been better carries Mitchell to a win.

    While this race may not have ‘ideal’ candidates, I do believe that Mitchell is the best choice out of the two. I’ve always believed how a candidate acts when he campaigns is a good indicator of how he will act in office. Look at Obama, he ran a negative campaign and look how he has acted in office. Right now we have a great council, I think by the way DeRito has campaigned he is only going to be disruptive and unproductive on council.

  7. A October 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    @Al Hamilton–Lee has never claimed to be a journalist. He’s a concerned resident of the area who brings many interesting and relevant local issues to light on this blog. Whether he’s opposed to Mitchell or not is beside the point. I for one think Mitchell has no place running for re-election and should have resigned after his shameful behavior was aired. We need to hold our elected officials to a much higher standard than being allowed to get away with insulting women and bringing Alpharetta into a very bad spotlight.

  8. S Lee Guy October 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I’ve never claimed to be a journalist. My residency is disclosed on my about page, linked at the top of the blog. Thanks for the comment.

  9. S Lee Guy October 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Another thing… you discount the debate at AHS because they are “beneficiaries” of DeRito’s. Yet DeRito very willingly attended the forum hosted by the downtown business group. We can talk about beneficiaries if you’d like.

  10. Roger October 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I thought the ABA was a city wide quasi chamber of commerce organization? I know it was focused on downtown affairs at once (DATA) but changed to accommodate different businesses across the city. To my knowledge, the ABA announced this forum long before it took place, not in the 11th hour like this one.

    To the person above, I think Lee should be able to comment, he still has a vested interested in the city because he works here. With an election that’s probably going to have no one come out, a little hard debate isn’t going to hurt anyone.

  11. alphakate October 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Lee, I think it is fine that you focus on items outside of where you actually live and vote. Though, I still wish you would keep to the food and other events rather than commenting on politics as you don’t always do a good job of keeping your preferences hidden. Your writings certainly are journalistic in tone with out the benefit of always being objective. That said, how on earth does one individual’s performance in a silly reality show reflect badly on Alpharetta?

    Also, your suggestion that Mr. Mitchell discuss his performance on the show at a debate is a colossal waste of time. Who cares? There are a lot more important issues impacting Alpharetta. And if Mr. Mitchell needs to answer that- how about getting Mr. Derito to explain exactly why he wants to be on council again given his excessive absences & tardies when he was previously on council. Or where has he been in this campaign, certainly not out meeting the voters. Or maybe he can discuss why he funded a personal grievance letter against Mr.Mitchell (or perhaps it is just a coincendence that postal ids match Mr. Derito’s mailers). Is that appropriate behaviour for a prospective councilman? Also, someone might want to tell him that there is a west of 400 area of our city as I think he may not know.

  12. Douglas J. DeRito October 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I think it is important to respond to some of the comments on this blog, since I believe I need to set the record straight on the debate discussions and outline the facts. I also want to respond to the questions posed by Lee Guy in his blog, since it has been difficult to get a public forum and have both candidates answer these key questions on the future of Alpharetta.

    First let me say, that the suggestion that I responded to a question at the Alpharetta Business Association forum as if I was shifting the question to my opponent, this statement is not accurate. I answered the question first in great detail and then my opponent answered the question. I never avoided an answer. By the way, the forum presented two questions only and there was no time provided to us on outlining our vision for Alpharetta, since the Association made it clear at the start that this “was not a debate” and Wells Fargo Bank (where the event took place) needed to have our comments remain void of political confrontation, since their bank policies required them to remain neutral in any political race. So to even suggest this was an open public forum to ask us any questions and for each candidate to candidly reply, is not accurate as well. The two questions asked were “What we thought about the new City Center project?” and “How will we address the growing traffic problems in Alpharetta if elected?”. That was it.

    Now, as to the debate facts, the Woman’s League of Voters initially contacted both candidates in mid-October, prior to any formal invitation being issued, and yes, my campaign asked the Woman’s League to consider conducting a debate for the only contested race in Alpharetta. I felt it was important to have Donald and I come together in a public forum to answer questions and educate the voting public on our vision for Alpharetta. The Woman’s League is a neutral group and they were doing it in conjunction with Alpharetta High School, since they were providing the venue and logistics. Once the Woman’s League attempted to obtain an answer from the Mitchell campaign, with no response, they decided to withdraw their efforts. In turn, the Alpharetta High School Teacher Advisor, the AHS Student Debate Team and the sponsoring support of the AHS Foundation, then issued the formal invitations for Oct. 30th.

    I want to say that Donald did come back with alternative dates, since he had a conflict on the October 30th date. However, the dates he came back with (Nov. 1st – Nov. 4th), was a Friday night with a big football game scheduled and the other days were Sat. and Sun. that would not have attracted the level of public input due to family events, and the night before election day. All of these dates could not be accommodated by AHS due to school policy requiring personel to be present to access facilities, which is limited to during school hours. There were competing use of the facilities on the evening before Election Day as well and AHS could not accommodate the logistics on any of these dates. Further, I do not believe these dates offered up the best times for voters to actually be able to attend and obtain the value out of a debate forum any democratic process looks to provide.

    I did however, offer up to Donald to conduct the debate this evening, before the City Council meeting and also offered up my availability for any other evening, including seeing if Donald would reconsider this Wednesday evening, Oct. 30th. I received no reply, other than that tonight would not work due to another conflict he had.

    Bottom line, I accept the fact people have conflicts, and will even go as far to say that we made a good attempt on making this happen for the betterment of the Alpharetta public. I also will say that I shifted my schedule to try to have this happen on evenings that were most beneficial and allow as much of the public to participate.

    Now, to the questions that Lee Guy posed in his blog. I will re-state below and provide my answers, since I do believe these are important questions each candidate should respond to. What are my positions on the following?

    Proposed Convention Center

    The proposed convention center (including an attached hotel), which is in the early study stages, may be a good opportunity for Alpharetta to seriously consider, but will require a lot of review and careful study before I can provide an answer on my position on this. For instance, this is proposed to potentially become a Public/Private Partnership, which in itself raises some immediate questions. By the way, this is exactly how we first reviewed the initial financial model for the new City Center, and the City Council, with leadership from both Councilman Aiken and myself, decided to not get in the way of the free markets and keep the City fully in charge of our destiny. The financial plan adopted for paying off the bond debt on the new City Center does not cost the taxpayer any additional tax dollars since we are able to pay down the bonds for the new City Center from the increase in revenues realized (to the tune of $5.2M a year) from us intentionally paying down previous bond debt up to 2012.

    I believe that if we can realize a Convention Center/Hotel complex that keeps us competitive, and be able to do it with hotel tax revenues, that are paid for by those coming to visit Alpharetta; this could be a good addition to the economic model of Alpharetta.

    Residential Density in Downtown

    This is a great question and one that will be important to whomever is elected on Nov. 5th.

    My easy answer to this is simple; we need to live within our special zoning provided for the Historic Downtown Area and not let developers dictate increased density by promising to bring more economic gain to Alpharetta. I would also dare to say that surrounding areas in what we refer to as the “Garden District” requires us to remain loyal to our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Unified Development Code. In fact, my record when I served on the City Council has consistently shown my vote to uphold our zoning code and not let developers shove increased density into residential areas of the City claiming economic hardships.

    I have always believed, and still have this opinion, if areas within our City require different zoning or require different densities, debate it in the context of updating our CLUP and Unified Development Code, not during an application hearing with a developer.

    Adherence to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and its Limits on Apartments

    My answer above regarding my position on Residential Density in Downtown applies to this question. I am a big believer in upholding our CLUP and Unified Development Code, unless there is a compelling reason; such as a true hardship situation, to consider a revision for a particular application. I find this should be a rare instance and one that should require a lot of scrutiny before going outside the zoning we invest a lot of time, public input in and work to maintain.

    Finally, as far as my feelings on apartments, the City already exceeds the number of apartments under the ratio of single-family to apartment units that our plan calls for, if you count the approved units not yet constructed. We are at about 25% apartment units, which we are attempting to limit it to 15% overall. I think it is extremely important to review the apartment calculation and make certain that any application for additional apartments meet the standards set by the City, with public input.

    I hope I answered the questions posed and appreciate the dialogue on this blog. I respect the positions of those who commented and look forward to the closing days of the campaign.

    Douglas J. DeRito

  13. B October 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Seeing as how this is a personal blog, I believe Mr. Guy can say whatever he pleases – fact or opinion – about anything he pleases. Anyone not wishing to read his factual or opinionated articles about food, religion, family life, zonings, politics, etc. doesn’t have to visit his blog.

    Funny to me that some commentators only come out when one of their own is portrayed in a not so pretty light.

  14. Parker October 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    @Lee – write whatever you want whenever you want. If others don’t like it, they don’t have to read it, and they can go make their own blog. I appreciate reading your stuff for the perspective and insight that it offers even through I do not always agree with it.

    I don’t oppose Mitchell for any big policy issues. We don’t get a lot of differing opinions on issues at the city council. Most of the time the outcome is carefully arranged well in advance and controversial stuff is usually dealt with quietly behind the scenes.

    What is a problem for me is bad behavior on the part of our elected representatives. Kurey, Gibson, Kennedy, and now Mitchell let us down. Serious people are looking at Alpharetta and deciding whether to locate their businesses here and having a sitting councilman behave like a drunken fool on television is not acceptable.

    I don’t have a strong feeling on DeRito either way, but at least when he served on the council in the past he wasn’t acting as a drunken fool.

    We are facing serious issues and we need serious people to do it.

  15. Parker October 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    I should have said Cross, not Kennedy.

  16. Kim October 28, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    We’re in the information age. If we can’t have debate we can surely get a blurb from each as to where they stand on the issues. Good to see that DeRito has already done that. Hope Mitchell follows suit.

  17. Mike October 29, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    I’m actually starting to get tired of this.

    I’ve pretty much agree with Lee on most issues, but this time I have to disagree.

    I was pretty critical of Mitchell before the election, rightfully so in my opinion. But this childish negativity, which seems to be stemming from the DeRito side of the campaign is whats disappointing.

    First off @ “Parker” I doubt CEO’s and executives are doing background research on city council members and making their decisions on relocating to Alpharetta based on that or at least part of that. If they were, shouldn’t RJ Kurey turned Alpharetta into a ghost town? In addition, why would Atlanta have all those high rises and development. If you theory holds true, then Bill Campbell or Franklin should have scared all the serious business people away. Moving on.

    This is my perception. I see one candidate in Mitchell who has run a very active campaign. At any event I’ve been to I have seen people handing his literature. I see his signs all over, on business properties and private residences. I don’t live on DeRito’s side of town and rarely go that way, but I haven’t seen anything in my neck of the woods. Now that time is running out, in lieu of hard work on the campaign trail, DeRito is going negative the last week.

    I believe in debate and criticism, if tasteful. Juvenile games that I see being played, specifically from DeRito, is quite frustrating.

    Here is what I see. According to DeRito’s campaign website he is the president of the Alpharetta High School Foundation. In addition, he was active in his children’s athletics (a good thing.) He has connections in AHS, no doubt. From what I learned, DeRito tweeted that he was invited to a debate on a specific date that his opponent didn’t find out about until it came out in a newspaper. If something comes out in the newspaper it had to have put on there days in advance before print.

    A hypothesis: DeRito used his connections to create a debate, have the date published on a newspaper to act like it was set in stone and give the public the perception this debate was a done deal and that both of them have agreed to it. In the last days before a campaign, I’m quite sure candidates have a tight schedule, events, fundraisers, door to door, etc. I’m quite sure Mitchell had his schedule booked, I’m sure DeRito has too. I think DeRito’s goal was to have the high school set a debate date and that itself would look legitimate. I think the DeRito campaign was banking on Mitchell to have an event that night so Mitchell couldn’t make it. DeRito can now cry “my opponent refuses to debate me.” This is the same type of politics I see when I turn on CNN/FOX.

    Consistency. Lee, when Alpharetta Mayor Belle Isle, jumped out of a mayor debate two years ago you didn’t say anything. Apparently, the debate had been scheduled in ample time and he had a fundraiser that was scheduled well in advance. He had more than enough time to reschedule. In this election, a debate was scheduled in the 11th hour, apparently Mitchell had an event and now you’re criticizing it. So, Belle Isle gets a pass, but Mitchell doesn’t? I’m not going after Belle Isle, I just see that situation as a good comparison.

    From the tone of your article, I get the idea that you are clearly behind a DeRito candidacy. I don’t find anything wrong with that. If your article had said something to the nature of “vote for DeRito” or “Doug’s the best guy for the job”, I would have been fine with that.

    If the DeRito candidacy is about telling people what a bad person Mitchell is for being on the show, then I expect Mitchell to win. DeRito doesn’t seem like a guy who connects with locals and gets out on the campaign trail and works it. Mitchell made himself look like a fool for five minutes on that show. DeRito’s no saint either, his tenure on council wasn’t without controversy.

  18. JH October 29, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Interesting thread. Long time reader, first time commenter. In full disclosure, I am a DeRito supporter who supported Mitchell last time. I want to also say that I do not have any personal dislike of Mitchell, so I will try to focus my comments on substance.

    1) The debate. Both candidates were made aware of the desire for a debate weeks ago, in early October. Donald refused. The attempt to organize a debate continued. I cannot understand why he would refuse a debate hosted by AHS STUDENTS. Students, not adults. The optics are simply not good.

    2) The tv show. I do not believe it is relevant for an every day citizen. I DO believe it is relevant, however, for an elected official. Teachers, nurses, doctors, soldiers and elected officials are always on duty. If the first four can be fired from their job because of behavior conducted “off the clock,” why shouldn’t elected officials?

    3)On the issues. I saw Mitchell’s flyer. Interesting that he is taking credit for actions that either took place or were set in motion long prior to is arrival on Council TWO YEARS AGO. That’s disingenuous at best, but more like deceptive. Deceptive? Yes, because he is taking credit for work that DeRito voted on and supported. How is that ok?

  19. S Lee Guy October 29, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    @Mike – The difference is that the mayoral candidates in 2011 did in fact debate, several times as I remember, including at AHS and with the downtown business guys. I frankly had forgotten that DBI missed one mainly because they had other opportunities to present their views to voters.

    There will be no debates in this campaign.

  20. Parker October 29, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    @Mike – Of course business leaders care about the behavior of elected officials. More on point, however, I agree with your examples.
    Bill Campbell was tried on various criminal indictments and eventually convicted of tax evasion.
    Franklin was (still is) very popular in the pro-business community.
    RJ Kurey was removed from office.
    If Mitchell wants to be an actor, that’s great; let him go be that. We need people on council who make that their priority and conduct themselves accordingly.

  21. Mala November 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Lee: love your blog, political commentary and options just as much as your food reviews. Love when the politicians and developers chime in too. A few weeks ago the Avalon developer responded to one of my comments and I loved that this blog ruffles some feathers and makes leaders squirm a little!

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