Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart, July 6, 2012
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- The mayor and city council, who have been locked in long-running feuds over how best to govern the city, are butting heads again, this time over goats.
The latest idea from Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart is to use goats or sheep or both to eat the city's kudzu and weeds away.
"I throw these ideas out, and it scares them," Mayor Stuart said of his critics on the council.
Maybe, he said, the city should buy a couple dozen goats, they'd work cheaper than humans, and save the city some money.
Just an idea, he said Friday night.
"I want to hear all the pros and cons. I'm an out-of-the-box thinker."
"Very bizarre, very bizarre, very bizarre," said City Council Member Richard Steinberg on Friday.
Steinberg said Stockbridge residents have just about had it with their out-of-the-box-thinking mayor.
"Most of the people find it to be a ridiculous or incredulous situation. And they, in fact, feel like it's another case of the Mayor making our city into a laughing stock." This time, "with livestock."
Council members recognize that other cities rent goats and sheep from time to time to clear away unwanted undergrowth like kudzu.
But for Stockbridge to own two dozen goats year-round, possibly, they say, using them in place of some public works employees, would cost more than it would be worth.
"That encumbers us with having to keep [the goats], having to feed them, having to store them over the winter time, having to deal with them with veterinary bills and everything else," Steinberg said.
Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Mark Alarcon said that across Metro Atlanta Thursday and Friday, people were making fun of Stockbridge.
"We're the largest city in Henry County," he said Friday evening, "but we're still being viewed like backwoods, hillbilly, uneducated council members and unqualified personnel. And that's [because of] the mayor."
Mayor Stuart said many of his critics need to "lighten up," and also come up with original ways to govern the city better and cheaper.
But harsh criticism, he said, does not bother him. Not after what he's been through.
"I took an Apache battalion to Desert Storm -- 250 men, over 20 aircraft. Go over there, fight and come back.... That's what I served for, so people can have free speech, free ideas.... So I just throw the ideas up and if they want to shoot them down, that's their prerogative."
Richard Steinberg could not resist:
"I'll just say it's a baaaaad idea."
The mayor said he is not going to put anyone out of work over this, whatever he decides to do.
And he does have the authority, on his own, to spend up to about $3,500 from the city budget to buy or rent the goats. He does not need city council approval.
By comparison, the city is spending $48,000 employing temporary workers for 90 days, mowing city properties over the summer.
Steinberg said the council and the mayor have to find a way to reconcile, for the good of the city.
"We'd like to work better with the mayor. We hope that, with more open communication, we'd be able to get through issues like this."
"It's a two-way street," Stuart said. "I have asked them for meetings, to come up [and meet], they don't come up there. They make excuses."
Alarcon said he can see that there might be some merit to short-term, temporary contracts with businesses that provide goats and sheep to clear weeded properties. As it is, he said, the city's leaders are comprised of five council members who are communicating well with each other, "and one mayor that seems to be going rogue, or, in his opinion, highlighting himself as thinking outside-the-box, or unconventional. There's nothing unconventional about being radical."