Then overnight on Oct. 20, the city sprouted so many campaign signs, its maintenance department was called in to remove those littering the public right of way.
“It was a mess,” said city councilwoman Doreen Carter. “There were about 30 signs in the median.”
On Nov. 3, the city’s 1,077 registered voters are headed to the polls at Union Missionary Baptist Church on Bruce Street to elect three of five candidates vying for seats on the council. The polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Attorney Deborah Jackson, real estate tax examiner Marcus Lloyd, and advertising consultant Al Franklin are seeking re-election. They are being challenged by William “Ric” Dodd, a grocery store employee, and Hassan Abdullah, a retired security guard.
On Tuesday this week, someone raised the ante further when a mobile billboard announcing a pre-election ranking of candidates appeared on the side of the Lithonia Plaza overlooking Max Cleland Boulevard, one of the city’s main arteries.
The billboard ranks 32-year-old Franklin at number one, and 56-year-old Abdullah at number two. It lists Lloyd, 52, and Dodd, 51, but assigns them no numbers. It makes no mention of Jackson, 56.
No one in the city seem to know who erected the sign but many remember a similar billboard that concert promoter Jason Lary put in the same location in November 2008. That sign declared Tanya Peterson winner of candidate forums during the special election for mayor.
This time Lary, who has promoted the Lithonia Concert Series at the city-owned Lithonia Amphitheater, says he knows nothing of the billboard.
“The sign is not owned by me,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t know anything about it. I have nothing to with that nonsense down there. It’s not me – not this time.”
Police Chief Willie Rosser, who enforces the city’s sign ordinance, did not want to speak to a reporter about the signs, but Carter said he told her he doesn’t know where the billboard came from.
Jackson said whoever put the billboard there is trying to influence the election without any real discussion.
“It’s insulting the citizens’ intelligence,” she said. “Hopefully it will backfire on them.”
Jackson serves on the council’s cultural affairs committee, which has recommended that the amphitheater, which Lary wants a five-year contract to operate, be only rented for one-year intervals.
But at an Oct. 5 council meeting, Franklin, the cultural committee’s other member, pushed for the members to vote on Lary’s five-year contract. The motion was defeated, prompting Lary to write a scathing letter to the monthly Granite City News, characterizing the council members who opposed the motion as “stupid people that somehow get elected.”
Jackson said the billboard suggests that a survey of candidates was done, but that she has asked around the city and has not been able to find anyone who was polled.
“I am not aware of any survey done and there has been no public forum for the candidates,” she said.
Barbara Lester, a former council member, said she hasn’t been polled and knows of no one who has been. Ditto for Carter, the sitting councilwoman.
Seventy-two-year-old John Daughtery, who has lived all his life in the city, said he smells a fish.
“I don’t think it is fair,” he said. “I think it is dishonest. We have had no debate. We have some dishonest people running and the people sponsoring them are playing games.”
Daughtery, who said he tries to go to city council meetings once a month, said he sees the people at the meetings who have agendas.
“I don’t want to name names,” he said. “They are trying to put somebody on the council that will do what they want.”
Daughtery said Lithonia needs people who are going to help residents.
“This used to be a good city and it can be again,” he said. “The Police Department needs help. We don’t have no budgets. We need people on the council who are going to help the city.”
Early voting for the Lithonia and the eight other DeKalb municipalities and the Atlanta in DeKalb precincts for the AStlanta Mayor’s race started Oct. 26.
Mary Frances Weeks, a DeKalb Elections spokesperson, said Thursday that only three people cast ballots in the Lithonia election and one absentee ballot was mailed in.
Altogether, only 316 ballots were cast for all 10 cities.
Weeks said 178 of those ballots were cast in the Atlanta mayor’s race.