Controversy is no stranger to many of the cities in Gwinnett County. However, typically controversies arise as a consequence of decisions made by mayors and city council members after they have been elected. That’s not the case with the current controversy swirling around the upcoming election in Suwanee.
Rather than an extensive list of articles about candidates who are running for city council, a Google search for “Suwanee city council candidates” turns up an extensive list of articles about candidate Joe Briggs and his negative Twitter posts about Jews and Israel. Brigg’s tweets, which compared Jews to Nazis, and called Zionists “cockroaches”, have made headlines in national media and have understandably been labeled “Jew-bashing”. According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, during the past few months, Briggs tweeted, “Get the Jews out of the white House and out of POTUS’ ear”. and, “At least the Nazis assimilated and contributed to US society”, and, “The problem is Jews don’t care about racism- because they are racist. They only care about racism directed towards them. Square that.”
After his tweets became a point of controversy, Briggs appeared to be back-pedaling, claiming that he isn’t anti-Semitic, just anti-Isrraeli. That’s hard to believe in light of his tweets being aimed specifically at Jews, not Israelis. Briggs also posted an apology on his Facebook page. According to another Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, “In a new Facebook post regarding his controversial tweets about Jews and Israel, Suwanee City Council candidate Joe Briggs apologized “for this situation” and said he “deeply regret[s]” the manner in which he “expressed some of my views.”
Whether Briggs is in fact anti-Semitic is just one troubling question. Another, and one that relates strongly to his candidacy for Suwanee city council, is his judgment, or lack thereof.
In seeking to be elected to public office, a candidate’s task is to convince voters that he or she has the knowledge, temperament and integrity to properly represent constituent interests. Bashing any racial, ethnic or religious group is counter to that effort. If Briggs can’t or won’t figure that out, one has to wonder how he would conduct himself were he elected to office. Although Briggs claims he is not racist, his tweets would seem to demonstrate otherwise; his tweets indicate a strong case of anti-Semitism, giving rise to wonder about what other groups he finds offensive.
Briggs is running against incumbent Beth Hilscher and apparently feels Ms. Hilscher, along with other council members have allowed Suwanee to become over developed. That’s a common refrain from city council candidates throughout Gwinnett County. Although traffic problems and ever-increasing school enrollments have become challenges throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area, railing against them as being a consequence of city council actions generally displays an ignorance of reality.
Gwinnett County has seen tremendous growth because it is a desirable place to live. The demand for housing is high so it naturally follows that property owners will seek to sell, or develop their property. Provided a development fits within existing zoning ordinances, there’s nothing a city council can do to deny a developer’s building application. Where a council has to modify an existing ordinance or provide variances to allow a development to proceed, some discretion is available. However, Suwanee has applied its discretion wisely, (thereby avoiding lawsuits) and is viewed as an outstanding model of development.
Oddly enough, Briggs, in what seems like a revelation to him, has claimed that someone has unscrupulously dug up the ultimate anti-Semitic dirt on him in an attempt to thwart his campaign for election. It would have been unscrupulous if the charges were fabricated “fake news”. But Briggs comments are documented, and he has not denied making them. It’s never unscrupulous to expose the truth.