Dear Decaturish – John Ridley is wrong about the Callaway property

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 31, 2015
John Ridley

John Ridley

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Dear Decaturish,

I just received a postcard in the mail from John Ridley’s campaign that is headlined “Tony Powers Supports Reckless Development.”  It contains the statement, “Tony Powers, as Chairman of the Decatur Planning Commission, has irresponsibly voted for selling the City of Decatur-owned Callaway property.”  That statement is totally and utterly false.  I am currently the Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission and have served on that commission for the past four years.


For someone who was once a member of the Decatur City Commission, Mr. Ridley must know that the Planning Commission has no input on the question of whether city owned property should be sold.  Our function, among other things, is to recommend to the City Commission whether certain proposals to develop property located in the City should be approved by the City Commission.  We have no final decision making power.  We can only make recommendations.  Mr. Ridley knows this, as he has been to several of our meetings at which this point was made repeatedly.  The decision to sell the Callaway Building property to a private developer was made by the City Commission long before the proposal to develop it into a mixed use complex ever came before the Planning Commission.

For Mr. Ridley to make the above statement about Mr. Powers, which he must know is totally false, so close to election day should tell the citizens of Decatur all they need to know about what kind of City Commissioner he would be.  The kind that thankfully we have not had to endure for a long time and hopefully, won’t have to endure during the next four years.


Mark G. Burnette


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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Andrew

    So if I’m reading this right, either Mr. Ridley is himself stupid because he’s taking a pretty extreme political stand over something he apparently knows nothing about or he thinks we’re stupid and is trying to capitalize on the fact that most people aren’t immediately aware of the ins and outs of how the Planning Commission works. Neither of those seems particularly attractive in a city leader.

    • John Ridley

      I find your comments rather amusing. I know full well about the authorizing legislation and the dysfunctional non legally compliant behaviour of the Decatur Planning Commission. Misinformation, like that spewed by Mr. Burnett, is the last refuge of those trying to represent a guilty party who know that neither the law or the facts are on their side.

      Mr Burnett, an attorney himself, knows full well that the Decatur Planning Commission is required by law to recommend approval or disapproval of requested changes to the Land Use Plan and to zoning changes. The conditional contract to sell the Callaway property required a formal legal change in zoning from institutional to commercial for the action forcing mechanisms in the contract to be engaged. Mr. Tony Powers and Mr. Mark Burnett both voted to recommend this change and therefore endorsed the sale of the property to a for profit developer for a high density apartment development which is diametrically opposite the best interest of the Decatur City Schools and the best public interest of the People of Decatur.

      Tony Powers and Mark Burnett both know better than this reckless and irresponsible behaviour by the Decatur Planning Commission.. BS by any other name or attorney hair splitting of the english language still has an unpleasant order. Is it divisive to call a red barn red? Go ahead Mr Powers and Mr Burnett, try it again, say it ain’t so – if you believe that big untruths told often and loudly enough make them true: the people know better.

      John Ridley

      • Andrew

        It’s true that the Planning Commission recommended approval of the change in zoning from Institutional to Commercial but public school facilities are an allowable use under Decatur’s downtown Commercial zoning. So the change fails to preclude any of the plans you’re advancing. For argument’s sake, let’s say everyone comes around to your point of view and it’s decided to use the site, or some portion of it, for CSD expansion. Those plans would be perfectly allowable under the zoning designation recommended by Mr. Powers and the rest of his commission and approved by the city commission.

        If, moving forward, your idea could be built with the same administrative ease as the DDA’s plans, how does that demonstrate support of reckless development on the part of Mr. Powers? It seems totally fair and may the best development scheme win.

  • Bubba Bignutzzz

    Who is John Ridley anyway? Never heard of him. Hahaha, I didn’t know Tony was opposed. Shows how good his campaign is working. All of this doesn’t matter anyway, he has no prayer of beating Tony.

    • John Ridley

      What mature pen names we have here! So impressive. Bubbabignutzzz? Are you serious? I think public dialog is healthy, but how about doing it in the daylight and just identify yourself so your friends and neighbors can identify where the stench is coming from. To “Bulldog” I have no idea why you would suggest that calling a red barn red is negative, To “Andrew” is that Andrew Jackson or Andrew Johnson or ???? schools cannot be built on commercial property unless they are for profit to the best of my knowledge. If you in real life are a real estate attorney or a public policy analyst, please be fair and honest and identify who you professionally respresent.By the way Mr. Bubbabignutzzz, do you vote or have a voting address in Decatur? If so you would really have to work hard not to have seen my last six of seven mailings.

      • Zawn Villines

        Mr. Ridley,

        I’m heading out to vote in a matter of moments, and I am so glad I saw this comment before I did! I’ve interacted with Tony Powers a number of times, but haven’t had a chance to interact with you. Seeing how you treat people on a discussion forum–the contemptuous language you use, the way you mock would-be constituents, and the way you demand their identities, presumably so you can penalize them in some way–has sealed the deal for me. Mr. Powers is a pleasant, respectful, kind man. I want someone who listens to people, not someone who condescends to and insults them, to win this election. So I look forward to casting my vote for Tony Powers in just a moment.

        I’m commenting using my real name because jerks like you do not intimidate me. But to ask that people use their real names on a political forum represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the Internet, free speech, open public debate, and probably 10 other issues, too. Anonymous speech allows people to freely speak without fear of retribution. And given your aggressive and condescending behavior here, it seems likely that you, if given the chance, would seek retribution against those with whom you argue. Your decision to Request their identities confirms as much.

        Just thought I’d let you know that your behavior, and your behavior alone, is what just cost you my vote. See those fingers you’re pointing at citizens whose votes you are courting? Maybe time to point the finger back at yourself.

  • Zawn Villines

    I don’t fear anything at all. I thought I made that clear. I was merely pointing to the nasty and inappropriate tone of Mr. Ridley’s comments. I’m certainly not the only person disgusted by his threatening tone, and his demands that Internet commenters reveal their identities.

    • Doug Denton

      You wrote that Mr. Ridley would seek retribution against those he disagrees with. What do you mean by retribution?

      You write “anonymous speech allows people to freely speak without fear of retribution.” What do you think would happen to people who shed pen names, and use legal names?

      • Zawn Villines

        I don’t know. Ask Mr. Ridley, Doug. He is the one asking them to do so.

        Regarding anonymous speech, it’s been a pretty important player in politics for close to forever. And online, it certainly plays a vital role. Surely you must have some familiarity with doxing and other forms of online retribution.

        You can learn more about the role of anonymous speech in free expression with a quick google search or by reading court cases on the issue, so I’ll leave you to that. The election is over.

        • Doug Denton

          Freedom of speech is not something one can sort-of believe in. As the saying goes, it’s easy to extoll the virtues of freedom of speech….until someone expresses something we disagree with. “Stupid, extreme political stand, nasty, inappropriate tone, threatening, aggressive, contemptuous, mocking, demanding, retribution, insulting, jerk?” Rest easy, we are in good company with Mark Burnette, Bill Floyd, “Andrew”, “Bulldog”, “Southernfriedlibrul”, and “Bo”.

          There is nothing vital or important about the “stench” permeating from those who malign and disparage, anonymously. Those who do so, need to put on their “big boy pants.” Retribution? Really? Last time I checked Stalin and Goebbels were dead, or maybe they are using pen names.

          • George Hedrick

            This is why your guy lost the election by a landslide, not Bill Floyd’s email.

          • Zawn Villines

            Yup. Not going to respond to the rest of this rant, but Constitution 101:
            I am not the government, or an employee of the government, and therefore cannot limit your freedom of speech.

            Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism of that speech. Indeed, attempting to gain such freedom is an attempt to undermine other folks’ free speech.

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