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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Clarkston City Council (Vote 3) {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The councilmember proposes bills, holds votes, and passes laws to help govern the city.
  • Candidate picture

    Yterenickia "YT" Bell Mental Health Professional

  • Christopher Busing

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    Jamie Carroll Attorney

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    Ahmed M. Hassan Accountant

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    Laura Carol Hopkins Program coordinator

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    Dean S. Moore Campus Engineer & Commercial Construction Superintendent

  • Grant Hassan Salaam

  • Jennifer Schliestett

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

What experience do you bring to the job to set policy for your city and what is your motivation to serve?

What, in your opinion, is the biggest budget issue facing your city and how, if elected would you propose to address it?

How should your city address the issues of lobbyist gifts, ethical behavior, and transparency in government?

Legal Permanent Residents and naturalized citizens contribute over a billion dollars in state and local taxes each year. How will you help ensure your city is a welcoming place for foreign born entrepreneurs and their families?

Cities across the country are embracing aggressive goals to reduce carbon pollution. What do you believe your municipality should do to support cleaner air?

Campaign Phone (404) 304-2384
I’m passionate about people and improving the quality of their lives. I have over seven years of experience in public policy. From community engagement, to direct service and advocacy for vulnerable populations, I strive to be the change I seek, and serve as a change agent for others. My motivation to serve is my passion for people and desire to continue to move Clarkston forward by promoting a more transparent, responsible government for the residents of Clarkston. As city councilwoman, I will make Clarkston safer, economically stronger, and more welcoming for all residents. I will work with city council members and city staff to create progressive solutions on a responsible budget to build Clarkston into the thriving community I see ahead of us.
Budgets represent priorities. Clarkston should shift its priorities towards improving planning and community development efforts. The biggest budget issues facing Clarkston is its lack of funding for planning and community development projects. Clarkston needs to invest to thrive. Planning is a natural function of future vitality and encourages equitable development and growth. If sufficient funding is not available, it’s difficult to improve the city and attract new businesses to ensure a high quality of life for current and future residents. Moreover, zoning helps alleviate issues such as code enforcement, making sure that the community itself is safe. As a result, it is essential that community programs are supported and economic development opportunities are promoted in Clarkston. If funding is increased in these areas, we could reduce crime, cultivate a sense of community, and promote economic growth in Clarkston.
It’s essential that Clarkston promotes the importance of an open, transparent government. Oversight and accountability are essential components to deliver adequate services and address issues in cities. Local government is the form of government closest to the residents, as a result, citizens should be involved to improve transparency and ethical issues. My recommendation to address issues in government would be to propose an ordinance for a citizen’s review board. The development of a citizen’s review board could address issues of lobbyist gifts, ethical behavior, and transparency and ensure adequate assessment of complaints or accusations.
Clarkston is a refugee resettlement and multicultural city. To ensure Clarkston continues to uphold a reputation as a welcoming community for families and foreign-born entrepreneurs, we need to foster a connected city by improving community engagement, business development, and efforts to invest in the residents by giving all the communities or community leaders a voice. This effort will contribute to the growth of the city’s economy, increase foreign born entrepreneurs, and make Clarkston a city that residents want to stay, work, and play. If elected, I will work diligently to adopt policies and encouraging programming efforts to promote economic development through education and engagement efforts, such as monthly business collaborative meetings, business lunch and learns, and efforts to connect community groups to community resources to help foreign-born entrepreneurs feel supported and welcomed in Clarkston.
Linking communities, resources, and educational opportunities is essential as we continue to move Clarkston forward and support cleaner air. Clarkston should focus on improving access to critical resources and collaborating with community agencies to educate, mitigate, and reduce carbon pollution. Furthermore, Clarkston should embrace a progressive carbon plan to reduce emissions over the next 10 years. The plan should be developed through community input, open forums, and best practice research findings from leading agencies on ways to reduce carbon pollution. The educational initiatives developed in the plan should bring awareness about the issue, the city’s goals to combat the issue, and ways for all residents to support cleaner air. Moreover, the city council should adopt local ordinances to reduce carbon pollution by improving energy use in all city owned properties. The city should also work directly with community organizations and providers to create strategic approaches to improving access to resources to benefit the health and well-being of families to reduce population growth and address climate change issues. .
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Campaign Phone (615) 306-5666
I have served on the Clarkston Planning & Zoning Board for three years, and on Clarkston City Council for the last eight months. During my time on Clarkston City Council, I drafted the first Tiny Home community ordinance in Georgia to encourage the creation of affordable housing for Clarkston residents. I also have practiced as a commercial litigation and real estate attorney for the last eight years, which gives me a lot of experience in the various zoning, legal and contractual issues facing Clarkston.

I want to make sure that Clarkston continues to grow while remaining affordable for all of its residents. We need more housing at all prices, and to support existing businesses and encourage the creation of new businesses, so that Clarkston residents can afford to live here and have the option of jobs close to home. This growth will also provide Clarkston with the revenue we need to increase public safety resources and fund more community programs.
The biggest budget issue facing Clarkston today is that we do not yet have sufficient revenue to pay the salaries necessary to recruit and retain the number of police officers that we need for the city. I would address this issue by encouraging the development of additional housing, including affordable housing through inclusive zoning that offers developers upzoning in exchange for the construction of affordable units, as well as through encouraging the growth of current businesses and attracting new businesses. This additional development will provide Clarkston with the revenues that we need in order to expand our police force and increase starting salaries so that Clarkston can attract and retain additional police officers.
Clarkston has a code of ethics in its charter which prohibits the mayor, city council members or other officials from receiving gifts intended to influence them, or receiving benefits from persons or entities with business before the city. Clarkston is currently considering revising its charter, and I would be open to more transparency in requiring elected officials to disclose any donations or other gifts from persons or entities who may have business before the city, so that the public can be confident that Clarkston officials always have their best interests at heart, and are not making public decisions for private gain.
Clarkston has been called the Ellis Island of the South because it has long been a major resettlement location for refugees in the Atlanta area. In order to continue to welcome and provide a great place to live for immigrants, Clarkston should continue to reach out to immigrants, as well as native born residents, for input on its policy decisions. In addition, Clarkston should encourage the growth of current local businesses, and the development of new ones, in order to provide additional economic opportunities for new immigrants. For example, Clarkston should encourage the development of food trucks and food carts so that immigrants can have economic opportunity while providing diverse cuisines to attract visitors to Clarkston. Finally, Clarkston should encourage the development of housing at all price points, including affordable housing through inclusive zoning, so that immigrants have housing options that permit them to stay in Clarkston after they initially arrive here.
First, Clarkston should encourage the development of dense, walkable, multi-use communities so that residents do not have to be as dependent on automobiles, which often emit carbon. We are already making progress towards this goal with the Streetscapes project and the upcoming Tiny House community, which will be a walkable distance from downtown Clarkston, and we can make further progress by encouraging multi-use development. Secondly, Clarkston should explore the use of renewable resources to power its public buildings, and perhaps eventually its public vehicles, including potentially solar power for various public buildings to minimize the carbon emissions of public offices.
Campaign Phone (470) 304-5136
I have been a Clarkston resident for 30 years. By profession, I am an accountant with fifteen years of banking experience. I have a BA in finance, MBA in finance, and Masters Degree in Accounting and Taxation. I’m a Certified Enroll Agent and currently a partner of an accounting Firm and Transportation Company. The reason I sought the office in 2013 was that the city lacked inclusiveness. Clarkston is a very diverse city and the Immigrant community was not participating. The city wasn’t aware of their need, and my primary goal was to bridge the gap.
As a finance professional, the city is not facing any financial difficulty. The city budget is balanced and the general fund is healthy.
As Chair of the Finance committee, I am the eyes and the ears of your tax dollars. The city finances are very transparent. The City of Clarkston awards contracts in a very fair and transport manner. I am not aware of any unethical issue related to the city contracts, and as long as I am councilor, city finances will continue to be very transparent.
As you may have known Clarkston is a welcoming city and I will make sure all citizens are treated equal. Before my arrival, foreign-born immigrants were treated unfairly in the court system. The city used to generate close to 2 million dollars in traffic citations and people use to get multiple tickets for a single offense. In the municipal court everyone was guilty, fines ranged from three hundred to a thousand dollars, and the police were not friendly. Those behaviors no longer exist. We modernized the court system by replacing the judge and the solicitor. Although the city police enforce the law they treat Clarkston citizens with dignity and respect. The city is no longer relies on fines to balance the budget instead we annexed the city to generate additional property tax and franchise fees. All our public safety took sensitivity training and learned how to work with a multi-ethnic, multi-culture, and multi-religious community.
Absolutely I support the Clean Air Act. In fact, we passed Clean Air Act in our city.
Campaign Phone (404) 710-5822
My greatest experience relating to being on the city council involves 50+ years being both a very social person who tends to love people, cultures. and diversity and also a very critical, analytical thinker who likes to break down problems and find creative solutions. This is a perspective that I brought to every role that I have ever played in my life from being a manager of 100+ people at a time, to being a business analyst for Delta Airlines or an accountant for The Weather Channel, to living on my own in a foreign country and learning to live in a culture (and a language) completely different from own. The best role anyone can play in any group is to be the one who recognizes and encourages the best in those around them. If I don't have all the answers (and I don't), the city as a whole does, so if we can listen to each other, collaborate, and throw our collective talents at any challenge, we will create the best little city in America.
Safety and economic viability are two budget issues that are inextricably linked. Thus far, the Clarkston safety officers have done an excellent job - illustrated by the fact that crime has gone down in recently annexed areas. The safety issues that we face tend to involve petty crimes and often by young people. Fixing this would involve ensuring that these folks have options and activities, mentoring programs and adult supervision. Although much of this can be volunteer-based - much of it costs at least a little money. On the other hand, it must be offset with economic development. Residential property tax is only a small part of the city's income and commercial development could bring more income to the city to support these types of programs. Considering the city also needs jobs for local residents, attracting the best kind of development that would bring both city income and jobs while maintaining a high local quality of life is probably the most important thing that the city council can do.
This is a town of fewer than 15.000 people, and although there have been problems in the past with corruption, they surfaced quickly and were dealt with. In a city of this size, any lack of transparency is often due to a lack of free time on the part of residents to get involved and a lack of outreach and communication on the part of the city. Clarkston needs a concerted effort to get the information to the residents that would help them be connected without huge demands on their time. Marketing and communications of plans, meetings, and events need to happen more consistently and we have to talent to do it. We also need to make sure that we can reach all of our residents in the most common languages that we have.
Clarkston is known as the Ellis Island of the South. When Time magazine referred to us as the most diverse square mile in America, they were soon outdone by CNN referring to us as the most diverse square mile in the world. A long history of being an anchor for refugee services in America, our diversity is a part of our identity and a part in which I think all residents take pride. Where we may fall down is in having opportunities for these residents to stay beyond their initial settlement period in the U.S. Although we have many businesses in Clarkston owned by foreign-born residents, they often sell to only their own community and are disconnected from the larger American-born community, This tendency may limit their financial viability as well as limit the accessibility of the richness of our local cultures. I think more outreach can be done to help integrate these businesses into the American culture and show those who would like to learn how to cultivate an American customer base as well. I also think that we need to attract investors to help facilitate the growth of these businesses to attract customers from other areas.
A big priority of mine is to keep Clarkston a city that embraces those who by choice or necessity are living a car-free lifestyle. This involves planning and zoning decisions to support live-work-play communities, work opportunities within the city for local residents, bike and pedestrian safe roads, intersections, and paths. I think America, as a rule, made a mistake in organizing our towns around cars instead of people and Clarkston is small enough to reverse that. There is already a proposal to get the city to a zero-carbon footprint and I completely support that. Our city buildings and parks can and should move to solar power, LED lighting, zero-waste events and other efforts to be good stewards of this world.
Campaign Phone (404) 290-1492
I have eight years on Clarkston City Council, three years on the Clarkston Planning and Zoning Committee, two years on the Georgia Municipal Association Board of Directors. I have the GMA Certificate of Achievement for numerous training classes through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA. I have attended Atlanta Regional Commission Local Government Institute, Community Planning Academy, and the Transformation Academy Equitable Transit Oriented Development programs and seminars. This past couple of years, our City Council passed legislation on over 50 resolutions and nearly two dozen ordinances as well as some large infrastructure improvement projects to improve the Quality of Life in Clarkston. We have a great team and I hope to keep the team together. Together Everyone Accomplishes More.
Our biggest budget issue is not with the City. Our audits have shown our fiscal house to be in order. We can always use more money, of course, and we plan ahead to anticipate the balance for infrastructure improvements and funding. The real issue is trying to balance our personal finances as we improve our property values. We have a unique diverse culture in Clarkston and keeping us all together is our goal. While we strive to eliminate pathways to poverty we also need to make sure we can afford to live here.
We continue to strive for the utmost transparency and professionalism throughout our departments and we have achieved the greatest level ever in the history of Clarkston. In eight years, Clarkston has been pulled back from the brink of failure to the highest level of achievement since it was founded in 1882. When I was first elected, the Council was tasked with seeking professional help, hiring our first City Manager. We hired the best and he has been the greatest asset and resource the City has ever had. Financial and organizational success is not casual. It is felt up and down the ranks like a breath of fresh air.

We have updated our ethics complaint procedure and retained an ethics attorney in the event of an ethics complaint. A lobbyist bearing gifts would be on a fool’s errand as far as I’m concerned.
Clarkston has reduced occupational tax rates, exempted businesses with total revenue under $20k, and we offer Inventory Tax Exemption Incentives. We offer a “hands on” expedited business license process. Part of that process includes information for Enterprise Zone & Opportunity Zone Tax Credits through Dekalb County, and Sales & Use Tax Credits available through the State of Georgia. Our administrative staff are continually looking for other advantageous incentives and programs to share with our business community to ensure their continued success.
The most aggressive, cost effective, and long term first step a small city like Clarkston can make is to improve the landscape. Our infrastructure had been ignored for a long time. Increasing the pedestrian and bicycle facility and safety structures, renovation and redevelopment of our parks, and planting over 140 trees along the public right-of-way were first steps. A multi-million dollar streetscapes project, 12 years in planning and development, has just been started. Solar energy technological advances have put electric options within reach. We may one day have a fleet of electric vehicles run by the sun. My current vehicle is a hybrid. We want to be first rate progressives but with fiscal balance. Stabilizing the ground we hold allows us to set the sky as the limit.
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