I'm a 23 year resident of Doraville who has been active in city affairs for many years. I have a wealth of experience and training across several disciplines (technology, business, the arts, environmental design) which allow me to bring some fresh and hopefully inspiring ideas to the table regarding policy, while remaining grounded and pragmatic. I'm a strong communicator and love to connect people, especially when it comes to finding common ground among people who might be very different from each other. My technical skills as a programmer and my leadership skills in a corporate environment will be helpful in public service and communications. I'm also known as an even tempered person who can remain reasonable and calm in contentious situations, and stick to facts.
I love my city dearly and it's a critical time for us right now - we're a small town with a lot of big changes happening, so my motivation to serve is mainly to help manage our growth in a responsible and caring way, a way that capitalizes on our greatest strength (our diversity), and welcomes new residents and businesses without leaving anyone behind. It's a delicate balance that is easy to get wrong, and I'd like to try to get it right.
Our revenues took a severe hit when our largest employer, General Motors, closed its plant in 2008 and the recession hit soon after. The city did manage to tighten its belt and get the budget under control, but we're operating on a very lean budget at the moment.
We now have a developer who has bought the GM plant and another nearby property and is on board with our comprehensive plan for the city, which was developed with lots of input from residents (including myself). We wanted a mixed-use development and some new infrastructure to connect the various parts of the city and revitalize Buford Highway and our downtown. If elected, I would work to eliminate some of the hurdles that have beset the developer and the city by creating stability in the permitting process and supporting the tax structure we put in place to fund the new development, thus allowing the kind of growth we want to happen. This would result in greater revenue for the city and allow us to shore up the departments that are currently operating on a slim budget, and improve our services and infrastructure to the standards residents would like.
As far as I know we don't have an issue with lobbyist gifts in Doraville, at least not lately. I also think the city does a pretty good job of educating its officials regarding ethics, and in many ways it does a good job at transparency too. One thing I am hearing from residents is that they aren't always aware of what's going on in the city, even though this information is available on the city website. I realize it can be hard to wade through a lot of dry legal material to figure out what the city is up to, and not everyone has the time or inclination to do that. So I'd like to write brief summaries, in everyday language, about what we'll be voting on in meetings and how residents can express their views, and I'd like to start an outreach program which would let residents know where they can find this information and stay informed. Ethnical behavior and transparency is a top priority for me.
I believe Doraville is possibly the most welcoming place for foreign entrepreneurs (and immigrant families in general) in the metro Atlanta area, the stage of Georgia and perhaps the entire region. A huge percentage of our businesses are owned by foreign born folks, many of whom have become citizens. Buford Highway is well known for its incredible array of ethnic restaurants and shops, and people even drive from out of state to visit the Buford Highway Farmers Market. Our police department has an excellent relationship with the community and does its best to make all feel welcome as well.
If elected, I would certainly continue to embrace and further this diversity. It's one of the things I love most about the city and I believe it can only make us more prosperous and more beautiful to keep going down this road.
I believe we should strive toward making the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, as well as going forward with our comprehensive plan which includes higher density development near the MARTA station. By encouraging development that puts residents closer to the shops and other businesses they tend to visit, we reduce car travel and reduce the need for more asphalt. I also think we should be planting more trees and making serious effort to protect the urban forest canopy. Trees not only help clean the air but they also reduce urban heat islands, saving energy in the process.
I'd also be in favor of a solar power and energy saving initiative for new government buildings - we have a long term plan to build a new downtown civic area, and this is a great opportunity to build energy efficient buildings powered by clean energy. This would save the city money as well as reducing pollution.
I was a successful small business owner, which gives me a firsthand understanding of what a city needs to do to attract and keep thriving businesses in our community. As a Church Administrator, I worked within a different kind of budget framework and left the non-profit’s finances in a far better state than when I arrived.
As for my motivation, I was part of the steering committee for the 2016 “Design Doraville” Comprehensive Plan, and the experience made me realize that now is a pivotal point for the future of the city. We have to remain true to the vision we crafted in that plan, keeping our focus on what’s best for Doraville in the long run.
Transportation improvements are the largest budget item currently facing the city, and I believe we should carefully prioritize our spending in this category. The ballot this November includes a referendum on whether to pass a 1% sales tax increase (SPLOST) that can be used for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements.
I have listened to our residents, and if this passes, we should use this money to address their top priorities: filling potholes, fixing sidewalks, and repaving roads. While traffic-calming devices are a “nice to have” (when designed well), they should only be constructed after these basic infrastructure needs are met, and only after input from the surrounding community.
It’s no secret that Georgia has room for improvement in terms of political corruption, as detailed on such sites as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity. If we can’t pass stronger pay-for-play rules on the state level, we can certainly try to address the issue on the municipal level.
I also believe that responding to Open Records Requests is an integral part of transparency in government. We should make the process of requesting records easy to understand, to complete, and to track. If we have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
The City of Doraville already has a culturally diverse population and has historically welcomed foreign born entrepreneurs without hesitation. I don’t believe this has been a real problem in Doraville, and I will fight to keep this same inviting culture alive in our city government.
Around 2009, Doraville started requiring LEED certification in all new building construction, but this requirement for environmentally responsible construction was unfortunately rolled back in 2016. I believe this was a mistake, and instead of removing the requirement, we should address the reasons why the city decided to remove it.
It goes without saying that I would support reinstating this requirement, which Chamblee and Decatur both have as part of their building code. The LEED certification is not a barrier to quality developers and shows that the city is serious about its commitment to environmentally conscious development.