As the recent president of the Decatur Business Association, I have worked for many years with the city government of Decatur and know what it takes to get things done for our residents and businesses. My occupation as a financial adviser has allowed me to work with my clients's assets and help them reach their retirement and financial goals. It takes a lot of trust to help others make decisions that will affect them 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. I'll bring the same decision making skills as a commissioner with Decatur's tax dollars. I am a parent of two elementary age children and my wife is a teacher in the City Schools of Decatur. So I am motivated to make sure our city is just as wonderful in the future as it is now. That will take someone that can harness the energy of good people to make a real difference.
We are facing two major challenges--unprecedented growth in our city as well as dwindling diversity among our citizens. We need to focus on lower cost housing for city and school employees to establish some workforce housing options for those that want to live here. Right now (from a regulatory standpoint) it remains more difficult to build smaller homes in a neighborhood than to build larger homes, even though we say we would like to see more small homes at middle class prices in Decatur. Continuing to examine instances where we’re inadvertently preventing the things we say we want, then adjusting our ordinances to rectify, will be a focus.
At a time when many of us are disheartened by lack of transparency and lack of ethical decision-making at higher levels of government, it's important for us to take corrective action at the local level. Ethical decision-making starts with a strong sense of personal ethics and is informed by many decisions made over time. As a manager of other people's finances, I've used my industry's legal and ethical obligations as a starting point and built upon that solid foundation. I'll bring those transparent ethical practices to city government and will reject lobbyist gifts and comply with all ethics reporting requirements.
Decatur is a diverse and welcoming city. As a city commissioner, I'll work to make sure this also holds true for those born outside the US and their families. I value their contribution and will build upon my long-time work with the Decatur Business Association to ensure that a welcoming business climate, affordable housing, strong collaboration between the city and our public school system, and safe pedestrian infrastructure create an attractive climate to those born outside the US and their families.
Carbon pollution and the legacy we're leaving our children and grandchildren have been on everyone's mind this week as the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan. By creating safer pedestrian infrastructure, particularly on dangerous corridors like Scott Blvd., we encourage those who want and can walk and roll to do so, cutting down on carbon emissions within Decatur and lifting our spirits and heart rates in the process.
I bring a well-rounded skill set of both private and non-profit sector experience. In both arenas I have used strategic planning as a discipline and an approach to getting successful outcomes. I have a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Over the years I’ve had the chance to serve on and to lead multiple non-profit boards. In the City of Decatur I have served on the Active Living Citizens Advisory Board for the past 5 years. I have been a steering committee member on our city’s 10-year Comprehensive Plan update and a PTA president for three years. I am a member of the Decatur Business Association, in the current Leadership DeKalb class of 2018, and was named a Hometown Hero in 2015 for my volunteer service to our city. My motivation to serve is that I want to bring these experiences and skills to bear in a leadership role as a city commissioner where I can be a steward and thoughtful guide for our growing and changing city. The next few years will set the tone for the next twenty and we need a team player who can build consensus, collaborate across interest groups, and demonstrate constructive and positive leadership. I believe in Decatur and in its potential to adapt to change while conserving its unique sense of place and our playful, enjoyable way of life.
Our biggest budget issue is one we’ve been challenged by for a very long time and that is the structural imbalance of our tax base which is heavily weighted toward revenues from residential property taxes. We need to find ways to improve the ratio and grow our commercial tax base for long term sustainability. There are many ways to do this and it starts with more robust and integrated economic development initiatives that attract mid-sized businesses that will utilize more office space in the downtown district. With proper planning we can grow commercial density that supports our downtown commercial corridor and complements the residential density currently being built out. When more people both live and work nearby we can then get them out of their cars and decrease traffic congestion which has been a mounting problem. We need comprehensive planning for the next decade with a view to being a more complete city that is easy to access, convenient to public transit, service-oriented, perceived to be safe and clean, vibrant and active, and diverse and sociable.
The City of Decatur is recognized as a best-in-class city, a progressive place to live with a municipal government that is flat, right-sized, extremely transparent, and effectively run. I believe we set an example for the other municipalities in our county as well as for the county government. Our city should continue to lead the way in illustrating leadership with integrity and high standards of ethics. No elected official or city employee should be influenced by gifts from lobbyists, nor should unethical behavior be tolerated in the least. As a current member of the Leadership DeKalb Class of 2018 I am learning first-hand about the evolving role of the county in setting an example of ethical behavior and will support the continued development of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. We are reminded every day that democracy dies in darkness so it behooves all of us to shine a light on unethical behavior, leadership without integrity, and any lack of transparency by our elected leaders.
The City of Decatur prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive city. It continues to set this example through the recent formation of a citizen's advisory board called Better Together. Our community also went down the path of creating a Better Together Community Action Plan for Equity, Inclusion, and Engagement that is a 60-point blueprint of actions for us to move forward on a range of topics such affordable housing, racially just community policing, offering a welcoming and inclusive retail environment to serve a diverse clientele, facilitating low-cost transportation options for people of all ages and abilities, and maximizing the use of our public spaces for the enrichment and well-being of all of our residents, workers, and visitors. This important community vehicle combined with the work being done by other local activist groups such as Hate Free Decatur and the Beacon Hill NAACP, as well as neighborhood alliances and many individuals gives me faith that we will continue to be a welcoming place for legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens and people of all walks of life, cultures, orientations and backgrounds.
Protecting our tree canopy is one of the most important ways we can do that as a municipality. The City of Decatur needs to set goals and craft a specific plan for doing that. We recently updated the city’s Unified Development Ordinance and improved the tree canopy conservation ordinance as one way to protect and grow our tree canopy. We still have work to do in that regard and I support another update to the tree ordinance to make it more effective and offer the best outcomes. A key priority of mine as a city commissioner is to protect and enhance our city’s biggest asset which is our walkability. A comprehensive plan to support multi-modes of transportation, traffic calming, and connectivity both between neighborhoods and regionally will get more people out of their cars for more trips more often. This is the best way to support cleaner air for our city and the entire metro Atlanta region.