Clarkston City Council candidates discuss city services, affordable housing, refugee community

Left to right: Clarkston City Council candidates Dean Moore, Mark Perkins and Shana “Tiny” McAllister

Clarskton, GA — The three Clarkston City Council candidates running in the special election joined Decaturish for a virtual forum on the Feb. 17 Decaturish Twitch Show. Each candidate had time to inform voters about why they are running for the seat, issues important to them, and talk about local issues.

Dean Moore, Mark Perkins and Shana “Tiny” McAllister are running to fill the remainder of Y.T. Bell’s term as she stepped down to run for mayor. The term will expire on Dec. 31. The special election will take place on Tuesday, March 16 and early voting begins on Monday, February 22.

To watch the forum, click here. To find early voting information, click here. To look up your polling place, click here.

The candidates discussed various issues including their opinion of city services, working with the refugee community and affordable housing among other topics.

All agreed that the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been great. McAllister, although, offered a suggestion to distribute smaller masks for children since the ones provided are too big for kids.

Along those lines, she also said she would love to see more food drives as she volunteered at some because she needed the food too.

Dean Moore, who previously served on the City Council and has worked with the city, said he hopes the county and state continue to recognize the city’s efforts to provide masks and rent relief during the pandemic.

Mark Perkins would like to see the city continue to work on communication, as any organization should, he said, and make the city’s website more navigable to the public.

He also hopes to explore the business permitting process and see if changes could be made to make it smoother.

Clarkston is known for its diversity and is often described as the most diverse square mile in the country, so how will the candidates work with the refugee community?

Perkins said he works with the refugee community at a nonprofit and emphasized the importance of listening and working together to solve problems.

“We have to understand and value different world views and different ways of solving problems and a lot of times the solutions, and I’m not speaking hypothetically, the solutions that we’re able to come up with when we do that are better and they last longer, they’re more sustainable,” Perkins said.

Moore added that the city has many service agencies that serve the refugee community as the city doesn’t have a resettlement department. Clarkston provides the infrastructure for that collaboration.

He mentioned the city can do programs like bringing in residents to meet the police officers to build trust.

“So there’s that kind of thing, but we need that with the entire community. We want to have everybody come to the police station, have meetings with the police,” Moore said. “Those are the kind of things, is outreach to the entire community. We are not just a community of refugees, and they do have special needs and that’s where the service agencies come in that can provide those special needs.”

McAllister has neighbors who are refugees in her apartment building so serving them is the closest thing to her heart and is one of the reasons she’s running for the City Council. She wants to help children, provide more translation services and help people integrate and become acclimated to the city.

The City Council has previously done some work around affordable housing and the council recently approved a resolution that allows the housing committee to make policy recommendations for affordable housing solutions.

“First of all we need to address what is affordable, right,” McAllister said. “Because some people want to say $1,500 is affordable. No, it’s not, under $1,000 is affordable.”

She said apartments are expensive yet in bad shape so that would be a good place for the city to start. She also would like to explore ways that the city could help bring down rent prices, if at all possible.

Perkins said the city would have to look into the availability of land and think about the types of housing during the zoning code conversations. He added that it also comes down to price point.

“I think it involves collaboration with just about every aspect of the community,” Perkins said. “A conversation that involves landlords, it involves homeowners, it involves experts in zoning.”

Every city is dealing with this problem, Moore said. The city also set up an affordable housing trust fund a few years ago, he added, and the City Council is working to create a policy that states how to use that fund.

“But I think the biggest problem is the minimum wage. Wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living and that’s where it really needs to start,” Moore said.

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