Clarkston candidates debate local issues on Twitch forum

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — Municipal elections in DeKalb County are Nov. 2. In preparation for election season, Decaturish staff has worked to bring candidates to our readers in several formats – articles about the candidates’ campaigns, a Q&A in our Election Guide coming out Oct. 1, and candidate forums hosted by Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt.

Although municipal elections attract fewer voters, their results affect residents, businesses and employees on a day-to-day basis. This article reflects the first of a series of candidate forums hosted by Decaturish.com. Held on Twitch, you’ll have the opportunity to watch live or catch up later.

Six Clarkston candidates for City Council joined Decaturish.com Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt for a 90-minute forum on Sept. 9.

Here is the video of that forum:

Three of Clarkston’s At Large seats are up for grabs. Each candidate introduced themselves and talked about why they’re running.

YT Bell, a professor, social worker and community advocate, served as a City Council member from 2017 TO 2019. “I strive to be that change agent in our community by cultivating effective policies that will impact individuals’ lives for years to come.”

Jamie Carroll, an attorney, became a councilmember in 2017 and he’s running for re-election. “I’ve been on the Clarkston City Council for four years and the reason I’m running for re-election is I want to make sure that Clarkston continues to be a safer, growing community,” said Carroll.

Herbert Clark, a realtor and community advocate, is a first-time candidate. “My reason for running: I want to create and develop policies to make a difference.”

Susan Hood, a retired DeKalb County director, is a first-time candidate. She is a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, the Housing and Infrastructure Standing Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Committee.  “For years I have been a strong advocate in our community. I have a passion to serve. I’m running for City Council because it is the closest to the people, and that’s where we have the greatest impact on the day-to-day lives of citizens,” said Hood.

Shana “Tiny” McAllister, a caretaker, ran in the Clarkston City Council special election in March 2021, but lost to Mark Perkins. She is running for the second time. “I’ve lived here since 2019, and you can check out my website if you want to learn more about me.”

Dean Moore, campus engineer at The Museum School, serves on the Clarkston Historic Preservation Commission and Technical Advisory Committee. He is a former councilmember who served from 2010 to 2017. “I’d like to [be on City Council again] to make sure we keep going in the right direction. The next part of our strategy is to get businesses and help them develop much better in our downtown area.”

Q: Clarkston is in the process of rewriting its zoning ordinance. What would your approach be to that process? 

As a member of the Zoning Rewrite Technical Advisory Committee, Hood said:We need to approach zoning mindful of future development and current developments to make sure that when we make changes on our zoning ordinance, we avoid unintended consequences, that we are enacting zoning regulations that protect the health and safety of all residents. That’s actually the basis for zoning.”

Bell was one of the council members that spearheaded a zoning rewrite. She said zoning has an impact on quality of life. She wants to see the city consider residents’ input “to be more equitable city and have a better impact on our economy, as well as how we develop the city throughout.”

Moore is also a member of the Zoning Rewrite Technical Advisory Committee.

“We need to protect the neighborhoods, and that’s what zoning does. Zoning is to protect the city. I want to make sure that we continue protecting the city as we do move into smart development,” he said.

Carroll was on the planning and zoning board for three years before being elected to City Council, and served as chair of the Housing and Infrastructure Committee.

“My impression from talking to Clarkston residents is they want more downtown development. They want more housing options in parks,” he said. Clarkston can encourage downtown development and housing while preserving existing neighborhoods and tree canopy, he added.

Q: The Clarkston city manager recently announced that he was leaving the city as a City Council member, you will be involved in hiring his replacement. What is your ideal candidate for this position?

McAllister prefers to bring on a new city manager within the next six months to a year, but not while the new City Council is being established. If the city does not do its due diligence, “we can very easily appoint somebody who is not the most competent and most suitable for our city.”

Clark said the city manager should have the background to handle the needs of a diverse community like Clarkston, particularly the refugee and immigration population.

“He or she needs to have the ability to grow and develop our city as it relates to our 2040 Comprehensive Plan,” said Clark.

Moore led the committee to hire Clarkston’s first city manager with two city managers, the city attorney and one of the directors of the DeKalb Board of Health.

“Look for somebody that knows the business of running a city and can handle Clarkston,” he said.

Carroll, who helped identify the last city manager, said the ideal candidate has a professional background in managing municipal or local government entities. Clarkston needs a city manager that is responsive to stakeholders, including homeowners, a diverse population, businesses, City Council members and responsive to city employees.

“It’s really a customer service business, but your customers are the residents of Clarkston,” he said.

Q: What will you do to ensure that Clarkston is welcoming to all residents, both new and current across all housing types?

As a former councilmember, Bell supported the Welcoming America resolution. The city should work on policies to include all residents, she said, by providing an interpreter at meetings and translating literature into multiple languages.

“We want to make sure we have a community that looks exactly like the businesses that we have here, and the people we serve each and every day,” she said.

Carroll said as a City Council member he has always had an open door, regardless of how long they’ve lived in Clarkston or where they live. His idea is to use stimulus funds to deliver welcome packages to new residents that include important phone numbers, public works information and gift cards to local businesses.

Policies should take into account the diverse population of the city, said Hood.

“We also need to increase the opportunity for new residents and current residents to become active in their community and their government,” she said. “We should continue to inform residents about our multicultural community, and make that a point of pride.”

Q: Do you think the city needs more parks and greenspace? And if so, what are your proposals for expanding parks and greens in the city? 

“A green space gives a person peace, serenity. I think it’s very important to our inner health to [go to] parks and greenspaces,” said Clark. If elected, he would consider making more parks and greenspaces a priority so that residents can enjoy nature, he said.

Moore said since Friendship Forest underwent a redesign and improvement of wetlands along South Fork of Peachtree Creek, he’d like to see a river walk that goes from one side of the city to the other.

“We have such a high pedestrian population, I think it’d be a big improvement for the city,” he said.

Hood wants to acquire vacant lots or abandoned houses, especially north of the city where there’s a lack of parks. Linking the walking trail to bike paths to parks throughout the community increases access.

“You can’t underestimate the value of parkland and critical space to the quality of life for citizens,” she said. “It’s a very high priority for me.”

McAllister said of course Clarkston needs more parks.

“I’m all for parks. If you elect me, we’re going to have more parks and more greenspace,” she said.

Q: How will you encourage civic involvement and community engagement if you are elected?

Clarkston welcomes residents to sit on boards and committees, provide feedback and attend city meetings, said Carroll. Recently, the Housing and Infrastructure Committee met about a speed table for a neighborhood.

“We had our committee meeting in that neighborhood so the different people in the neighborhood could actually just walk over to committee meeting …,” he said. “It’s not just asking them to come to you. You have to go to them.”

As a social worker, Bell is “all about prioritizing community engagement, especially in Clarkston.” She said the city needs to figure out how people like to receive information and meet them where they are. Whether that’s a flyer, banner, or digital ads, “we may have to even text people and get them to sign up for a system that allows us to communicate with them frequently,” she said. “Put [information] on a platform where people can go back and review it at a later time, but also engage with us in real time and ask us questions.”

Clark said,” I know we shape policy and procedures for the city, but we need to work on our citizens and what their concerns are.” He suggested a platform on which residents could submit questions and get answers directly from the city.

Q: What is your current opinion of the police department, and are there any changes you’d make to the department?

Bell, who went on a ride along with police, is excited about the reduction in crime throughout the city, but wants to see summer programs increase for kids who are getting into trouble while school is out.

“I want to ensure we have a non-police responder unit staffed with a social worker … to address problems that police officers don’t have the skills for … to intentionally strengthen our community and provide a solution to everyday problems,” Bell said.

Carroll bought his first house in Clarkston in 2012 and within a week his home was broken into. It happened again two weeks later. A month after that, someone pointed a gun at him in front of his house. While he says crime has been reduced in the city, he wants to see an increase in technology for the police department. Cameras, gunshot detection and community feedback could help police drive down crime, he said.

McAllister attended Coffee With a Cop in July. She said, “If I’m elected, I will push to meet staffing targets including firefighters and 9-1-1 operators. I will pursue avenues for de-escalation, and I will work with organizations to expand our public safety operations including 24-7 mental health and poverty response teams.”

Clarkston Police are responsive, professional and under good leadership, said Hood.

“What I would like to see is the city continue to increase officers on the street by funding authorized positions. I’d like to see increased use of various kinds of technology to augment our services. And I’d like to see greater community engagement,” she said.

Q: What do you consider to be affordable housing? How do you propose to build more of it in Clarkston?

Affordable housing relates to the average median income of a resident, and making sure that the cost of housing is no more than 30 percent of income, said Hood.

“Clarkston has great needs for affordable housing,” she said, adding several hundred affordable housing units are forthcoming. “We have an affordable housing trust fund in Clarkston, and we need to develop policies based on the community’s needs.”

Clark, a realtor, said the city should help first time homebuyers to get qualified for loans.

“Tap into programs and resources that would be able to help residents to qualify,” he said.

“Whether you’re at median income, slightly below median income, or above it, you should be able to find a home in Clarkston that you can spend less than 30 percent of your income on each month,” said Carroll. He voted in favor of ordinances for tiny homes and accessory dwelling units, which allowed people to build small accessory dwellings in their backyards.

Q: Lighting round: What will you do combat climate change in Clarkston and what will you do to improve Clarkston’s ecosystem?

McAllister said, “I’m a huge hippie. I’m all about recycling and renewable energies.” She suggested solar panels on public buildings and commercial spaces.

Bell voted for clean energy by 2050 when she was on City Council. She wants to use affordable housing trust funds to provide energy education for fixed income residents, install solar panels and green roofs and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

“I’d like to see people in the community take advantage of hybrid cars and electric cars,” said Moore. “It’s important the everybody take this seriously, use energy efficient equipment in their buildings and homes, and in city buildings as well.”

All Tucker Observer forums will be conducted and live-streamed via the Decaturish Twitch channel, which you can see by clicking here. During the forum, members of the public will be able to ask questions by creating a Twitch account and following the Decaturish Twitch channel.  (To create an account, click the purple “sign up” button in the upper right-hand corner of the Twitch website.)

Episodes will be archived on our Decaturish YouTube channel and Decaturish contributors will be writing articles summarizing each forum.

Here are the upcoming forums in Tucker and Stone Mountain. 

Wednesday, Sept. 15

Tucker Mayor: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 17 

Tucker, District 1, Post 1: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Tucker, District 1, Post 2: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 18

Tucker, District 2, Post 1: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Tucker, District 3, Post 1: 11 a.m. to noon

Wednesday, Sept. 22

Stone Mountain, mayor: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m

Thursday, Sept. 23 
 
Stone Mountain City Council, Post 4: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 24 

Stone Mountain City Council, Post 5: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 25

Stone Mountain City Council, Post 6: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

More information about the Nov. 2 municipal elections

All Tucker Observer elections coverage can be found at Tuckerobservervotes.com 

The election will be Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12. The voter registration deadline for the upcoming city elections is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.

To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.

Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16. The county will hold municipal elections on Nov. 2, as well as a county-wide E-SPLOST vote for DeKalb County schools.

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website: www.sos.ga.gov.

—  Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form or request an absentee ballot in writing. Use blue or black ink only.

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office and voter’s should use this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted through fax, 404-298-4038 or email, [email protected]

Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.

If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, contact your county’s elections office. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received 11 days prior to the election, which is Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Governor Brian Kemp in March, a voter ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia voter card, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, U.S. Passport, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.

Voters can obtain a free ID at the DeKalb County Elections office at 4380 Memorial Drive in Decatur or at the following locations:

– On Aug. 25 from 3-6 p.m. at Doraville Marta Station, 6000 New Peachtree Road, Doraville 30340.

— On Aug. 30 from 3-6 p.m. at Indian Creek Marta Station, 3901 Durham Park Road, Stone Mountain 30083.

— On Sept. 15 from 3-6 p.m. at Chamblee Marta Station, 5200 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee 303041.

— On Sept. 14 from 3-6 p.m. at Kensington Marta Station, 3505 Kensington Road, Decatur 30032.

The Tucker Observer is a new community news website owned by Decaturish.comWe provide locally sourced news about Tucker, Clarkston and Stone Mountain.

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