District 1, Post 1 candidates Roger Orlando and Karen Peters-Rivers face off

Left: Karen Peters-Rivers. Right: Roger Orlando

Tucker, GA — Candidates for District 1, Post 1 Tucker City Council are Roger Orlando and Karen Peters-Rivers. They met in a virtual forum on Sept. 18, moderated by Decaturish Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt. Each candidate delivered an opening and closing statement, along with an answer to questions from staff and readers. Tucker Observer is bringing you the highlights of the forum.

The full video can be viewed here:

Karen Peters-Rivers was born and lives in Peters Park, in the same home in which she was raised. In her neighborhood, she advocated for sign toppers, sidewalks and a playground renovation.

“I am running for this office on my DREAM platform, which consists of diversity, revitalization, engagement, advocate and mobilize,” said Peters-Rivers.

Roger Orlando first came to Tucker in 1980, and has spent 20 years living in and raising his three children in the city. He became interested in running for City Council and met with current councilmember Pat Soltys, who is not seeking reelection. He has a 33-year volunteer experience with dog rescue, feeding the hungry.

“I’m running for inclusiveness, public safety and to maintain the upward trajectory that Tucker has as a city,” he said.

Q: This election has brought out candidates with a diverse range of perspectives. Running this year are people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and single parents. What does that say to you about the future of Tucker?

Orlando said diversity in Tucker is an “amplification of how I’ve seen Tucker evolve” over the last 20 years.

“It’s one of the reasons I chose to move here,” he said. “I believe in diversity. I support diversity. And the way I intend to bring diversity out to the forefront is … I will make myself available to everyone in every neighborhood to remember once elected. We’re not talking just District 1, we’re talking the entire city of Tucker. I support diversity. I don’t want to see diversity as some sort of a divide.”

Peters-Rivers said Tucker is ready for change. Since 2015, city leadership has been “all Caucasian. I think that voice that they brought about is great. But I think that Tucker’s definitely ready to move forward with all-inclusive, LBGT, Black Lives Matter. We need more for the disabled.”

Q: If you were elected, what are your goals in the next four years for three specific city services: Zoning, code enforcement and parks?

“As far as zoning, I would like to see us zone to include more businesses that are affordable, and more affordable housing,” said Peters-Rivers, who plans to visit the new tiny home development in Clarkson.

Code enforcement does a pretty good job, she said, but officers “need to come around and engage us, and tell us what we’re doing wrong and what they’re looking for.” In parks, Peters-Rivers wants to see bathrooms and lighting installed, and greater access for children with disabilities.

Orlando said updating of parks has been the most visualized and obvious effects of Tucker becoming a city.

“I’m very interested in watching the development of Fitzgerald Field. Under the current city plan, if Fitzgerald Field is developed in the manner that the current council and mayor have started to develop it, it could be a very big boon for the city of Tucker, in terms of income and support of local businesses,” he said.

Orlando said code enforcement is necessary, “similar to my neighborhood’s homeowners’ association to ensure that there’s uniformity in the enforcement of codes.” He wants to see more affordable housing for young people, who he hopes move into Tucker, as well as the 55-plus age group.

Q: What is your position on implementing a non-discrimination ordinance in the city of Tucker?

Orlando said he read the NDO, which was written by three residents and supported by Tucker Open Door.

“I found it to be overwhelming,” he said, wondering if federal and state laws cover the same issues. “I’ve got to say this: A lot of cities around us have drafted non-discrimination ordinances. I don’t want Tucker not to be welcoming, and I think that if a non-discrimination ordinance is drafted narrowly, that could be enforceable and tailored specifically to a basic statement. We don’t hate. We are inclusive. We support everyone. I don’t see people in terms of color lifestyle sexual orientation, nothing like that. But I will support an NDO if it is properly drafted and if it’s tailored narrowly.”

Peters-Rivers said she is in support of a narrowly drawn NDO. She wants all people to feel protected and included, she said.

“It’s not just for race or creed or color,” she said about the NDO. “The non-discrimination ordinance would include … not just the gay and the lesbians and the black and white, but it will include anyone who felt like they were violated.”

Q: What needs to happen before the city of Tucker can take over stormwater and roads from DeKalb County? It’s been over a year since that was proposed.

Orlando said Tucker is not yet ready to take over stormwater and roads. A city employee said there’s almost 100 collapse drains and roads in the county, he noted.

“Tucker has fallen into a bit of a decline … I don’t think we take over those services until DeKalb County fulfills its promise and its contractual obligation to the city of Tucker,” he said. “You have to balance the cost. You have to balance the tax consequences.”

Peters-Rivers wants DeKalb County give a tour of collapsed drains. She suggested education for residents on what cannot go into drains, drain covers on each sewer and more frequent pickup of trash and debris by DeKalb County.

Q: Sinkholes are prevalent in Atlanta because the city is built on and around creeks and forms of rivers. How can Tucker work with residents in DeKalb County to address sinkholes in neighborhoods?

Orlando’s idea is to create a databank to notify the city and county of potential sinkholes or riverbed collapses. The city is currently repaving Rosser Road in District 1 due to water runoff and underground water, he said.

“We need to take this list back to DeKalb County to work with the city commissioners to try and push our needs to the forefront,” Orlando said.

Peters-Rivers wants a better partnership with DeKalb County to prioritize and investigate problem areas.

Q: What is your opinion of Tucker’s urban camping ordinance? If you were elected, what is your plan to address the problem of homelessness in the city of Tucker?

Orlando, whose law firm has volunteered during the pandemic to provide food for people in need, said the urban camping ordinance was necessary in public spaces.

“I think it’s humanity, it’s all our problem, and it’s up to all of us to solve it,” he said.

“The true fight to combat homelessness is an education of our local community leaders as well as in our law enforcement services. We need to work with the local charities. Tucker has so many churches that provide various charities,” he said. “Resources need to be recognized, and identified, and law enforcement needs to be trained in helping people get to those resources.”

Peters-Rivers said the urban camping ordinance “had to be created. It was not meant to discriminate, but we do have a definite problem of homelessness in Tucker,” she said. On her birthday, Peters-Rivers sets up a cookout and gives away clothing and housewares open to the public.

“We are a town that cares about our citizens, and we don’t want to see this. All these people walking around, you know, aimlessly. Some of them every now again get a little aggressive, and you have to get them and put them in their place. But I think, the officers they knew, if you continue to see the same person they’re actually maturing. You know they have a mental issue. Maybe try to direct them in a way that they can get some help,” she said.

Q: DeKalb County is lagging in COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some local government agencies are offering cash incentives to people to get them vaccinated. If you were elected, what is your plan for improving the vaccination rate in Tucker?

Peters-Rivers said she was not planning to get vaccinated at first. Vaccines are a “slippery slope because that’s everyone has their own opinion.”

“I realized [COVID-19[ is not going away, so we have to deal with it and just make sure everybody has the resources … if they’re not going to get vaccinated, maybe the resource to get masked,” she said. “Just keep them educated. This is not going away, people. This is our new normal.”

Orlando’s his law firm shut down twice at the beginning of COVID and again with the Delta surge. People have to be educated about the dangers of COVID-19, he said.

“The most powerful images, the most powerful statements, are the folks in the hospital just off of ventilators, who have been in a coma for a month, saying, ‘If I had to do this again, I would get vaccinated.’ Please, everyone get vaccinated.”

In closing, Orlando said he plans to bring diversity by listening to constituents. Supporters of his campaign include state Rep. Billy Mitchell (GA), DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw and former Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson.

“I don’t want to be a politician. I want to be a public servant, and we’re going to transform together,” said Orlando.

“I don’t want to be a politician. I want to be a partner,” said Peters-Rivers. “By living here most of my life, I’ve seen the changes. …I want everyone to feel like their voice matters – whether you’re Black, whether you’re white, whether you’re short, you’re a single mom, you’re a parent, you’re struggling.”

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.

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