Mayor Frank Auman and challenger Robin Biro square off during Tucker Observer forum

Left: Tucker Mayor Frank Auman Right: Robin Biro

Tucker, GA — Two candidates are running for Tucker mayor in the Nov. 2 municipal election: Mayor Frank Auman and Robin Biro. They joined the Decaturish Twitch show on Sept. 15 for a virtual forum.

Each candidate had two to three minutes and rebuttal time to inform voters about why they are running and answer questions about issues in Tucker.

Tucker Observer is bringing readers highlights of the forum with Auman and Biro, moderated by Decaturish Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt. Here’s the full recording of the Sept. 15 forum:

Auman is the first elected mayor of Tucker, voted into office in 2016. His political career includes being former chair of the DeKalb County Republican Party and running for Georgia State Senate District 41. He owns a small business in Tucker. Auman lives in Smoke Rise, is married, and has three adult daughters.

Biro, a retired U.S. Army Veteran, regularly appears as a national pundit on major networks. He was a field director for President Barack Obama in 2008, political director for the Democratic Party of Georgia and strategist for the Democratic Party. He is in commercial real estate. Biro is not married. He lives in Smoke Rise and recently took guardianship of his young brothers after their father died.

Q: This question is based on reader feedback. Tucker’s elections are non-partisan because it’s the law. But both of you have known partisan affiliations. Robin Biro, you’re a Democrat and Mayor Auman is a Republican. It’s come up during this campaign. But does party affiliation really matter in this race, and how will your party affiliation influence how you govern if you are elected?

Biro said he has been accused of making the run for mayor a partisan issue. He reviewed Tucker’s website and the Georgia Constitution and consulted an attorney. “there will be no party designation by our names there will also there’s no there was no primary. That, in turn, saves the city money,” he said.

“I am being transparent with the voters that yes, I have worked for Democratic and progressive causes. I’m not ashamed to be a Democrat. I, in fact, go on conservative media for the most part, giving the Democratic counterpoint almost daily,” said Biro, adding he tries to present a commonsense perspective.

“I really don’t like the partisan divide. I even host a podcast called American discourse, which seeks to bring people across the political spectrum together to see where we can find commonality. That’s what I can do. I did it in the military for 10 years when I serve side by side with people from radically different political ideologies. We work together to get the mission done. That’s what I can bring to city council,” said Biro.

Auman responded by explaining in all 530 cities in the state of Georgia, municipal elections are held on off years from major elections. They’re all non-partisan races, he said. He also dove into his prior political career.

“I ran as a Republican, the only other time I ever ran for office, back in 2006 when I ran for State Senate against Steve Henson, who is now my neighbor and friend. We go to dinner together,” Auman said. “He was actually very helpful in the cityhood effort. Non-partisan.

“The difference here, and what I think is damaging about running as a Democrat … is in the end, the winning partisan candidate is beholden to the party that got him there. He’s also beholden to the other candidates run on that same forum that same platform. So whatever my opponent is in favor of, he’s got to own what his colleagues his co-travelers are for. I have never been recruited in any of the mayoral activity by any party.”

Auman added he has not been funded by the Republican party for the mayoral race.

Biro added later, “I have received zero dollars from the Democratic Party. I’ve received zero dollars from any PACs, I’m not getting any help from the Democratic Party. I’m not beholden to any party. These are my ideas, my ideas alone, and I have researched them extensively.”

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

The question was to Auman first. He said it is healthy the community to have many different kinds of people different from different walks of life offering themselves as candidates.

“Diversity on its own is not the answer. We can use the diversity of views, but we need competency across the board,” said Auman.

“The important thing is competence, understanding, dedication to the job. There’s a lot more that goes into serving on the city council or as mayor, then what you’re defined by in your personal characteristics. One of your questions – ‘20 questions from Dan’ I call it – had to with ‘What do you think about your current city council and who will you be voting for?’ I’m voting for competence. I’m voting for people who have bothered to dig in and understand how things work, the complexity of the decisions we make, the full impact of the decisions we make on a 20 square-mile city,” said Auman.

Biro, who has reached out to every candidate running for City Council, said he plans to support candidates based on their background, education and what they can bring to the table.

“I love that it’s diverse. We have scientists running. We have someone who’s got their master’s in urban planning and design,” he said. “I support diversifying the City Council because … it is very much non-representative of Tucker as a whole. I think that government functions best when it represents the people.”

Q: A non-discrimination ordinance has been talked about in Tucker quite a bit. Can you tell us what is your position on implementing a non-discrimination ordinance in the city of Tucker?

Auman said as a mayor, his duty is to make sure that Tucker carefully considers and passes laws. In the case of the non-discrimination ordinance written by three residents and promoted by Tucker Open Door, Auman said the NDO “will lead to a lot of potentially severe, unintended consequences like unnecessary and expensive litigation.” He said he has had conversations with every person who’s involved in writing the ordinance.

“The first set of problems that we have to get over before we can even talk about the particulars of the law, is that it’s out of our purview. Meaning it’s not something that the city is authorized, or expected, to involve itself in. It serves to divide us as opposed to unifying us,” he said. “We have a charter. It’s equivalent to the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution in Georgia. It tells us what our authorities are. It tells us what we can and can’t do, ways we have to do things if we do them, and so forth. There’s nothing in our charter that talks about us getting involved in employment disputes.”

“Don’t confuse the fact that I have concerns about implementing a law like this, on this subject, with the fact that I’m empathetic to people who face illegal forms of discrimination, who are put upon by, frankly, some knuckleheads. I read about all over the country. There’s bound to be some of that [happening] in Tucker,” he said.

Biro said the NDO, which was brought to City Council in 2019, should have been acted on “quite a while ago.” If elected, he promised to bring it to City Council within the first 60 days.

“It is my understanding that it never was read for consideration. I inquired as to why it has been kicked back. I’ve been told, a number, a litany, of excuses to include the fact that they wanted the drafters to rewrite it. That is the job of City Council and the city attorney. They can look at this, modify what they don’t like in here and change it,” said Biro.

The draft protects against discrimination based on “familial status, gender identity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status. “That’s important to me as a veteran,” said Biro. “I think that we have a responsibility to protect people who do business here people who live here from discrimination, and I don’t see how that’s divisive.”

“There have been stories that made the news that people have been discriminated against in Tucker. There have been at least three stories that made national news. One was particularly egregious against a woman who was just trying to get a prescription filled for her miscarriage,” Biro added. “These are people that we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect.”

Biro said an NDO is in Tucker’s best interest financially because certain businesses and industries who will not read to will not locate within this city without an NDO. Particularly, the film industry.

In a rebuttal, Auman said, “Yes, maybe you’ve heard from businesses who won’t move here because we don’t have such an ordinance. I’ve heard from businesses who said they never would have moved here have we had such an ordinance, because of the liability they’d be faced with.”

Biro said agreed there are some federal laws that protect against discrimination. “You’re right, Mr. Mayor, they do exist, but they exist for companies that have 15 or more employees. That doesn’t help small businesses, and Tucker has a heck of a lot of small businesses. Yours is one of them.”

Q: What needs to happen before the city of Tucker can take over stormwater and roads from DeKalb County? It’s been a year since this was first brought up at City Council. 

Auman said City Council members debated bringing a referendum to residents, have reached a “pretty solid consensus” that the city should take over stormwater and roads from DeKalb County.

City Council has to convince residents the city can take over public works services “without financially jeopardizing them or the status of the city.”

“The first problem is that DeKalb doesn’t even charge enough to do the job … DeKalb currently charges $48 a year or $4 a month. It needs to be more in the range of $6, even up to $8 depending on the level of service that we want to provide,” Auman said. “DeKalb’s lack of performance has led to problems on everything from Cofer Lake to the dam at John’s Homestead to holes in my opponent’s neighbor’s yard that he’s talked about.”

Biro said there are over 100 collapsed storm drains within the city limits. One is directly across the street from his home, so large he says you could fit a school bus in it.

“We’ve got to hold DeKalb County’s feet to the fire because they’re collecting tax money for this … the county’s got to be better stewards of our tax money,” he said. “If we had a full-time employee? That’s something that I would love to see. To get this done, to make sure that this tax money is getting spent before we take them over because I don’t want to inherit a boondoggle.”

Auman said it’s been 20 years since DeKalb County raised stormwater fees.

“We can hire another employee, or we can whine about DeKalb County. The fact is they don’t have any money. They don’t even have any crews to speak of at work on these problems. The point is to get the problem solved, and that’s why I say, we’ve come to the conclusion that if it’s going to get done we’re going to do it ourselves,” said Auman.

The candidates found themselves in agreement when Biro said he supports raising stormwater fees and taking over the service from the county.

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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