Tucker City Council District 2, Post 1 candidates debate police, urban camping ban

Left to right: Candidates Imani Barnes and Cara Schroeder

Tucker, GA — Candidates for District 2, Post 1 Tucker City Council are Imani Barnes, Cara Schroeder and Thomas Walker.

Barnes and Schroeder met in a virtual forum on Sept. 18, moderated by Decaturish Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt. Walker declined the invitation due to a scheduling conflict.

Imani Barnes wants to bring evidence-based research to issues in Tucker. She has lived in DeKalb County most of her life, and has been in Tucker for four years. She said getting young people involved in the city is important to her. “Tucker is growing immensely, and I yearn to be a part of that growth,” Barnes said.

Cara Schroeder has lived in Tucker for 24 years. She has volunteered in DeKalb County and city parks and Tucker Community Council, and now sits on the Tucker Planning Commission. “Being a city council member means I can represent the District 2 neighbors and I can make a broader decision to continue to lead this city into the future,” Schroeder said.

Each candidate delivered an opening and closing statement, and answered questions from the Tucker Observer and readers. Tucker Observer is bringing you the highlights of the forum.

Here’s the full video of the forum:

Here is our recap of the forum:

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?

Schroeder said Tucker is made of a diverse group of neighbors and friends. If elected to city council, she said she will address immediately the non-discrimination ordinance that was written by three residents and supported by Tucker Open Door.

“We have neighbors who come from a variety of backgrounds and I will welcome them to the table, invite them to be a part of our process for the city and listen to them. They want to be heard, and many of them are paying attention to this election,” Schroeder said.

Barnes said she identifies with each of the listed groups as a single parent, person of color and representative of the LGBTQ community. Even with a large percentage of people of color, she said doesn’t see diversity reflected on the city’s website or photographs of events.

“I am ready to represent people from all backgrounds. I am ready to represent people and their issues that don’t have a chance to be heard at the city of Tucker,” said Barnes, adding that she wants Tucker to hold culturally representative events, like Juneteenth and Hispanic Heritage Month.

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

Barnes said she’s heard from families of disabled people who want better accessibility in parks. Lakes need to be dredged “because it’s taking away from the beauty of our parks.”

Schroeder said the resources for zoning and planning – Tucker Tomorrow, Downtown Development Authority plans, Tucker PATH and parks master plan – must be followed for implementation for redevelopment and new development.

“One of my one of my number one priorities is to begin to update the Lawrenceville Highway business district. When you come off I-285 and you drive up Lawrenceville Highway, we have a variety of opportunities for redevelopment along Brockett and Fellowship and Cooledge, and I’d like to see us look at that for improvement,” said Schroeder.

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

Surrounding cities have adopted an NDO, and they “have had no problems,” said Barnes. The city is diverse, but doesn’t feel inclusive she said in response to a prior question.

“Why not bring everybody together to formulate this plan so that it benefits everybody? And for those that feel like it doesn’t benefit them, for those who feel like it’ll bring negativity to our city, let’s look into why they feel like that. Let’s try to mitigate those issues because it’s necessary. We do have discrimination here in Tucker,” Barnes said. “The more we hear about it, the more we try to cover it up, and we can’t cover it up.”

Schroeder said Tucker is welcoming, caring community.

“I believe that we have a variety of wonderful business owners and community volunteers and leaders involved that represent a diverse group in the community,” she said.

Business owners who live, work and play in Tucker, volunteers with Friends of Henderson Park and Friends of Tucker Parks and those who serve on city boards and commissions represent diversity in Tucker, Schroeder said.

“We need and want to invite more people to the table to participate. Our diversity in Tucker is an asset, and we need to utilize that to build for the future and to become a great city,” she said.

Q: Do you think Tucker should have its own police department, and if so, how should the city pay for it?

Schroeder said the unique partnership with the DeKalb County Police Department means collaboration and partnership to protect Tucker citizens.

“Earlier this summer in District two, we had an incident on Brockett Road in which we lost a citizen. It was an isolated incident. And yet, the police came together to work with us. The city of Tucker approved funds to add traffic calming along Brockett and Chamblee Tucker, and those funds are being implemented now,” she said. “When it comes to the police, I don’t believe need an independent department. I think we need to continue our collaboration, partly because, as a community we should be partnering beyond our lines as a city, and making sure we’re collaborating with other communities.”

Barnes said before Tucker can have its own police department, Tucker has to address our equity amongst its citizens.

“I am fearful of us getting a police department and it’d be racial disparities. I’m fearful that we would just focus on one demographic,” she said. “The way we implemented the homeless camping ban I don’t feel like we need our own police department.”

Q: Tucker has seen growth in recent years, including new residential developments. What are your plans to manage the growth that Tucker is seeing right now?

Schroeder, who serves on Planning Commission, said Tucker needs to “continue to keep a balance between that hometown feel as I mentioned before, and new residential developments especially, and what they look like.”

“We need to hear from the neighbors … At the beginning [of cityhood], when we started the Comprehensive Plan and the Tucker Tomorrow planning, we invited citizens to give us their opinions,” Schroeder said. “We need to follow those criteria in the plans.”

Barnes said, “Let’s bring out people who usually don’t come out for these meetings. How do we get these people out? How do we get our youth out, who are going to grow up in Tucker? How do we get our people that aren’t usually involved so that development is all inclusive?”

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

“Homelessness is certainly a problem throughout the community,” said Schroeder, who works with non-profits that support programs for homeless residents, affordable housing, transitional housing and job placement.

By continuing to partner with NETWorks [Cooperative Ministries], Tucker can support to families, like those during the pandemic who faced joblessness and hunger, she said.

“When it comes to homelessness, the police department has a variety of, I guess, policies and procedures that were an agreement with the city to help the homeless person. Many police officers spend their own money to help get people off the streets here in the Tucker,” said Schroeder who wants to continue collaboration with nearby transitional housing programs.

Barnes said Tucker can come up with better solutions by consulting with experts.

“I will bring my public health expertise into addressing our homelessness issue by comparing it to comparable cities, surrounding cities, and how they address their homelessness issue. The only issue that I would have a problem with is criminalizing our homeless,” she said. “As your councilwoman, that will definitely be one of my many issues, and how we can improve it.”

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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