Candidate Q&A – Tucker City Council District 1, Post 1 candidate Roger Orlando

Roger Orlando. Photo provided to the Tucker Observer

Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain.  There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.

The Tucker Observer provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of candidate Roger Orlando, who is running for District 1, Post 1 on the Tucker City Council. The answers have not been edited. 

1) Why are you running for this office?

Growing up, as children we had a sense of “neighborhood,” of distinct municipal boundaries and boarders within which we found safety, connectivity and pride (as in football rivalries and the like).  Until very recently, these specific boundaries did not exist, generally, in Tucker which was more an amorphous suburb of the City of Atlanta. [I first visited Tucker in 1980.]  After nearly two decades of living in Tucker and raising three children, in December I became a grandfather for the first time.  Additionally, my youngest son declared he wanted to live his life here in Tucker as well.  It’s at that time, after speaking with Councilperson Pat Soltys, that I decided to make my own mark in Tucker and help people locally for the betterment of all citizens in Tucker.  I want to see a well-defined Tucker where it is safe and welcoming to all residents and visitors alike for generations to come.  I am excited at the prospect of championing my own visions, as well as those of the citizens of Tucker as their public servant.

2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?

I have only once, briefly, met my opponent.  She struck me as intelligent and, put succinctly, a nice person.  Accordingly, I cannot say what would make me a “better” candidate.  What DOES make me a desirable candidate, however, is a burning desire and life long commitment to helping people.  As a trial lawyer for 33 years, I have helped families and individuals navigate legal problems, oftentimes finding unique solutions through outside-the-box thinking.  I bring my legal training, experience, knowledge and this skill set to the Tucker Council.  Additionally, I have built a successful business from a 2-room office in 1995 to, now, twelve legal offices across the east coast.  I know the value and rewards associated with hard work and dedication.  I bring this skill set – a business-person’s mindset – to the Tucker City Council.  Finally, in addition to my qualifications and abilities, I bring a desire for inclusion, integrity and transparency to the Tucker City Council and to the benefit of all of Tucker’s residents.

3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?

My top priorities are public safety, continuing the controlled, upward trajectory of Tucker as a diverse city and the controlled development of Tucker as a destination for both residents and visitors alike.

4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the city of Tucker?

Tucker, of course, is a newer city.  Some citizens feel a sense of growth pains for lack of a better term.  There are a number of socio-economic issues that cannot be ignored:  the homeless problem, a need for ALL citizens – regardless of race, religion, orientation or income – to feel at home, safe and included.  I presently sense a growing desire to divide the city over these lines as well, whereas I champion unity and inclusion for all citizens.

5) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current mayor and who will you be voting for in the mayoral election?

Once again, I have met Mr. Birononly once so far.  Once again, I encountered a person with a strong personality and apparent level of intelligence.  I have known Frank Auman and his family for decades.  I live by the understanding that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Frank Auman was here at the beginning and has worked very hard and accomplished so very much in the recognition of Tucker as a city and the initial implementation of laws and policies under which Tucker seemingly has grown and thrived.  Change for the sake of change does not make sense here and now.  After his next term is complete, Frank Auman will have left an admirable legacy for our city.

6) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current city manager?

N/A

7) What is your current opinion of the DeKalb County Police Department and are there any changes you would advocate for if you are elected?

The women and men of the Dekalb County Police Department are dedicated and true public servants in the greatest sense.  When elected I would like to see continued education for all officers in diversity citizen encounters, de-escalation psychology and methods, mental health and homeless issues and community policing tactics. I further would like to see even more such officers patrolling Tucker for our safety, including the possible increased help by way of Tucker’s Community Improvement Districting leaders.

8) Tucker residents, all involved in boards or committees in city government, drafted a non-discrimination ordinance. Many of the cities surrounding Tucker have an NDO, yet Tucker City Council has not brought it for a discussion. What is your position on the non-discrimination ordinance?

Overall, I believe I would support an NDO but the current version needs some work in greater definition of applicability and scope.  I think an NDO that is crafted a bit tighter and with greater stated purpose needs to be presented to the Council.

9) Racial justice and diversity have been points of conversation over the last year. What will you do to promote racial justice and diversity in the city of Tucker?

One of the reasons I moved to Tucker nearly 20 years ago exactly was because of the diverse nature of its citizenry.  I wanted my children to experience racial diversity as well as other diverse lifestyles and cultures.  As a trial lawyer for over 30 years, I have helped thousands of individuals always regardless of race or gender or gender-identity.  In fact, I believe I am only one of a handful of Georgia law firms who has chosen to close for business in recognition of “Juneteenth”  – a truly uplifting (yet admittedly and obviously related to an American shame) and historical moment in our history – and I support such a holiday becoming a federal holiday in the future.  I also have a passion for preventing hunger or hunger anxiety in lower economic communities, last year alone having donated multiple tons of food and by working at food shelters all around Tucker.  I was honored to be named the 2020 Georgia Latin American Chamber of Commerce Lawyer of the Year in recognition of my work in and for the Hispanic community.  I wish to see Tucker remain and become more diverse and this can be accomplished by INCLUSION of all citizens in Tucker.  Not by division of which unfortunately I’ve seen some recent examples of attempts to polarize certain aspects of the electorate by race and origin in this non-partisan election; and this must stop.  I pledge to listen to EVERY ONE of Tucker’s citizens without regard to race or sexuality or gender identity.  Diversity will improve and succeed by all individuals gaining a sense of acceptance, understanding that they have a voice in our government through me and a confidence in the Council that the governing body, in fact, cares.

10) What do you think of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps do you think the city should take to help reduce the spread of the virus?

I believe this primarily to be a state level and federal level response item.  Within Tucker itself, I would urge citizens (as cliché as this sounds now) to listen to the science and exercise commonsense safety protocols at home and work.

11) Residents frequently complain about roads and drainage. As of now, the majority of the responsibility lies with DeKalb. How would you work with the county to improve these services? Should Tucker start the process of taking over roads and drainage? 

I believe the city still is in its infancy and attempting to taking over these services would be too daunting at this stage.  In fact, delineating such services between city and county might prove to be a near insurmountable hurdle.  The key is to build trust and partnerships between the county commission, service providers and leaders – per the city charter – and effectuate the maintenance and improvements deemed most necessary on a fair and equitable basis throughout Tucker.

12) Parks and Rec is working to turn Fitzgerald Field into an arena that will attract sports tournaments and outdoor events. How will this go over in Tucker? Does the city have enough infrastructure, like sidewalks, to support a sports complex?

My view of our current governing Council and Mayor is that care has been taken to slowly develop the plans and intentions surrounding the Fitzgerald Field complex.  I support the current administration’s handling of this matter thus far.  Further, I believe this development will prove a boon to Tucker citizens and businesses if and when it can be completed and opened as an arena.

13) The city of Tucker largely is staffed by contractors, people who do not directly work for the city. Do you support the current method of staffing the city’s government or would you want to change to a more traditional system where employees work directly for the city?

This is a difficult question to answer.  On one hand, I heard from Tucker citizens during my campaign that they’re concerned about taxes and do not wish to see an increased millage rate or other forms of direct taxation.  On the other hand, there is an intricate relationship between local city taxes and Dekalb County taxes, and disturbing one rate could have a distant effect on the other.  Overall, however, I would like to see more direct control over staffing, slowly implemented as the city matures.

14) Do you support continuing to stream Tucker’s meetings online? Why or why not?

During the pandemic and especially during the resurfacing of the Delta variant, yes.

15) What can be done to improve pedestrian safety on Tucker’s roads?

The three steps to improving pedestrian safety in Tucker are sidewalks, cautionary signage and traffic enforcement.

16) What do you think is Tucker’s greatest strength? 

Clearly, Tucker’s strength lies within the diversity and resourcefulness of its citizens.  From those who fought for cityhood at the outset to those who volunteer in the many churches and ministries with which we truly are blessed, the Civic Association, the Business Association, Tucker’s CIDs and even within the souls of the individuals who call Tucker their home.  Afterall, this is why I reside here.

17) What do you think is Tucker’s biggest challenge?

Safety and management of homelessness.

18) How would you address what you believe to be Tucker’s biggest challenge?

I would like to work with Dekalb County, its law enforcement entities and local charities to effectuate compassionate encounters with the homeless.  I believe that law enforcement, on the front line primarily, need greater resources and training in mental health, root causes of the homeless problem and potential solutions.

19) If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in the city of Tucker?

Having built a successful business for the past 25-plus years, I bring a skill set and understanding to identify problems and develop solutions for start-up or troubled businesses.  I will work with the Tucker Civic Association and the Tucker Business Association as is needed.

20) If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

Absolutely. I bring ability, qualification, integrity, proven leadership and resourcefulness to the table if the citizens of District One honor me by election to the Tucker City Council.  None of the virtues and experience I bring to the Council would be worth a “mess of potage” but for transparency and accountability.  I take this desire to help the citizens of Tucker extremely seriously and promise transparency at every turn, leading others by example in terms of this moral code.

More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election: 

All elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com.  

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline 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. 

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.

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

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted by 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, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received by Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, 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.

Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.

Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations: 

– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)

– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)

– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)

– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)

– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)

– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)

– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)

– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

For the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding early voting times and locations, visit Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com or call 404-298-4020.  

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