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 Susan Hood, who is running for Clarkston City council. The answers have not been edited.
1) Why are you running for this office?
I am driven by a desire to help my community, to make a difference in the lives of its citizens, to bring positive change to the city, and to ensure that all residents live in a safe, thriving community.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
As a community activist, I have committed my time and experience, gained over a 20+ year career in local government, to help residents organize, understand how government functions and how to empower themselves. As a result, residents have made significant and positive impacts on council decisions, including a successful, citizen-led campaign for council to hire a professional firm to update our zoning code, and reject a proposed approach that did not rely on professionals. I believe strongly that residents’ voices must be heard and if elected I will continue to seek ways to empower them.
3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?
Smart growth – economic and residential – that reflects the character of our city; programs to help residents become first time homeowners here, and to assist those at risk of losing their homes; enhancing public safety through community policing, adding officers, and using technology to augment service levels; and quality-of-life improvements such as sidewalks, bike trail connections, park improvements and ensuring compliance with health and safety codes in apartment developments.
4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing Clarkston?
Ensuring that new development both economic and residential benefits residents and recognizes the unique character of our city; enhancing public safety and quality of life; protecting our environment; supporting low-income residents through partnerships for job training and greater access to job opportunities.
5) What is your current opinion of the Clarkston Police Department and are there any changes you would advocate for if you are elected?
We have a responsive and professional police force. We need to continue funding additional officers; enhance our community outreach; use technology to augment service levels; offer programs for at-risk youth; and develop protocols for responding to situations that are best addressed by mental health professionals.
6) What is your opinion of Clarkston’s current city manager?
This question had been changed to what characteristics our next CM should have. Broad management experience in a small city, preferably one with a diverse population; experience creating city budgets; excellent communication skills; and preferably someone familiar with Georgia’s rules and regulations.
7) 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 Clarkston?
City council created an advisory committee to address this, so we are moving in the right direction. As a councilmember I will sponsor public forums and discussion groups so residents and councilmembers can learn how issues of racial justice and diversity affect the members of our community and will use this information as a guide to develop programs to address this.
8) 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?
Clarkston has done a great job. The city partnered with nonprofits to provide testing and vaccinations; distributed masks, established protocols to protect citizens and employees, posted Covid warning signs in multiple languages, provided rental, mortgage and utility payment assistance, hosted food distribution events. The city is offering a $50 gift card to boost vaccination rates. We need to continue these efforts until Covid is no longer a health emergency.
9) Affordable housing continues to be a challenge for people moving to the Atlanta area. If elected, what steps would you take to promote affordable housing in Clarkston?
Clarkston has several affording housing developments underway which will help address this need. As a member of the Housing and Infrastructure Advisory Committee, I advocated for policies that encourage housing developers to include affordable units in their projects through incentives such as density bonuses or tax advantages. This approach provides for a mix of incomes, rather than concentrating affordable housing in one area.
10) What do you think is Clarkston’s greatest strength?
Our strength comes from a combination of our multiculturism, our small-town vibe and our close-in location.
11) What do you think is Clarkston’s biggest challenge?
Our diversity is at once a strength and our greatest challenge.
12) How would you address what you believe to be Clarkston’s biggest challenge?
Draw on the many benefits of cultural diversity, be mindful of those differences when establishing programs and policies, partner with agencies and nonprofits for assistance, continue police training on serving in a multicultural setting, eliminate barriers to full participation in our community. Celebrate our diversity.
13) What is your opinion of refugee resettlement in Clarkston and if elected would you be in favor of resettling more refugees in the Clarkston area?
I support refugee resettlement in Clarkston. There are a host of nonprofits, resettlement organizations and volunteers here that provide the assistance they need. (Aware of the need not to overburden these agencies, other locations in Georgia are being considered for resettlement programs.) Clarkston is a welcoming city, and our diverse community is a place where refugees can put down roots.
14) If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in the city of Clarkston?
Hold listening sessions with business owners to learn what their needs are, and tailor our support to address those needs. Create events such as Shop Clarkston and Dine Out in Clarkston; feature local businesses in our publications, partner with near-by cities for larger events and greater exposure for our businesses. Use the bike trail to bring people into downtown.
15) Do you think the city has done enough to promote safety for cyclists and pedestrians and, if not, what changes would you make to make local streets safer?
The city increased pedestrian/cyclist safety by installing both mechanized crossing at major streets and traffic calming devices. Our streetscape project included additional safety improvements. I want Clarkston to be walkable city and I strongly support additional funding for a citywide bike trail network, building sidewalks, traffic/speed control, streetlights, landscaping, and amenities.
16) Clarkston recently dissolved its development authority and plans to start a traditional downtown development authority. What should Clarkston’s DDA look like and what issues would you like the DDA to tackle?
The DDA board will include representation from the business community, citizens and elected officials. It is critical that the DDA consult economic development experts for professional advice and guidance. The DDA should be guided by our Comprehensive Development Plan and adopt a unified rather than a piecemeal approach when considering town center projects.
17) 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?
As co-chair of the Charter Review Committee, I advocated for a focus on ethics in government and one of the CRC’s recommendations was the creation of an Ethics Review Committee to strengthen our ethics ordinance. Ethical behavior goes beyond avoiding conflicts of interest and financial misdeeds. It includes issues of equal access, undue influence, transparency, following established procedures, and honest and unbiased communication with residents. So, yes, if elected, I commit to ethical behavior, not just as required by our code but what is expected by voters.
More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election:
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.
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)
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