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 Gil Freeman, who is running for Stone Mountain City Council Post 4. The answers have not been edited.
1) Why are you running for this office?
To lay the foundation for changes and improvements that have been stagnant for more than a decade.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
My ethical, empathetic and equitable demeanor affords me the ability to take a stand against the consistent gaslighting of the community with unfulfilled promises while simultaneously gridlocking and stonewalling necessary changes and improvements.
3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?
I would (1) seek to bring the blatant misuse of public funds to an end which would (2) bring about an improved quality of life for residents.
4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing Stone Mountain?
The city’s survival as a city, Stone Mountain’s reputation and the quality of life in this city
5) What is your current opinion of the current Stone Mountain city manager?
I am troubled by the city manager’s dependence on the city attorney’s presence at every meeting and project in which the city manager is a participant. With so much assistance it is concerning that more is not accomplished.
6) What is your opinion of Stone Mountain’s current mayor and who will you be voting for in the Stone Mountain mayoral election?
I think the current mayor has failed to adapt to changing times and clings to a time and place as distant as the 1950s. I tend to agree with those that believe her stranglehold on the city has brought the city to its current state of decline.
Beverly Jones is my preferred candidate and has earned my vote. Ms. Jones has a clear vision for the way forward that will allow for healing and growth that will finally propel Stone Mountain into the 21st Century.
7) What can the city of Stone Mountain do to better distinguish itself from Stone Mountain Park?
Cut the cord and lead by example. Improve our image by continuing to disassociate ourselves from a disturbing past and bring residents forward together into the 21st century.
8) Do you think the city should use paid parking to capitalize on park attendance?
Paid parking should be one of several options fully exercised by the city. The Park has soaked in revenue like a sponge without regard to the barrenness it creates in the surrounding areas.
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 Stone Mountain?
As we build back better, I would seek to award contracts to companies that have diverse ownership and leadership. I would seek to hire law enforcement, city employees and interns from within the community. This would give our youth an opportunity to broaden their career aspirations.
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?
The city needs to follow the science and enforce the laws. The city needs to make certain that all city employees are vaccinated. At the very least, vaccination should be a requirement of all new employees. The city should absolutely have a testing center and vaccination center.
11) What is your opinion of Stone Mountain’s current Downtown Development Authority and what changes would you make, if any?
Our current DDA has been responsible for incurring a large amount of undue debt for the citizens of Stone Mountain. The DDA appears to be a money pit. Further funding should be accompanied by stipulations that should require self-sufficiency in the short term.
12) If elected, what would you do to support the business community and how would you sell Stone Mountain to businesses considering setting up shop in the city?
The city has put forth losing efforts to build downtown in the hopes of building outward. This amounts to trying the same losing tactics, expecting a different result. If the city invests in infrastructure and building the community without displacing residents, prosperity will come to the business district and the city as a whole.
13) What should the city do to diversify its revenue streams?
There are a few avenues to follow on this point. We could have a large “fee parking lot” that would serve Stone Mountain Park and that would augment current revenue. That parking lot could be used to advertise local businesses outside of Stone Mountain Park. If improved with other programs under consideration, outlying areas would then want to annex into the city thereby broadening the tax base.
14) Do you think the city of Stone Mountain should implement a “blight tax” to penalize home and property owners who do not take care of their properties?
NO! A “blight tax” as presented in the question leaves open the possibility of abuse of process and weaponization of such a tax to displace citizens. The city can utilize Federal and local funding to assist homeowners in improving their property. Where the city is found to be responsible for damages to homes in Stone Mountain, it should be held accountable for required repairs and improvements. Again, Federal money is available to assist this effort.
Business property owners need to keep their properties up or suffer penalties for not doing so. Investors need to keep up their properties or suffer the consequences. To avoid penalties for failed compliance, businesses can be offered the option of renting to nonprofits, law enforcement or other community needs.
15) What is your opinion about Stone Mountain’s current tax rate and do you think it should be higher, lower or remain the same?
Property tax rate should be lowered considerably. The burdensome millage rate imposed on residents every year simply enables imprudent spending.
16) Stone Mountain has recently decided to move forward with overdue upgrades to city parks. What park improvements would you like to see?
Security cameras, senior parcourses, playground equipment for children, good landscaping, walking trails with parcourses. Re-open the dog park. Youth programs and possibly Police athletic leagues.
17) What do you think is Stone Mountain’s greatest strength?
It’s diversity and untapped potential. Stone Mountain is ripe for innovation.
18) What do you think is Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?
Shedding its unsettling past and adapting to into the 21st century.
19) How would you address what you believe to be Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?
The city is in need of culture change. I would continue to rename and remove remnants tied to the confederacy. I would seek to raise the bar in how we conduct business and promote responsiveness to the citizens we serve.
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?
I would welcome a volunteer citizens review board. I would continue virtual meetings permanently, so they are accessible to the leisure of the community. I would insist that no underhanded projects take place and all people who receive funds from the city be open for audit – and conduct those audits. I believe that all budget items should be completely clear and not obscured with ambiguous titles that sound like something else. I would bring more volunteerism into city hall and the “ethics committee” would need to consist of people of proven character and be voted on by the city council. I would have “open door” meetings regularly where an actual exchange of ideas could be had between citizens and government without a “presented program” and without limiting the public’s ability to ask questions and get straight answers.
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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