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 Shani Lender, who is running for Stone Mountain City Council Post 5. The answers have not been edited.
1) Why are you running for this office?
I’m eager to create and sustain positive changes in Stone Mountain. Change and progress that takes into account the diverse needs and goals of our community residents, and a responsive government that develops innovative.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I’m committed to getting down into the work alongside my neighbors, my community, and my fellow council members to innovate new solutions for Stone Mountain. This city is diverse, historical, and ready to create lasting positive change – the people of Stone Mountain need an elected leader who’s ready to put the work in to create progress and build a brighter future. I am ready to get to work for the people of Stone Mountain.
3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?
My top priorities are preserving property values by keeping our taxes low, building clean and safe parks for all to enjoy, and rebuilding our business sector through innovative, responsive government that works for the people of Stone Mountain.
4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing Stone Mountain?
We’re missing the mark on amenities for our people – we need clean, beautiful parks, a generational center, and safe sidewalks for all to enjoy. We need to revitalize our business sector and find ways to ensure visitors to our city are inspired to return to our community.
5) What is your current opinion of the current Stone Mountain city manager?
NO ANSWER PROVIDED
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’ll be voting for the candidate that best aligns with my goals for Stone Mountain – clean, safe parks, a thriving business sector, and keeping taxes low for our citizens and homeowners.
7) What can the city of Stone Mountain do to better distinguish itself from Stone Mountain Park?
The city can do a number of things to distinguish itself from the park. We need to properly brand the city in the ways that other communities around the Atlanta metro have already done. The city has a beautiful, diverse population with interesting histories that we need to unveil and share with the world. The residents of Stone Mountain know that there’s more here than the Park – we need to share that history and culture with everyone visiting the city and the park.
8) Do you think the city should use paid parking to capitalize on park attendance?
Yes, but we need to protect our citizens’ investment in the city and ensure they can navigate our city in their day-to-day lives. We could do this by giving residents of Stone Mountain a parking sticker so that they don’t have to pay for parking during off-peak hours.
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?
I’m committed to ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of my work on the Council. If elected, I will work to increase transparency and communication from the Council to the public on activities, procurements, and other decisions made by the Council through various means, including listening sessions, postings, and social media.
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 think supporting residents of Stone Mountain is the number one priority, and we should be making every effort to provide rent and mortgage assistance, testing, and protecting the most vulnerable residents in our community. The city should implement a mask mandate for city businesses and all government buildings, and strongly encourage city employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
11) What is your opinion of Stone Mountain’s current Downtown Development Authority and what changes would you make, if any?
The DDA has been instrumental in bringing six new businesses to the city since 2018 as well as spearheaded the City’s Master Plan to revitalize the downtown area. Business development in the city and on Main Street is vital to preserve property values for homeowners and bring visitors and parking revenue to the city. I think DDA should increase transparency and communication with the city’s residents through listening sessions and sharing their plans for citizen input, and this is a change I’m committed to implementing if I’m elected to the Council.
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 business community is an integral part of the success and forward progress we want to see in Stone Mountain. I want to see new, exciting businesses on Main Street and other parts of Stone Mountain that cater to our residents’ diverse needs and desires.
13) What should the city do to diversify its revenue streams?
Implement parking fees for municipal areas, establish youth recreational sports leagues, and institute a blight tax on undeveloped areas of the city.
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?
A blight tax is beneficial for un- and underdeveloped areas of the city because it preserves homeowners property values. I support creating a clean, safe, and beautiful community for all residents of Stone Mountain to enjoy.
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?
The tax rate needs to be lowered. Our city needs more desirable amenities for citizens to enjoy, and there are alternate revenue streams to explore before we ask citizens to pay even more tax on an already outsized rate when considering the current lack of amenities. I will not vote for a tax increase on citizens if I’m elected to the Council.
16) Stone Mountain has recently decided to move forward with overdue upgrades to city parks. What park improvements would you like to see?
I’d like to see the city improve a couple parks and begin generating revenue through youth sports leagues. I’d like to see playgrounds for school-aged children, a splash pad, and walking trails for our adult citizens. I joined the Parks & Recreation Committee earlier this year because there’s a real need to improve our amenities in the city – I will continue to champion this work if I’m elected to Council.
17) What do you think is Stone Mountain’s greatest strength?
Our greatest strength has been and remains our diverse community of individuals, families, and friends who call the city home.
18) What do you think is Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is slow, unresponsive government that doesn’t work for the changing populace of Stone Mountain. We don’t need more of the same for the city – we need innovative leadership to create progress and prosperity for the residents.
19) How would you address what you believe to be Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?
By doing the work. Council members need to do the research behind the scenes to understand the communities’ needs and desires and represent those needs effectively during the governing process. I’m committed to doing the work to ensure I am a responsive and innovative member of the Council who shows up ready to collaborate on solutions instead of making excuses.
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, yes. Transparency in government is critical – I’m committed to holding regular listening sessions for the community to hear firsthand what we’re working on, and to solicit residents’ feedback early on in the process. I’m also committed to creating a resident comment box on the City’s page so that residents can share their concerns and receive timely replies.
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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