Stone Mountain, GA — Stone Mountain City Councilmember Shawnette Bryant faces Shani Linder in this year’s election for the Post 5 seat. Both took part in a candidate forum hosted by The Tucker Observer on Sept. 24.
Here is a video of the forum:
How to get council to work together
Linder vowed to listen to and work with her fellow councilmembers if she’s elected.
“It’s very, very frustrating to listen to a group of people who are supposed to have our common goals at the forefront, but it seems like they are more interested in arguing or debating or trying to prove a point instead of coming together as a collective … and actually make a decision,” she said.
“We’re not going to always get along, but we have to do what’s best for the community,” she added.
Bryant acknowledged the arguing that has taken place.
“We’re not always going to agree with the things that come before us,” she said. “We need to stop all the bickering among each other and start working closer with each other and listen to each other.”
Most important thing to achieve in first year in office
Bryant would focus on improving the city’s infrastructure if she’s re-elected, citing the storm drains and sanitary sewers. There’s also a large sinkhole in town that urgently needs to be fixed.
“We waste a lot of time when we should go ahead and jump to the point … instead of a long, drawn-out conversation,” she said.
Linder also cited infrastructure as an important issue but said there’s no single issue that she would focus on in her first year.
“We need to come together as a collective and discuss all of the issues that have been put on the backburner,” she said.
Would you support buying Rock Gym from DeKalb to renovate and use as a community center?
Linder said she would need more information about that option but supports a new community center for all ages.
“So that we can have our seniors and our youth come together and have a place where people can play games and play sports and other activities together,” she said.
Bryant supports buying Rock Gym from the county.
“There are some underlining issues that we definitely have to look at before we move forward,” she said. “The Rock Gym would be a great place for senior citizens … and also for kids to play during the wintertime.”
Do you support a blight tax to clean up nuisance properties?
Bryant and Linder came down on opposite sides of this issue. Bryant doesn’t support a blight tax while Linder does. She cited several abandoned commercial and residential properties around the city.
“These are props that have huge potential for redevelopment, new businesses to come in, someone to buy property to build up another house or fix up or do renovations on those houses,” she said. “But there’s no penalty to those owners … to sell or to do something with their properties to keep it up.”
Do you support paid parking to capitalize on visitors to Stone Mountain Park?
Bryant and Linder disagreed on this issue as well. Linder would like paid parking in the city with a discount for residents on weekends or non-peak hours.
“This is another way to earn revenue so that we can have more money to implement some if not all of the things that the citizens, community and current councilmembers are saying is important to them,” she said.
Bryant said it’s not time for paid parking in the city yet.
“We should go ahead and welcome all the citizens to come here and enjoy what we have here to offer to them,” she said.
What parks improvements do you recommend?
Bryant said she’s “really concerned” about Medlock Park. She wants paved parking there and walking trails at all four parks. She also wants to move the Tunes by the Tracks event from Main Street to Leila Mason Park.
“That would be a great location where we could have a small amphitheater,” she said.
Linder serves on the city’s parks and rec committee. She said all the parks need work, but that she would focus most of the efforts on revitalizing McCurdy Park.
“That’s a great place to repurpose or resurface the baseball diamond,” she said, to attract youth sports leagues.
She also said there needs to be a parking lot and more emphasis on the community garden at VFW Park, as well as updated signage at all four parks.
How do you increase city revenue without raising property taxes?
Citing the previous question, Linder said attracting sports leagues to McCurdy Park would be a revenue generator, as well as paid parking. She added that there are areas that could also be rezoned to attract more commercial development.
“We’re just not pressing forward and realizing those ideas,” she said.
Bryant said costs need to be reduced, and the city can do that by tackling its infrastructure issues.
“If we go ahead and take care of that, we can move it out the way and reduce the taxes in the city,” she said.
How to go about cleaning up trash around the city
Both Bryant and Linder said they don’t recall seeing much trash around the city. But Bryant suggested getting code enforcement and public works in to address the issue if need be.
Linder said it could be a great opportunity for the community to come together for cleanup days.
“That’s a great volunteer opportunity for youth and for us as older citizens to show the youth that … this is how you keep your community intact,” she said.
Should the city continue funding the historic train depot and visitors center renovation?
Linder said she doesn’t know if the project is a top priority, but she’d like to see a senior center there.
“If that’s truly the intent, I think it would be great to see it come to life,” she said.
Bryant supports delaying the project to address more pressing issues.
“Right now, we don’t have many people going up to the visitors center at this time, so delaying it would be OK,” she said.
Should there be a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees?
Less than one-third of Stone Mountain employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. But neither Bryant nor Linder support a mandate, saying it’s a personal choice.
“If the individual is not OK taking the vaccine at this time, I would like for us to move forward and get those city employees tested once a week,” Bryant said.
Linder said employees should be strongly encouraged to get the vaccine.
Some schools in Stone Mountain have low reading scores. How would you work with DeKalb County Schools to improve the quality of education?
Linder said that students need quality teachers and access to afterschool programs.
“I would full support any initiative, any program, any community involvement to go in those schools and help those children,” she said.
She added that there are churches and a renovated library in the city that could offer students tutoring to bring up test scores.
Bryant volunteers at Stone Mountain Elementary School and has noticed the students’ reading problems.
“A reading program would be number one that I would fully support and get the city to go along with me,” she said. “Literacy is very low across the board.”
She also cited the learning loss due to the pandemic.
How to prevent gentrification and promote affordable housing?
Both Bryant and Linder said they don’t know if gentrification can be avoided.
“It’s important to focus on preserving our current property values,” Linder said.
She said that improving the city’s amenities and parks and revitalizing downtown would help.
“If you can do that … then maybe you don’t have to worry about gentrification,” she said.
Should the city continue streaming council meetings beyond the pandemic?
Both Linder and Bryant support allowing virtual access to city council meetings even after in-person meetings return.
“It’s a great way for the citizens to get involved and stay involved,” Linder said. “What better way to keep the community involved in what is being decided with the government?”
Bryant noted the increasing number of people attending council meetings virtually.
“Especially since we just recently have been able to provide tablets to the senior citizens,” she said.
What’s your vision for developing downtown?
Linder approves of the downtown master plan that the city council approved last October.
“I would love to see the city take steps to move those plans forward,” she said.
Bryant also wants the plan to move forward.
“I would like to see more activity downtown with the citizens coming around,” she said.
What events do you want to see occur in Stone Mountain in the future?
Both Linder and Bryant want to see Juneteenth, Tunes by the Tracks and other popular events continue annually in Stone Mountain.
Linder also wants to see the Color Vibe 5K and Stone Mountain Mardi Gras return.
Bryant wants to add a Stone Mountain Day and a Taste of Stone Mountain event to showcase the city’s restaurants.
More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election:
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.
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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