Priorities

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DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A LONG-TERM GROWTH STRATEGY

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DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A LONG-TERM GROWTH STRATEGY

Before you reach a goal, you need a plan to get there. Local government is no different. We need a plan: one that is designed to get us to where we need to be in 30 years and one that works for all of Athens-Clarke County—not just for a few places and a few people. As mayor, developing and implementing a long-term growth strategy will be my top priority. We’ve got to determine, as a community, who we’re going to be when we grow up.

Richie is for…

Strategic economic development that attracts and invests in business growth to create livable wage jobs throughout Athens-Clarke County and builds a career climate that ensures that all citizens have a path to greater economic mobility and quality of life.

Affordable housing initiatives that provide more options for the workforce and seniors through creative options like supporting the Affordable Housing Fund, utilizing Inclusionary Zoning practices, and seeking payment in lieu of taxes from the University of Georgia and other tax-exempt property owners.

Investing in business districts to revitalize commercial corridors and further develop Downtown Athens as an entrepreneurial hub that fosters growth of start-up businesses with a deep focus on growing minority-owned companies.

Establishing further infrastructure to support growth through expanding countywide sewage accessibility for future developments and forming a Reservoir Authority to ensure a sustainable future for Athens.

The Facts >>

Athens-Clarke County has a poverty rate of over 36%. When adjusted for the college age bracket, that number potentially drops to 28%, but is still higher than the 18% statewide average.

There is an increasing shortage in affordable housing options in Athens as the gap between income and housing cost increases.

Much of the land Athens-Clarke County has zoned for Commercial, Employment, or Industrial (CEI) use has limited infrastructure for future use. Only 69% of this land has both water and sewage access.

Steps Forward >>

Prioritize the recruitment of industries that offer entry- and mid-level positions.

Work with anchor institutions and employers to raise wages and improve benefits for their lowest-paid employees.

Break down barriers to employment by coordinating with workforce development agencies to more efficiently and effectively match job seekers with employers.

Create a Business Liaison position in the City Manager’s office to streamline processes, improve communication, and enhance the perception of Athens as a friendly place to do business.

Increase access and opportunities for parents to earn a high school or equivalent diploma and engage in post-secondary education or market-driven job training while meeting the demands of their families.

Strategically growing our tax base to afford growth.

Ensure greater accountability for businesses that receive government tax incentives or support from other financing programs to hire workers from low opportunity communities.

Consider hiring and living wage practices when selecting vendors for government contracts.

Increase the availability of affordable housing by utilizing Inclusionary Zoning practices and seeking payment in lieu of taxes from the University of Georgia and other tax-exempt property owners that would go into the Affordable Housing Fund.

Make countywide sewage a reality so that future developments are supported and equipped with proper infrastructure.

Establish a Reservoir Authority to proactively plan a new reservoir for Athens-Clarke County.

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COMMIT TO A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP

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COMMIT TO A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP

We can’t continue the same old approach to local government any longer. If we are finally going to solve the problems that have lingered in our community over the last few decades, we’re going to need a different type of leader—one who is forward thinking, one who will fight for inclusivity, and one who will ensure that everyone is equipped to achieve their potential. Athens needs a leader who will usher in a new generation of leadership and bring a renewed vision to the helm of local politics.

Richie is for…

Strong mayoral leadership with a vision for the future of Athens and a leader with the ability to nurture the necessary partnerships to implement that vision. Local government is not the solution to every community issue, but a forum to gather stakeholders and foster momentum.

Expanding civic engagement by giving all citizens full access to City Hall and elected officials. A new level of transparency would include providing free live-stream access to every public Athens-Clarke County meeting.

Increasing economic opportunity for the most vulnerable citizens and repairing the broken systems that have allowed the youngest citizens to suffer most.

Consolidating commission-led programs in order to eliminate overlapping redundancies, cut down on allocated staff hours, and improve the efficiency of community improvement efforts.

Promoting Athens as a business-friendly community by facilitating healthy stakeholder discussion, improving attitudes toward new development, and solving zoning issues that prevent beneficial and sustainable growth.

The Facts >>

The next Mayor will be responsible for implementing the Envision Athens agenda and prioritizing projects effectively.

Only Mayor & Commission voting sessions are currently available for online streaming.

Four-in-10 children (age 5-17) live below the poverty line in Athens-Clarke County.

Athens-Clarke County is the smallest county in the state and nearly half of its land is tax-exempt, but it relies on property taxes to finance 41% of its General Fund.

Steps Forward >>

Partner with community stakeholders to privately fund a full-time Director of Envision Athens to oversee the implementation of the final version of the Action Agenda and work in an accessible public office, which allows residents to follow the program’s progress.

Include all communities and interest groups so that no citizens are left in the dark while the same voices continue to dictate the direction of Athens.

Make smart and effective zoning policy decisions in order to maximize the full potential of land, including the re-zoning of select areas in West Athens near Bogart as Employment-Industrial.

Expand free live-stream access to all public meetings to improve the level of transparency in local government and increase civic awareness.

Improve the efficiency of community improvement efforts by consolidating commission-led programs in order to eliminate redundancies and decrease government expenses for allocated staff hours.

Expand the tax base and revenue by encouraging healthy investment and development.

Release a monthly community scorecard on regular functions of the Athens-Clarke County government and economic health of the community, including Mayor & Commission activities, police activity statistics, job growth, and unemployment rates.

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PROTECT, EDUCATE, AND PREPARE OUR FUTURE LEADERS

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PROTECT, EDUCATE, AND PREPARE OUR FUTURE LEADERS

Our future isn’t distant. It is in the 21 elementary, middle, and high schools across our county. We need to make sure that politics do not get in the way of giving our students all they need to graduate, find a job, and raise a family here. Our kids are the future. We need to invest heavily in their education, safety, and development.

Richie is for…

First class after-school programming that is affordable and accessible for every child in Athens-Clarke County. Youth development cannot end at 3:30. The Board of Education, the Mayor & Commission, and local organizations can work together to find solutions that will engage and enrich the lives of more children.

Further removing barriers to education, training, and employment for disengaged youth. Too many young people lack the skills or opportunities to begin paving their path to prosperity.

Promoting technical career paths so that students are informed and prepared to pursue a variety of career paths upon graduation. From universities and colleges to technical trades and military careers, students must be able to pave a path they can call their own.

Strengthen partnership with Board of Education by regularly holding meetings between the Board of Education and the Mayor & Commission. Through these joint meetings, the two bodies should ensure the provision of necessary resources and strategically set and achieve goals as a united force for good.

The Facts >>

Since 2000, the number of children living in poverty has increased 90% and the number of households with children receiving food stamps has increased 183%.

Athens-Clarke County is losing households with children to surrounding counties.

The manufacturing industry offers 5,900 jobs, healthcare and social assistance has added 2,000 jobs in the past 10 years, and digital tech-related companies represent 16% of job growth during that time.

Steps Forward >>

Protect students from the potential trouble that awaits in the after-school hours by providing opportunities to develop and grow instead.

Increase paid work-based learning opportunities for students, especially in growing local industries.

Work with employers to reform hiring processes to give young people with minor criminal records a fighting chance at employment.

Pursue public-private partnerships with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, YWCO, and faith- and wellness-based institutions to expand after school transportation and programming.

Develop innovation districts to house business incubators for small businesses with special funding for minority- and woman-owned businesses.

Equally promote student exposure to career-based institutions in the county like Athens Technical College so that they are not only informed about UGA, which admits fewer and fewer Athens-area students every year.

Partner with the Board of Education to set and achieve goals and provide all necessary resources for schools.

Work with the Clarke County School District to release a monthly schools report that updates the community on academic achievement, enrollment and attendance numbers, and disciplinary statistics.

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ENSURE THE GENERAL WELFARE OF OUR CITIZENS IS PROTECTED

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ENSURE THE GENERAL WELFARE OF OUR CITIZENS IS PROTECTED

All citizens of Athens deserve a government that protects their well-being and health. Anyone who is concerned about the general welfare of Athens should not be satisfied with the the notorious discrimination problems, shortage of first responders, and the irresponsible pollution of our rivers. There is so much work to be done.

Richie is for…

An inclusive community that promotes equal rights and rejects discrimination. The work of the newly established Civil Rights Commission must be supported and the growing Latinx population should be engaged and drawn into greater civic involvement.

Providing more resources to the police department to hire 20 new patrol officers and 10 new 911 dispatchers, and to better retain high-quality police officers through more competitive pay. With the necessary resources in place, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department can better protect neighborhoods through community-oriented policing.

Protecting natural resources by increasing enforcement of pollution restrictions, utilizing technology to report code violations, and ensuring growth is responsible and sustainable.

Preserving the character of historic neighborhoods in a way that thoughtfully encourages surrounding development and maintains homeowners’ freedom to invest in their properties.

The Facts >>

There is an alarming discrimination problem in Athens-Clarke County, even after the Mayor & Commission passed a local non-discrimination ordinance.

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is underfunded and understaffed, which affects its ability to respond quickly to 911 calls and keep neighborhoods and streets safe. Only 86% of 911 calls are being answered within the standard of 10 seconds, which puts them below the national average of 90%.

Athens is home to beautiful rivers and streams that are relied upon for water and recreation. They need to be protected from pollution and littering.

Steps Forward >>

Develop an online portal and a mobile app for residents to directly report code violations and littering to authorities.

Commit resources to local promotion and marketing of community health clinics in order to increase awareness of the quality services provided through the Health Department.

Provide more resources for Animal Control to promote public health and protect animals. This will decrease the number of animal-related calls the police respond to.

Continue implementation of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department’s Strategic Vision Plan, which aims to establish an Emergency Medical Services program for Athens-Clarke County, increase patrol numbers to remain proportionate to the growing population, and promote community-oriented policing practices.

Increase funding for the Athens-Clarke County Police Department to hire 20 new patrol officers and 10 new 911 dispatchers, and to better retain high-quality police officers through more competitive pay.

Support the work of the Human Rights Commission and expand the local anti-discrimination ordinance to include restaurants.

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FURTHER ENHANCE OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

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FURTHER ENHANCE OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

Safe, reliable, and accessible transportation is the heartbeat of any vibrant city. As mayor, I will work collaboratively with the Commission to complete current plans and begin new initiatives to improve the quality, efficiency, and helpfulness of our transportation systems.

Richie is for…

Expanding public transit routes that ensure everyone has access to major employers and vital necessities like grocery stores, health centers, and career resources.

Completing the North Oconee Greenway Plan by leveraging multilateral public-private partnerships to increase the preservation of green space and the availability of recreational land.

Infrastructure for complete streets which allow for safe and accessible transportation for automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians alike. All citizens deserve safe and accessible routes to parks and other leisure services.

The Facts >>

Pedestrians and cyclists need safe routes to travel around the community that prevent further accidents and injuries.

Downtown Athens, while less than 1% of the county’s land area, accounts for 9.4% of sales tax revenue, over 70% of hotel/motel tax revenue, and more than 20% of business license and alcoholic beverage excise taxes.

Parking revenue from Downtown Athens grosses over $1 million per year, which all goes into the General Fund.

Steps Forward >>

Establish a special fund for Downtown Athens infrastructure maintenance that is financed by its parking revenue. All of this money currently goes into the General Fund and is not directly invested back into the very things that produced it: downtown streets, sidewalks, streetlights, and facades.

Increase the number of bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks throughout the county to ensure safer travel across all modes of transportation.

Prioritize completion of the Downtown Master Plan and set project deadlines.

Encourage the responsible stewardship of TSPLOST revenue and support the allocation of funds toward the most important projects.

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