We need new, bold leadership and fresh ideas to bring sustainable jobs to our city and to provide an equal playing field for all her citizens. We must be doing everything we can to ensure that we are supporting our local business owners and the citizens they employ. In a field crowded with career politicians and the status quo, I bring a unique set of experiences as an outsider, businessman, and entrepreneur. I understand the needs of the private sector and I know what it takes to create an environment that brings jobs to Athens-Clarke County. I also know what it takes to make sure anyone who calls the classic city their home has a chance not only to remain here, but to thrive here by reaching their full potential.
Reviewing our tax code to make sure that it is not only fair, but that there is a balance between local residents and the services being used by tourists.
Smart Regulations that protect and uplift citizens and keep businesses thriving. These are NOT mutually exclusive.
Investing in business districts to revitalize commercial corridors and to further develop Downtown Athens as an entrepreneurial hub.
Recruiting Industries that offer entry-level and mid-level positions. This should be a priority.
Raising wages and improving benefits by working with anchor institutions and employers.
Creating a Business Liaison position at the City Manager’s office to streamline processes, improve communication, and enhance the perception of Athens as an employer-friendly city.
Improved workforce development, job training, and vocational education are perhaps the biggest keys to helping Athenians find employment and be successful. It is past time we stepped up as a community, a city, and a government to support and invest in early childhood education. Every five-year old should show up to Kindergarten on a level playing field with the resources they need to succeed. Right now, this is not the case. Our Public Schools and our children need a friend and champion in the Mayor’s office- I want to be just that.
Creating a “Skills Gap Commission”, which would bring together local employers with our non-profits, foundations, and education institutions such as Athens Tech. I’ll act as an honest broker so that we can streamline employment.
Providing support for parents who are struggling to juggle raising a child with the pursuit of educational opportunities.
Increasing paid work-based learning opportunities for students, especially in growing local industries.
Partnering with the Superintendent in a real way. We should be in constant communication to bridge the gap between the educational community and those serving in government. When we work together, we are able to achieve more.
Financing a best in class education and child-care system for 1-4 year olds. This would be modeled after the Race to the Top Early Childhood Learning Grant program and could be achieved by working with the state and private sector on funding.
When it comes to transportation and greenspace in Athens, there are three words that come to mind: Safety, reliability, and accessibility. As your Mayor, I will work collaboratively and fervently with the Commission to complete current plans and begin new initiatives to improve the quality, efficiency, and helpfulness of our systems.
Expanding public transit routes to ensure everyone has access to major employers and vital necessities such as grocery stores, healthcare centers, and career resources.
Increasing bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks throughout the county to ensure safer travel across all modes of travel while also encouraging green, alternative forms of transportation.
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.
Supporting “Complete Streets” initiatives, which allow for safe and accessible transportation for automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians alike.
Prioritizing the completion of the Downtown Master Plan and setting project deadlines.
Making countywide sewage a reality so that future developments are already supported and equipped with the proper infrastructure.
Establishing a Reservoir Authority to proactively research and plan for a new reservoir for Athens-Clarke County.
Housing issues are drastically affecting citizens of every socioeconomic status. We should be working to preserve home values and commit to fair property taxes and millage rates. It is critical that we take a comprehensive look at affordable housing options. Though many parts of Athens are devoted to students, we must be sure not to leave out our permanent residents in the process. We must work with developers to find incentives to build and preserve homes for Athenians of all ages and income levels. It should not matter if you are a student calling Athens home for four years or a couple planning to raise children here for the next fifteen years, everyone deserves a chance to have an affordable place to live.
Building a Housing Master Plan, whose goals would be to stabilize costs for current long-term home owners and provide an array of new options for long-term renters who have become frustrated with the amount of housing designated towards students. There is a balance to be found- I will work to find it.
Negotiating down zoning requirements in multi-family housing buildings in exchange for higher quotas on the number of affordable units.
Creating an Affordable Housing Fund by seeking payment from tax-exempt property owners such as the University of Georgia in lieu of property taxes. 45% of the land in our county is untaxable. We have to find creative ways to get revenue from these property owners to better lift everyone up.
Building Community Land Trusts to stabilize rent costs through real estate ownership by attracting Community Development Corporations to Athens.
Caring for seniors by making sure they have places to live, thrive, and be looked after.
Supporting firefighters and police officers who want to reside in the areas they protect and patrol.
Supporting teachers who wish to live close to their schools and their students.
When it comes to maintaining a first-rate police force, there is much work to be done to ensure that ours continues to be one of example and honor. It is imperative that we train, pay, and hire enough officers and firefighters to keep our streets and our homes safe. Our city government, police force, and community leaders are due for a series of conversations around the issues in our communities that have been overlooked. Together, we can find solutions that better support our police force, firefighters, first responders, emergency medical staff, and the citizens they all serve.
Collaborating with Chief Freeman of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and acting as his biggest advocate and partner at City Hall as he carries out the new 20-year plan.
Hiring new officers. We haven’t added new positions in our force in over a decade. We must readdress this as the population continues to grow.
Paying fair wages. We have low retention rates because surrounding jurisdictions pay their officers more. Without raises for performance, we will continue to waste money hiring and training people who are only going to take those skills and apply them elsewhere.
Reviewing training guidelines. We must do everything in our power to ensure that minority communities are NEVER unfairly targeted. We can do this by encouraging positive officer-citizen interaction and offering training in implicit bias and sensitivity. It is important that our force reflects and mirrors the community it serves.
Addressing Athens’ Cocaine Problem. This has become a serious issue in downtown bars, the student community, and on our city streets. We must examine why it is happening, promote education on it’s dangers, and act in a way that will keep everyone safe.
The foundation of any good and solid government is trust and transparency. Too often, City Hall appears to shield itself from community input and participation. At times, it appears as an echo chamber that ignores or simply doesn’t seek out input from important stakeholders before making decisions. And, at times, it adheres to worn out practices that involve spending so much while achieving so little. The time for Athens-Clarke County to be an open, accessible, transparent, and trustworthy government is NOW.
Broadcasting more city meetings live. For most city meetings, the only way to be informed is to physically go to City Hall. In the age of technology, this is completely unacceptable. By broadcasting, we can encourage a more civically-engaged citizenry.
Receiving more input from local businesses. The City makes a number of decisions that directly affect private companies without ever hearing their comments or concerns. This is a ludicrous practice that will stop on day one of my administration.
Reviewing our contracting process. Too often, the same people win bid after big with the city. We need to make sure when this happens, it is happening on the grounds of merit. Every business should be on equal footing when submitting a proposal.
Ending the practice of over-paying consultants. When in doubt, City Hall commissions another “study”. We even have studies to review the last study. Expensive consultants are using up and wasting our tax dollars without ever achieving real results. Let’s build a government less focused on talking and more focused on doing. And, when there are questions to be had, let’s take them to the people we serve- not consultants.