Party affiliation: Democrat
Second job: Retired
What are the three most pressing issues you believe your city faces, and how will you address them? What people or entities will you enlist to get these things done?
Given the challenges that municipalities are facing today, generating growth within cities in the middle of a world pandemic requires us to think differently. COVID-19 still negatively impacts life as we know it including, but not limited to the loss of jobs and inequities in education and healthcare. Cities are inspired to innovate within and across their community as they recalibrate opportunities, services, technology, and the potential to grow. Helping our local business while staying with state guidelines relative to using public dollars is a thin line that must be navigated. Without jobs and local business small cities cannot thrive.
How much money did your city receive from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and how much has been spent so far? How are you using the funds to aid residents and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? What efforts have you been able to fund that the city didn’t previously have resources for? What efforts have you been able to fund that the city didn’t previously have resources for?
Mayor & Council passed the Deferred Electrical Service Payment Plan in order to provide relief to Norcross businesses and residents. The Norcross ARPA Advisory Committee is set to make recommendations to Mayor & Council on how to utilize the $6 million in American Rescue Plan funds the city will be receiving from the Federal Government. We have contracted ACE, a local nonprofit to act as a liaison to our citizens and businesses in the distribution of these funds.
Are you spending any of the ARP funds on rent relief? If so, how much?
I do understand that Policymakers State and local governments have instituted temporary halts on evictions. But temporary eviction halts do not prevent unpaid rent debts from accruing, and the legislation leaves the needs of tens of millions of renters unaddressed. We voted to provide a 25K matching grant to execute Phase One of the Affordable Housing Strategy Implementation Program as created by [Georgia Initiative for Community Housing] (GICH) through “Live Norcross.” GICH helps communities improve their quality of life and economic vitality through the development of locally-driven housing and revitalization strategies. LiveNorcross, in collaboration with the Gwinnett Housing Corporation, plans to operate the following 2 programs:
1. Rapid Re-Housing program operated by St Vincent de Paul. This funding will supplement the United Way and City of Norcross grants to move families from motels to permanent housing.
2. Homeless Prevention and Emergency Shelter initiatives: both programs will be operated by a GHC contractor referred by Unite. The objective of the program is to assist families at risk of literal homelessness.
What are the biggest challenges for recruitment and retention of police and other city personnel?
Some of the challenges we and other police cities are facing are rapid increases in retirements and resignations, fewer applicants, the COVID-19 pandemic, negative police images in the media and attitudes toward police, lengthy and difficult entrance requirements, low unemployment nationally and a strong job market. Finding a happy medium in pay and benefits is crucial. The economic and social changes have made it harder for law enforcement leaders to keep their organizations fully staffed. Insufficient staffing levels affect the quality of service provided to the community as well as the performance, productivity, and morale of the officers within the department. Recruitment and the pool of qualified law enforcement applicants decrease when unemployment rates are low and the economy is healthy because people are less inclined to enter dangerous, low-paying careers then. Law enforcement leaders can mitigate contributing factors to the police recruitment problem by actively cultivating relationships with the community and strategically recruiting and selecting people who share their organizations’ values.
Describe the challenges you face with reaching constituents and how you plan to connect and communicate with residents, including social media.
COVID-19 has spread at an unprecedented pace wreaking havoc on life as we know it including, but not limited to the loss of jobs, inequities in education and healthcare and ultimately the loss of precious lives. Cities are inspired to innovate within and across their community as they recalibrate opportunities, services, technology, and their potential to grow. One of the prevailing headlines throughout the pandemic has been a supposed urban exodus – people suddenly untethered to offices, craving more space, or wary of closely-packed sidewalks, stores and mass transit. But research indicates that growth has merely slowed, and that in cities with population loss, it was due more to people not moving in than those moving out. The challenges cities face remain, from traffic congestion and air pollution to public safety and the struggle to deliver and pay for essential services, while COVID-19 has deepened both financial disparities and the digital divide. City leaders require complex solutions to complex issues, while also providing accessible services to all citizens and constituents they serve.
You were recently selected for a Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) committee focused on best practices and guidelines for municipal police departments in the state. Describe how you’ve helped support public safety in Norcross, Gwinnett County and the state. What is your biggest public safety concern for Norcross?
From health and economic crises to resounding calls to address systemic racism, the state of our nation’s cities has changed dramatically. It has become abundantly clear that this year was unlike any other. It had also become clear that the role of city leaders is not only to establish and implement a vision for their community but also to be guided by the values of their community and lead in the most challenging moments and public safety was at the forefront. As a GMA Policing committee member, I focused on accountability. Several local jurisdictions in Georgia could be held to a higher standard if this was their desire. As a committee member, I mentioned that a [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] (CALEA) certification had been very helpful to our city and suggested that I would like to see GMA push for CALEA certification as the norm for police cities. I also mentioned that one advantage of CALEA was its requirement for a citizen panel. This provides additional accountability. Some certifications entitle cities to GIRMA discounts. If a city is CALEA certified or meets the other certification it should get credit towards the Public Safety GMA Equity and Inclusion Certification. A GMA Equity and Inclusion Certification Program would probably try to pull the most relevant policies from CALEA.
Gwinnett County voters voted against a 2019 and 2020 transit referendum that would build a heavy rail line while Norcross, and other large cities in the area, struggle with heavy congestion. What are your plans for public transit over the next four years?
The U.S. has a notoriously lousy transportation system that relies heavily on personal vehicles to travel from work and home, many people who live in urban areas face traffic on a daily basis. Our town is approximately 6 square mile but we have as many as 35 thousand cars that either cut through of land in our city. Many metro areas are implementing the use of smart technology to combat congestion. Intelligent cities uses the information to make their cities more livable, sustainable, and enjoyable compared to traditional towns. Unfortunately, four our city most of red lights are either state or county-controlled. Smart traffic signals are very important in gaining insight into traffic flow and length. As a former member of the Local Transit Authority, I was very intentional in lobbying for the strategic placement of local transit routes and bus stops here in Norcross. In the long term, I will continue to advocate and educate our public on the merits of having a successful transit referendum.
Describe a lesson you learned during your previous term(s) and how that knowledge will help guide your upcoming term.
Election cycles can be a true constraint. An elected official needs to show progress in a few years, rather than over one or two decades. And this can blur the vision when longer-term solutions are needed. In my role, I often view our city challenges from the lens of a city business accountant responsible for making sound economic decisions that support sustainable growth. A city business accountant must also provide citizens with efficient, secure and convenient ways to transact in an increasingly digital world. Today, one of the challenges with place-based investing — making investment decisions to yield financial as well as social or environmental returns — is that the available data exists in disparate and bulky data sets that are hard to work with. I think what I’ve learned most over the years is to plan your work then work your plan. Build a consensus where you can but without losing sight of the vision. Most recently we are doing that with our targeted redevelopment of the Buford Highway corridor through our Buford Highway Master Plan.
Click here for an interactive map to learn more about Norcross. (Created by Maggie Lee)