Party affiliation: Democrat
Salary: $20,000 plus $6,000 car allowance
Second job: Voices for Georgia’s Children, Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network Quality Manager
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?
Safety: See public safety question response.
Equity: We embarked on our journey to ensure that “equity and inclusion” is more than a cliché, by adopting a resolution that created an Equity Ad Hoc Committee to imbed social justice and equity throughout City programs and policies. Next, we created a City Urban Agriculture Plan (CAP) to help us address our food access challenge. Then, we engaged Partnership for Southern Equity to assist with developing the first Equitable Growth and Inclusion Strategic Plan (EGISP) in Georgia. Adoption of these plans positioned us to be the focus of an up to $1,125,000 federal grant that Morehouse School of Medicine received titled “Advancing Health Equity in East Point.” Through implementation of these adopted plans, we will create a local food ecosystem, increase community engagement, and ensure just industry, inclusive housing and equitable economic development.
Infrastructure: With historic investments in infrastructure from the federal government as well as continued local investments, we will continue to address our aging infrastructure and work to dismantle environmental injustices.
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?
The City of East Point will receive a little over $13 million in ARPA funds. We have received the first half, $6,511,796, with the other allocated portion scheduled to be received during second quarter of 2022. We have utilized ARPA funds for hazardous pay bonuses, public safety, water and sewer infrastructure needs and are exploring addressing broadband gaps, expanding workforce development training, support for small businesses and negative impacts experienced by our residents.
Are you spending any of the ARP funds on rent relief? If so, how much?
Through allocating a portion of CARES Act funds and securing grant funds from Fulton County, we allocated a total of over $1 million for utilities, rent, and mortgage assistance to help East Pointers. Our current Rental & Mortgage Assistance Program is funded by a $550,000 Fulton County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Information about the program can be accessed on our city’s website. We are also utilizing a portion of ARP funds to continue to build our internal infrastructure to connect residents to community resources, services and programs on an ongoing basis.
What are the biggest challenges for recruitment and retention of police and other city personnel?
There is a police shortage in the country. The biggest challenge is competition from other agencies. There are a lot of agencies offering very high salaries and benefits. With our new raise to $52,000 starting salary for non-certified officers and $55,000 for certified officers, we should be able to compete with any agency.
Describe the challenges you face with reaching constituents and how you plan to connect and communicate with residents, including social media.
Many of our residents do not have access to internet and there is also a language barrier. We make sure that residents are informed by partnering with the schools, churches and apartment complexes to help us share information, in addition to including information in our utility bills and hosting community conversations/townhalls. We have also found a vendor to assist us with translating flyers and other information to Spanish to bridge the language barrier gap.
During your first term, your administration invested over $3 million in salary increases and incentives for police officers, along with equipment upgrades and smart technology. How will you continue to increase public safety?
Our Police Chief, Shawn Buchanan, assured residents that East Point Police Department will be professional towards citizens and aggressive towards crime. Under Chief Buchanan’s leadership, all police officers, regardless of rank, are required to patrol the city and starting salaries have significantly increased to $52,000 for non-certified officers and $55,000 for certified officers, along with educational pay incentives of $1,500 for Associate Degree, $2,500 for Bachelor Degree and increases for POST certifications. Current and incoming Police Officers will receive new vehicles, Panasonic Toughbook laptops, bulletproof vests and more. In addition to significant pay increases and equipment upgrades, we will continue to: address social determinants of health, which includes gun violence; implement the 21st Century Community Policing framework; leverage technology in policing; and work on community alternatives and diversion for non-emergency quality of life concerns that are more appropriately addressed with connecting people to supportive resources instead of a policing response.
In a mayoral forum hosted by Georgia STAND-UP, you stated, “If we say yes to warehouses today and industrial today, we are saying no to shopping, offices, retail, entertainment and restaurants tomorrow.” What is the role of industrial development in East Point? Describe your priorities for zoning over the next four years.
As a city with a history of structural racism dating back to its earliest land use plans, East Point has to meet this period of growth with an equity imperative. When nearly 25% of our residential parcels are within 1,000 ft of at least one industrial parcel and the accompanying negative impacts, something has to change. God is not making any more land and East Point is surrounded by other cities (landlocked), so we cannot make the city bigger and have to be smart about what is built on our land. We implemented an industrial moratorium, created two new industrial zoning districts and are looking for every opportunity to create new protections for residents from industrial development through our Comprehensive Plan update and creation of a Unified Development Code. Warehouse land uses are now required to rezone or get a special use permit. We are setting a high bar for any new permitted industrial operations, as well as looking at environmental justice, community benefits ordinances, and impact fees.
Describe a lesson you learned during your previous term(s) and how that knowledge will help guide your upcoming term.
A leader has to think ahead. Being aware of where things are going is important because everything takes longer than you expect. Being proactive versus reactive is critically important. If you’re just reacting, you’re going to be behind the curve. During the pandemic, we adopted a shelter-in-place order early, ahead of the state, and were the 2nd city in the state to impose a mask mandate because a sense of urgency was needed to protect the health, welfare and safety of our residents. Things like engaging and educating the community, building consensus, raising awareness, procurement, construction, supply-chains, drafting/adopting/amending ordinances, among other things, often have long lead times. It’s important to consider lead times and implementation timeline, among other factors, when we only have 3 standing public meetings of City Council per month. So, I will continue to lead with a sense of urgency, think ahead and start early.
Click here for an interactive map to learn more about East Point. (Created by Maggie Lee)