Avondale mayoral candidates Q&A – Todd Pullen
Decaturish.com has sent all five candidates running in the Avondale Estates March 17 mayoral election a list of questions about the city, the race and what they would do if elected. Candidates had until Sunday to return the questions. The Q&A’s will run every day this week in the order that they were received.
1) What do you think is Avondale Estates’ greatest strength as a city?
Our people! We have such a strong sense of community here. From the moment I stepped foot here 15 years ago (we spent two years developing the lofts before I was a resident) the people took me in as one of their own. I do not ever wish to leave, and that is also what is so important to me to preserve.
2) What do you think is its biggest weakness?
Again the people, which is natural. If you look back far enough we can partially blame some of our education and development issues from within our own community. It is like family: we all will continue to have different opinions, but at the end of the day we all love each other.
3) How do you view the relationship between the mayor and city manager in the city of Avondale Estates?
It is a very mutually dependent relationship. The position of the mayor should represent the voice of the citizens. It is them important for each to work together to implement this voice.
4) Are you satisfied with the performance of the current city manager?
Clai is awesome. He is the fourth or fifth city manager to hold the position since I have been here, and seems to have genuine concern over our city’s best interests versus his own agenda. He hails from a phenomenal executive background which makes him very well qualified to run daily operations. He is also someone who I consider a native Avondalian, from the old guard, who is in touch with all of us. He is a resident of Avondale Estates and can always be seen out with his family supporting our community. I have always find his door open at City Hall when I need him.
5) What is your opinion of the Museum School and its relationship with the city and its residents?
I have two children in the Museum School, 5th and 7th grades, and could not be happier for them. The youngest will have the opportunity to go to school with her classmates for her entire school career just like her mother and I were able to, and just like many of the native Avondalians I know were able to. This is very important to me. The school is a wonderful product of the people of our community and represents what the power of community can do when it bands together. However I wish the Museum School could truly take care of all of our educational concerns. We ultimately need a non-charter school to meet these needs. This is so much more apparent now with the threat of Druid Hills High School being annexed into Atlanta. The community is already banding together again and has some great ideas to make it happen.
The Museum School has a very diplomatic stance when it comes to local politics which is tough but rightful. I admire that. It does represent more than just Avondale Estates.
6) Do you support the annexation plan that was recently adopted by the board of mayor and commissioners?
I think there was much haste in all of DeKalb and Fulton counties in their Annexation efforts. This can also be blamed on the State. I think a lot of the background work has been made and that there has been good intentions, but the most important part of the equation was left out: the citizens voices. I think the remaining parcels of Annexation should be put on hold while the public opinion is being resolved. However, I think the moratorium needs to be county wide, this goes for the areas that Fulton County wishes to Annex as well. At the same time I am also weary of becoming an island in someone else’s city. This could set us up for other vulnerabilities in the distant future. There are a lot of legitimate concerns within Avondale Estates proper of what will happen to our property values, services and resources.
7) What is your position on the Euramex mixed use project that is being considered in Avondale Estates?
Euramex has bought the Fenner Dunlop property and are operating under a specific zoning ordinance. Next comes the public input. I am very excited about the possibilities of the development, but I am again weary of compromising too quickly. The development has the potential to allow Avondale Estates to make history for a second time, or it become a development that makes us completely unidentifiable from Edgewood to Alpharetta. I am not sure if you ever had the opportunity to tour the old mill, but it had tremendous character. We purchased the building that I helped developed into the Locust Lofts from Georgia Duck [Fenner Dunlop] 15 years ago. After the success of that we actually tried to buy the mill for the same price it sold for recentlyat that time, but they were not ready to move. We had our sites on renovating those structures into a live work Arts Community…I have high expectations and personal interest in helping making certain something great happens with that property. It will be easier to facilitate this interest if I am Mayor.
I also sat on the HPC and ARB when Century AG were working on ideas for the area. There was a lot of opportunity for public input during that time and the whole process was facilitated very well by the different city committees, especially from the HPC and ARB. That developer started wearing the public thin though and was pressuring us to compromise into something we did not want. I am somewhat glad we are in a fresh situation now and that rents do not have to be as high as they were projecting. This will truly allow for smaller business to come in to Avondale Estates.
I also hope we can use Google Fiber to lure Business as a compliment to retail. It would be wonderful to have more 9 to 5 occupations in the business district to lessen the traffic impact on the heart of the community, and to support our fine dining establishments!
8) Name three specific policy initiatives you would like to implement if you are elected as mayor:
It seems a bit careless to be aggressive with any true policy initiatives for a 9 month term. I do not wish to start anything that cannot be completed. My main goal is to moderate the issues of Annexation, Fenner-Dunlop, and Education in order to make sure we are on a good track. We haven’t any time to lose, and that is one of the main reasons I am running.
Assuming for a second I can also win the November Election I do have a couple of goals in mind. I am closely following “SB63” or “The Beer Jobs Bill.” Our area has become a craft beer mecca and this bill will open the door to allow even smaller breweries become profitable through direct sales. If we could garner more breweries in our area it will secure support for our existing breweries, and create a unique destination spot for our community. The other area I wish to focus on is promoting the arts. Our area artists have already been some of the best assets to gaining recognition to our city. The Art-B-Que, Autumn Fest and R.A.D. tours have successfully brought in thousands of people to our neighborhood who may have never had another reason otherwise. Places like Alcove Gallery, Bart Webb Studios, Little Tree, and Garage Door Studio have brought or bring in smaller crowds, but on a much more more regular basis. They did this without special policies. We need to promote and preserve these assets.
9) Do you have any current or former business interests with the city? (i.e. have you performed paid work on the city’s behalf now or in the past, or have you or your company bid on city work)?
10) Do you own any commercial property in the city limits?
I do not.
11) What is your opinion of the city’s current historic preservation standards?
I am very partial to the group. I sat on the commission for 10 years and participated in the writing of the guidelines. I do not necessarily think they are practicing true Historic Preservation, which is why I left the board, as it was quite subjective at times. I think that is okay. Even with that subjectivity it is one of the most important boards in our community for preserving the aesthetic we all want. Both the HPC and the ARB are needed to monitor the aesthetics of our growth now more than ever. I would like to talk with the board and have them assess their own policies and hear there opinion.
12) Commercial property owners in the city’s annexation plan have said they do not feel the city is friendly to business. Do you feel this is a fair criticism and, if so, what would you do to change it?
From my experience the city has jumped through hoops to get new business. We are quick and creative with our policy. Let’s go back to beer again: The Beer Growler chose us because we made it possible much quicker and less painful than any other City in the metro area. Ask Wild Heaven how much we helped them. The Peach State Homebrew competition chooses us to hold their competitions because we wrote policy for them. We are also kind of a thrift capital in the city. I do not think many other areas rally encourage that.
13) Please describe how your professional background would be an asset to you in this position.
My position as an architect somewhat parallels that of a mayor, and makes me a natural candidate. I facilitate all aspects of a project. My clients are citizens, my contractor is much like a city manager. People trust me with multi-million dollar budgets. I suggest compromise when absolutely necessary. I work with most every component of a City government to have my projects approved and permitted.
14) What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?
We are very lucky to have three architects, an engineer and two Navy veterans. I think we will all make great leaders. I think my passion and connection to the community makes me stand apart. My first real taste of the community came in the form of going through a variance and permitting a multi-family residential project i the business district. I have had extremely close ties with City Hall ever since. Pretty much everyone there still knows my name, and I think those relationships will be great for the city.
15) If elected, do you promise to behave in an ethical and transparent manner?
This seems like a very odd question, but fair to ask. I absolutely will be ethical and transparent. If anything I will be overly active in trying to keep in touch with our community to see what they want.
The special election will be March 17, and early voting starts Feb. 23. The city will be hosting a forum on Thursday, Feb. 19, at City Hall, located at 21 North Avondale Plaza. The forum will start at 6:30 pm and will end at 8:30 pm.
Decaturish will also accept letters to the editor in support of – or in opposition to – the candidates in this race. The cut-off date for candidate letters will be Feb. 23. All letters must be signed and are typically 400 to 800 words in length. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and content. To send your letter to the editor, email it to [email protected].