Candidate Q&A – Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore
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About this series:
Decaturish sent questions to candidates running for elected office in Decatur and Avondale Estates. We will publish the candidates’ responses throughout the week. For more information about voting in the upcoming election, please see the note at the end of this post. Here is the response from Mayor Jonathan Elmore, who is seeking reelection. (Note: Decaturish also sent these questions to mayoral candidate Clai Brown. He did not respond.)
1) Why are you running for mayor of Avondale Estates?
I am running for re-election as Mayor of Avondale Estates because I want to see our city reach its potential and continue achieving results as we did in the last 4 years.
I ran for mayor four and a half years ago on a platform of responsible growth because I thought our central business district (CBD) could be much more vibrant and appealing and we as a city needed to embrace growth. Over these last years, it has become apparent to me that our future depends on that growth. So I am running once again on a platform of Responsible Growth for a Sustainable Future. We need growth to build parks, create streets, tackle expensive storm water projects, preserve Lake Avondale, and most importantly, maintain our quality of life for all our residents. I have delivered on my original platform and, if reelected, will continue to lead our city to more progress in an efficient and open manner.
2) What do you think makes you a better candidate than your opponent?
Experience, Results, Ethics, Skills, Leadership and Vision for the city of Avondale Estates.
During my four and a half year tenure as Mayor, I have done exactly what I promised during my previous campaign and done so openly, honestly and transparently. I believe my 34 years of education and experience in architecture and the constructions industry has helped prepare me for dealing with growth and development,. As an architect, my job is not only to design the building to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the occupants, but also to lead the team of engineers and coordinate their efforts towards that goal. As such, I am not only very comfortable with working with experts, but also with dealing with long-term, expensive, and complex projects like our Town Green and storm water projects.
My vision for Avondale Estates is to continue the path of Responsible Growth for a Sustainable Future, working for smart downtown development, building a foundation for our future, and enhancing quality of life for everyone.
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3) What do you think is Avondale Estates’ greatest strength?
Avondale Estates greatest strength is our community of people who care about each other. People tend to not move from Avondale Estates, and as a matter of fact, stay here for generations. Through our community clubs, events, committees and schools, lifelong friendships are formed and a commitment to making our city better is forged. We know we live in a special community and are proud of it.
4) What do you think is its biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is getting the entire community on board with the need to change, grow and invest in our city and the pace at which change needs to happen. The fact is we need to create revenue to tackle big projects like storm water infrastructure, new streets, street paving and sidewalks, and green space. We need to borrow to invest in these projects, and the time is now to move forward. We have momentum, interest rates are low, and we have interest from developers and prospective businesses to invest in our city. This investment in the CBD is critical to our ability to generate revenue and offset the current property tax revenue ratio of 90% residential to 10% commercial to a more sustainable ration of 75% to 25%.
Change can be difficult, but not changing is the most fiscally irresponsible thing we can do for the long term sustainability of the quality of life we all enjoy in Avondale Estates. If we can agree on leaving Avondale better than we found it, we will move forward as one.
5) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on as mayor?
The main thing is to finish the projects we have started. Those projects include the two acre Town Green and adjacent vertical construction, the zoning rewrite, negotiations with Avila, the Kensington retention pond, and the 278 road diet. Next, I want the Board to focus on projects we have initiated but not yet begun, including the Storm Water Master Plan, the Northwoods rain garden, and completion of our Central Business District street grid. And third, I would like the Board to consider a resolution that states the City’s desire to improve Quality of Life for everyone by creating more senior housing options and senior property tax credits, by taking additional steps to being more inclusive and inviting, and by embracing new business, the arts, and new residents.
6) Some residents in Avondale Estates have expressed concern about the city taking on debt to complete specific projects in the city. Are you concerned about the city borrowing money? Why or why not?
No. We can afford the debt service for the [Bond Anticipation Note] with existing tax revenue.
Upon the advice of our current City Manager, we hired the respected municipal finance experts, Davenport and Associates, to help our city address capital projects and financing. Davenport concluded that we have the credit capacity to support an $8.4 million bond (Bond Anticipation Note or BAN) within the bounds of existing revenue. The BAN works like a line of credit for the first three years to give our small city maximum flexibility and converts to a bond at the end of three years at a very low interest rate. This financial mechanism will enable us to complete the Town Green, a catalytic project called for in the Downtown Master Plan, to commission a Storm Water Master Plan, and to complete the Kensington retention pond. Again, the BAN will be funded by existing tax revenue and will not require a tax increase under current conditions. The fact is, people borrow for their homes, for their cars, and for their children’s education. We need to borrow to invest in growth in our city. Borrowing is what smart cities do to grow.
7) What is your opinion of the city’s Downtown Development Authority and are you satisfied with how that board functions?
I am very satisfied with the DDA and consider them to be our partners in the future growth and prosperity of Avondale Estates. An empowered Downtown Development Authority is critical to the successful development of our Central Business District. Our DDA is statutory, which means it was created by the state legislature, and requires four residents to be DDA members, as well as three people with business interests in the CBD. By this design, the DDA has good representation of residents and business interests. We are fortunate to have seven smart, hard working DDA members who have helped the BoMC further the goals of the city. Because the DDA is appointed, not elected, it functions in an economic and community development sense and not a political one. As such, the DDA is adept at attracting, fostering, and developing commerce.
8) There is a perception that Avondale Estates is unwelcoming to outsiders. Do you think this is accurate? If so, what would you plan to do about it? If not, why not?
I am aware of the perception and I do not like it. I want to change that perception and state my intention to make Avondale Estates inviting and inclusive for all. One of the first things I proposed as Mayor was to change the rules at Willis Park and Lake Avondale and it is my proudest achievement. The rules previously were exclusionary and threatening, and we changed the rules to be inclusive and inviting to all. If elected, I will urge the Board to pass a resolution stating our commitment to improved Quality of Life for everyone.
9) What is your opinion of the current city manager, Patrick Bryant? Are you satisfied with his performance?
Extremely satisfied. Mr. Bryant is a qualified and experienced City Manager and we are proud to have him in our government. He has helped propel the Board’s agenda more efficiently than ever before while encouraging public input. He brings a level of education and experience we have not previously had and is smart, knowledgeable, competent, and responsive. He has a Bachelor’s degree in communication theory and political theory and a Master’s in Public Administration with concentration in local government and was City Manager in Talladega for two years.
I look forward to many more years of Mr. Bryant living and working in Avondale Estates, and getting to know and serve the citizens of our great city.
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10) What is your opinion of the Museum School and its relationship with the city and its residents?
The Museum School is one of the best things to ever happen to our community. It has brought new families to Avondale Estates and is one the best elementary schools in the state. It is unfortunate that not more of our children can attend. However, I do want the city to continue its commitment to Avondale Elementary and Druid Hills Middle and High Schools via the Education Committee. And I want to continue building relationships with those schools and the DeKalb County Board of Education. We will continue to work to offer the best educational resources possible for all our citizens.
In full disclosure, my wife, Tamara Shipley, was a founding Board member of The Museum School and Board officer for over six years, our twins attended K-8, and our youngest is still there in the 6th grade. Tamara continues to volunteer on the governance committee and is the chair of the Advisory Council to the Board.
11) Do you support annexing additional areas of unincorporated DeKalb County into Avondale Estates? If so, what areas do you think should be annexed?
Annexation is a potentially viable, yet complex means of responsible growth. The BOMC did a study with the Carl Vinson Institute to analyze the pros and cons of annexation options. That study plan includes Forrest Hills, Decatur Terrace, the commercial area along Laredo north of Avondale, and parts of Scottdale and Rockbridge Road. That study indicated positive results. It is my opinion that the Laredo area could be better utilized with a higher zoning designation like mixed-use residential/commercial and I would encourage public discussion of that topic and the potential for future annexation by the Board with the public.
12) What is your opinion about apartment developments in Avondale Estates?
I think apartments are a great addition to our current range of high quality, housing stock and serve to make our community more accessible to a broader range of income levels and choice. Apartments bring new citizens for our many businesses which we wish to support and help thrive. The Willis and the Alexan are mixed-use, transit oriented developments as called for at the western gateway in the Downtown Master Plan and will help create the density needed for a vibrant village.
13) What is your opinion about the proposed “road diet” for US 278 that would reduce lanes on North Avondale Road?
I am fully in support of the road diet. The road diet will provide safer pedestrian crossings, wider sidewalks, fewer curb cuts off 278, additional parking, and perhaps a bike lane. The result will also be more aesthetically pleasing and more of a “Main Street” that we are proud of and not just a throughway for county traffic. GDOT studies have also confirmed that travel times along 278 would not be significantly impacted by lane reduction.
14) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes. If elected, I will continue to conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner and always put the interests and prosperity of the City above myself.
Learn more about voting in the Nov. 5 elections:
Voter registration for the Nov. 5 municipal elections will end Oct. 7. Early voting will start on Oct. 14. To register to vote, click here.
In order to register you have to be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of a Georgia county and at least 17 1/2 years old. You must be 18 years old to vote, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
If you already are registered and need your polling information, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter page by clicking here.
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