Candidate Q&A – Maryam Ahmad, candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 6
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About this series: Decaturish invited all of the candidates seeking the DeKalb County Commission’s District 6 seat to respond to a questionnaire about the race. The election currently is set for June 9. It was originally supposed to be on May 19, but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A longer announcement about the election changes is included at the end of this Q&A. All Decaturish.com election coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com. If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a paying supporter of Decaturish. To sign up for as little as $3 a month, click here.
Here are the responses from Maryam Ahmad, a candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 6.
1) Why are you running for this position?
I genuinely care about my home, DeKalb County, where I was born and raised.
I am determined to have all voices heard. As DeKalb citizens, we have the right to representation, integrity, and sustainability of the district. I want to see the county grow, by always putting the communities’ needs first.
2) What do you feel makes you a better candidate than the other candidates in this race?
I am a public health professional and activist who was born and raised in DeKalb County. I was educated in the public school system and attended Emory University. DeKalb is my home, and I have dedicated my life to working to improve it. My Master’s in Public Health from Georgia State and experience as a public health expert has given me a deep understanding of what makes a healthy community. My B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology taught me how important it is to consistently listen to all voices in the diverse communities of DeKalb. Every community must be listened to in order to truly understand their needs. I may not be a career politician, but I am very much an advocate for our communities.
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3) If you are elected, what will be your top two or three priorities?
The most important priority will be to listen to the questions, comments, and concerns of the citizens of Super District 6. Incentivizing community partnership is key to maintaining a community first development policy Another priority is to collaborate with all the commissioners in order to bring more transparency and integrity to the district. Lastly, I’d like to expand our public infrastructure in ways that are more representative of the long-term needs of our community.
4) Do you support lowering the county’s overall tax rate to help residents who are facing economic hardships due to COVID-19?
People’s lives and well-being come first. Many individuals have lost their jobs and are facing economic hardship. I support lowering the county’s overall tax rate to try to mitigate some of the negative effects.
5) What is your opinion of the county’s response to this pandemic?
We are all learning as a country that a faster response to COVID-19 was needed. There were things I think DeKalb did as a county that were more effective, like closing schools ahead of the state mandate—but there are still things that need to be done better. A big part of planning on a local level is emergency preparedness. We need to make sure we have clear systems in place to ensure the health and safety of our community. Health has to be taken more seriously and our idea about what ‘health’ is needs to expand. When health is not considered a priority, there is no real stability.
6) What is your opinion of county CEO Michael Thurmond?
CEO Michael Thurmond has brought a degree of credibility, stability, and leadership to DeKalb that was much needed. He has addressed many very difficult issues that will have a major impact on the progressive future of DeKalb. An example is the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) of the EPA Consent Decree. His leadership has certainly been critical in charting a new trajectory for all DeKalb residents.
7) As you know, DeKalb County water billing has been mismanaged for years leading CEO Thurmond to create the New Day Project to address the problems. What is your opinion of his efforts to address this problem and is there anything you think he should have done differently?
I think It may be too soon to know for sure, but the New Day Project has the potential to turnaround what has been a huge economic and transparency issue, and even a public health concern that DeKalb County residents have dealt with for far too long. My only wish is that the replacement of approximately 102,000 water meters across the county happens quickly and effectively. If elected, I will always advocate for putting better systems in place that allow us to hold our administration accountable if they can be proven effective.
8) What should the county do to upgrade its sewer infrastructure to prevent sewer spills and overflows?
Current administration has taken on this crucial endeavor head-on by implementing the EPA consent decree, which will hopefully prevent new sewer spills and overflows. As citizens, we understand that DeKalb County must replace, enlarge and expand its water system as well as put in place a CIP to ensure adequate and proper maintenance moving forward. I am hopeful that after the consent decree is met, DeKalb County’s sewer problem will not be a topic of discussion.
9) What is your opinion of the push to create new cities in DeKalb County and expand existing cities via annexation?
We need to be thinking of the economic welfare of our entire district. We cannot risk city revenues being spread too thin by annexations and the creation of new cities. We need our tax revenue to be appropriated equitably if we are to improve the sustainability of DeKalb County. If annexation of certain areas or creation of cities that citizens vote for on the ballot I would wholeheartedly respect the will of the citizens.
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10) What will you do to mitigate the effect of new cities and annexation on the county’s budget?
By prioritizing our communities first. All annexation proposals should be determined by referendum if we are to assure the entire district is being represented in the process.
11) As you know, the county’s Ethics Board currently is in limbo. In 2018, the board was deemed unconstitutional due to its makeup. Plans to fix the board have stalled in the Legislature. Do you support a clean fix to change the appointments process or do you think the Ethics Board needs to be overhauled?
I support a clean fix to change the appointment process for the ethics board. That was one of the main issues found unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court.
12) Do you think the county’s “front line” employees – including sanitation, police, fire and watershed department employees – working during the coronavirus pandemic should receive extra pay?
Yes, there needs to be some form of hazard compensation for county employees who are working during this public health crisis. They are literally putting their lives at risk, working the frontline essential jobs that keep our community functioning. They should also receive appropriate PPE.
13) Do you support removing the Confederate monument in Decatur Square?
Absolutely. Perhaps it could be remembered in a museum, but it should be replaced with something that is more future-facing. The current statue commemorates a truly terrible time in our history, and a monument that is more inclusive should replace it to remind us that we are all proud Georgians.
14) This question comes from a reader: Do you support a county minimum wage and, if so, how would you implement it?
Yes, the minimum wage for county workers is $15 per hour, which I definitely support. We are happy to set the example of providing a real living wage for our citizens.
15) Another reader question: Do you support the expansion of MARTA, including rail to Stonecrest and increased bus rapid transit?
Yes, I support the expansion of MARTA, including heavy rail when MARTA’s budget allows it. I would like to have accessibility along the I-20 corridor. Transportation policy is so impactful for people living in districts as large as ours. It’s economic development, infrastructure and sustainability all wrapped in one. Healthier communities have accessible transportation.
16) If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Absolutely! I am here to work FOR the communities of Super District 6. Ethics and transparency are important for continuous local engagement that creates opportunities for community inclusion.
More information about voting in this election:
The voter registration deadline for the June 9 election is May 11.
You can look up your status by visiting the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page.” To visit the My Voter Page, click here. You can check your status by providing basic information like your last name, birthday and the county you live in. You can also see a sample ballot.
If you find you are not registered and want to be registered in time for the next election, there are a few ways you can get back on the voter rolls.
You can register online with the Secretary of State’s Office by clicking here.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, in order to register to vote you must:
– Be a citizen of the United States
– Be a legal resident of the county where you are voting
– Be at least 17 1/2 years of age to register and 18 years of age to vote
– Not be serving a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude
– Have not been found mentally incompetent by a judge
For more information about how to register, click here.
People are being encouraged to vote by mail in the upcoming election. Most people should’ve already received an application for an absentee ballot form in the mail. Absentee ballots can be requested online through the Secretary of State’s Office or the County Board of Registrations and Elections. The county board of registrar’s office is located at 4380 Memorial Drive Suite, 300, Decatur, GA 30032. Once the ballot has been requested, election officials will mail each voter the appropriate ballot.
People voting by mail will be identified using signature verification. If a signature doesn’t match, those voters will be mailed a provisional ballot and asked to return that along with a photocopy of their identification. Three people have to agree that a signature does not match before a provisional ballot is sent to a voter.
Here is the most recent election update from DeKalb County:
Update on General Primary Election and Absentee Ballots
DECATUR, Ga.– On Thursday, April 9, 2020, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger postponed the May 19, 2020, presidential preference primary, special election, general primary and general nonpartisan election to June 9, 2020.
All votes previously cast in the 2020 presidential preference primary/special election originally scheduled for March 24, 2020, will be counted on June 9, 2020.
Voters who have previously cast ballots in the presidential preference primary / special election originally scheduled for March 24, 2020, will receive a ballot that contains the races for the June 9, 2020, general primary and general nonpartisan election only.
Voters who have not yet cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential preference primary/special election will receive a ballot that contains both the presidential preference primary/special election races and the General Primary and general nonpartisan election races.
On Monday, March 30, 2020, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered active voters in the state.
Applications requesting a ballot for May 19, 2020, will be processed as requesting a ballot for the June 9, 2020, election.
Completed applications must be received by the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Office no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5, 2020, and absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on June 9, 2020. Uniformed and Overseas Citizens (UOCAVA) ballots must be postmarked by June 9, 2020, and received no later than Friday, June 12, 2020.
For more information, contact the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Office at 404-298-4020.
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