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Candidate Q&A – Ted Terry, candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 6

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Candidate Q&A – Ted Terry, candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 6

Ted Terry
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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 Ted Terry, a candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 6.

1) Why are you running for this position?

I’m running to bring new energy, and new ideas, to move DeKalb forward. I see a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future for our county. I want to work with all of DeKalb to build a world-class community that we will all be proud to call home.

2) What do you feel makes you a better candidate than the other candidates in this race?

During these uncertain times, it is important that we have leadership with the knowledge and experience to keep our communities safe. I have served as Mayor of Clarkston for over 6 years, and on the DeKalb County Board of Health for 5 years. I will be ready to work for the people of the Super 6 on day one. My record as Mayor of Clarkston and the progressive forward-thinking policies we led on will be the same type of leadership I will bring to the county level.

3) If you are elected, what will be your top two or three priorities?

Housing Justice and Affordability, Transit Expansion and Equity, Taking Action on Climate Change

4) Do you support lowering the county’s overall tax rate to help residents who are facing economic hardships due to COVID-19?

In my affordable housing policy paper, I outline several measures that can be implemented to address the high cost of living for many of our residents who are on fixed incomes or make low wages. I support targeted adjustments to lower tax assessments and creating anti-displacement and emergency eviction funds to support those most vulnerable during and after the pandemic. Lowering the overall tax rate, however, would result in significant reductions in vital services that are helping many individuals in our community struggling with unemployment, lack of health care, or educational opportunities. Furthermore, the county should establish a pandemic response fund to deal with Phase 3 – Phase 5 of COVID-19.

For example:

Phase 1) Infection. Rapid spreading.

Phase 2) Social Distancing.  Stay apart socially.

Phase 3) Virus Mgt. Proper Testing, Tracing, Early Treatment.

Phase 4) Eradication. 12 – 18 months, vaccine.

Phase 5) Pandemic Prep. Be ready for future pandemics.

5) What is your opinion of the county’s response to this pandemic?

As a member of the DeKalb Board of Health, tasked with overseeing and holding accountable our public health program in the county, I have been privileged with direct knowledge of the response to this pandemic in real-time. I am pleased that DeKalb County leaders were among the first in the state to heed the call of public health experts in mitigating the spread of coronavirus. The COVID-19 task force as well as the communication of resources from leaders at all levels from the CEO’s office, the Health Department and local Mayors has been well executed. It is important to note that most infectious disease experts are warning that this pandemic might be with us for longer than we first thought, that there might be future cycles of increased infections and shelter in place orders. Now is the time for DeKalb County leaders to come together to plan for the future inevitability of pandemic(s). I will be a leader in bringing county, municipal, school, state and federal officials together to ensure that DeKalb County will be ready for the foreseeable future of this and possible future pandemic threats.

6) What is your opinion of county CEO Michael Thurmond?

I met Mike way back in 2005 when he was Labor Commissioner. He is a committed public servant, with a shrewd sense of how to run government efficiently and effectively. In a time of contracting county revenues, and pressures from new cities and annexation attempts, it is important that DeKalb County as an institution is strong, efficient and agile in the changing economic and political landscape. I will work in a positive and constructive way over the next 4 years with CEO Thurmond to move our County forward into the 21st century.

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?

Two months ago I got a call from a resident here in Clarkston, Mrs. Rosetta, about a recent water bill she had received for more than $1,600. Mrs. Rosetta is a grandmother, living on a fixed income, taking care of two grandchildren in her house. She could not afford to cover that bill. I helped her file an appeal to the county watershed dispute line and within just a few days, we received a response that she could begin a small monthly payment plan to make up for a past billing error. I fully support policies in the New Day Project, like the moratorium on water shutoffs, and I am pleased to know that many residents who are disputing outrageously high bills are being given the opportunity to pay off past bills or get the correct adjustments they deserve to lower those high bills.

8) What should the county do to upgrade its sewer infrastructure to prevent sewer spills and overflows?

I believe we need to move towards the Water Authority model for handling water and sewer infrastructure and service delivery. This is the growing trend and standard around the nation. A water authority would allow an appointed board from the county, city, school, business, and residential leadership to oversee the implementation of now and future investments to prevent sewer spills and overflows. Furthermore, we should begin to implement an intensive “third bin” strategy. This third bin would cover the collection of food waste for composting, and/or cooking grease. Adding this service strategy to curbside and commercial sanitation services will reduce the flow of Fats, Oils, and Greases (FOG) into the sewer system, a major contributing factor to the prevention of future spills. We should also explore building code standards that require grease traps as part of new residential and multi-family commercial developments.

9) What is your opinion of the push to create new cities in DeKalb County and expand existing cities via annexation?

As a Mayor, my community of Clarkston asked me to pursue annexation. And we did. We went from being a 1.1 sq mile city to 1.4 sq miles, impacting the county tax revenues by approximately $1.5 million annually. I am very supportive of small municipalities seeking minor annexations, with resident approval, to address a common small city problem, very small budgets that can barely fund basic services. However, I will not support wealthier cities cherry-picking prime real estate, to further the balkanization of our county, negatively impacting our service delivery strategy. I will not support the creation of massive new cities that will inevitably cause the collapse of vital programs and services offered by the county government (read the Carl Vinson Institute study on the impacts of municipalization and large annexations released this year), benefiting all DeKalb residents.

10) What will you do to mitigate the effect of new cities and annexation on the county’s budget?

We must continue the pause on new cities and annexations while the Charter Review Committee works this year to propose potential solutions to our multi-layered jurisdictional system in the county. I’m running to bring new innovative ideas to the County Government. It is time that we changed the way we look at “government” in our county. I will be a strong advocate for a one DeKalb approach. The further splicing and dicing of our communities will only lead to further consternation and conflict between neighbors. The solution is to work together.

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’m not happy with any of the proposals thus far. Other communities in Georgia and around the nation have put strong ethics policies and procedures in place. I will be a strong supporter of a robust and active anti-corruption ombudsman within the DeKalb County Government. It will also be incumbent upon municipalities to match the level of anti-corruption measures that would be adopted by county officials. We must put forward the most comprehensive policy program on ethics, and corruption in the nation. And it must apply to ALL jurisdictions in DeKalb County.

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?

Absolutely. We also must coordinate across jurisdictions, here in the county and Metro-Atlanta region to establish a specific pandemic relief fund for now and future challenges we could face.

13) Do you support removing the Confederate monument in the Decatur Square?

Yes. Furthermore, we must increase our education and reconciliation efforts to address the deep and lasting inequalities that have come from slavery, jim crow, voter disenfranchisement, and housing discrimination in our own communities. The “in-context” plaques are simply not enough to truly begin the healing that so many of our communities and residents need. A comprehensive education program to fully articulate the impacts of centuries of racism and discrimination are needed in every public and private school in DeKalb, and in the larger community context, where we as leaders in our county consistently and diligently remind current and future generations of the legacy that slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination created.

14) This question comes from a reader: Do you support a county minimum wage and, if so, how would you implement it?

Clarkston was the first city in Georgia to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15/hr, back in 2016. DeKalb County announced this year that all county employees would receive a $15/hr minimum wage. State law prevents local control on the minimum wage in the private sector. First, we must ensure and advocate that all governments in DeKalb are establishing minimum living wages of $15/hr, and pegging this to the cost of living adjustments. Taking a cue from other communities around the nation, we can begin a campaign to highlight and support local businesses that will sign on to a $15 minimum wage. For instance, my natural gas provider is Gas South, mostly because they are a DeKalb based company paying a $15 minimum wage. A living wage lifts people out of poverty, reducing the strain on supportive services from local, state and federal governments and nonprofits.

15) Another reader question: Do you support the expansion of MARTA, including rail to Stonecrest and increased bus rapid transit?

Yes. On my website (www.tedfordekalb.com) I have put out a policy paper on Transit expansion and equity. I support the 1 penny scenario laid out in the DeKalb Transit Master Plan, as well as utilizing future SPLOST infrastructure dollars to expand walkability and bikeability transportation corridors. Building a world-class transit and transportation system in DeKalb will not only catalyze economic growth and prosperity but will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping us act on climate change and reversing global warming.

16) If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?

Yes, absolutely. I believe that with a fresh look at ethics and anti-corruption policies, We can lead the nation in ethics and transparency.

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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