Avondale Estates Commissioner Lionel Laratte announces run for reelectionAvondale Estates City Commissioner Lionel Laratte
Avondale Estates, GA — Avondale Estates City Commissioner Lionel Laratte has announced he is seeking reelection and has qualified for the Nov. 2 election.
Two seats on the City Commission will be on the ballot in November. The commissioners are all elected at-large, not for specific districts. Three candidates are running for the two seats. Incumbent Commissioner Lisa Shortell and Ricardo Israel Korn are also running.
“I am running for reelection because, as these projects are in process and come to fruition, I will be shifting my focus to residents and neighbors: the people part of Avondale Estates,” Laratte said in a statement on Facebook.
He is focusing on diversity and inclusion, residential infrastructure and continuing resident participation.
Laratte and his wife moved to Avondale Estates from Philadelphia in 2009. Laratte works for a technology management consulting firm and focuses on IT organizations within larger enterprises and help them manage technology as well as teams better, Laratte said. He has served on the City Commission since 2017 and is the board liaison to the Welcoming Avondale Committee.
Laratte hopes to focus more on the people of Avondale Estates if elected for another four-year term. He’d also like to focus on police reform in the city.
“I don’t want people to put the negative connotation like defund the police. That’s not what I’m talking about at all,” Laratte said. “People think of police and people think force and guns and all of that good stuff. I think that in the 21st century, you have to think about it in a slightly different manner.”
He added, there’s the ability to have the police be leaders and potentially utilize other resources. For example, when dealing with a homeless person on the street, it’s not a matter of call the police, and they’ll get rid of them. But call the police and they should have the leadership ability to make the determination to call a homeless shelter.
“In cases that we’ve all read about, where someone has mental issues and is wielding a knife or something. Maybe the gun is the last resort. Maybe we can call in a mental health expert and say we’re here to protect you but take a stab at seeing if we can resolve this peacefully,” Laratte said.
Laratte said the city has tackled one issue, which was the amount of people being stopped by police for traffic stops, by adding speed cameras. In October 2020, the city approved a contract with Blue Line Solutions to install speed cameras in the school zone along U.S. 278 near Avondale Elementary School.
“I’m not saying that we have a big police problem,” Laratte said. “But I do think that you do need to pretty much think in a 21st century way of what is going to be beneficial to the larger society.”
The City Commission began reviewing the police department’s policies and procedures in June 2020 and agreed to hire a consultant to evaluate the department. The board interviewed candidates in September 2020 and has been going through the process to receive state accreditation through the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs.
The City Commission has not moved forward with hiring a consultant and is waiting to do so until the accreditation process is complete. The police department has completed the GAPC’s audit and is expected to receive the report this week, City Manager Patrick Bryant said.
Laratte said the accreditation is the first hurdle to get through.
“We’ll want to take up the agreed step of hiring a consultant to do an assessment and provide recommendations,” Laratte wrote on Facebook. “I am pushing to get this on the agenda in the fall, so we can settle on a consultant and move things forward. It was a strategic goal for 2021 that we have not met; we want [to] see this happen in 2022.”
If reelected, Laratte also plans to continue working with the Welcoming Avondale Committee to promote racial justice and equity in the city. The goal of the committee is to unify residents, enhance the quality of life and sustain economic development, Laratte said in his statement.
“I plan to put a lot of energy and effort into achieving these goals. As a first step, we are collaborating with former Commissioner Adela Yelton and an organization called Placita Latina to bring a few events to Avondale Estates this September and October,” Laratte said. “I will be pushing for more events and actions through Welcoming Avondale in the next four years.”
One idea that was pitched by a member of the Welcoming Avondale Committee is to have city forms available in multiple languages.
“I would like to see the city move to having bilingual forms in Spanish as well, since I think we do have Spanish-speaking residents but also Spanish-speaking business owners. It would make it more conducive to them opening businesses in Avondale,” Laratte told Decaturish.
Laratte added that small actions toward inclusivity, like opening the gate at Willis Park, are significant because it says something about the city’s willingness to be inclusive.
“I think it’s important that we are inclusive. I think the people part is what’s going to keep the downtown, as well as the residential [area] sustainable. We don’t have enough people living in Avondale itself to sustain what we want to see downtown,” Laratte said.
The residential areas are also a focus for Laratte. The city has recently focused much of its efforts on downtown Avondale, and he wants to see more resources put into the residential areas, especially when it comes to stormwater.
“I live on Clarendon Avenue and I see rivers of water going everywhere,” Laratte said. “I know that there are residents whose basements are basically devastated by the rains. I think we’ve taken steps to get there. I think that remedying that situation is something that we need to absolutely focus on and do what it takes. Because homeowners like everyone else pay their taxes and if there’s something that the city can do to help them out, especially with city infrastructure, which is for all, then we do need to do that.”
In a second term, Laratte hopes to continue preserving the core of Avondale Estates, the single-family residential areas.
“There are good reasons for preserving that core because it is a certain character that you find in the residential areas,” Laratte said. “That’s what makes a city. It’s not homogeneity that makes a city, but it’s the coming together of the differences that creates something that you can call character, and that’s what I think is important in Avondale. We are Avondale. We have to include all of us in that.”
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