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Candidate Q&A – Avondale Estates City Commission candidate Lisa Shortell (incumbent)

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Candidate Q&A – Avondale Estates City Commission candidate Lisa Shortell (incumbent)

Lisa Shortell

Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain.  There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.

Decaturish provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of Avondale Estates City Commission candidate Lisa Shortell (incumbent). The answers have not been edited. 

1)      Why are you running for this office?

As when I ran four years ago, I want to ensure that decision-making is guided by citizen input and our planning processes and documents. I wholeheartedly believe in continuing the strategy of placemaking and infrastructure investment as a way to bring long term benefit to our business and residential districts – both financially and in other ways. I want to see the momentum, focus, and comprehensive approach of the last four years maintained. And, lastly, because I enjoy the work of government, especially hearing from residents.

2)      What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?

Having been involved well before my first election and a member of both the BOMC and DDA, I have the experience and knowledge of knowing how the city government works and how to work within that structure to make progress and introduce my priorities. I am 100% up-to-date and informed on city direction, process, and issues. I have the time to do the job well. I am a proven commodity having demonstrated my work ethic and accomplished many of the priorities I identified in my first campaign. And, last but not least, I am responsive and accessible to the point of obsession.

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

(a)    To finish what has been started including transformational downtown projects like the Town Green and 278 Complete Street Project and identified storm water projects in all parts of the city.

(b)    To continue to review and upgrade policies — particularly policing, communications, and environmental (including green storm water initiatives).

(c)     To consider and address residential area issues such as the needed renovation of several historic plazas, the health of Lake Avondale and the dam, and the prospect of traffic calming on residential streets.

4)      Do you think Avondale Estates’ Police Department should be reformed and if so, what reforms would you implement?

I certainly agree with a thorough review and updating of policies and procedures. The ongoing state accreditation and audit process is a beginning to this path and I am anxious to see the report. The information from the report will help me determine the scope of our next steps, including the scope of any third-party outside consultant. I do not want to speculate and suggest changes until I know what the report indicates. That said, I will take whatever steps are necessary and within my purview to ensure that our department is accountable and operates equitably and professionally.

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about this topic — especially in terms of how police departments can build trust and strengthen relationships. I like the recommendations provided in the IACP “Starting with What Works: Using Evidence Based Strategies to Improve Community and Police Relations.” Our department already practices some of these strategies. I also look forward to seeing the recommendations from Georgia Municipal Association’s Excellence in Policing Committee (part of their Equity and Inclusion Commission) when they are released. I would like to see our department consider and use resources such as these as they strive to be their best.

5)      As the city begins amending the tree ordinance, what changes would you like to see? Do you think the tree ordinance is doing enough to protect trees?

I agree with the many residents who commented and sent me emails that the current ordinance is not strong enough and I worked to include this item on a work session. We could do more to protect the tree canopy including amending the intent language of the ordinance, redefining the situations that should require a tree replacement plan, and planting canopy trees whenever possible in our public spaces and verges.

6)      What will you do to help make the city more welcoming to outsiders?

(a)    I worked with former Commissioner Yelton to bring the Welcome America program to the board for adoption and I will continue to support the efforts of our Welcoming committee.

(b)    Support review and updating of any policy in our city that is can be interpreted as exclusionary or unwelcoming

(c)     Support downtown development and continued revitalization and the inherent message therein that we are not just a residential enclave behind the hedge. We are creating more opportunity for diverse housing, businesses and jobs, and visitors by creating an attractive and welcoming place.

7)      If you are elected, what will you do to promote racial justice and equity in the city of Avondale Estates?

Please see #4 Policing and #6 Welcoming. It is important to me that we find ways to include everyone in community conversations, not just one or two groups who happen to be the loudest. I will listen to and consider the concerns of citizen advocacy groups such as the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice. Georgia Municipal Association has created an Equity and Inclusion Commission and I look forward to considering the use of the community resources this group develops. Finally, I would love to find a way for the recent Dekalb History Center exhibit on Avondale’s history to come to our city itself as it did a good job of expanding understanding of the city’s past.

8)      What do you think of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps do you think the city should take to help reduce the spread of the virus?

The city responded appropriately based on current information available and legal constraints. We generally try to follow CDC guidelines.

If and when we can legally mandate masks to be worn inside, I think we should do so, until the pandemic and variants ease. Otherwise, I think we should strongly encourage mask-wearing and lead by example in our city buildings.

9)      Stormwater is a big problem in Avondale Estates and the city is starting to address this issue. What are some of the stormwater improvements you would like to see if you are elected?

The city is currently finalizing the design and scope of the North Woods storm water project. This is important because it will prevent additional silt from building up in the Lake Avondale. I would like to see the five priority projects that were identified in the recently conducted comprehensive storm water assessment study completed by 2023 per our capital plan. I have also expressed my support for a green storm water infrastructure program and a defined approach to addressing impermeable surface as ways to incentivize/assist home and business owners to help with this problem.

10)   What is your opinion of the current city manager?

I have very much appreciated Mr. Bryant’s knowledge about and experience in city management and his comprehensive approach to issues. He has helped the board accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

11)   Do you think the city does a good job communicating with its residents and, if not, what improvements would you make?

Communication issues were something I identified in my first campaign and something that the board and city staff have discussed at every annual planning session the last three years. While I think information about projects and city activities of interest are being reported more regularly in both the ENews and newsletter and are easier to find on the website, there is always room for improvement. The board adopted its first Communication Policy a couple years ago and I would like to see that policy reflected more in practice as well as a more holistic approach to all our communications. It would be great to have a more user-friendly website. The city has just hired a new communication director and I look forward to seeing changes and improvements.

12)   Do you think the city should be doing more work around affordable housing to either encourage people to move to the city or to keep people, especially seniors, in the city?

Besides senior and traditional affordable housing, I would also like to see more “work-force housing” (teachers, police officers, etc.). Our new zoning code allows the development of all these types of housing by right. It now also allows long term rentals of accessory dwelling units which provides a more affordable option.  In terms of subsidizing financially or requiring such housing of  developers, we are not yet in the position that some other cities are with  more land and larger populations, built-out downtowns, and more available funds. To me, the desire for diverse housing options is just one more reason to maintain focus on developing and revitalizing the downtown. I hope we can get there and would support exploring ways to incentivize and working with developers to help these sorts of projects happen.

13)   If you are elected, what will you do to support public schools in Avondale Estates?

As I understand it, we cannot legally contribute Avondale tax payer money to the Dekalb County school system. I support our Ad-Hoc Education Committee whose mission it is to build deeper relationships with our public schools and to help find ways to assist them that are not financial. Many of our residents volunteer in various capacities at AES and the Museum School and I think our community connection is becoming stronger again. I myself have tutored, gardened, and helped build a playground at AES.

14)   If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in Avondale?

Besides frequenting our local businesses myself:

(a)    Continue to support revitalization and infrastructure investment in the downtown. Creating an attractive and walkable place attracts clients and visitors.

(b)    Support DDA/Main Street initiatives such as promotion, marketing, and events. A business-focused newsletter was recently started to help businesses stay informed about projects and city activities. The DDA/Main Street board also engages with the Avondale Estates Business Association. As the board appointed member of the DDA, I am able to support these efforts with my vote.

15)   What do you think is Avondale Estates greatest strength?

Its unique character, the involved, caring citizens, and the fantastic opportunity and potential in the central business district.

16)   What do you think is Avondale Estates biggest challenge?

More than one. Growing and diversifying our tax base to keep taxes low while maintaining our character and sense of place and demonstrating that Avondale’s past does not define what it is today.

17)   How would you address what you believe to be Avondale Estates’ greatest challenge?

To support, with my decisions and votes, vision-driven development and revitalization of the central business district (including the 278 project). There is no more far-reaching or impactful opportunity than the transformation of our downtown into a welcoming, walkable, and vibrant place that is connected to surrounding neighborhoods.  This development and growth will benefit the entire community in many ways — financially and otherwise — and help us to accomplish needs and goals in the residential areas.

18)   If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

Yes. Personally abide by ethics guidelines and laws, continue to publicly publish the city manager’s contract each year, ensure adequate public discussion by the board on items of citizen interest, and continue to organize and participate in commissioner chats and other informal citizen meetings to explain and share information and hear concerns.

More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election: 

All elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com.  

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.

To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.

Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16. 

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.

—  Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form. Use black or blue ink only.

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted by fax, 404-298-4038, or email, [email protected]

Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.

If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received by Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.

Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.

Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations: 

– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)

– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)

– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)

– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)

– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)

– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)

– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)

– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

For the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding early voting times and locations, visit Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com or call 404-298-4020.  

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