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Candidate Q&A – Patti Garrett, Decatur District 2 commissioner and mayor

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Candidate Q&A – Patti Garrett, Decatur District 2 commissioner and mayor

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett is up for reelection in November and she is the sole candidate running for the District 2 City Commission seat. Photo submitted by Patti Garrett.

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 Patti Garrett, Decatur’s District 2 commissioner and mayor. The city’s mayor is a commissioner elected to that post by fellow commissioners. She is unopposed in the District 2 race.The answers have not been edited. 

1) Why are you running for this office?

To continue my work as a facilitative, collaborative leader and to take purposeful steps toward equity, racial justice and climate change, including more affordable housing, developing and implementing a clean energy plan, and a climate action plan. I am also extremely excited to see plans come to fruition at Legacy Park and to see strategies that are in the works (such as Inclusionary Housing and the Decatur Land Trust) with Affordable Housing bringing tangible results.

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

I appreciate the confidence my fellow residents have in me and am honored to be running unopposed for the third time after first being elected to the City Commission in 2009.

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

One thing we’ve been reminded of over the past several years is that top priorities can change with the influx of a major disruptor such as the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past year and a half, I have focused an extraordinary amount of effort on helping to keep the community safe and healthy and businesses as viable and healthy as possible. Equity, climate change, racial justice issues in the form of implementing strategies identified by the City’s Affordable Housing Task Force, as well as recommendations of the Clean Energy Plan and eventually the Climate Action Plan, will be major themes of my next four years.

4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the city of Decatur?

Beyond current health and safety concerns- vaccines, masks, distancing, hand washing- providing a balanced approach to affordability and responding aggressively to climate change are among those issues.

5) What is your current opinion of the city of Decatur’s police department and are there any changes you would advocate for if you are elected?

Former Police Chief Mike Booker really changed the focus of the Decatur Police Department with the emphasis on Community Policing, training, working with community stakeholders, and enacting a general order to prevent biased based profiling. Interim Chief Richards has continued with these strategies.

I was extremely proud of the Decatur PD for their calm demeanor and understated presence during the peaceful protests over the summer of 2020.

One of the significant challenges that has been exacerbated during the pandemic is the increase in urban camping and homelessness. I think this is an area that we need to seek assistance and partnerships with other agencies to work with the Police Department and mental health professionals for solutions.

6) Climate change was an overarching theme to come to out of the strategic plan. What will you do to help the city establish clean energy targets?

In partnership with Agnes Scott College, the city developed a resiliency plan to consider steps to address major disruptions to city infrastructure in crisis situations brought on, for example, by storm and related events. As stated in the proposed 2020 Strategic Plan, “The Clean Energy Plan should establish aspirational yet realistic goals with specific timeframes that address 24-hour clean energy as well as our carbon footprint.” Funding for this plan was approved by the City Commission and I look forward to taking steps to meet goals that are identified. Another significant step taken to help ensure that the City stays on track was the transition of LEAD fellow David Nifong to a full-time position as Energy and Sustainability Manager.

I am also committed to joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and look forward to enlisting residents, businesses, faith communities, non-profits and institutions to reduce carbon emissions and proactively address climate change from every angle.

7) What are your thoughts on supporting more affordable housing? How do you think the city should balance concerns about increased density with the need to build more housing?

We need to be intentional in following the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Task Force, looking for funds to maintain Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing and offering new units through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and other strategies.

Density close to transit helps alleviate some concerns with respect to traffic. Density also contributes to the viability of our business districts that depend on regular foot traffic. I think we have to recognize that it is not a “one size fits all” solution and I look forward to the conversations that will be a part of the upcoming Downtown Master Plan.

8) Do you support raising taxes to create financial support for more affordable housing? 

I would like to explore other options – raising taxes impacts us all, especially those for whom it may be more difficult to stay in the city and contribute to its vibrancy and economic diversity.

9) How would you like to see the city and the school district work together to plan for future growth?

I look forward to resuming more regular meetings between the School Board and the City Commission to review population metrics and student growth trends.

Meeting opportunities have definitely been impacted by the pandemic and recent state legislation also impacts any conversations about annexation. I would like to see a joint meeting planned as soon as feasible in 2022. Although the City Manager and CSD Superintendent regularly communicate, it will be important to bring the two boards together again not only to discuss future growth but to establish camaraderie and discuss other opportunities to work together for the good of the community.

10) What is your opinion of Decatur’s current city manager?

Outstanding. Andrea Arnold has provided strong leadership in the city of Decatur which is organized and chartered as a Council Manager form of government. Ms. Arnold has excelled in helping keep the city running in a strong financial position with operational flexibility and readiness to provide basic and enhanced services. Her quiet patience, open-mindedness, visionary thinking and financial acumen are valued assets. She has shown exemplary and confident leadership during the pandemic.

11) 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 has been a leader throughout the state and in the region with respect to its response to the pandemic- from early adoption of a mask ordinance and requirements for social distancing to several programs to support the businesses in Decatur to weather the storm of the pandemic. The city requires a COVID response plan with event permitting and supports the option of event planners to require vaccination proof or negative COVID test results. No events will be permitted without meeting current city ordinances. I want us to continue to be a model community with a conservative and careful approach to help reduce the spread of the virus.

12) What do you think of the city’s current tree ordinance and what would you do to change it?

The current tree ordinance needs to be updated. I appreciate the work of the staff and the Environmental Sustainability Board and hope everyone who reads this answer will review the proposed changes and recommendations, paying particular attention to the proposed ordinance and the flow chart and scenarios presented. This is an important decision that the City Commission will be making this fall.

13) Every year (except for 2020) the Decatur City Commission holds its annual retreat two hours outside of city limits and does not record the meeting or stream it for people who cannot attend. Do you support the city commission’s practice of holding its annual retreat two hours away from its city limits?

The ability to remove obstacles from having a focused, intense, full two days is key. As in any organizational setting, team development enriches understanding and increases the effectiveness of team problem-solving, policy considerations, and the ability to develop a work plan for the year. I support the practice.

14) The city of Decatur has taken several steps to become more bike and pedestrian friendly, including cycle tracks and pedestrian walkways. Do you think the city has done enough to make the city friendly to bikers and pedestrians and, if not, what do you think the city should do to improve its pedestrian and cycling infrastructure?

Bicycles, Pedestrians, Cars, Trains, Transit and even scooters. All use public right of way and all have a place in our transportation infrastructure. Finding the right balance among all these and other uses sometimes requires a tradeoff. The Community Transportation Plan, individual project planning efforts, the 2020 Strategic Plan, downtown development plans and other public processes offer opportunities for striking that balance.

I look forward to continued implementation of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including protected bike lanes, new sidewalks and the sidewalk repair programs, helping us get to a “10-minute neighborhood” where residents have easy access to activities and services without a car . The city is also investigating the possibility of a circulator bus, recognizing the need to provide a form of transportation for those who cannot easily walk or bike.

15) Prior to the pandemic, the ability to find parking was a common complaint from people visiting Decatur. Do you think access to parking is a problem in Decatur and, if so, what would you do to address it?

An updated downtown parking study was completed in 2017 which showed that there are 300 metered spaces, 2,200 deck and lot spaces, and private spaces located in front of many of Decatur’s restaurants and businesses. A fact sheet on the City’s website has information about parking and there are brochures on ParkMobile stations. Upgrades and improved lighting at parking garages could increase usage of those spaces. We are also trying to make Decatur less car dependent and need to encourage alternate transportation access by MARTA, the Cliff shuttle buses, walking and biking.

16) What do you think is Decatur’s greatest strength?

Decatur gets its strength from the thoughtful, engaged and respectful community of residents who all wish for the same thing- to have a vibrant, healthy, viable and resilient community. A synergy of our residents, employees, visitors and those doing business in our community provides for a rich experience for everyone.

17) What do you think is Decatur’s biggest challenge?

Decatur continues to be an attractive place to live but affordability makes it difficult for some to afford to stay here and difficult for many to afford to move here. We must find solutions to alleviate those barriers.

18) How would you address what you believe to be Decatur’s biggest challenge?

Exploring the expansion of the Homestead exemption could be an option as well as continuing to work to increase the commercial tax base. Another strategy could be to consider zoning changes that allow for more affordable units to be imbedded in single family zoning; for example, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes with appropriate design standards.

19) 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?

The office of City Commissioner is indeed a highly honorable, highly public position. As City Commissioners, we pledge to uphold the Code of Ethics as described by ordinance. In addition, my pledge is to uphold the values of the city in the most transparent manner possible, to actively listen to anyone who wishes to engage on a topic, and to ensure each and every one that my sole purpose in being a city commissioner and/or mayor is to collectively make sound decisions for today’s community of Decatur and those who will be a part of the future of Decatur.

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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