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Candidate Q&A – Stone Mountain City Council Post 4 candidate Mike Schaaphok

elections Stone Mountain

Candidate Q&A – Stone Mountain City Council Post 4 candidate Mike Schaaphok

Mike Schaaphok, a Stone Mountain resident and previous candidate for Stone Mountain City Council

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.

The Tucker Observer provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of candidate Mike Schaaphok, who is running for Stone Mountain City Council Post 4. The answers have not been edited. 

1)      Why are you running for this office?

I believe that I can serve the citizens of Stone Mountain by helping them  receive the government they deserve.  I believe in the potential of Stone Mountain Village (SMV) to be a wonderful place to live with community involvement – but without an inclusive community we are destined to fail.

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

Some of the other candidates seem not to appreciate that SMV is NOT “Mayberry” from 1960! They seem unable to meet, or even to recognize the challenges of modern life like issues of sustainability, social justice, and government accountability. The purpose of government is to improve the lives of all citizens – not just the select few.

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

To redirect the city’s efforts to be more in line with needs of the people that they serve. There is much more to Stone Mountain than just Main Street. The neighborhoods where the citizens live  are ignored while tax revenues are diverted to a downtown that does not serve them.  SMV has a “Downtown Development Association  but no “Community Development” effort at all!  51% of our residents are renters – we need to insure that their voices are heard too.

4)      In your opinion, what is the most pressing challenge facing Stone Mountain?

I think that is no less than an existential one – does the City serve a purpose any longer? ‘There is becoming less and less reason for the average homeowner to pay the higher taxes and additional expenses maintaining a separate city requires, when the services that the citizens receive are becoming less apparent than those of the unincorporated areas surrounding us in Dekalb County.

5)       What is your current opinion of the current Stone Mountain city manager?

Our city manager is a very competent person. But it is not her job to provide direction and leadership. That is the responsibility of the citizens and their elected officials on the City Council and Mayor.

6)      What is your opinion of Stone Mountain’s current mayor and who will you be voting for in the Stone Mountain mayoral election?

Our current mayor has served in this position for at least the past 3 terms, She ran unopposed in her last election, and received only 344 votes – out of 3,927 registered voters.  Thats only 11.5% of  all SMV registered voters.

I have yet to see any campaign platform from Eileen smith. I have spoken with Andrea, Beverly, and Darryl and feel that each has some good ideas but am waiting for further information.

7)      What can the city of Stone Mountain do to better distinguish itself from Stone Mountain Park?

The most important people to impress are the people who live in SMV. We are NOT the park. We at SMV are not a tourist destination. I think that instead of becoming further engulfed in the political  wrangling we are missing the advantages that the park offers to our citizens in terms of it’s nature reserves and recreational gifts.

8)      Do you think the city should use paid parking to capitalize on park attendance?

No. I think that  we should welcome all to our city. ‘We have had parking studies done which show that we have adequate parking without charging our visitors.

9)      Racial justice and diversity have been points of conversation over the last year. What will you do to promote racial justice and diversity in the city of Stone Mountain?

Promotion of equality , inclusion, and equity for all members of SMV . The King center is sponsoring a series of Civic Dinners through Innclusivv.co – I am sponsoring one on October 12 addressing  “Bridging the Racial Divide” . Residents becoming true neighbors in stead of in name only is a good way to start.

10)   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 made some  surprising strides forward in declaring a “SMV State of Emergency” despite toe State of Georgia failing to maintain theirs. However, the recent revelation that the city has no real testing protocol for SMV employees, and that only 11 of our 32 employees – including police patrolmen – are vaccinated was a shock. I believe in mandatory vaccinations, with restricted duty as well as testing for all medical/religious exemptions. Government must be held to a higher standard (BTW – I am fully vaccinated)

11)   What is your opinion of Stone Mountain’s current Downtown Development Authority and what changes would you make, if any?

Our DDA should never be given precedence over the needs of the citi9zens of SMV.

12)   If elected, what would you do to support the business community and how would you sell Stone Mountain to businesses considering setting up shop in the city?

Business will come where it sees opportunity. The addition of hurdles and needless government involvement is a discouragement to investments. Just as successful business always listen to the needs of the market, a wise government is one which listens to the business investor.

13)   What should the city do to diversify its revenue streams?

Our major problems at this time are more a problem of how city revenue is used  rather than the way it is generated.

14)   Do you think the city of Stone Mountain should implement a “blight tax” to penalize home and property owners who do not take care of their properties?

No, Absolutely not. Property taxes should be based solely on market value, and not at the hands of elected officials. Allowing taxes to become weaponized for political reasons undermines the entire system. There are sufficient ordinances on our books to handle these situations.  Maybe the DDA et al. should consider a carrot instead of a bigger stick approach ??

15)   What is your opinion about Stone Mountain’s current tax rate and do you think it should be higher, lower or remain the same?

SMV has the reputation of paying the highest property millage rate in Dekalb County if not the entire state of Georgia. Councilman Monroe stood up for an accounting of this during the 2022 Public Hearings prior to City Council setting the rate. I agree with the majority of those who commented at that time. Taxpayers are not seeing value for the taxes they are paying. Our government is failing the taxpayers. We are not improving their lives with the choices made .

16)   Stone Mountain has recently decided to move forward with overdue upgrades to city parks. What park improvements would you like to see? 

While the city has dedicated over $ 853,000.00 towards park improvements in SPLOST funds alone, little has been spent to date. There are No waling paths in 3 of our 4 city parks, and no paved paths for bicycles or pedestrians currently scheduled of in the design stage, SMV has a dismal record wen t comes to how they have administered the parks in the city.

17)   What do you think is Stone Mountain’s greatest strength? 

As a small city, we have an opportunity to unite together and work towards establishing the Beloved Community of which Dr. King spoke. We have endured the loss of 20% of our former citizenry through the year 2010 ( Hi population was 9,500 – current census says around 6,700 residents). We have a great opportunity to evolve to the next step if we are ready.

18)   What do you think is Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?

Finding the will to change for the better, for all the citizenry . Overcoming the fear which makes us afraid of each other, and finding agape for each other – inclusive love and acceptance of our neighbors. Truly embracing our diversity and living intentionally to the benefit of all.

19)   How would you address what you believe to be Stone Mountain’s biggest challenge?

By modeling the behavior that I believe we should emulate. And insist that our government do the same. The Dream is still obtainable.

20)   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?

Absolutely. I believe that transparency is very different from “Invisibility”. I will make every  effort to promote and encourage civic engagement and to give meaning to the phrase “Government Participation” – Gone are the days when a “Town Crier” was the best that could be expected – the people expect that their voice will be heard and considered – and with technology there is no excuse for the government not communicating with the people in meaningful and significant ways .

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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