Candidate Q&A: Georgia House District 85Members of the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice and friends gathered at the intersection of North Avondale Road and Clarendon Avenue to encourage their neighbors to vote in the Jan. 5 runoff elections. The group provided passersby with snacks, masks and a flyer with information on how to make a voting plan. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decaturish.com sent a Q&A to all candidates running for the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. Here are the responses of the candidates running for House District 85 in the May 24 election. Early voting starts May 2. To see your sample ballot, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page by clicking here. The answers have not been edited. All our elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com.
To see a map of Georgia House districts, click here.
Editor’s note: Rep. Karla Drenner (incumbent) and Joscelyn O’Neil are both running in this race. The Q&A was sent to each candidate, but messages to O’Neil were not returned and a Q&A from her was not submitted before our deadline. We added her Q&A on May 11, 2022.
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Candidate name: Karla Drenner
Candidate website: https://karladrenner.com
What is your occupation? College Professor
What neighborhood do you call home? Central Unincorporated Dekalb County – Avondale Rockbridge area
Why are you running for this position? Representation matters. Elections have consequences. I am running because I have a proven track record of improving the lives of working families to bring economic, racial, social, gender, and environmental justice to our communities.
If elected, what are your top two or three priorities? To continue to do the above.
How would you work to accomplish your priorities if elected? My priorities are the same as my constituents which are economic, racial, social, gender, and environmental justice in our communities.
How would you work with members of the opposing party to accomplish your goals? Policymaking is a team sport even in a world that has grown increasingly polarized. As idealistically as it sounds, it takes all voices to make the world better. I will continue to listen, agree to disagree, and not be disagreeable. In other words, temperament matters now more than ever.
Do you support expanding Medicaid in Georgia and how would you work to accomplish this? Yes, I will continue to use my voice to support Medicaid expansion; this includes supporting those who believe expanding Medicaid helps the greater good.
Do you support full legalization of marijuana in Georgia? Why or why not? I support the decriminalization of marijuana; fully support its medical uses, lowering the barriers for use.
Do you support the creation of new cities in DeKalb County? Why or why not? In general, no. I am willing to listen to my constituents and take each occurrence on its own merits weighing what is holistically positive for every impacted community.
What do you think of the current process for creating new cities? The current process lacks substance, transparency, and citizen engagement and offers little critical, independent analysis upon which policymakers can rely.
Do you support ending Georgia’s prohibition on gambling? Why or why not? Gambling is such a broadly used term. First, I do not support hurting animals. Second, I support online sports betting, maybe casino gambling, if there is citizen support and if the revenue generated funds health and education.
If the state has a surplus due to increased revenue, how should the money be spent? Fully fund educational goals for k-12, including pre-k 3, support staff, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers; address the backlog of state employees’ salary increases; and invest in our infrastructure (water, sewers, and roadways).
What can the state do about private companies buying single family homes as investments? Should the state do anything? This is a complex problem to address; the state could change its tax policy, or local governments could address this by restructuring how they tax single-family properties.
What can the state do to make housing more affordable in Georgia?
Before the pandemic, the world was already experiencing an acute housing shortage, both in the rental and sales markets. COVID-19 accelerated the absence of available housing as supply chain challenges collided with a rush of buyers looking for more space fueled by historically low-interest rates. Here are a few affordability suggestions:
Beginning with how local governments could use up zoning. This would allow the construction of up to several units per lot. Second, offering financial incentives could stimulate both the supply and demand sides through low-interest loans or tax abatements. Lastly, down payment assistance programs could allow smaller down payments, ease the burden on buyers, and help ensure homeownership is more attainable for the middle class.
One of my favorites is Tiny Homes:)
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?
I have and will continue to do so; and we have laws – let’s enforce them, especially regarding conflict of interests.
Candidate name: Joscelyn O’Neil
Candidate website: www.joscelynoneil.net
What is your occupation? Retired DeKalb County School District
What neighborhood do you call home? I reside in unincorporated DeKalb County in the Greater Towers Community
Why are you running for this position? My goal is to change or create policy(ies) that will make a difference in the lives of the people living in my district.
If elected, what are your top two or three priorities? The COVID 19 pandemic has made everyone stop and takes notice of healthcare. Medicaid Expansion is a priority. Many uninsured or underinsured Georgians have no access to the medical care they need. The Affordable Housing Crisis is affecting low- and moderate-income families and the elderly who survive on fixed incomes, and they are being priced out of buying or renting homes. Economic developments will bring jobs, businesses, and restaurants to District 85 and offer the amenities that we find in other districts in our county.
How would you work to accomplish your priorities if elected? Building relationships with colleagues and the community is a priority. Advocate for the legislation that will generate positive change in communities across the state of Georgia.
How would you work with members of the opposing party to accomplish your goals? You should never lie about what you need to accomplish and be open to different points of view. When it comes to the development of legislation, we are all aware that it is difficult to get things accomplished without the cooperation of both parties. I plan to be a collaborator and seek to establish working relationships and find common ground with Democrat or Republican members to cosponsor bills.
Do you support expanding Medicaid in Georgia and how would you work to accomplish this? I fully support the expansion of Medicaid in Georgia. Receiving 90% of federal funding will ensure that both uninsured and underinsured Georgians will receive healthcare coverage with access to medical providers, preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health, vision, hearing, dental care, and reproductive healthcare for women. It will also boost our state’s economy and generate jobs.
Do you support full legalization of marijuana in Georgia? Why or why not? I support the full legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational usage here in Georgia. Commercial sales of marijuana will eliminate illegal profits and unhealthy or contaminated products. Taxing marijuana can raise thousands of dollars each year for the state of Georgia and the excess revenue can benefit other areas needing funding. Using Cannabis for medical purposes can be beneficial and legalizing it can lower the cost of crimes related to drug use and incarceration of drug users and illegal drug sellers. Expunging passed records for possession is essential. Legalizing marijuana is a decision every voting Georgian should decide as they cast their vote at the polls.
Do you support the creation of new cities in DeKalb County? Why or why not? All citizens in towns, cities, and counties across the state of Georgia have a right to form new municipalities. However, they must follow the guidelines and procedures to laid by legislation to make it happen.
What do you think of the current process for creating new cities? When areas are considering creating new cities, they use the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government to conduct a feasibility study showing the economic viability of the proposed municipality, as well as its financial impact on unincorporated areas and other municipalities. My only concern is that there should be a set period of two are more years set aside for the process of creating municipalities to be well planned. Enough time should also be set aside so members of the affected communities will receive information through the media, Q&A meetings, newsletters, virtual meetings, and blogs. Lastly, When the bill becomes a referendum all citizens residing in or near the seceding area should be able to vote.
Do you support ending Georgia’s prohibition on gambling? Why or why not? I support ending the prohibition on gambling. The revenue made from gambling can help decrease property taxes and give additional support to our educational system. Horse racing will have a great impact, by creating jobs throughout the state. As it stands buses are constantly leaving Georgia to visit casinos in other states. Taking revenue that could benefit our great state elsewhere.
If the state has a surplus due to increased revenue, how should the money be spent? The surplus funding can help 1. develop prevention and intervention K-12- programs to reduce school violence and prevent youth violence, delinquency and truancy through improved school safety and climate 2. Develop programs to reduce recidivism among youth returning to their communities following confinement 3. Develop GED/vocational programs for incarcerated youth and young adults. 4. Implement mentoring and counseling programs for incarcerated youth and their families.
What can the state do about private companies buying single family homes as investments? Should the state do anything? In communities across metro Atlanta, home investment companies are buying up entire neighborhoods and making it impossible for low to moderate-income buyers to purchase homes. Investors must be held to standards. I would introduce housing policies that limit private companies’ ability to purchase homes, protect homeowners and potential buyers from predatory practices and require one year of owner occupancy. Should the state do anything? Cash offers are quickly turning these single-family homes into exorbitantly priced rental properties. Multi-family rental unit prices have increased and are quickly leaving low-income families and the elderly living on fixed incomes homeless. Legislation is needed to cap rental properties’ ever-increasing rent.
What can the state do to make housing more affordable in Georgia? Build affordable single-home units and multi-housing units for low to middle-income families and the elderly. Cap the rising cost of renting homes and create a policy so that owner-occupancy is required when purchasing single-family homes. Offer incentives for the builder to renovate and revitalize communities.
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, I will continue to live my life with integrity, and I promise to conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner while serving the citizens of Georgia.