Dear Decaturish – In support of John Park for mayor of BrookhavenBrookhaven Mayor-elect John Park
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Decaturish invited all candidates running in the Nov. 7 municipal election to submit up to three letters on their behalf. One of the letters could be written by the candidate. Here are letters in support of John Park for mayor of Brookhaven.
When John Park first ran for Brookhaven City Council in 2014, I wrote a letter of support to district voters:
“John Park will protect and preserve our parks and green space, fund and support our police department, and make sure that zoning and planning decisions are handled more carefully and that code violators are dealt with by the city appropriately.”
Nine years later, it is my pleasure to support John Park for Mayor based on the experiences my friends, neighbors and I have had as John served as our Councilmember. He has exceeded expectations and turned me from a skeptic of our city’s incorporation into a believer in the power of servant-leaders to improve and protect our community.
When Brookhaven residents were taking sides on whether to support incorporation of the new city, one of the main points made by proponents was that local control of policing would greatly benefit those of us who live here. At the time, police response times were shockingly long, as North DeKalb often had pitifully low staffing levels (still does unfortunately).
While I hoped we could transform our neighborhoods into a safer and more connected community, I will admit I was skeptical. Skeptical that a small city could do that much more, and skeptical that taking over that responsibility wouldn’t overwhelm the city’s funding sources, and would lead to ever higher municipal tax rates.
Today, I find reassurance that Brookhaven is consistently rated the safest city in DeKalb County with the lowest millage rate in the County.
When the city and its police force launched, you could feel the difference immediately. We went from only occasionally seeing police cars to seeing the same police cars and the same officers so frequently we got to know the officers. I was delighted to see the direct outreach of the department to the Latino community, and road work and lighting improvements were done to increase pedestrian safety on Buford Highway.
New technology called Live911, first deployed last year, enhances BPD’s already top-notch response times without putting officers or civilians at greater risk. Drones have improved the department’s ability to respond quickly and gather information to provide effective help.
I personally love “Brookhaven Connect”, a smartphone app that helps residents quickly and conveniently report non-emergency issues like park safety concerns, code violations, and potholes. The response time on these basic, but important, quality-of-life issues is remarkable.
If the dramatic improvement in public safety was the only dividend from the incorporation of Brookhaven, it would be well worth it. But that’s not the only benefit by far.
Brookhaven has continuously improved and expanded parks and facilities, especially after passage of the 2018 Park Bond. And John has been a leader in park and greenspace acquisition. He was instrumental in the preservation of 33 acres of old-growth forest, thus creating the Ashford Forest Preserve. The Peachtree Creek Greenway, which includes federal and state grant funds and will eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine, improves citizens’ access to recreation, transit, businesses and our neighborhoods.
In addition to his attention to public safety and greenspace work, one of John’s strengths is his attention to the citizens. Throughout his time on council, he has always listened to concerns and issues brought forward by the people. Whether it was on his back porch at his quarterly Open Houses or when folks would stop to chat with him on his daily dog walks, or at Food Truck Nights in Blackburn Park, he would always hear out their concerns and share his thoughts on the subject in a straightforward manner.
Early on in his tenure, a code-clarification incident drew the attention of the council regarding the matter of backyard chickens. Rather than make sweeping decisions, John sought out input from citizens, like myself who maintained small flocks as pets and for fresh eggs. The matter was drawn up, presented to council, arguments heard and a vote taken. I brought my family with me to the Council meeting and was excited to share with my three children a small glimpse of how the legislative process can and should work; they were enthralled to be a part of it.
In addition to these examples shared here, his consistent servant-leader governing style and John’s role in fostering and maintaining our developing city’s identity are some of the many reasons I hope you will join me in voting for John Park for Mayor of Brookhaven in November’s municipal election.
— Danielle Bell
One of the most extraordinary experiences of my professional career began when I worked with the city of Brookhaven’s leadership to equip, hire, and launch a brand-new police department for the new city. Almost immediately, I was impressed with the reactions of Brookhaven residents and visitors, not just those I spoke to personally, but in reports and ordinary conversations with our officers.
“The day the police department launched, and ever since, it seems you can’t drive anywhere in Brookhaven without seeing officers,” was a frequent compliment. Officers spoke of the warmth with which ordinary citizens, not seeking help with an issue, but simply standing in a convenience store parking lot, or on a shopping mall sidewalk, or even flagging down officers in their neighborhoods to express their thanks and appreciation for our efforts.
That level of community support helped us not only in the early days, but continues today, as the Brookhaven Police Department is able to attract the best and brightest officers due in large part to our relations with the citizens we serve, and the support received from our elected leaders.
After winning the election in November 2014, Councilmember John Park began working with a municipality and police department still in their infancy, and he became the longest-serving member of City Council. Through his work with us on the law enforcement side, and his colleagues in elected leadership, John Park deserves credit as one of the architects of the quality-of-life Brookhaven citizens and visitors enjoy.
And if the reactions of residents are any indication, much of that quality of life comes from feeling safer and more secure in their homes, our local schools, and at the many merchants in Brookhaven. And those of us who worked to stand up, and foster the growth of the Brookhaven Police Department, will tell you that John Park was an active partner through this journey.
Throughout his tenure on the City Council, John Park reliably supported the Department because he understood the importance of public safety to the citizens.
Much of the department’s success comes from being able to focus on the issues, challenges, and new developments within the much smaller geography we cover than was previously patrolled by DeKalb County alone.
As a strong supporter of Community-Based Policing, John Park helped ensure we kept our primary focus within the borders of the city while maintaining awareness of neighboring communities and good relations with both our fellow law enforcement officers and community members of all jurisdictions. He advocated for the hiring of our department’s Mental Health Co-Responders, which we were the first city in the metro Atlanta area to adopt.
His deep and numerous connections within the community helped him ensure that we were aware of citizen concerns and that his neighbors had a trustworthy conduit to the department. He was encouraging of expanding our community outreach efforts to be inclusive of all members of our city, like conducting our Police Department 101 residential program in Spanish language.
John also maintained a level of transparency and accountability across the board, successfully balancing the needs and opinions of his constituents with those of the broader community and the employees of the city, especially our police officers.
One unique strength John Park brought to the table in leading our local government comes from his professional background and experience as an IT consultant.
After 9/11, John’s work focused on bioterrorism preparation with the Centers for Disease Control and today, he consults on systems that help public health officials monitor the spread of disease.
As a Council Member, he was fully in support of efforts to consider and adopt new approaches to policing based on state-of-the-art information analytics, such as crime scene drones, license plate readers, and live 911 calls. His knowledge of technology helped in reinforcing the use of new technology and initiatives with fellow council members. He helped us develop as a state-of-the-art data-driven agency. This data helps us improve our relationships with the community, stop crime before it happens, and holds officers accountable to our high standards.
Today, 10 years after incorporation, Brookhaven residents have much to be thankful for as we enjoy a high quality of life, excellent and responsive police services, expanded health and recreation opportunities, and a vibrant community. And I say this as not only Chief Emeritus of the Brookhaven Police Department but as a resident, along with my wife Lynne.
— Gary Yandura, Chief Emeritus of the Brookhaven Police Department, 2013-2023
As I reflect on the last 9 years of serving on the Brookhaven city council I would like to share with you one key observation. Everything is connected. Brookhaven is not quite a new city anymore, but we are not quite a mature city yet. As we transition to the next stage of our city’s development, it is incumbent on city leadership to understand the interplay between green spaces, multi-modal transportation, zoning, and infrastructure to shepherd a future with vision.
One of my first initiatives as a council member was to preserve the Runway protection zone of PDK now known as the Ashford Forest Preserve. A key funding source was a grant and low interest loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s Clean water revolving fund that can be used for both stormwater infrastructure and land acquisition. In fact, undeveloped land is stormwater infrastructure. It will connect to a series of newly acquired linear parks such as the Parkridge preserve and the South Bamby FEMA buyout lots along with established greenspaces such as Georgian Hills, the previous FEMA lots in Drew valley on to the Peachtree Creek Greenway and eventually to the Beltline. This is just one example of the series of Linear Parks that will connect throughout Brookhaven so that every resident will be within a 10 minute walk of a Green Space. As the crow flies, it’s much shorter to walk or bike along these linear parks and paths that have multiple purposes to bring us all a little closer together and make life more comfortable for all of us.
We also require greenspace and other concessions from our newly zoned developments. Dresden Village (approved during my second term and currently under construction) will provide connectivity via a linear park from the bend at Caldwell to Dresden Drive as well as a pocket park adjacent to the development on the eastern side. It’s counterintuitive, but this development will alleviate flooding while detaining more water underground and will put less pressure on flooding downstream, while in-fill single-family homes built incrementally substantially increased the flooding in Brookhaven Fields and Drew Valley which necessitated the Drew Valley detention pound and the FEMA buyout lots downstream that we enjoy using as greenspaces.
Brookhaven has made tremendous gains in livability and grown closer together as a community. We have a top-notch police force to provide for our safety (safest city in DeKalb). Thanks to the park bond agreed to by voters, we have world-class parks. We continue to build out our multi-modal transportations options as well as upgrading our stormwater infrastructure and paving our roads.
It’s time to take all this to the next level with well-thought-out planning, innovative funding sources, and proper prioritization and discipline to stay focused on the needs of tomorrow as well as addressing the problems of today. Please join me to work together for a Brookhaven that benefits all. I will do my best to earn your vote. Call me at 404 822 7059 if you have any questions or email me at [email protected].
— John Park, Former Brookhaven Councilmember for District 2, Candidate for Brookhaven Mayor
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