Infrastructure and Downtown redevelopment take center stage in Stone Mountain city forumsCity of Stone Mountain Municipal Building. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Stone Mountain, GA — Decaturish held three forums with the candidates running for the open posts in the upcoming Stone Mountain City Council elections. Each candidate was given a chance to make an opening statement, asked several questions about their strengths and priorities if elected, and then was given the opportunity to make a closing statement.
The forums are available on the Decaturish Media YouTube channel. To see all our forums in the Nov. 7 election, click here.
Gina Stroud-Cox,the incumbent councilmember, stressed engaged listening, compromise, and unity in expressing her position. She held up diversity as Stone Mountain’s biggest strength, that more conversation between people with diverse opinions and more transparency from city government was crucial going forward. Councilmember Stroud-Cox recently voted against the controversial raise.
“Your (impersonal) idea is no better than mine if we can’t come together and discuss it. I’m all about listening, so we can find new perspectives,” Stroud-Cox said.
Anita Bass described herself as a servant leader and an activator, detailing projects in the past she has contributed to. Bass focused on downtown development as an issue crucial for the future of Stone Mountain and said that she would reach out to other similar cities to see what they have done successfully. Bass stressed the active role she wants to play in making the future happen.
“I think there is a new wave coming. I think there are things coming down the pipe, and I hope that I would be the voice to help steer the helm the right way,” Bass said.
Michael Schaaphok was late to the debate, but immediately began critiquing one of the recurring narratives of this election cycle. Several candidates seem to agree on a business-focused approach, while Schaaphok believes infrastructure, like sidewalks and sinkholes, should be the priority. He described himself as a hands-on, solutions-oriented person. He spent his time debunking this business-focused approach, suggesting instead that the city focus on “serving the needs of the people that live here” rather than those that just “invest here”.
“If we make Stone Mountain a great place to live, people will want to live here,” Schaaphok said.
Recurring themes emerged in the second forum, candidates did little to differentiate themselves. Each candidate at points praised Stone Mountain for it’s walkability and community, then decried the amount of closed storefronts downtown, the sorry state of city infrastructure and the confused communication between the city and residents. Support for the city manager was expressed by each candidate across the board.
Clint Monroe talked about the accomplishments of the city council he has participated in. He continually decried the “real-estate rascals,” a group with vaguely nefarious intentions responsible, according to Monroe, for “sowing dissent.” Monroe committed to more consistently communicating the work being accomplished by the city. Monroe voiced his support of the recent raises, saying how city council is and should be treated like a full-time job. He also said he was a fiscal conservative and highlighted the money he has saved the citizens by cutting the mileage rate.
“We have so many accomplishments that no one has heard about, cause someone else is controlling the narrative and I am here to set the record straight,” Monroe said.
Mark Marianos highlighted visibility in his allotted time. He critiqued the current administration for its lack of responsiveness and said that he would be around, with his notebook, to hear and jot down what the citizens have to say. He also highlighted his skill for visualizing solutions to problems.
“My three main points are working to support unity, achieve a healthy city through infrastructure and promoting business, and finally, actually acting on good ideas,” Marianos said.
Hannah Pizano touched on the familiar themes of lack of responsiveness from the city, redevelopment, and infrastructure. She talked about wanting to listen and consistently reiterated the potential of the city, pointing to the downtown and the infrastructure as areas for improvement. Pizano talked about leveraging the burgeoning film industry, with signs highlighting where things were filmed as a way of drawing interest.
“I think with anything, working together is crucial for everyone to get the best version of what they want,” Pizano said.
Grace Kelly was unable to attend because she was working, but communicated to decaturish.com, her Q&A can be read here.
Decaturish received no response in regard to the forums from the other candidates.
Ryan Smith is a member of the Historic Preservation Commission and runs a real estate team with his wife. He spoke about how this professional experience gives him a valuable perspective on the real estate market, which has also brought him into conflict with the current council. Smith was highly critical of the current city council. He spoke against the raises, specifically how the process was handled, with little of the discussion on the matter being public. Smith also expressed concern about the lack of funding for the city’s Downtown Development Authority.
“I know how the city works,” Smith said. “I know what’s going on in the city what are strong points and weak points are.”
The election is Nov. 7 and early voting begins Oct. 16. If you appreciate the opportunities to hear from your local candidates, please visit supportyourlocalnews.com and participate in our fall fundraiser to help us continue covering the local issues that matter to you.
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