From Staff Reports
Incumbent Council member Debbie Youmans is running for re-election in a run-off election next Tuesday. In the first race she ended up tied with her opponent, forcing the run-off. She has served the past four years on the council.
Youmans agreed to answer a series of questions to give the voters a better look at her views and she said the city needs to work as a team and in that way more can be accomplished. She said the city government needs to be inclusive and not exclusive.
A similar series of questions and answers by her opponent will appear in Friday's paper. The polls next Tuesday are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Q: What issues and goals for the city are most important to you?
One of my main concerns lies with the type of leadership the city has. We must work as a TEAM, Together Everybody Achieves More. It is very important to make certain that we, as elected and appointed officials, share a mutual understanding and acceptance of our respective roles. Trust and confidence must be shared and teamwork must be demonstrated in all actions for the benefit of all. The lines of communication must remain open, honest and constant in order to ensure the city is operated effectively and in a businesslike manner. We must be inclusive, not exclusive. We must always set policies that are fair and just for everyone. We must be held accountable. If we do not have this foundation, whatever we attempt to build will fail.
Q: Why are you more qualified than your opponent to address these issues?
I have spent the last four years of my life working extremely hard to learn everything I can about how city governments can operate successfully. In addition to successfully attending numerous educational classes held by the Georgia Municipal Association, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the University of Georgia and other entities. I have also spent countless hours attending various and diverse meetings to enlarge my wealth of knowledge in order to make the best and most informed decisions possible. I have also spent a great deal of time listening to citizens share their concerns and thoughts with me enabling me to accurately carry out my duties as their city council representative. I have remained loyal, honest and independent from outside special interests.
Q: What is your position on the city's decision to privatize its sanitation service?
I have stood steadfast on my position regarding this issue. Not only did I listen to what the citizens said they wanted, I followed through with action by voting against the outsourcing of our sanitation service. I heard them loud and clear when they said they wanted to keep their service as it was even if it meant they had to pay more money to do so. I also did my homework and to this very day, no one has shown me, or anyone else to my knowledge, why this was necessary. I have only heard words and have not been shown any data to support those words. I was also told that no alternative whatsoever had been looked at.
Q: What would you like to see done to redevelop Army Garrison Fort Gillem?
What happens to Fort Gillem, of course is an extremely important matter for it will affect our city in many ways and for many years to come. Therefore, it must be dealt with the utmost care and by only the most qualified people. We are presented with a very rare opportunity to create a world class mixed use development that would provide our community with a much needed and long overdue economic shot in the arm. We could provide jobs along with job training during the development and construction phase that could have long term economic benefits for a number of our residents and their families. We have got to make certain our citizens are provided with every possible advantage to enable them to live, work and play right here in our city without having to go elsewhere.
Q: What do you think about former Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray being the head of the Fort Gillem Redevelopment Authority? He is a very powerful person known for being adamant about having his way. Will that be good for the city or are you worried he will have too much sway over the redevelopment process?
Quite honestly, I cannot support this person. How could I support a man who would send a message laced with profanity through the current sitting mayor to Ms. Deyton and myself back in 2003 regarding a certain matter? Powerful, I think not. In fact, I view him as the opposite, which is powerless. We must have people who respect others in leadership positions and who are willing to work intelligently toward a shared goal for the benefit of all. In reviewing his history as a person in a key leadership position in this county, it only takes a moment to come to the realization, based on his “accomplishments” and the very poor quality of same, that he is not the person for the job. We do not need more of the same below standard quality projects and haphazard planning we experienced under his leadership. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of having highly qualified leaders with an unwavering degree of integrity to represent us..
Q: Do you think the owners of the Crazy Horse Saloon and the proposed Pink Pony II strip clubs have too much influence over the city government?
I firmly believe that no private business or enterprise of any type should have any undue influence over the operations of the city. We must always be diligent in seeing that our city is representative of its citizens, for that is the purpose for which it exists.
Q: How important is the proposed commuter rail in bringing the Mt. View area out of its current industrial mold? Is there some other way to change that area into commercial usage?
Of course, commuter rail is important to us all for many reasons and I am a supporter. I do not support the proposed funding of its operational maintenance by the taxpayers of this county. I do not feel this is fair and believe everyone should share the cost. The citizens of this county have already been given a heavy enough burden to bear and have the right to participate in the decision making process on all matters pertaining to the spending of their hard earned tax dollars. There always exists many valid alternative opportunities if one is willing to seek them out.
Q: How would you expand the city's tax base?
I get very excited when I think of all the possibilities that exist for our city! I have many ideas and have talked with a number of highly qualified experts regarding what is available to us. Unfortunately, due to the powers that be, I have not been given the opportunity for my input to even be presented, much less seriously considered. We desperately need to prepare and implement a Master Plan for Forest Park. It is a real tragedy that no master plan exists. I also believe our citizens should participate in a very real way to contribute to how we implement various tools and strategies. We have many qualified and knowledgeable citizens, business owners, professionals and other members of our community available right now who are ready willing and able to step up to the plate to better our community.
Q: What would you do to revitalize Main Street?
I feel this goes hand in hand with the previous question, but allow me to expand a bit here. Main Street is the very heart of our city. Thank goodness, we have some very special people who have not given up and have fought relentlessly to keep Main Street from dying. These business owners, along with the rest of our caring community, once given the chance and the proper tools to work with, can bring Main Street back to life and make it healthier and more alive than it's ever been. All of the ingredients for success are available, but what has not been available is city leaders who really care about us all and are willing to work with us, not against, us.
Q: How would you encourage community participation in the city government?
I have been actively encouraging community participation by the citizens since I have been in office in whatever ways I could. I even purchased a phone system so I could communicate directly with them and inform them of what is really going on. What I have heard from too many citizens is they have just about lost all hope of ever seeing real change in Forest Park because of their past dealings with the city. And I mean change that is good, healthy and for all of the people, not just a privileged few. Let us not beat around the bush and pretend everything is OK. It is not. For the past 12 years, citizens have been locked up and locked out of their community. If everything is so great, then why the need to keep the citizens in the dark. Now they have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create the change they have dreamed of and spoke of so many times. They have the power to free this city and let the light back in! It is totally up to the citizens themselves. If it is participation they want, then they must put leaders in office that will see that their dreams and desires are carried out.