By Justin Boron
Speaking to voters at a public forum at Riverdale City Hall on Wednesday night, candidates in the city's upcoming elections focused on issues such as development, taxes, public safety and political infighting.
Growth in the mostly built-out city has become a pressing issue, and in the past four years, much of the council's actions have been characterized by what Councilman Rick Scoggins acknowledged at the forum often amount to personal disputes.
Scoggins opponent, Cynthia Stamps-Jones, said she would use the interpersonal skills she applies as a school counselor to improve council relations.
Scoggins also said personalities do not belong in the governing process.
Neither candidate in the Ward 3 race could attend the forum. Councilwoman Wanda Wallace told the forum's mediator Clayton County NAACP President Dexter Matthews that she was unable to attend.
Stephanie Campbell also sent word that a work conflict prevented her from attending.
But she sent her surrogate David Reed, who has been a political adviser to local elected officials in the past.
Reed said Campbell has already been working to establish a rapport with current elected officials in the city. He also said egos should be left out of government.
“If you want to serve, and serve admirably, when you come through those doors, you should check your ego at the door,” he said. “(Campbell) will check her ego at the door.”
On the issue of development, Scoggins highlighted the city's success in landing new big boxes like Home Depot and Lowes in the city. He said those anchors would attract new restaurants and help diversify the business community.
Stamps-Jones said she wants the city to become more attractive.
“Riverdale is a place that a lot of people look at as a drive through,” she said. “When I look at Riverdale, I want to see it as a place where people know they're going to stop in Riverdale.”
But Reed reminded the audience that business development might come at a price for residents. He said Campbell would support tax incentives to lure high-quality commercial growth.
“If you don't give up something, chances are you aren't going to get much,” he said.
All the candidates agreed that it would be disingenuous to say taxes would always stay the same. But they also said they would pursue opportunities to be more efficient with the public's money.
Public safety concerns centered around an emerging gang problem in Clayton County.
The candidates present agreed that more needed to be done to reach out to the youth in the community. Candidates proposed more youth facilities, spiritual and moral guidance, and heightened police presence to resolve the problem.