Jobs, crime, growth issues in College Park

College Park has a valuable asset in its boundaries — the world’s busiest airport.

It is an asset city leaders are still dreaming up ways to leverage, to the benefit of the city’s residents.

Commercial growth, economic development, crime and quality-of-life issues are on the front burner in the city as the Nov. 8 municipal election approaches.

There are three key leadership posts up for election this year –– the mayor’s office, and the Ward 3 and Ward 1 city council seats. In Ward 1, however, the incumbent has no opposition.

In the mayoral race, Incumbent Jack Longino’s competition is challenger Roderick Gay.

Gay told the Clayton News Daily he is running for mayor because he wants to boost the city’s quality of life “and to make the city more accountable to the community.”

The College Park native then decided not to comment further because, he said, College Park residents in the county are not part of the city’s limits, and won’t be able to vote.

Longino, on he other hand, was much more willing to elaborate on his reasons for seeking re-election. “I think I’ve done a really good job,” he said. “A lot of great things have happened, and I want to continue being a part of what is going to happen.”

He said he has been the city’s mayor for 15 years, and has been elected five times. “I must be doing something right,” he said.

Some of the top issues affecting the city, he said, include its tax base, home foreclosures and high unemployment affecting many citizens. “We need to figure out how to survive the shrinking tax digest, and getting folks back to work,” said Longino.

Commercial and residential development is the key, he said, and will bring businesses and employment for citizens. Part of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the largest employer in the state, sits in College Park. He said he is hopeful that, once the merger between Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways is complete, it will bring more jobs for residents.

“We will continue to do anything we can to get new developments, to drive new housing and businesses,” he said. Prior to becoming College Park mayor in 1996, he said, he was the councilman for Ward 1, from 1992 to 1995. He said he has a nice working relationship with Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, Fulton County District 7 Commissioner William Edwards, and Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, and believes those relationships are a plus for his city.

He said College Park is one of the most economically strong cities in the South, and one of the reasons is the Georgia International Convention Center, which is the second-largest facility for conventions in the state.

Longino, 57, said he was born and raised in College Park. He is married and has two daughters and two granddaughters. He is the owner and operator of Longino Automotive Service in College Park, which has been in business since 1977.

In the past, he said, he has been challenged regarding not obtaining a college degree. For Longino, a college degree doesn’t make an individual, but rather it’s how one manages his life that counts. He said he is proud of owning a successful business since he was 22 years old.

In the contested council race ...

Incumbent Tracey Wyatt is facing Wesley Meadows, in an effort to retain the Ward 3 seat.

Meadows was contacted by the Clayton News Daily, but said he was too busy to conduct an interview. Wyatt, who was driving when contacted, pulled over to the side of the road, and shared his goals for the city.

“I’ve been on the council for eight years already,” he said. Crime, he said, is one of the main issues in his ward. If elected, he will fight harder than ever to combat it — especially in the Godby Road corridor, he said.

He said improvements in the ward that he has been a part of, include the Godby Road Recreation Center, which was built so that youths and adults, living in the area, can participate in productive activities. The city invested $3.94 million in the recreation center, which opened in January 2010. It includes a 17-station computer lab where children can do their homework, and adults can create résumés, or search for jobs, he said.

“If you have a high area of crime, you’ve got to give kids something to do,” he said. “Ward 3 has the highest crime of any ward. We are working on that.”

He said the city spent more than $100,000 to place surveillance cameras in areas on Godby Road and Old National Highway. “The police department can be at the station and see what is happening in that area — live,” he said.

Since the cameras have been operating, he said, crime has decreased by about 20 percent in both areas. Wyatt, 50, said he has lived in College Park for 17 years and is single and has never been married.

Incumbent Ambrose Clay, who is unopposed in Ward I, said there are various issues he feels the city needs to tackle. Business development, home foreclosures and crime top his list.

He said he will work with investors to develop land re-acquired from the airport on Camp Creek Parkway, and “incentivize Main Street property owners to fix up and fill up their store fronts, and expand the city’s surveillance-camera system.”

He has already served for four years and looks forward to being a part of the continuos progression of the city.