Years of residency in the city:
1) How involved have you been in the community? (Specific examples, please. Incumbents, please provide examples beyond attending council meetings)
We have revitalized the old Proud Program under our Morrow Neighborhood Watch. I am an active officer in this organization. The program is still growing, including monthly meetings and neighborhood Block Parties. We have started Neighbors Helping Neighbors which has organized a semi-annual Community Wide Yard Sale, the “Geezer Squad” helping with yards for those who cannot maintain their’s without a little assistance, Pathway Partners helping the City keep our trail system in top shape, and even monthly recreational Bingo games. I do set-up and tear-down for our events, I mow grass with the “geezers,” and I even call Bingo games. I have also joined in the Morrow CERT Team to assist emergency responders in times of need.
2) Did you vote in the last municipal election? If no, why not? (If it’s because you ran, please indicate that)
Yes. I voted.
3) Where and how can Morrow improve its economic development?
First and foremost this County and this City need improvement in its per-capita income. It may sound blunt, but we need to attract paychecks and get those individuals interested in living HERE. Jobs – jobs – and more jobs! And our workforce needs to become attractive to those that are hiring. The reason all of the “big box” stores are looking at other locations is simply because we do not have the economy (meaning money from customers) to support them and the growth they need. We must compete with our neighboring areas for those customers and it will be easier if they want to live HERE. We have an improving school system. We need to keep the progress going, and we need to advertise our progress. We have an improving infrastructure in Morrow and in Clayton County. We need to keep improving and to advertise it. People need to want to live here.
4) What steps should Morrow take to make sure it becomes and remains financially stable enough to handle the $1 million bond payment due in 2017?
I do not have a secret plan. We cannot assume revenue will increase. We have to begin immediately discussing the needed steps to reduce spending further than we already have. The only sure thing is that spending is currently maintaining itself at a greater pace than our income, and that has to stop. Addressing our businesses, gaining NEW businesses, and competing for residents to live here will begin to have a positive impact on our revenues. Until then we work inside the City to restrain unnecessary expenses.
5) What should the city be looking for in a new Destination Marketing Organization? How do you feel about how city council has handled its recent DMO issues?
We need advertising badly. We have heard of billboards and travel magazines, but this is only the usual pathway to marketing. We need to think outside the box. Maybe a booth at the recent car show? Perhaps cable TV ads or even paid programming? This kind of new thinking should be demonstrated by a DMO candidate before they are hired by the City.
Our recent DMO issues were handled very badly. The situation with the MBTA was simply bad management by the City. We had a contract specifying exactly what the City expected to have accomplished. From the complaints mentioned in Council meetings, it is apparent that the City directed the MBTA into functions that were not in the contract, such as the Open For Business showcase. Then when resources were used up for these projects some of the expected contract items had to be reduced. The City operated with the MBTA in this fashion for years. Then they decided this was unacceptable and curtailed the contract without considering their own actions. The entire debacle could have been avoided by simply sticking to the existing contract and managing the entire process above board. And those areas where the contract was insufficient should have been negotiated regularly for improvement. No one seemed to be studying the results. They only reacted to appearances.
6) Do you feel Morrow’s current government has been as transparent as it should be? If yes, explain. If no, explain and give examples of how you would work toward more transparency.
Morrow’s current government HAS NOT been transparent at all. We have had more executive sessions than at any time in our history, and more than any entity in our area. We have had multiple votes decided by a 3 to 2 vote that occurred without informing two of our Council Members of any details before the items were brought up during a Council meeting. The State Open Meetings law states that open meetings require a 48-hour notice to the public. I cannot understand why this is not done for our representatives as well. I suggest no additions to an agenda unless all Council members have 48 hours to consider the item before they are asked to vote on it. That would include names of people you want to hire and their qualifications. Our executive sessions are out of hand. We are operating under a very broad definition of what should be covered. The State of Georgia Attorney General SPECIFICALLY states that it should be interpreted as narrowly as possible. The secrecy needs to stop.
7) Morrow has hired some department heads in the past year that didn’t work out. The city now faces several more important hires. How would you ensure these hires last and don’t receive negative media attention?
You cannot ensure that a hired individual will last. You can only ensure that you do proper procedures to attract the best candidates for a position. We already have a standard process for hiring. The ones we have hired over the last two years that did not work out were hired OUTSIDE this process. A two person panel working part-time and not working very hard, will not give you the same results as an organization following published guidelines and performing proper due-diligence. All hires are intended to fill positions to be public servants, therefore the process needs to be public. We have the process in place. We need to stop going outside the process just to hire friends. We also have a tendency to avoid local talent when hiring. Clayton County is filled with tremendous individuals that already know how our organizations work and this experience needs to be tapped to get the best results.
8) What steps can Morrow government take to ensure the city’s diverse population can become involved in local politics?
We have the most diverse population of any municipality in the area and we need to celebrate it. The community Health Fair is and example of positive outreach. The Fair is a partnership sponsored by Morrow and BPSOS-Atlanta. This type of partnership should be expanded. Neighborhood Watch and Neighbors Helping Neighbors are examples of outreach. Community based projects and information need to be cultivated and expanded. Communication within our City is broken and we need to fix it. We also need to make is easier for anyone to approach City Hall. One example is those cases where language is a barrier. We can explore ways to expand our services to assist residents with understanding English AND we should be acquiring language capabilities within the government to make it easier for those individuals to get their business done.
9) What are your goals for the city?
We need to improve our relationship with businesses. Our focus lately has been on trying to gain NEW business, but we need closer cooperation with the existing commerce to go along with it. We have many codes and ordinances that need to be considered for update, especially Zoning. But we need to begin focusing just as much energy into making Morrow more attractive to RESIDENTS. Our property values have not risen much since the recent crash. Clayton County in general, Clayton County Schools in particular, and especially Morrow, all have made tremendous strides that need to be publicized to counter the negative reputation of just a few years ago. We need a program to get PEOPLE to want to come here. Our businesses need customers and we need to attract them to this area TO STAY.
10) What prompted you to run for city council?
The trouble with Old Town Morrow prompted me to get involved with the City functions. Four years ago we saw closed door decisions as the primary reason for the failed project. For the last four years I have been working diligently to re-open those doors. There is much more work to be done and working WITH City Hall will make progress much easier. The leadership we currently have does not take into consideration the needs and desires of our community AND the people who live here. I want to change that.