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Published on March 1st, 2017 |

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Neighborhoods Council plans 2 city election candidate forums 9/27, 10/8

The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods determined at its Feb. 9 meeting that it will sponsor Atlanta city elections candidate forums at North Atlanta High School for those seeking City Council posts on Sept. 27 and for the top candidates in the mayor’s race on Oct. 18. Both forums will begin at 7 p.m.

Since there are a very large number of candidates for mayor this year, the number who are invited to the forum needed to be reduced.  While polls were considered as a basis for slimming down the list of candidates invited, choosing a poll that would be broadly recognized as unbiased is probably impossible.  The alternative supported at the meeting was the ability of a candidate to raise campaign contributions – only those who were high fundraisers would be invited.

Each BCN member neighborhood is to come up with a short list of questions to be posed to the candidates.  All questions, identified by neighborhood, would be given in advance to all candidates so they would know what issues most concerned Buckhead’s neighborhoods.

Before the forum is held, a short list of questions would be selected and distributed. Each participating candidate would be asked to respond to that short list of questions.

Participating candidates would be selected based of August’s fundraising reports submitted by each candidate.

Major James B. Shaw

In addition to the mayoral race, important at-large City Council races are also under way which affect Buckhead.  Therefore, a second forum was planned.  Attendees would include candidates for City Council President, Council At-Large Posts 1 and 2.

Major James B. “Barry” Shaw, the new Atlanta Police Zone 2 Precinct commander, and Dist. 54 Georgia State House Rep Beth Beskins were the major speakers at the Feb. 9 meeting, with Major Shaw making his first presentation before the group since being named Zone 2 leader.

Shaw said he has redeployed zone officers who previously had been used as a traffic squad in crime hot spots to show a police presence by writing a lot of tickets with blue lights flashing to now being a “crime suppression team.”

Dressed in plain clothes, Shaw said they do surveillance, trying to catch people who come into Buckhead to steal cars and to break into houses and cars.  He said the team has been very successful, particularly befitting from the many security cameras deployed in Buckhead. He said they are catching people almost every day.

BCN Chairman Tom Tidwell

BCN President Tom Tidwell asked if all the security cameras that were budgeted for had been installed.  Shaw said that there were lots of cameras still being worked on and yet to be installed.

Beskins, the Republican Georgia House of Representatives member from the 54th District which includes much of Buckhead, serves on the Education, Judiciary and Regulated Industries (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc.) committees of the Georgia House.

When Beskins made her report, it was the 15th day of the session, half way to “Crossover Day,” which happens on the 28th day of the 40-day legislative session.  She said that bills that have not been introduced by Crossover Day, when the two houses of the legislature exchange their proposed legislation, are bills that are not going to happen this year.

Beskins discussed a list of bills for BCN that are being considered in the Georgia House. However the one that generated the most discussion was her legislation to provide income tax credits for

State Rep. Bech Beskins at an earlier meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.

houses bought near low-performing schools.  

Tidwell prompted the discussion by asking Beskins about her bill to grant the income tax credit for buying a home near a low-performing school.  A hearing in the Ways and Means Committee on Beth’s bill was held on February 8.  It will provide a $3,000 tax credit a year for up to five years for anyone who buys a home and lives in it when bought in attendance areas of schools in a low performing (lowest 5 percent) school.

Beskins said she didn’t mention it because she didn’t know if it was going anywhere.  Her motivation is that typically, low-performing schools are located in areas with low population.  Such schools typically have small enrollments.  The credit would encourage new homeowners.

City Councilman Alex Wan thought that the credit would be more effective if it were only granted to new homeowners whose children were actually attending the school.  Beth said that some of those buying would have children and would attend the public schools.  Some might buy before having children.  She said it is unlikely that those with enough money to send their child to a private school at $25,000 a year would be incentivized by a $3,000 tax credit.

Tom Tidwell commented that the main problem is not to revitalize the schools, it is to revitalize the low-population neighborhoods.  Beth agreed that without sufficient population in a

City Councilman Alex Wan

neighborhood, there will not be a nice grocery or drugstore there.

City Councilwoman Mary Norwood pointed out than many of these low-population neighborhoods were built at the same time and by the same developers and with the same homes who built in neighborhoods like Garden Hills and Collier Hills.  We need to get people back into them.

Another attendee thought the credit should be based on property tax incentives rather than income tax incentives.  Mary responded that in those areas with low population, the total property tax bill might be just $50, an amount far too small to incentivize home buying.

Erica Long, an APS employee, offered a different perspective.  She agreed with Alex Wan’s thought that the tax benefit should be granted only to those whose children attended the challenged schools.  She thought that one of the critical goals was to get more children into the low-population areas and to generate a broad sense of commitment of those in that area to having their children attend the same public schools.

Long is worried about the “unintended consequences” of what is clearly a bill intended to do good.  Beskins responded saying that as we strengthen these neighborhoods with new residents, they

Councilwoman Mary Norwood

will be paying local property taxes and contributing to locales taxes, actions that will benefit and strengthen APS and an overall sense of community.

A large contingent (about a dozen) from the Republic of Kazakhstan (a central Asia country) attended the meeting.  They have attended city council meetings in Atlanta and Sandy Springs and other civic and quasi-governmental organization meetings.  They were hosted by five Metro residents belonging to the Friendship Force.

The Kazakhstan visit is part of the Open World initiative which was organized by the US Government to introduce officials from the former Soviet Union to understand how we do things.  They want to understand how local governments get input from the citizens and other interests.

–By John Schaffner from minutes of the BCN meeting taken by Secretary Gordon Certain.

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