While candidates for mayor agree they support the “three P’s” — parks, police and paving — they don’t agree on the fourth, planned development.
“We need smart growth,” said mayoral candidate Chris Grivakis, who called for a focus on the high-density development proposed in the Perimeter area of the city. “I think we need to do a better job prioritizing our projects.”
Grivakis recommended putting some studies, such as on the Westside Connector proposal, “at the bottom of the list” in favor of sidewalk projects.
But Mayor Mike Davis said he has worked during his term with the region and the state to solve the city’s traffic problems that stem from clogged major highways. Davis said the Westside Connector and other projects are long-term solutions.
“We can’t add enough lanes to make up for that [congestion],” he said. “We have to work with the region and the state.”
The candidates for mayor and City Council discussed their visions for Dunwoody during a forum held Oct. 11 at Dunwoody High School.
Former City Councilman Denis Shortal, who is running for mayor, reminded voters he co-chaired Dunwoody Yes and advocated from the beginning for incorporating as a city. He promised to return the City Council to “open and positive ethical leadership.”
Steve Chipka, a retired BellSouth employee who’s lived in Dunwoody since 1981, said his experience with Dunwoody government, including facing fines levied by code enforcement officials, made him want to run for mayor.
“I’ve had good experiences with DeKalb, and the last three or four years I haven’t had as good experiences with the city of Dunwoody,” he said.
He said in December he received a registered letter from the Code Enforcement department saying his grass was taller than 10 inches.
“That is one of several instances that happened that caused me to say I think it’s time for me to step up now and take part,” Chipka said.
District 1 City Councilman Terry Nall and challenger Becky Springer argued heatedly about allegations of corruption Springer made in a League of Women Voters of Georgia voter’s guide, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published.
Before the forum, Springer said she believes, “something’s going on behind the scenes,” in development deals, but she said she didn’t know for certain that anyone did anything illegal. Springer said she’s concerned about the John Wieland “PVC Farm” project, also known as Project Renaissance, and the State Farm project.
Both candidates responded to a question asking Springer to clarify her accusation of council members accepting “kickbacks.” Springer did not provide evidence of wrongdoing, but qualified her statement as a reaction to development deals.
“That is me looking at several deals the city’s made,” Springer said. She referenced the deal with Wieland publicly. “We basically take all the risk,” she said.
Nall responded by saying Springer’s allegations of criminal activity are a “shame” and go beyond “political trash talking.” He said anyone with evidence of wrongdoing should come forward.
During her opening statement, Springer said she voted for Nall four years ago in part because he promised a “balance of growth and development” and an “appropriate level of police protection.” She said the State Farm project and “rampant crime” show Nall has broken his promises to the city.
Nall, who gave his opening statement first, talked about the “promises made and promises kept” during his term and highlighted his accomplishments, such as dual accreditation for all DeKalb County high schools and an initiative for more rigorous building code requirements of concrete and steel for buildings over three stories.
He said Springer’s campaign included two “patently false” allegations beyond her accusation of council members receiving kickbacks: that crime is up 85 percent over last year and that City Council zoned a 16-story apartment building off Ashford-Dunwoody Road. Nall said no new apartments have been approved in the last four years and the City Council removed around 1,700 planned apartments that were previously entitled by DeKalb.
Concerning discussion about the police department, Shortal, a retired Marine, said he supports the police and wants more “boots on the ground” and “eyes on the target.” He suggested part-time officers and civilian patrol. Grivakis said he was astounded by a 39 percent increase in the police budget over the last two years. He said the police budget has gone up too much because of “too many supervisors.”
“I don’t get why we don’t do citizens patrol,” Grivakis said. “As mayor, that’s something I will enact immediately.”
Chipka said he doesn’t like seeing Dunwoody officers outside their jurisdiction when he hears about needing more police officers.
Davis said he looks at two things when the police chief makes annual requests: the number of officers per thousand people in the city and the percentage of time the officers are unavailable when a call comes in to the police department, which is currently 25 percent, he said.
Davis said he’s looking to technology, such as body cameras, cameras in parks and ways to use money for public safety that don’t involve putting more officers on duty.
Davis closed by saying he wants to add a “fourth P” to the parks, police and paving trio. “Pay as you go” will help the city move forward without borrowing money, he said.