Happy New Year. It seems appropriate this time of year, and in a new decade, to think about my 15 years of representing you. It’s also appropriate for us to think ahead. First, some of the accomplishments. But do read (or jump ahead) to the bolded sentence toward the end.
It has been a journey through troubled waters in DeKalb County but my public service priorities, established with you at the table, have been consistent and clear: Protect our Neighborhoods; Environmental Quality and Conservation; Real Planning for our Future; and Government that is Accountable and Transparent. Partnerships and Collaboration are cornerstones of my work to improve our quality of life.
Protecting Our Neighborhoods with quality development that has brought neighborhood participation into the zoning process, requiring inclusion of sidewalks, bike lanes, more trees and greenspaces. Three new Senior Centers in North, Central and South DeKalb to help our seniors have resources to age in place and Libraries accessible to all parts of DeKalb County. Safer Communities, with more police on the beat and increased pay for all of our First Responders. Sponsorship of Neighborhood Watch programs, re-focusing resources on elimination of Blight and responsive Code Enforcement are part of my continuum of work toward protecting your communities.
Environmental Quality and Conservation with establishment of our curbside recycling program has been at the top of my list. Establishment of a Green Commission led to Ordinances for the Community Gardens program, protection of our stream buffers, and converting landfill waste into natural gas to fuel county vehicles and save taxpayer dollars. Improvements to Bouldercrest, Kittridge and Constitution Lakes Parks, plus the new Fork Creek Mountain and Brookside Parks, and facilitation of the Friends of Parks Program, which have helped DeKalb, boast one of the strongest Park systems in the metro area.
Real Planning for our Future is being accomplished with the development of small area community based planning, like the Livable Centers Initiatives, which brings citizens front and center into planning for their communities. This has led to Infill Overlay Ordinances, connectivity, more greenspace, and tree protection as a part of all of my re-zonings. (The sad part of this is that so many of my successful developments are now providing commercial benefits to the cities that annexed them; still benefiting DeKalb County but with less financial impact.) I continue to be on the leading edge of Transit Planning while advocating for increased bus service and light-rail service sooner rather then later. Our citizen’s Animal Task Force helped us assure a future for DeKalb’s animals with our goal of a new Animal Shelter, with no-kill management, finally accomplished.
Government that is more Accountable and Transparent was helped along through my efforts to lead the commission into more effectiveness by working together through committees. Convening the Blueprint to Redefine DeKalb resulted in citizen participation and partnerships to improve DeKalb by reforming the Board of Ethics that was confirmed by voters not just once, but twice, and we created the Independent Internal Auditor. This resulted in our ability to use accountability practices that have saved millions of dollars for taxpayers. My committee work continues to provide oversight of billions of dollars in water and sewer upgrades and contracts.
I have spoken to you over the years about making your priorities, my priorities. For the most part we have been on the same track. My accomplishments are your achievements because your support and participation helped me every step of the way. I have not always been as successful as we hoped on the delivery of county services, which are NOT under the control of the BOC, but we continued to make progress. However there is still so much to do.
The List of things to be done is familiar because you shaped it:
- Move on Transit from Planning to Implementation.
- Real Action on Affordable Housing Options based on an acceptable definition, and in numerous locations, while also addressing livable wages.
- Public Safety improvements from continuing to increase officer pay, to intervention with our Youth before they get in trouble, increasing mental health services, and to Economic security through jobs.
- Moving from recycling and CNG gas conversion to Real Sustainability that provides jobs, saves taxpayer dollars, and saves the Planet.
- Good Planning that weds Land Use with Transportation and provides for options with the needs of seniors and families in mind.
- Review of our Form of Government/Charter so we are all comfortable with who is responsible for what.
- Tree Ordinance update to protect our dwindling canopy and establishing a real tree bank.
- Sign Ordinance update as part of reducing Blight.
- Establishing a new direction in economic development to focus on retention of our businesses and quality jobs.
I was reviewing a 2004 flyer I used in my first campaign and a line caught my eye: “I’m aging; your aging – Will we continue to be able to live in our County? – By 2020, baby boomers will reach ages up to 74 years old, and older adults need ways to remain a part of this community…” So, 2020 is now upon us and there remains so much more to be done. It also means that, as a baby boomer, I have aged – I’d like to think with dignity and grace – but also with your well being at the forefront of my decision-making. So, I have decided that it is time for the next generation to move on up, to provide the energy, initiative and new ideas to build upon what we have started to continue progressive movement forward in DeKalb County.
Throughout these 15 years, many incredible DeKalb citizens have come into my life; some have moved, some have passed to another life, but many remain, providing good counsel, friendship, guidance and support of my work for You. I thank each and everyone who has helped us along this journey.
I look forward to supporting a candidate to represent us in Super District 6, who brings a fresh perspective with creative, and innovative ideas to tackle the List with You. There should be an Announcement in the coming days and I will keep you posted.
This is not a good-bye; I am here for the entire year. My 2020 plate is full.
- Construction of the new Tobie Grant Recreation Center,
- Ground-breaking on the Oldcastle section of the PATH Trail that will serve as the connector between our South River Trail and the Beltline,
- Start the Tree Ordinance revisions,
- Insure Economic Development policies and structure to produce quality jobs,
- Charter review, a remaining task from the Blueprint to Redefine DeKalb.
At my first inauguration in 2005, an unknown person gave me a card with a brief saying on it that became my motto. It sits on my desk today. I will give it to my successor.
“Protect the process. Serve the people. Treat all equally. Include everyone. Act not for us but for our future”.
With great appreciation,