Candidate Forum

On Thursday March 3, the Sandy Springs Reporter will host an open forum for the public to meet the candidates running for the District 4 seat on Sandy Springs City Council. The forum will be held in the Council Chambers at Sandy Springs City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road. It is scheduled from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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Three candidates are seeking the District 4 seat on Sandy Springs City Council in a special election March 15. Here are edited versions of answers to questions submitted to them by the Sandy Springs Reporter.

Chiteka Jackson

Chiteka Jackson

Age: 39

Occupation: Corporate Manager

Community or governmental activties: Leadership Sandy Springs, team leader

Q: What is the role of Sandy Springs’ city government in promoting or creating a “downtown” for Sandy Springs?

A: City government should play a significant leadership role in promoting and creating a “downtown” for Sandy Springs. Downtown should serve as an attractive hub for businesses to locate and residents to establish a nucleus for their city. It will help usher in civic identity and pride.

The challenge for Sandy Springs is deteriorating buildings, disjointed development and regulatory constraints that inhibit forward growth. If we do a good job, 100 years from now people will still be using the facilities and celebrate a sense of history. There is no better monument to the tireless efforts of Mayor [Eva] Galambos and so many others who helped form our city.

Q: Should the city of Sandy Springs commit to spending public money to attract a community college to Sandy Springs?

A: No. While it would be ideal if Sandy Springs were able to garner private/corporate funds to attract a community college (hopefully named Sandy Springs Community College), I would not consider it a wise investment to commit to spending public money in this economic environment.

This is primarily a financial decision. And while the benefit of having an educated workforce is always beneficial to communities and corporations alike, there is no guarantee that Sandy Springs will reap the return on investment. The other real consideration is traffic congestion and completely vetting the proposal from all angles.

Q: Should the city again contract with CH2M HILL to run most city operations or should it seek other or multiple contractors for the job? Why?

A: As a homeowner and resident, it appears to me that CH2M Hill has done a good job in managing most city operations from a service perspective. If outside bids are sought, I would favor looking at a single provider rather than multiple providers. So many city operations rely on cross-departmental collaboration and this would be more easily realized with a single provider.

Additionally, having a primary vendor for our current service will enhance the manageability and cross-departmental communication. Public-private partnerships have proven to provide tremendous cost savings and benefits where certain functions and liabilities are outsourced. It has allowed us to not incur the infrastructure or capital cost of acquiring and maintaining certain assets to run the city; rather it has allowed us to deploy certain assets on an as-needed basis.

However, I believe closer scrutiny of the offerings outlined in the scope of services, greater involvement and oversight from the Council and mayor and the ability to extract certain functions from the contract, if warranted, can produce greater cost savings.

Gabriel Sterling

Gabriel Sterling

Age: 40

Occupation: Vice President, Landmark Communications, Inc. – Public Relations and Political Consulting Firm

Community or governmental activities: Vice Chairman, Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism Board; past chairman of the Sandy Springs Fire/EMS transition task force; former Sandy Springs Representative/Stakeholder on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s North Fulton Comprehensive Regional Transportation Plan; appointed Sandy Springs negotiator by Governor’s Commission to facilitate transition from Fulton County

Q: What is the role of Sandy Springs’ city government in promoting or creating a “downtown” for Sandy Springs?

A: The city is a central player in setting the direction of downtown. They have the resources necessary to bring all the players, including the Mainstreet Coalition and the surrounding neighborhoods to the table.

About one-quarter of what we are all considering “downtown” falls into the 4th District. That means whoever takes this seat will play an integral role in moving the planning for downtown forward. Right now, we are in the easy part, where everyone says yes, we need a downtown.

But soon we will be coming to the point where real decisions on the direction of that downtown will be made. At that point there will be those that are really happy and those that will be unhappy.

I think that all voices and opinions need to be heard, then we need to come up with a workable, affordable plan and execute it. The only part of this plan that is absolutely vital is have a parking structure. If we don’t do that, we will see surface-street parking going back into the neighborhoods and no one wants to see that.

Q: Should the city of Sandy Springs commit to spending public money to attract a community college to Sandy Springs?

A: No. I have already been part of this fight. I am the only candidate that lobbied council members and the mayor directly on this issue. Further, I was the only candidate who testified at the Council meeting and spoke against the process, location and expenditure related to trying to get the Gwinnett Tech Campus. On the Council, I will continue to fight against this expenditure.

Q: Should the city again contract with CH2M HILL to run most city operations or should it seek other or multiple contractors for the job? Why?

A: This re-bid is one of the important reasons I am running. At this critical time, we can’t afford a councilman that will have a steep learning curve on these issues as this new bid comes to a vote.

We are already well down the path in the new bidding process. We have many well-respected firms bidding to provide the City with their services. To operational units have been fire-walled, meaning that a firm can bid on that unit and that unit only. Those two are Information Technology and Finance. The other functions have been broken into separate functioning units; Communications, Municipal Court Services, Public Works, Recreation and Parks and Community Development. Bidders can bid on individual units or all of them or any that they pick and choose.

I am a strong supporter of the public/private partnership model. This re-bid continues to bring competition and flexibility to how we run the city. We are all thankful to CH2M Hill for working so closely with the city to get things started.

But we have to continue to look for ways to reform and improve our services and keep our costs to the taxpayer low. CH2M Hill may win parts of the contract again, but this process will force them to “sharpen their pencils” on costs, and new companies and bidders will bring creative new ways to bring services to the people of Sandy Springs. (You can see the bid and the many companies bidding by visiting: www.sandyspringsgaprocurement.org)

Whatever company comes with the best quality and value bid at the lowest price to the taxpayer that is who I believe ought to get the business. CH2M Hill has done a good job for the city, but they will not automatically win this bidding process in my mind.

Dennis Williams

Dennis Williams

Age: 55

Occupation: president& CEO Dew Developments, Inc., a real estate development company, rental property management company, and the holding company for Denny Williams Motorsports, which deals in auto collecting, buying and selling automobiles, NASCAR Sponsorships, and sports memorabilia; president & CEO Dancing Bear Entertainment Systems Inc., a food and beverage management company that develops restaurant and night clubs; president & CEO Emerald Coast Food & Beverage Concepts, Inc., my Florida-panhandle based food and beverage management company that develops restaurants and bars; executive vice president and CFO Galardi South Enterprises, a company that develops and manages commercial real estate, restaurants, bars, adult entertainment establishments, golf courses, and promotional marketing.

Community or governmental activicities: Law enforcement experience with Orange County sheriff and coroners department and as a reserve deputy in Fulton County.

Q: What is the role of Sandy Springs’ city government in promoting or creating a “downtown” for Sandy Springs?

A: The main reason is community economic stimulus. Most cities have main focus areas of commerce involving high density commercial and residential development. This creates jobs and tax revenues for the city.

Many of these “downtown areas” are based on historical or artistic attraction. People are walking a lot more these days for many reasons; exercise, less driving, convenience, etc. From their residence they can enjoy a walk to the store or a neighborhood restaurant, bar, and specialty shops.

Most important, this would also keep commerce close to the community rather then travel outside the City of Sandy springs.

Q: Should the city of Sandy Springs commit to spending public money to attract a community college to Sandy Springs?

A: Absolutely not, for several reasons. Public monies, (property taxes) are for public school development and it is the fiscal responsibility of school districts and their boards. Likewise private schools, too, have their own fiscal responsibility and deal with a board of directors. Furthermore, I cannot see any advantage or gain for the taxpayers of the city. This is not the City of Sandy Springs “public money”, this is the Taxpayer’s money and it is what they want versus an opposing agenda.

Q: Should the city again contract with CH2M HILL to run most city operations or should it seek other or multiple contractors for the job? Why?

A: From what I have observed, CH2M HILL has done a very good job. Overall, if it is not broken don’t fix it.

The only thing that has troubled me with this arrangement is when you approach some city officials or workers on a question or problem, the finger-pointing goes back and forth and the end result is nothing. When contacting the city, I was directed to contact CH2M HILL and their response is you have to contact the city of Sandy Springs. I would suggest a person who is put into a position as a “Communications Manger” appointed by the city to deal with the confusion on communication or accountability.

I am an advocate of “privatization” for the purpose when contractual agreements are established it curtails frivolous spending and creates accountability.