When questioned on the issue of bringing a community college to Sandy Springs, three candidates vying for a vacant spot on the City Council were united.
None of the candidates in District 4 think that the city should pony up millions to lure a community college to an area of the city already pinched by traffic.
The proposal for a college near the North Springs MARTA station has drawn protest from city residents.
Candidate Chiteka Jackson, employed as a corporate manager, said city officials didn’t listen to “90 percent” of constituents when a close vote of the council ended up supporting the project.
Dennis Williams, president and CEO of a real estate development company, said that the “bottom line is that the local community doesn’t want it.”
And Gabriel Sterling, vice president of a communications and political consulting firm, said the city needs to lure a taxpaying business to the city’s prime real estate – not a technical college.
“The location is absolutely wrong,” he said.
The candidates debated city issues at a recent forum held at the Sandy Springs council chamber. All three candidates are in a March 15 special election to fill the vacancy on the council left by former Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins, who resigned.
The candidates were joined by around 40 people. The March 3 forum, hosted by Reporter Newspapers, lasted for nearly two hours as those in the audience peppered the candidates with questions.
The forum was one of a few that came in the final run-up to the March 15 special election. The nonpartisan election has given candidates little more than a month after filing for the seat to try to persuade voters and get them to the polls.
Few expect many voters to turn out. Only District 4 residents may vote, city officials say. Sterling speculated that 1,200 voters may cast ballots.
Williams, 55, recently debated with his two fellow candidates at a senior community at Mount Vernon Towers.
Williams lists business interests in real estate, nightclubs and restaurants, and adult entertainment companies. He said he has no interest in bringing adult entertainment businesses to Sandy Springs, he just wants to be involved in the community.
“I’m not a polished politician. I’m just a hard worker and a business man,” Williams said.
Gabriel Sterling, meanwhile, presented himself as a city insider. He said he “either convinced or conned” Jenkins to run when the council was forming. Jenkins was one of the city’s original council members.
“I want to build on a decade of experience working for this city,” Sterling said.
All three candidates list traffic, a future downtown development and out-of-kilter Atlanta water bills charged to local residents as top priorities to be addressed by the council.
Jackson, for her part, said the Roswell Road corridor is worth improving, but has some difficult obstacles to overcome. Many owners along the corridor already hold their property with no mortgage, which means that it can be difficult to push them to spend money to improve their property.
“The properties are already paid for. The owners are getting the rent every month, so there’s no reason to change,” Jackson said.
Five polls open for March 15 special election
Five polling places will be open March 15 for the special election to fill the District 4 seat on Sandy Springs City Council, according to the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, which will conduct the election.
Three candidates – Chiteka Jackson, Gabriel Sterling and Dennis Williams – will be on the ballot. If no candidate claims more than half the vote, a runoff election between the top two vote-getters will be held April 12.
Only residents of District 4 vote in the election. There are 10,445 registered voters in the district, according to the county elections department.
The department listed the five polling places as: St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church, 7171 Glenridge Drive; Hammond Park Community Center, 6005 Glenridge Drive; Hammond Park Gym, 704 Hammond Drive NE; North Springs Charter High School, 7447 Roswell Road; and First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs, 650 Mount Vernon Highway.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.