As 2015 slips past, it’s time to take a moment to look forward. What’s coming in 2016? We asked newsmakers from Reporter Newspapers communities what they thought would be the biggest issues or trends facing our local areas in the coming year.
Here’s what they see heading our way in 2016.
I think the most important issues that the General Assembly will address during the upcoming 2016 session include passing of education reforms, including changing the way state funds are distributed to local districts, and considering teacher merit pay. I think the General Assembly will significantly revise the $5-per-night hotel/motel fee that was part of last session’s transportation funding bill. The General Assembly also will consider important Fulton County reforms. I will propose tax relief for Atlanta’s seniors.
— Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta)
2016 will be another transformative year in Fulton County. I’m expecting a balanced budget which will hopefully result in a further decrease in our millage rate. The BOC is working on several significant initiatives in a number of areas including public health, safety and economic development. We are having great collaboration with the Fulton mayors around tackling our transportation challenges. Also, the potential sale of Turner Field and unveiling of dynamic opportunities for the redevelopment of the area will be something to watch.
— Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis
The groundbreaking on Brookhaven’s park improvements will be the biggest event for Brookhaven, which I hope leads to more resident-led projects through 2016 and beyond. The new trend for our city government will be monthly town hall meetings. I’m very excited to work for – and with – every Brookhaven resident to make our city better.
— Brookhaven Mayor-elect John Ernst
I foresee a trend toward more active recreation opportunities within the Dunwoody Park system and specifically more programming at Brook Run Park. The hospital in the back of the park was torn down in 2007, leaving a rocky, open field and the city has been slowly filling it in with clean fill dirt to level it out. The city just settled a $4 million lawsuit with DeKalb County where the Parks Master Plan update may direct money toward improving Brook Run’s playing fields. I hope to see permanently installed, flat multi-use playable fields in the back of Brook Run Park, so that new recreation opportunities can be available to our community.
— Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan
For a number of years, Buckhead’s leadership has recognized the growing need for replacements from the younger generation. Before our Buckhead Coalition was formed, the Buckhead Business Association started just such a group (called YoungBucks, by my son Steve). More recently, the coalition started an organization of new leaders nominated by neighborhood associations. Named the Diplomatic Leadership Corps, it consists of 25 men and women around the age of 25 (to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the coalition).
Imagine our excitement when David Cummings developed Atlanta Tech Village as an incubator for young tech startups. Add to this the wisdom of 36 different developers announcing 44 apartment complexes with 13,974 units to meet the desire for mobility by the estimated population expansion, with 38 percent made up by millennials.
Young leadership is what’s trending in Buckhead for 2016!
— Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition
I believe the most significant local event in 2016 is: Will the GM project move forward or stall due to bureaucratic infighting and/or ignorance? Also, will DeKalb’s legislative delegation finally embrace the Republican initiative to eliminate the CEO position and go to a county manager system? In Fulton County, will the Fulton County Commission continue to make progress in relations with its cities?
— Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody)
I expect resolution on at least these two definitive key items for Dunwoody in 2016:
1. Begin Brook Run Park improvements using the $4 million settlement from DeKalb County due to the parks bond litigation. This should include turning the undeveloped back field into recreational fields, developing the Great Lawn, adding vehicle entry to the park from Barclay Drive and other amenities in the Parks Master Plan. The $4 million for these improvements is already in the bank.
2. Finalize a timeline, location and action plan for future Dunwoody City Hall arrangements, as the current lease expires in 2019.
I have asked for discussion during our annual retreat in February around these two issues that I hope will result in a policy consensus: a different policy approach to our paving plan in order to accelerate paving of the city’s lowest-ranked roads; and how council will address an increasing tax digest in order to achieve residential property tax relief.
— Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall
In the New Year, we will finalize our long-term plan. At the start, Sandy Springs adopted Fulton County’s existing development codes because: 1) we needed something immediately, 2) we understood the process, and 3) we could fix its obvious flaws over time. After a decade of patching, we realized the old land use plan and development regulations were mid-20th Century relics unsuited for early 21st Century demands. This forced council to implement three development moratoria because we lacked adequate controls to block certain types of unwanted development.
In 2016, we will update our land use plan and development ordinances to ensure public engagement before developers can apply for a rezoning. The goal is to develop a plan that our residents believe ensures our long-term quality of life.
— Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul
Notwithstanding the political claims that DeKalb is “back on track,” 2016 will be a year of decision. The Legislature will consider further reform of our Organizational Act (County Constitution) and voters will elect a new CEO, four Commissioners and a District Attorney. A newly created independent Internal Auditor will, for the first time, provide an informed and focused critique of county operations. While new cities and annexations may slow, the conflicts generated by intensive development along municipal boundaries will necessitate intergovernmental cooperation that has been lacking. All residents can and should be active in every election, because county decisions affect everyone.
— DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader
The most significant local event will be formulating smart strategies and then making decisions to expand transportation alternatives and fund projects that alleviate traffic congestion. One example is whether Fulton Countians should consider a November referendum for an extra 1 percent sales tax to fund road, bridge and other transportation projects. Stakeholders will meet to adopt criteria, and local officials will then have to discuss priorities and forge an agreement. This will lead to much-needed debate and decision making.
— Rep. Joe Wilkinson, (R-Sandy Springs)
Brookhaven will continue to blossom and bloom in 2016. The MARTA development at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe station will move forward, a decision should be made about where to locate the Brookhaven library, and City Hall will likely determine its next home. All the parks master plans will start coming to fruition, along with the bike-pedestrian plan. The folks studying the Ashford-Dunwoody Corridor should be engaging the community to create a vision for one of our busiest roads. With a good team in place at City Hall, I feel confident that it will build on the foundation that has been laid and continue building a great city.
— Brookhaven Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams
In 2016, I look forward to more partnerships pushing major projects forward that enhance Perimeter, Georgia’s corporate center, and benefit our city and county partners and the region – projects like the I-285 at Ga. 400 Interchange project. I see more big wins, collaborations and successes for our Perimeter business community as long as we continue to work together for the good of the whole. As we identify the needs of our thriving corporate center, PCIDs will continue to be at the table with a hand up, not a hand out.
— Yvonne Williams
President/CEO, Perimeter Community Improvement Districts