Banker Chris Burnett and airline pilot Joe Houseman meet June 21 in a special runoff election to choose a Sandy Springs City Councilmember to represent District 3. They were the top two finishers among the five candidates in the May 24 special election.

For a special runoff Voters Guide, the Sandy Springs Reporter asked the two candidates several questions. Here are edited versions of their answers.

To see previously published Voters Guide information related to this race, click here for Chris Burnett and here for Joe Houseman.

Chris Burnett

Chris Burnett

Q: Why should the voters choose you, rather than your opponent?
A: The differences between us lie in our training and in our professional experience and skill-sets.  We also have significant differences in the time commitments we have historically made to our community.

I want the city to halt further apartment development in District 3, and if a district-specific moratorium is required to accomplish this, then I will recommend and support that.

We must protect our neighborhoods by stopping cut-through traffic, reducing non-rush hour speeds on neighborhood streets and reducing congestion during grueling rush hours. When not flying, my opponent lives in an affluent, tranquil neighborhood with zero cut-through traffic, and his neighbors are less impacted by the grind of Riverside Drive and Johnson Ferry.  I believe I am more motivated and better equipped to address our traffic because I suffer with it every day.

I have a deep understanding of what works and what does not work in terms of density and financial feasibility. I will stop bad real estate projects before they ever take off.

I serve on the Trustee Board and the Finance and Audit Committees for Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, the largest Episcopal school in America. I serve in these roles because of my deep understanding of strategic planning, analyzing financial statements, preparing budgets and smart fiscal management, all crucial skills in a city with a $100 million annual budget, especially if we want to keep property taxes from skyrocketing. My opponent has no known experience in any of these areas of fiscal management.

For 20 years, I have shown my love for and commitment to Sandy Springs by serving with many charitable organizations that are substantially improving our quality of life.

Q: What kind of development is appropriate in Sandy Springs?  Have city officials followed the right path?  Are they too close to developers?
A:  Development needs are different in each area of the city. For example, the northern district (the Huntcliff, Northridge area) has the majority of the city’s class C apartments, with higher crime statistics and elevated stress on schools and infrastructure.  Redevelopment of those very old properties with new housing would be beneficial in providing middle-income families … with quality, attainable housing options. Commercially, I want downtown Sandy Springs to redevelop with boutique retail shops, local, chef-driven restaurants and boutique office space for local businesses.  While chairman of our local chamber, we formed the Sandy Springs Restaurant Council to support high-quality, local restaurants so Sandy Springs will have better quality dining and entertainment options for our residents, and it is my hope that more restaurants will come to downtown if we offer a “small-town” feel that is easily walkable and heavily landscaped.

Q: How will you juggle your day job and meet the time demands of City Council?
A: For years, our life has been totally focused in Sandy Springs. My office is in the heart of District 3, and I can walk to the new City Hall for meetings.  Our doors are always open and citizens can come see me whenever they need to. Unlike my opponent, who travels constantly, I do not travel for business and am in Sandy Springs every day.

Joe Houseman

Joe Houseman

Q: Why should the voters in the runoff choose you, rather than your opponent?
A: Because my only priority is the citizens of Sandy Springs!  As a lifelong resident of Sandy Springs, many friends and concerned neighbors would often turn to me with their concerns and opinions since we became incorporated in 2005. Knowing I grew up in District 3 and witnessed the district both before and after we became a city, they always urged me to run for this position.

My approach to the Sandy Springs City Council will be with “clear glasses,” and an honest intent to do what is best for the taxpayers in my district to protect their rights and improve their quality of life.  Citizens will not have to be concerned with me becoming influenced in my decision-making by outside sources. I am concerned that my opponent has significant conflicts of interest in his job as the president of the Bank of Sandy Springs. As a Delta pilot, I can guarantee that Boeing vs. Airbus will never come up in a City Council vote; I’ll never have to recuse myself on any city council vote. I have zero financial interests that are affected by any item I would ever vote on as councilman. If my opponent is doing his professional job well (prospecting, doing deals, etc.), by definition he’s likely not going to be able to vote on a number of issues throughout his term.

Q: What kind of development is appropriate in Sandy Springs?  Have city officials followed the right path?  Are they too close to developers?
A: I’m a big believer in the free market. And to me, the free market should be comprised of individuals and businesses competing on a level playing field in the marketplace. That level field does not include, in my mind, the city government bending rules for the benefit of a private entity, such as approving development proposals that are very far out of line with the city’s Land Use Plan.

Q: How will you juggle your day job and meet the time demands of City Council?
A: As an airline pilot with seniority, I have a very flexible schedule which allows me time to commit to serving my neighbors as a member of City Council.  Many busy professionals work 65+ hours each week; FAA regulations only allow me to fly 100 hours per month.  I have ample time and the passion to commit to serving my fellow citizens of District 3.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.