As 2016 wound down, we asked local leaders to look ahead and predict major events or issues they see coming in 2017. Here’s what they say we should expect next year.
Sam Massell, president, the Buckhead Coalition
The community of Buckhead is in such good shape, the biggest “event” coming our way is the care needed to protect what we have as our Atlanta city government changes through the campaign for the November election. With no less than 19 rumored or announced candidates for mayor, four of whom are vacating City Council seats, plus an unknown overhaul of the Board of Education, we know what we have won’t be the same and must be carefully addressed.
Mayor John Ernst, Brookhaven
2017 will mark our young city’s fifth birthday – a significant milestone. We’ll embark upon our first city charter review, implement master plans we have in place, and go to work on our zoning code rewrite. I personally would like the city to invest in more community engagement tools and methods of communication to get more residents involved in city affairs. Our fifth anniversary is also a good time for us to consider playing a larger role in regional affairs that affect our residents, and truly make Brookhaven the place to live, work and play.
Mayor Denis Shortal, Dunwoody
The primary interest is to continue enhancing the quality of life for all of our citizens. This translates into consistent improvement of our infrastructure and facilities, and fostering a spirit of community stewardship which brings us together as one family with a common interest.
Mayor Rusty Paul, Sandy Springs
Mobility remains our top focus in 2017. The state’s Ga. 400/I-285 project will test our patience, so avoiding the area or taking MARTA for north-south trips will help. Our TSPLOST initiative will target bottlenecks and kinks within our existing road network. A roadmap of 1940s north Fulton County looks just like today’s map because, while some roads were widened, only two new arterials have been added: Ga. 400 and I-285. Modernizing a system of what began as old farm roads will be this area’s greatest challenge.
State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody)
I think one of the biggest issues in the state will be the new funding formula for kindergarten-12 education. We also will begin an outside review of post-secondary education (college and technical college) as respects affordability and efficiency.
State Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)
The biggest issue coming to our community is greater economic development and opportunity. Thanks to Gov. Nathan Deal and the leadership in our state to maintain our AAA bond rating, the prudence of our leaders to save over $2 billion dollars in our “rainy day” fund to run our state government, and the wisdom of the Legislature to vote in the transportation funds to initiate 11 Georgia Department of Transportation projects to improve our infrastructure and highways, our community is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the improving economy. I intend to focus on greater educational and economic opportunities for the citizens of Sandy Springs and Buckhead with an eye toward responsibly protecting our environment.
Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook
The biggest issues facing the part of Buckhead I represent are crime and traffic congestion, and early in the year I will be engaging the public with specific plans to address each.
Robert Wittenstein, president, Dunwoody Homeowners Association
Dunwoody will face decisions on investing in capital improvements at both Brook Run Park and the Dunwoody Nature Center in 2017. I also hope that the city will come to a consensus on their vision for Perimeter Center. This year, we gave huge tax breaks to encourage one set of office towers while refusing permission for two other proposed developments nearby.
Lee Morris, Fulton County Commission, District 3
In 2017, we will elect Atlanta’s next mayor. Only my constituents living in Atlanta vote in that election, but all metro citizens have a stake in it. Atlanta’s population is less than 10 percent of the metro region, so some think Atlanta’s mayor receives disproportionate press and more influence than the office warrants. But Atlanta’s success is important for all who live, work or play in Atlanta, or whose business depends on a successful core city.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)
There will be a number of big topics that will be on the agenda at the Capitol this year, including healthcare and education. We will also see old issues recycled—such as “campus carry” and the so-called “religious liberty” bills. I will continue to focus on local reform efforts for DeKalb County.
Dunwoody City Councilmember Terry Nall
I see two large issues in Dunwoody and DeKalb County that must be addressed ASAP in 2017.
1) Sewer capacity limitation: DeKalb County has a severe sewer capacity crunch at the worst possible time. Economic development in the Perimeter and North DeKalb area continues on an uptick, but sewer capacity is constrained with no significant solution underway. DeKalb County is significantly behind in its sewer progress. Each new project is subject to possible sewer line constraints that may chase away the opportunities and damage our tax base.
2) Emergency Medical Service response times: DeKalb County Fire & Rescue shuttered its EMS paramedic transport units and outsourced EMS transport to American Medical Response (AMR) on August 1, 2013. The county’s AMR contract requires a response time of 8 minutes, 59 seconds on 90 percent of EMS calls (supplemented by first responder arrival of DeKalb County fire engine paramedics). Year-to-date at Nov. 30, 2016 the EMS response times in Dunwoody averaged 10 minutes, 45 seconds. Worse is that response times on 13 percent of Dunwoody’s EMS calls exceeded 15 minutes, with quite a few with response time of as much as 30 minutes. I fully expect City Council to review this more extensively during 2017.