John Paulson, Incumbent
Candidate for Sandy Springs City Council, District 1
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1) What are three issues affecting your district that you would tackle as a councilmember?
Public safety is a top priority, and there are several initiatives underway to help ensure our residents live in a safe city. We have identified a location in the panhandle area of District One for a new fire station. The addition of a fire station in the center [of] District One will substantially reduce emergency response times, helping to save lives. The new public safety complex located on Morgan Falls Road will also aid our city by providing a permanent, secure home for our police department and municipal court, adding training facilities, and a future fire station. Our first responders are the best of any city in the region – and I believe in the state – and it is important that we provide these hardworking men and women with the tools and training they need to do their job.
2) How would you encourage more housing diversity and affordability in Sandy Springs, especially for city workers and others who can’t afford to live where they work?
Affordable housing is a complex issue, which the region and the country, are grappling with. Sandy Springs has and will continue to encourage housing developers to set aside a portion of their units for affordable housing, and I will continue to support these efforts. The challenge comes with the question of … how mayor and council should commit taxpayer funds in this effort. Another activity is [the] review of our development rules and regulations to remove artificial barriers to smart redevelopment, and several studies under way or recently completed should provide recommendations on the ways to deal with this challenge.
3) How would you encourage redevelopment in Sandy Springs, such as in the city’s North End, while balancing issues of displacement for lower-income residents?
As one of our priorities, the City commissioned a planning/architecture firm to envision redevelopment of four shopping centers in the North End, with the process including extensive input from the community, developers and the property owners in this area. The plans (on our website) took into account community preferences, land uses, unit counts and financial feasibility. The City is open to partnering with the private sector to encourage redevelopment that reflects the communities’ values and vision.
4) How would you work to improve equity and diversity in Sandy Springs?
The city is actually a very diverse community today, as evidenced by attendance in one of the City’s community events, like our Fourth of July fireworks, or the lantern parade, which showed a good sense of our diverse makeup. Our Recreation and Parks Department is one example of everyday efforts to be inclusive of all community members. Partnering with Fulton County Schools, the City provides after-school programming in many of our elementary and middle schools, serving minorities and lower income children. We have scholarship programs available, so that children who want to participate in sports programs can play.
5) If city finances were to decline, would you consider a tax hike or would you rather cut city services and programs?
When I was first elected in 2009 and began serving in 2010, our budget was over $100 million dollars. Four years later, it was less than $90 million. At no time were the city’s essential services or programs compromised and so were unaffected. During that time, funding for public works projects was reduced. I would not consider a tax hike, nor can I, as the city millage rate is set by charter and can only be raised with city referendum and approval.