Megan Harris

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? 

My top 3 pillars are: Accessibility, Transparency, and Budgeting.

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? 

Housing diversity and affordability is a hot topic of discussion nationally. Growing concerns of diversity and inclusion integrate in the conversation of how zoning practices are still contributing to realized disparities in the economic wealth gap, transportation opportunities, and racial inclusion. Inflation and income stagnation impact the cost of living and affordability of our working class, essential workers and young professionals seeking to become homeowners; one of the largest assets on a personal balance sheet is under serious threat! According to our fire chief, only 5 of 116 full-time fire responders live in Sandy Springs. To encourage more housing diversity and affordability in Sandy Springs, I believe in a multi-prong approach including: 1) establishment of inclusionary zoning laws, 2) updating the parking minimums, 3) considering a city housing trust fund.

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? 

In conversations with neighbors in the North End there are two common statements: 1) I love living in Sandy Springs and 2) I’m afraid if rent increases again, I will have to move. Redevelopment allows us to identify our community’s current needs and invest in growth. Diversifying housing options for multi-family and mixed income developments, preservation of existing multi-family housing, and investing in access to parks and community centers is a start. This can help manage the displacement of our neighbors who are working class and essential workers. Our Diversity & Inclusion Task Force recommended incentives to developers supporting housing affordability when renovating old apartment complexes or engaging in new construction. The second phase of the housing study performed by HR&A Advisors is to outline a Strategic Housing Action Plan. It’s pending reinstatement. Through education, transparency, and productive actions we can shrink the fears/concerns of change and empower creativity in developing solutions for all our neighbors. 

4) How would you work to improve equity and diversity in Sandy Springs? 

The levers that drive improvement in equity and diversity are access, communication, and transparency. We can do more to make sure everyone feels included in the community. For example, there’s unequal access to publications of record (Sandy Springs Reporter/Northside Neighbor) because physical copies are delivered to apartment renters where a vast majority are residents of color. City documents are not translated for our Spanish speaking neighbors, leaving them out of participating in city plans. A cost efficient, partial solution can be our Sandy Springs Works App by including translating features and working links to city news/resources. A campaign to spread this resource would help drive engagement and promote accessibility.

5) If city finances were to decline, would you consider a tax hike or would you rather cut city services and programs? 

If city finances were to decline, I would not increase taxes, nor immediately cut programs that aid and service the essential needs of our residents. For example, instead of increasing taxes 4%, I would vote to lower the mileage rate. City Council recently approved a record budget with a healthy reserve fund increase of $10 million, making our rainy-day fund over $30 million. Not including an additional approximately $16 million in pandemic relief and additional funds for our capital improvement program. The objective is making sure that we are prudent stewards of our budget and meeting the essential needs of everyone in the community.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.