Rusty Paul, Incumbent
Candidate for Sandy Springs Mayor
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1) What would be your top priority if re-elected mayor of Sandy Springs?
Public safety is priority one. Crime is up around us and, while some has bled into our area, Money Magazine and Safewise both named Sandy Springs among the safest cities in Georgia. We must keep it that way by providing our first responders with all needed resources to keep us safe.
Second is truly protecting “protected” neighborhoods. People often invest their life savings in their home, and they deserve reasonable assurance that the city won’t radically change their neighborhood’s character through rezoning. That’s the agreement we baked into the “Next Ten” land use plan and one I firmly support.
2) As the metro region continues to add more people, who will you balance the growth in Sandy Springs, especially as it relates to traffic congestion and increasing housing supply.
Sandy Springs is basically maxed out on population. Further, housing is a regional challenge that can’t be solved in Sandy Springs alone because we lack available land, and our infrastructure is already overtaxed. Understanding this, the Atlanta Regional Commission asked me to serve on its Leadership Housing Action Committee to develop a regional housing approach.
The pandemic, through work at home and other changes, has altered housing preferences and needs, so we are evaluating these new trends. Clearly, Sandy Springs’ housing gap is ownership opportunities for young families, hospital employees, teachers, first responders. That is why we are making some city-owned housing available for first responder families.
Regarding congestion, we continue attacking traffic bottlenecks and have made progress, but we’re not there yet. We continue encouraging work-from-home and other pandemic-inspired solutions that reduce traffic. School carpools are a major congestion source, and I have urged both public and private schools to rethink carpools to ease that traffic crush.
TSPLOST is up for renewal in November and those resources would help us continue upgrading intersections and removing other bottlenecks.
3) What’s the best way to achieve redevelopment in the city’s North End without displacing lower-income residents?
Execute the plans the city and the area residents worked on together for the aging strip centers that need modernizing. The city’s comprehensive economic analysis shows that redevelopment generally acceptable to the nearby neighborhoods will work financially and give the community the housing and amenities they want. Now, it’s a matter of executing.
4) How will you deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic?
Follow our public health officials’ recommendations. Distrust of the scientific community is at an all-time-high due to social media misinformation and TV’s talking heads who give equal time to the informed and uninformed. However, scientific data is our best guide. We continue urging vaccinations because, while they aren’t 100% protective, they are our best line of defense. More than 97% of the hospitalizations and deaths today are among the unvaccinated. Yes, we have breakthrough cases, but the vaccine has mostly prevented that small percentage from evolving into severe cases resulting in hospitalization and death.
5) What will you do as mayor to ensure City Council can have civil discourse while making sure that all voices are heard?
With one exception over our 16 years, council has always been civil, collegial, and provided everyone ample opportunity to discuss any agenda item. Everyone gets emotional occasionally, but passion must be channeled appropriately. As the council’s presiding officer, the mayor is guided by the charter and, where the charter is silent, by Robert’s Rules of Order which outline not just procedure, but decorum. Decorum is as old as the parliamentary system itself. As early as 1604, parliamentary rules stated that “no reviling or nipping words must be used.” In other words, during debate you may question someone’s ideas, but never their motives. Challenge their proposals, but never their character or intelligence. That is for voters to judge. The mayor’s job in council meetings is to follow proper procedure, which assures every member is heard with respect and deference.