Age: None given
Occupation: Management consultant and trainer; co-founder and co-owner, Business Success, Inc.
Party: None given
Address: None given
Athens-Clarke County has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. What should the local government be doing to alleviate poverty?
The key to alleviating poverty is a much greater availability of higher paying jobs and the necessary training of our citizens to acquire those jobs. This is not just opportunities for a younger workforce but an older one as well. We should forge a stronger partnership with our Board of Education and Clarke County School District and Athens Tech to assist in providing the necessary education and training needed to prepare our citizens to become the well trained workforce that employers will hire for higher paying jobs as well as preparing students to seek higher levels of education.
We must continue our effort in economic development, including our pursuit of “industrial attraction and large development” and new business for Athens-Clarke County, but we must also provide a focus on small and moderate-sized businesses that exist in Athens already, including in the arts and entertainment sectors, hospitality, technology, retail and service industries. We should have in our Office of Economic Development someone specifically tasked with helping small and moderate-sized businesses in Athens-Clarke County and expand our partnership with the University of Georgia to include the use of the Terry College of Business and Small Business Development Center as resources to help in the success of this initiative.
We must create a comprehensive and inclusive marketing plan to show companies—large, moderate and small—that Athens has a capable workforce, offers good quality of life and is a great place to locate their businesses. We can alleviate poverty by increasing the real median income for our households and giving our citizens better financial opportunities.
Downtown development has been a major issue the past few years. Is this a good trend for Athens, and if not, how can we curb it and/or encourage development other than student apartments?
Many businesses in Athens are fueled by student expenditures, especially students that live in apartments near downtown, and a new housing complex in downtown Athens will likely bring in more money for businesses. However, the market likely will not sustain more than one additional student housing development in the downtown area. That’s because such a project will have caused the student housing market in that area to reach its point of saturation, and developers won’t build in a market that can’t sustain additional growth.
The Board of Regents has changed their funding policy from benefiting colleges based on growth to favor those that increase their graduation rates. Therefore, UGA will not see the growth it had in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s and thus there won’t be a need for future downtown student housing. The industry market will likely be self-correcting.
Do you support expanding Athens Transit service, reducing fares and/or exploring a merger with the UGA bus system? If so, how would you pay for it?
Local government needs to do whatever it can to make public transit affordable and effective. We need an updated formal study done on efficiency of bus routes and operation efficiency including fuel costs and the use of alternative fuels. I would like to examine routes to improve efficiency and better availability to citizens. We should also reach out to large industry to offset the burden of transit for their employees, as well as seek out additional public and private sector funding to assist in reducing to cost of public transit.
Athens is often pigeonholed as “business unfriendly.” Do you support easing restrictions on businesses? If so, which ones?
While some may call Athens “business unfriendly,” there are others who state that they would rather do business in Athens because the rules and regulations are clear. There is always room for improvement in operations, and we need to assess our strengths and weaknesses and implement solutions to problems that exist. Simply easing restrictions is not always the solution, especially if the long-term effects will not benefit the businesses or our citizens. Improved communications, efficiency, better customer service and a willingness and mindset to find a solution to a problem that is mutually beneficial to the business and our community is a much better way to dispel such a negative image.
Are you in favor of the Complete Streets: Prince Avenue lane reconfiguration demonstration project? Why or why not?
I have no objection to the Prince Avenue lane reconfiguration demonstration project as long as it does not create a safety hazard that puts anyone at a greater safety risk. The test should be done to determine the merit of what it proposes to achieve. However, we should keep in mind that the issue is speed reduction and public safety, primarily pedestrian safety. Thus, all solutions should be examined in an effort to determine the best and most effective ways of addressing such an issue including traditional as well as new, forward-thinking solutions. Any solution should also encompass dedicated bike lanes that include a safety curb that separates bikes from automobiles. This is fair to bikers and drivers as well as efforts to enhance safety through teaching and promoting better driver and biker safety. I feel that dedicated bike lanes of this nature will be money well spent as we cannot put a price on a life, or its loss, and must protect it.
What other issues concern you?
We should create a development or master plan for our county, keeping in mind property owners’ rights, but involving stakeholders including property owners, developers and real estate professionals, planning staff and other government departments, policy makers, and most importantly citizens of our community. This should go along with our social improvement plan to assist citizens as well as our marketing plan for Athens-Clarke County. We need to plan ahead to develop and maintain a more sustainable community that is better educated, more prepared and poised to attract more business and industries that offer higher paying jobs. This type of environment is generally much stronger, more insightful to the needs of its citizens and is more creative, inventive, entrepreneurial and productive. It should be our goal to create a sustainable community which includes more economic stability and that offers its citizens the opportunity to advance financially.
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