Friday, October 9, 2015

Dunwoody Mayoral Candidate responses to the @AJC & @LWVGA voter guide. #gapol

Below are the responses by the Dunwoody Mayoral Candidates to the League of Woman Voters and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 2015 Voter Guide.

Based on the AJC website, it appears that Candidate Dennis Shortal did not complete the survey.

What experience do you bring to the job to set policy for your city and what is your motivation to serve?

Steve Chipka Retired BellSouth Manager, started as a technician, moved into Sales, then on to corporate training with a focus on Financial Management training for Account Teams to better relate to customer CFOs. Moved into Market Management, working with new product teams focusing on customer needs. Finished my career at BellSouth in the Performance Improvement and Organizational Effectiveness teams, helping internal clients meet their objectives with systems, processes, and people. I believe the City of Dunwoody needs someone who can listen to the residents and use business skills to mange city resources more effectively.

Mike Davis My motivation to serve is that I love Dunwoody, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Dunwoody as the Mayor for the past four years. We have term limits for the Mayoral position, and I want to continue the work that has been done in making Dunwoody the best city that it can be for another term. I have raised my family here and have been passionate about serving this community thru years of civic involvement and leadership. My professional experience is in business management which serves me well in the policy setting role of Mayor. I have spent the last four years building relationships with elected officials and community leaders in the county, state, and other municipalities, enabling us to work together on policies affecting Dunwoody and the surrounding areas. The members of our city council work well together under my leadership and are respectful of each other’s view and opinions, while voting with our own consciences on every topic. We read often about municipal governments that are dysfunctional because the elected officials can’t seem to work together. I’ve worked hard to create an environment of trust and respect, allowing us to do the work of the city efficiently and effectively.

Chris Grivakis Financial/analytical background useful/needed to analyze cost/benefit of projects, setting budgets, and adjusting budget as needed. I have been an active participant in Dunwoody Homeowner Meetings (DHA) meetings for several years, where city issues are presented, and have questioned potentially adverse proposals (traffic circle, higher-density Perimeter area, high-density townhomes). My motivation to serve: (1) avoid over-urbanization of Perimeter area under guise of all-growth-is- good mantra. High density/excess growth will create excess traffic that will choke area and have potential to increase school population in an already taxed school system with some of the traffic invariably flowing through our city and neighborhoods; (2) maintain current zoning in residential areas to maintain our property values and our suburban aspect which is why we all moved and remained here; (3) prioritize all projects and ensure that needed projects (sidewalks) are placed ahead of nice-to-have projects (city hall/gateways). There are many projects we would like such as a city hall and gateway entrances but we need to defer these to future after pressing projects are completed; (4) change city charter to require voter approval for taking over county-provided service (fire, waste) so that all of us get to decide rather than only 4 of use deciding (in 4 to 3 council vote).

What will be your top two priorities during your term of office and how will you pursue them?

Steve Chipka 1. Create a project tracking system which will track resources for a project from planning to completion. Present method seems to be calendar based with no transparency or accountability. An example is the 911 CAD-to-CAD Interface project which has gone on for 4 years. 2. Improve the lead time of City Council Agenda availability so the public has more time to research and develop public comments at City Council meetings. I will pursue these priorities by ensuring I have an understanding of current issues related to them and develop recommendations for systems/processes to improve performance.

Mike Davis My top priority is making Dunwoody an attractive place to live, work, and play. To me that means having the kinds of amenities that attract well educated and involved families and singles, as well as top notch employers. This is what keeps the values of our houses high and provides demand for our neighborhoods when our older citizens are ready to downsize. With a vibrant community comes challenges such as traffic and schools. I have been very involved in getting the Georgia DOT to fund the 285/400 intersection fix. On the local level we can impact traffic positively by maintaining and upgrading our intersections, thirteen of which are in our current plan. As for schools, we are very focused upon working with our state legislators to bring about a constitutional amendment which will, when passed, give Dunwoody and other communities the right to establish right sized locally controlled school systems. Safety also a top priority. Dunwoody is already considered in the region to be a very safe community, and we need to maintain that vision by providing the optimal sized police force to keep not only our 45,000 residents safe, but our 125,000 work day population safe. I fully support our police chief in his implementation of new ideas, such as body cameras, etc.

Chris Grivakis Maintain zoning: the city is reviewing the land-use for Perimeter, and initial consultant proposal is 30-story buildings near mall and 14-story buildings near Wal-Mart and Ashford Dunwoody Rd. The proposal was deferred by council and it is unclear what type of change could be approved (current zoning is 5-stories with variance needed to exceed). I would work to maintain zoning so we have development compatible with our suburban character so that our schools and roads are not overburdened. Large projects would require council review, a process that is diminished if zoning changed to allow taller buildings. Excess traffic from higher density threatens the Perimeter area’s viability. Traffic will flow through city and clog our roads (traffic has worsened without this development). Prioritize all projects: there are many projects we would like to have. Some are needed (sidewalks, repave streets) while some are not pressing (city hall, gateways) or ever needed (traffic circles). I would shift all spending to needed projects and put nice-to-have projects at bottom of list – we’ll get to them after necessary projects are done, if we have funds and citizens want them. We voted to become a city so that we can have sidewalks/paving not gateways/city hall.

The 1% Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) is levied by counties and shared with cities therein based on a formula agreed to at least once every 10 years. LOST used for annual operational expenses and reduces property taxes. Do you support or oppose the formula which is currently used to determine your city’s share? Why or why not?

Steve Chipka I support the current formula based on property value of the cities. The property taxes are the basis for the County collecting revenue for services delivered. The primary reason, as I understand it, for incorporating cities was the perceived lack of equitable County spending based on at least some form of rationale.

Mike Davis Dekalb County does not have a LOST like most counties in Georgia. It has a 1% Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST). They are similar but different in many ways. I oppose the system used by the county and will be working to change the formula. Forty percent of all the sales tax collected in Dekalb County is collected in Dunwoody, in particular at Perimeter Mall. I'm not suggesting that we should get 40% of the entire county’s sales tax revenue, but people like to shop at our mall due to the efforts the city puts forth in safety, beauty and infrastructure. Dunwoody represents 6.5% of the population, brings in 40% of the revenue and gets back 5%. I believe we should get 12% of the revenue. The bigger tax argument I have with the county is their plan to put forth an additional 1% sales tax for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). This will make Dekalb the highest sales tax county in the state at 8%. Dunwoody is in the corner of the county surrounded by Gwinnett 6%, Fulton 7% and Cobb 6%. We are running the risk of pricing ourselves out of competition. And for what? The county has mismanaged their budgets for years and their solution is to raise taxes. They are 400 miles behind in paving and repaving. They see no way to catch up without raising taxes. I will oppose this solution.

Chris Grivakis I favor continuance of LOST. The formula has many nuances and complexities including whether to base the formula on population, amount of taxes collected within our city’s boundaries, or amount of services that we provide which reduces the county’s need for the funds and increases our need for funds. I would have us determine the calculation using the different methods, determine an average after removing outlier results, and try to at least obtain the average of the amount determined. This process would require input from City Manager, Finance Director, all council members, along with our state representative/senator to come up with a consensus.

Cities often set aside unspent funds as reserves. If your city budget has reserves, is there a minimum balance which should not be touched except in emergencies? What is it? What constitutes ‘emergencies’ in your city?

Steve Chipka The City of Dunwoody has an implied Reserve Requirement of $400,000. Some on City Council have wanted to use the Reserves for additional paving. In my definition that is not an emergency. I have never seen a definition of qualified “emergencies” published. My definition of an emergency is a catastrophic event, uncontrollable by the residents of the city, i.e. a tornado.

Mike Davis We keep a minimum of four months and maximum of eight months of General fund revenue in our reserve account. This was agreed on early in my tenure as Mayor and has been the rule since. We as a city council have not actually identified what constitutes an emergency, but in my opinion an emergency situation would be triggered by some kind of natural disaster such as the 1998 tornado and the 2009 flooding. In both situations, a great deal of damage was done in Dunwoody.

Chris Grivakis Best practices dictate a minimum of 90 days worth of working capital. I would work with City Manager, Finance Director, and council members for an appropriate amount. Some examples of an emergency where we could use these funds would be after a natural disaster (tornado) or stopping an immediate threat to residences or roads such as swift erosion from nearby creek/river.

Would you support a “Pay to Play” ordinance which could ban or limit municipal candidates from receiving campaign contributions from holders and/or seekers of City contracts? If yes, please explain the parameters you would support, in terms of dollar limits, time limits, and ease of access for public review. If no, please explain.

Steve Chipka Yes, I would support an ordinance which would limit the contributions from holders and seekers of City Contracts. I recommend that a Dollar amount of contracts be used to set the contribution limits. The higher the amount of contracts held during a time period, say a year, the lower the amount of contribution the contract holder/seeker could provide to a candidate. All contributions are required to be disclosed on the Contributions and Expenditures form, which, when filed, is available online at

Mike Davis I personally don’t accept campaign contributions from anyone who does business with the city, including contractors or developers. I don’t support an ordinance because campaign disclosure rules already are in place to report significant contributions. I have never supported knee jerk reactions leading to more laws/ordinances which must then be enforced by more government. The citizens are intelligent enough to look at campaign contributions to decide for themselves if there is an appearance of undue influence. All my campaign contributions are disclosed on the proper sites, mandated by the State Ethics commission. I seek contributions from friends, family, and neighbors who support my candidacy and philosophies and who like the way the city is currently being represented.

Chris Grivakis Current holders of city contracts should not be allowed to contribute to candidates. Other contributors to candidates should be limited to a modest contribution and not allowed city contracts for two years after contribution.

Some cities have faced legal action because of the use of prayer in government meetings. What is your opinion on this issue for your city?

Steve Chipka I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. The City of Dunwoody uses a generic invocation which does not specifically represent a religious point of view.

Mike Davis We’ve come up with an Invocation that is used to open our meetings. It is as follows: “At this Council Meeting, help us to make decisions which keep us faithful to our mission and reflect our values. Give us strength to hold to our purpose; wisdom to guide us; and a keen perception to lead us. And above all, keep us charitable as we deliberate.”

Chris Grivakis Be respectful of all religions. A moment of silence is appropriate to give everyone the opportunity to pray or meditate if they wish to do so.

1 comment:

Max said...

Roundabout Hate: Why are some still ruminating about roundabouts? Just because they work well in other cities doesn't mean we should have them here, right?