Friday, October 9, 2015

Uncontested Dunwoody Council Members Deutsch & Heneghan respond to the @AJC & @LWVGA voter guide. #gapol

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

Lynn Deutsch I am completing my first term as a Dunwoody City Council Person. Prior to my service on Council, I was a member of the Dunwoody Planning Commission. I earned a master’s degree in City Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a graduate certificate in Gerontology from Georgia State University. I also earned bachelors' degrees in Government and Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. When asked to set or review existing policies, I dig deep into the core issues. I am a consummate researcher with a passion for best practices. I believe that we can learn from other cities and they can learn from us. While one size never fits all, there is an abundance of information available to judge how policies have worked for other communities. When a challenging problem arises, I look for outside of the box solutions. I decided to run for re-election because I want to continue my efforts to make Dunwoody a better and stronger community. My priorities for my next term include will include paving, parks, increasing citizen engagement opportunities, and making careful zoning decisions that protect the character of Dunwoody’s neighborhoods. I will continue to make decisions within the context of both what is right for now and what we need for the future. I value my interactions with Dunwoody residents and look forward to continuing to work with our citizens to make our city a better place.

John Heneghan As a founding member of the Dunwoody City Council where I have served for the last seven years, I am proud to say that I have had a hand in setting all policy from startup to current day operations. Prior to Cityhood, I served on the Citizens for Dunwoody Committee where I was the Transportation Chair and prior to that I was President of my neighborhood civic association representing over 1,000 homes on governmental matters. With a degree in Public Administration, I have dedicated myself to public service where I hope to fulfill two ideals, the first is that when I have the ability to make a difference, I have a responsibility to do so and second, transparency in Government breeds self-corrective behavior. Seven years ago, I made transparency and open government a keystone of my governance policy therefore I have personally published every agenda, every public document and even live streamed meetings to my personal blog (Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog) documenting actions taken by the city. My motivation to continue serving is that I believe I have the ability to continue making a difference in making Dunwoody a better community for all who live and work here.

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 is 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? 

Lynn Deutsch Dunwoody, because it is in DeKalb, does not participate in the LOST. DeKalb has the HOST. Regardless of the tax levy, my preference is for a formula based distribution that is clear, concise and easy to understand. Cities should be able to estimate their portion of the tax levy with ease, so they can plan accordingly each year.

John Heneghan DeKalb County currently has Homestead Option Sales Tax of 1% (Host) and the County Commission decides the percentage that can be used for tax breaks but typically it has been 80 percent of these funds go to provide tax relief for property owners and the other 20 percent goes towards infrastructure projects. Based on the decisions by the DeKalb County Commission to not put the entire 1% sales tax towards property tax relief, Dunwoody typically gets 5 to 6 million dollars for city infrastructure projects. With the passage of HB215, DeKalb County may be proposing to the citizens a referendum to raise the overall County sales tax another 1% from 7% to 8% in order to put the additional funds into County wide infrastructure projects including Dunwoody. I am very happy with the current formula to share the sales tax revenue and if DeKalb proposes changes to the sales tax rate, it would then be put in front of all the citizens to approve or deny via a referendum. If approved, it would guarantee Dunwoody a consistent tax flow for infrastructure improvements and therefore it would not subject to the whims of the DeKalb County Commission who decide the percentage to be put toward to tax relief vs infrastructure improvements. If rejected, I believe the current HOST agreement would stay in place and the current 1% sales tax could be used for either homestead tax relief and/or a combination of tax relief and infrastructure improvements.

In Georgia 1.8 million people currently live in poverty, including 137,000 working families and nearly 651,000 children. What policies would you support to address inequalities that exist in your city?

Lynn Deutsch This question is a difficult one because it presumes inequalities that exist simply because of city policies, when the reality of poverty is much more complex situation. The biggest impact on poverty is likely education level, which is part of the reason I am a strong supporter of smaller school systems and the efforts to make this a reality in Georgia. I will point out that Dunwoody has a strong economic development department which continues to bring 1000s of new jobs to Dunwoody. Because these employment opportunities are nearby, some of the burdens facing the working poor, in terms of access and transportation, are removed. Dunwoody has strong code enforcement policies which force landlords to maintain their properties and provide a safe places for residents to live.

John Heneghan
By most accounts, the City of Dunwoody is a wealthy area but that does not mean that we also have citizens that are struggling financially. As per the 2010 census, 6.2% of Dunwoody families and 7.9% of our population were below the poverty line, including 10.2% of those under age 18 and 3.1% of those age 65 or over. As far as policies, it is my belief that a strong city economy & new job opportunities raises the prosperity and over all opportunities of the entire community. New buildings create construction jobs and will eventually bring higher paying office jobs to that building and that in turn will spur development of the area to include hotels, dining and retail employment opportunities. The City values all of our citizens and we have worked hard with our multifamily housing code enforcement program to ensure that everyone has a safe place to live no matter where it is located within our City. The city’s police department works very close with available social services in the area to be the first level of a protection when they find those in need. As an elected official tasked with serving all 50,000 residents, I take my responsibilities to improve everyone’s living conditions very seriously.

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.

Lynn Deutsch I do not think it is appropriate for candidates to receive contributions from those wishing to do business with the city and I personally have not accepted any. Contribution records are public records and should be available on the Internet.

John Heneghan I would welcome such an ordinance but some would say that is self-serving because as a Federal Government Employee serving under the requirements of the Hatch Act; I have never accepted a single dollar of campaign contributions. If a “Pay to Play” ordinance were enacted it could also be seen as providing an advantage to those already seated as it would tie the hands of those looking to overturn the incumbent. The City of Dunwoody ethics ordinance that I helped draft currently requires all zoning applicants to publicly disclose if those involved have ever provided campaign contributions to those who may influence the decision. Besides complying with Dunwoody’s ethics ordinance, elected officials also need to report all campaign contributions as per state regulation and all of that information is public information open to critical review. In short, I believe the City of Dunwoody has sufficient protections in place and we do not need to put forward a specific “Pay to Play” ordinance.

Every city elects council members through at-large voting, at-large with a district residency requirement, district voting or a combination. What do you believe is the best method of electing city council members to ensure proper representation for your citizens? 

Lynn Deutsch Each of the three districts in Dunwoody has one representative elected locally and one who is elected citywide. This works well because each resident has two council members residing in their district, who should have a strong understanding of their district's unique needs. However, because the Mayor and half of the Council is elected city-wide, there is always an understanding that decisions must be made in a manner which benefits the entire city. This works well for our city.

John Heneghan The City of Dunwoody uses a combination of both district and at-large representatives on our City Council. We have three voting districts whereby each district has both a district representative and an at-large representative living within each district. This system allows maximum representation as every citizen would be voting for 5 of the 7 representatives on the Council whereby they would be voting for the Mayor, three at-large representatives and their own district representative. With Dunwoody being 13 square miles and having 50,000 residents, this system forces the elected officials to be geographically diverse in order to equally serve all communities within the city.

Cities across the country are embracing aggressive goals to reduce carbon pollution. What do you believe your municipality should do to support cleaner air? 

Lynn Deutsch A traffic light timing system and a traffic management system have been recently installed in the Perimeter Center area. One of the goals of these improvements is to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible. Additionally, with the same goal of improving traffic management, the city is embarking on several major intersection improvement projects. Dunwoody has installed miles of sidewalks and is installing bike lanes. These infrastructure improvements allow residents and visitors alternatives to driving to their destinations. The city has also acquired acres of new green space and is working on enhancements to our zoning code that would require new large developments to include green space in their plans.

John Heneghan As a member of the Dunwoody City Council, I was instrumental in setting initial green policies into place whereby we achieved Gold level certification under the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Green Communities Program but we continue to strive to reduce our impact. We currently require new city-owned buildings to achieve LEED certification and will attempt to do the same for all renovations. We have conducted energy audits on the city’s buildings, implemented an Energy Star purchasing policy, installed LED bulbs in traffic signals and adopted a lights out/power down policy for all city employees and facilities. The city has adopted a no net loss of trees policy for city properties and we are designated as a Tree City USA. We optimized traffic signals throughout the business district to improve traffic flow. We actively participate in the city’s Safe Routes to School program and we conducted walking audits to identify long-term and short-term infrastructure needs to improve the walking and biking environment around the schools. At my request, our Dunwoody Sustainability Committee is currently exploring solar energy equipment bulk purchasing opportunities for our citizens very similar to what “Solarize Tybee” initiated. The city is pushing forward with biking and walking trails to attempt to reduce vehicle traffic. We reduced the number of garbage trucks on the roads and we are investing heavily on intersection improvements to improve traffic flow and safety.

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