9 candidates vie for 2 Johns Creek council seats

Johns Creek Community Association forum gives them chance to air positions

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With nine candidates seeking two City Council seats, they must find ways to set themselves apart from the field for the May 20 election.

The Johns Creek Community Association attempted to give those candidates – six men and three women – center stage when it sponsored a candidate forum April 24. JCCA board member Cleve Gaddis moderated the event at Taylor Lodge at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church and served up questions from the audience.

Candidates had one minute to respond. In their answers to many of the questions, there was little real disagreement. Most of the differences were about degree. Also, they often did not get into details.

For instance, everyone recognized the need to repair the many crumbling streets in the city as a top priority.

Yet candidates did not offer up many ideas on how the $40 million in identified road needs would be procured. Instead, all pledged not to raise taxes.

Post 4 candidates lay out ideas for city’s future

Much has been made about the imbalance of the Johns Creek tax base, with only about 20 percent of property taxes paid by commercial development and 80 percent by homeowners. How important is it to rectify that imbalance in future zoning cases?

FRAGOSO: The 80-20 split in the tax base is not good, Fragoso said. Better would be 60 percent [homeowners] and 40 percent [commercial]. A higher commercial tax base would be an indication of a vibrant city. But business zonings should be in those areas that make sense.

GRAY: He agreed in principle with Mayor Mike Bodker’s stated desire to see a town center that would attract new development while providing a trendier nightlife that would bring a talented younger element to the workforce for anticipated new businesses.

The city needs to create a more robust local economy and do away with the proliferation of empty store fronts.

MISRA: The city does need a city center that would do much for the city’s economy, Misra said. He noted there are large parcels of land that are undeveloped or under-used that if developed would boost the city’s economy.

RADFORD: There are a lot of empty store fronts, Radford agreed. But quality is needed in the new development. Radford noted there are communities “across the river” that have similar imbalances between their residential and commercial tax bases. But they are not so limited. He also called for the city to get more of a return from its county taxes.

How can the city better manage its traffic congestion?

RADFORD: There are a “lot of smart people” in the city. It is a problem that has to be dealt with. Radford said he had “no political agenda,” but he wanted to see the facts before committing to a plan. He also said the Comprehensive Land Use Plan is “too vague.”

The city needs to look at projections that look three, five, 10 and 20 years out, Radford said.

MISRA: What people want are more trees and parks but that hasn’t happened. More growth would provide the city the funds to improve traffic and more parks.

GRAY: First, the city needs a plan – one that is innovative with solutions such as “smart roads” that regulate traffic signals in real time and the use of diamond intersections that create more efficient traffic flow.

“We need to also align growth with our vision,” he said.

FRAGOSO: We have to take the global view with the local, he said. That means working more closely with the Georgia Department of Transportation and creating long-term objectives. Meanwhile, the city has to find ways to fund its local projects, Fragoso said.

What is the biggest issue facing the city?

GRAY: He said he has seen a lot of changes in the 20 years he has lived in Johns Creek, and more change is coming. The city needs to be “intentional” in its planning.

“The American dream is happening here in Johns Creek,” he said.

MISRA: The city should concentrate on creating more parks, while there is still land to do it. Johns Creek should also have a college in its borders, and a shopping mall of its own that would help the city have economic balance.

High-rise Class A office would also help the city remain vibrant.

RADFORD: “We need to focus on our infrastructure,” he said.

He said the city builds a lot of sidewalks, but he doesn’t see people on them. The city needs to do a better job of prioritizing its needs.

FRAGOSO: The big issue for the city is not growth – Johns Creek will continue to do that, with its great schools and housing. But the city needs a plan and a vision for managing that growth. That would include a redesign of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Post 6 candidates speak on JC’s issues

It has been suggested that connecting Johns Creek to the recreation opportunities of Gwinnett County and Duluth by restoring Rogers Bridge as a pedestrian bridge would be a good idea. Do you support this?

WEATHERS: “I do support it. I think this can be a great monument for the city,” Weathers said.

However, she said she would like to see private investment involved in making it happen.

TAYLOR: She said she is in favor of exploring that opportunity.

“Also, I think we need to show that we can play well with our neighbors,” Taylor said.

REINECKE: She would love to see the bridge made viable to allow residents to walk to Duluth’s facilities as well as Gwinnett’s.

“The cost is not prohibitive, and we need to increase [the city’s] recreation opportunities,” she said.

MAZZUCKELLI: “I can’t think of a more underused and beautiful spot,” he said.

It is unfortunate Rogers Bridge is not easily accessible to the whole city, but it would be an outstanding asset for the city, he said.

BROADBENT: He likes the idea of the recreation Rogers Bridge would provide, but he would need to see the costs first.

“We need to carefully prioritize our needs, and right now, roads are our biggest need,” Broadbent said.

How should the city go about paying for its badly needed road work?

MAZZUCKELLI: There are funds available in the yearly budget for repairs. We had a hard winter, and it was hard on our roads. We need to prioritize that work, he said.

“Traffic and roads are key to the community. But we have to take care of what we can,” Mazzuckelli said.

REINECKE: The city must repair its roads. Johns Creek will receive an increase of $1.9 million in additional sales tax distribution due to the new Census figures. Road work should be prioritized. The city doesn’t need to do it all at once,” Reinecke said.

TAYLOR: Clearly, roads need to be a priority, and the city needs to do more, Taylor said. Other solutions could include managing trash haulers that seem to roll on city streets almost daily, she said.

WEATHERS: We have $40 million in road needs – obviously that is not going to happen, Weathers said. The city needs to start with the worst roads and repave them as funds are available. Prioritization is the answer, she said.

BROADBENT: He said there three solutions: Continue to repave as funds are available in the annual budget; incur a short-term loan: or incur long-term debt.

“All three solutions are easier if we have more businesses in the city,” Broadbent said.

 

Where do you stand on the proposed city center?

REINECKE: “I want a strong, vibrant city. We need green space,” she said.

Reinecke proposed the Regal shopping center as one possibility for a city center. It would fill up empty store fronts and is close to other destinations such as Johns Creek High School.

TAYLOR: The city center is a great idea that needs looking into, Taylor said. She noted that the Suwanee town center has been successful, but more study should be done on the viability of the city. She also noted that property could be available east along State Bridge Road.

WEATHERS: The Suwanee town center is a good example of a successful project. Weathers said she “absolutely” thought Johns Creek needed a similar development to attract new business to the city rather than go elsewhere.

“We want young professionals to come here and stay,” she said.

BROADBENT: He supports the town center plan, but he wants limits on the city’s investment. There should be private sector dollars involved, he said.

A development authority could be a conduit [for private sector money], but Broadbent said Technology Park may be the best place for such a project.

MAZZUCKELLI: A city center is important for Johns Creek’s long-term growth, he said.

“We have to have a place where we can centralize activities, and Technology Park is the most likely place,” Mazzuckelli said.

But the city should be wary of what he called “multi-family creep,” that would put too many apartments in a city center.

Candidates:

POST 4

ERIC FRAGOSO
Age: 33
Occupation: Business consultant
Education: M.A. Public Administration, University of Georgia
B.A. History, Asbury University
Public service/community involvement: Vice chairman of the Johns Creek Board of Zoning Appeals; homeowner board member; elder at Perimeter Church

ARUN MISRA
Age: 62
Occupation: Retired college professor and businessman
Education: Doctorate in microbiology and genetic engineering
Public service/community service: Rotary Club of Johns Creek; Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce, Indian Business Association; Atlanta Botanical Gardens

ROBERT GRAY
Age: 50

Occupation: President – Commercial Services, NTT Data

Education: Purdue University, B.S. Engineering; University of Chicago, M.B.A. Finance
Public service/community service: Georgia Tech ATDC Mentor Program, 2014 – present; North Point Church men’s ministry; Swift School trustee and board trustee; Governor’s Johns Creek transition committee; YMCA Adventure Guides Program

 

THOMAS K. RADFORD
Age: 52
Occupation: Founder/CEO of International Business Development Inc. 
Education: Executive M.B.A., Georgia State University; graduated B.B.S. Accounting, Georgia State University
Public service/community involvement: Children’s discipleship leader 2009 to present and elder at Perimeter Church; service and monetary donations to Community Outreach, Norcross Co-op; support ministries for Guatemala, India and China

 

POST 6

STEVE BROADBENT

Age: 60

Occupation: Executive benefits consultant
Education: B.S. in Nuclear Engineering, University of Virginia; MBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; M.A. in Public Policy, George Washington University
Public service/community involvement: Director, Johns Creek Foundation; former chairman, Johns Creek Planning Commission; director, Development Authority of Fulton County; member, Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce
Military service: Commander (retired), U.S. Navy

 

TOM MAZZUCKELLI

Age: 56

Occupation: General dentist, Thomas J. Mazzuckelli, Ph.D., DMD, PC; adjunct faculty member, Georgia Regents University

Education: B.A., Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill. 1979; Ph.D., Duke University, N.C. 1983; D.M.D., Medical College of Georgia, 1995

Public Service: President of Haynes Landing Homeowners Association; member Emile T. Fisher Board for Dental Education in Georgia; member Northern District Georgia Dental Association

 

NANCY REINECKE

Age: 62

Occupation: Dietitian/nutritionist/teacher

Education: M.S., Medical Science, Emory University; B.S., Food Science and Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Public Service: Fulton County poll manager for eight years; substitute teacher for Johns Creek middle and high schools for seven years; community advocate and organizer of the Buice Road Homeowners Coalition; roadside litter pickup; PTA member and school volunteer (reading, Project Self-Esteem, environmental classes, Odyssey of the Mind, Academic Bowl team coach); Doublegate Garden Club master gardener advisor

 

LEA TAYLOR

Age: 47

Occupation: Social media coordinator for Gaddis Partners Realty; preschool teacher at Mount Pisgah Christian School

Education: B.A. in Commercial Art at American College for the Applied Arts; studied for advanced degree in education at Kennesaw State University

Public service/community involvement: Board of Directors, Johns Creek Arts Center, secretary; Zoning Committee liaison for Johns Creek Community Association; JCCA 2008 Margaret Krueger Volunteer of the Year; Friends of Ocee Library Board; secretary, Johns Creek Beautification Board; Johns Creek Board of Zoning Appeals Post A; volunteer at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church

 

ESTHER WEATHERS

Age: 29

Occupation: Fundraising consultant and mother

Education: Attended Brenau University and the University of Georgia

Public service/community service: Gwinnett/North Fulton Junior League and chair-elect of the Georgia State Public Affairs Committee; Canine Pet Rescue; attended National Republican Convention as a voting delegate; youngest member of the Electoral College from Georgia in 2008