JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Eric Fragoso and Bob Gray are the two candidates left standing after the May special election for City Council Post 4. Now, it is down to the wire for the July 22 runoff election to see who will finally claim that seat.
In the July debate sponsored by the Johns Creek Community Association, they squared off for a final debate on the issues with former JCCA Chairman Cleve Gaddis pitching the questions.
Fragoso said he was campaigning for Post 4 because it was a way he could continue to serve the city.
“Everyone has a calling. My reason behind it is to support good government and to do what’s right for Johns Creek. I’ve worked with the CDC and its $125 million budget. I was able to cut it and reorganize [staff] more efficiently,” Fragoso said. “I know what it takes to run a budget well and draft good policy.”
Gray said he got into the race to bring his business acumen to bear to serve the city. In business, he has worked with chief executive officers, helping them with visioning for strategic plans.
“I have worked with churches and schools. In 2006, Johns Creek was over-taxed and under-represented. I participated in the visioning process of Johns Creek,” Gray said.
Gaddis said there has been much discussion about a city center where the community could gather, be a magnet for new business and new development. He asked what their vision for a city center was.
Fragoso said a city center was essential for Johns Creek to compete with other cities in the region. It would give the city an identity.
It would also serve as a place for residents to come together, take walks and interact as a community.
“It would help define who we are and become a destination,” Fragoso said. “It would connect Shakerag to Newtown. But it is important that it not be paid for by taxpayers alone.”
Gray said a city center will need a lot of planning first. There must be a clear understanding of why the city needs a unique identity. Then develop a plan.
“It does not need to be one place. It could unite people in several places,” Gray said. “But it would defeat the idea if all we do is talk. Then we would never achieve it.”
Asked what he thought was the most pressing issue before the city, Fragoso said it was in one word – traffic.
“I hate sitting in traffic,” he said. “It is something that we need and can plan for. But we need to look at partnerships with our neighbors.”
Johns Creek was not the sole cause of these traffic problems, nor can it be the solution all by itself, Fragoso said. The region is growing, so the city must work with the rest of the region for solutions.
For Gray, the answer was just as obvious and the same – traffic. The bad traffic is a result of the lack of management of growth.
“We need to attack the bottlenecks,” Gray said. “We need to look at Medlock Bridge Parkway, Ga. 400 and Old Milton Parkway for a start.”
He suggested pooling federal funds for a regional solution, and that means cooperating with other jurisdictions.
Gaddis asked what needs to be done about the issue of illicit massage parlors in the city.
Gray said it is a significant issue – both as a moral one and as a public safety threat.
“These are not mom-and-pop operations. This is Korean and Chinese organized crime,” Gray said.
The city needs to adapt to this threat and have strict law enforcement, he said.
Fragoso said it is a crime and should be attacked from several directions – first with zoning. Strict enforcement of zoning ordinances should be used to control what happens in these places, he said.
“If people are engaging in illegal activity, we can use undercover cops to discourage these activities. We need to hold people accountable,” Fragoso said. “We should also reach out to these girls who are often being held against their will.”
Gaddis asked what personal convictions they held that made them the best candidate.
Gray said his faith in Jesus Christ and his faith in the free market system, as well as a strong national defense, guide him in a leadership role.
“I have deep experience to facilitate the coalitions to grow this city over the next 20 years,” Gray said.
Fragoso said transparency would be his guiding principle.
“There needs to be transparency in how our decisions are made, whatever the outcome should be,” he said.