JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Post 6 pits Nancy Reinecke and Steve Broadbent for one of the two remaining City Council seats in the July 22 runoff. Fielding questions from Cleve Gaddis in the final Johns Creek Community Association’s debate, the candidates took their last shots before the elections.
Broadbent counts on experience. Reinecke counts on her conservative values, fiscal responsibility, transparency, limited government and a strong desire to abide by the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Broadbent has served his country as a U.S. Navy commander and under President George Herbert Walker Bush as both vice president and president. He has also served the City Council as president of the Planning Commission.
“I have problem-solving skills, budget skills and I know how to see legal pitfalls,” Broadbent said.
Reinecke says she will depend on her conservative values of transparency in government, fiscal responsibility, limited government and unswerving adherence to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“I will be strong, I will use common sense and no one will work harder than I on the City Council,” Reinecke said.
Reinecke and Broadbent were asked if they support using federal dollars for roads and city infrastructure. There was not much light between their positions. Both agreed the city should accept federal money for city projects.
“We should take federal money because it is our tax dollars returning to us. Those are our dollars coming to us,” Reinecke said.
Broadbent answered in a similar vein. He said he would support using those dollars.
“We all pay motor fuel tax. We can’t afford not to take them,” Broadbent said. “We pay taxes. We should get them back.”
Similarly, the candidates were asked where they stood on accepting funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development-administered Community Development Block Grant program, which are divided among the cities and counties on a pro-rata basis.
Reinecke said this year the city accepted $270,000 from the CDBG program, of which $230,000 went to make Shakerag Park more handicapped-accessible.
“I support helping our parks,” Reinecke said. “The other $30,000 went to [nonprofit] organizations that help the elderly, Meals on Wheels and the Drake House – which helps homeless mothers with young children. If it’s not there for them, then they are on the street.”
She added that the city accepted more than $4 million in federal dollars last year, of which the CDBG money was just 1/16th of the total.
“I don’t see the distinction,” she said.
Broadbent said arguing over the relevance of CDBG money is “window dressing.”
“We need to lobby Washington for serious tax reform,” he said. “This is not just a Johns Creek issue.”
The candidates were asked what strategies they would propose to narrow the balance of the current tax base, which stands at 81 percent residential and 19 percent commercial.
Broadbent said most of Johns Creek’s problems could be cured by shifting the imbalance more to the commercial side. But private money should be used.
The Johns Creek Advantage (a public-private partnership with the city for economic development) is important.
“I served on the Fulton County Development Authority. Businesses are always looking for incentives. Fulton was able to find an additional line of credit for Alcon to keep them from moving out of Johns Creek,” Broadbent said.
The taxes large businesses such as Alcon pay protect the city’s quality of life and fund parks and roads, he said.
Reinecke said she wants to make sure businesses are not over-regulated or over-taxed. It is as important to retain the businesses that are already here as it is to attract new business.
It is also important to reduce traffic congestion in the city, not just to make it easier for citizens to move about the city. It is critical to retain businesses and attract more.
Businesses will not locate here if their employees can’t get to work at a reasonable time, said Reinecke.
The candidates were asked if they would cut taxes if the opportunity presented itself.
Reinecke noted the city had around $28 million in reserves. She said the city finance director says the city needs $12 million on hand for cash flow during the year because taxes do not come in all at once.
“I don’t understand why we are borrowing $4 million to pave our roads when we have $28 million in the bank,” said Reinecke.
Broadbent said he would be careful before spending down the surplus. The city would need to assess its needs carefully before doing anything like that.
“We would need to be careful before designating funds as surplus. I don’t think $12 million is enough. I think we need to have more like $20 million on hand in case there is some emergency or calamity that hits the city,” he said.