Inside the Box Podcast with Jim Gilvin

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Hans Appen of Appen Media and record a podcast for his Inside The Box series of interviews with local elected officials. It was a good conversation about local politics, public service, the role of social media in both and a host of other topics. It was an engaging conversation and if you care about how those things impact your community or have ever considered running for office you should check it out.

Episode Info

Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Gilvin sits down with us to talk about how and why citizens become more involved in their government. We look back on his own experiences and what’s in store for his political future. 

Inside the Box podcast with Jim Gilvin

Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Gilvin Announces Campaign for Mayor

Serving the people of this community for the last six years on Alpharetta City Council has been the greatest honor of my life. And now that Mayor Belle Isle is running to be Georgia’s next Secretary of State I have decided to run for the office of mayor.

The coming new year will bring a timely opportunity for the people of Alpharetta to decide where they want to go from here. I look forward to participating in that discussion.

I will continue to serve our residents in my current capacity until the office of mayor has been vacated but there has been a great deal of speculation about potential candidates to replace Mayor Belle Isle so I wanted to be transparent about my  intentions. Below is today’s press release announcing my campaign.

Thank you for your support.

Gilvin Logo

 

Alpharetta Councilman Jim Gilvin Announces Campaign for Mayor

 

ALPHARETTA, GA, December 28, 2017

Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Gilvin announced his campaign for mayor today. Alpharetta’s current mayor, David Belle Isle, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to be Georgia’s next Secretary of State last spring.

“I appreciate the dedication and energy Mayor Belle Isle brought to his time as mayor. Our city has come a long way and Alpharetta is a much different place because of his leadership. And as the people of Alpharetta begin looking to the future it’s important for them know there is a candidate with a proven record of public service who will deliver on their priorities for the years ahead.” Gilvin said.

When elected to council in 2011 Gilvin originally ran on a theme of “Growth We Can Live With” and he believes voters appreciate his consistent record on balanced growth even when it was unpopular with other members of council. “I voted to preserve the green space and trees in front of city hall where high density apartment buildings are being built now and took a lot of heat from other council members for that. But I promised the people of Alpharetta a village style city center and honoring that promise was more important to me than being popular with politicians and developers.”

“At this critical point in Alpharetta’s history our residents have an opportunity to set the course for our future. I have a plan to restore balanced growth and preserve the qualities that make Alpharetta the best place in Georgia to raise a family and do business. My plan reflects three priorities I always hear from constituents- do a better job of balancing growth, provide real solutions for traffic congestion and invest in areas outside of downtown.” Gilvin said.

The top priority for Jim Gilvin will be to ensure city policies reflect balanced growth outlined in Alpharetta’s comprehensive plan. He cites zoning decisions that ignored limits on apartments as a prime example. “When I was elected the comp plan had a clear goal established for the ratio of single family homes and apartments. But the ratio has consistently been ignored and we have seen thousands of apartments approved. I have been a vocal advocate for single family homes over apartments and it is time we honor the goal we set.”

When discussing how he plans to reduce traffic Gilvin says that it is important to have a mayor willing to prioritize resources for traffic relief and who understands how poor zoning decisions make congestion worse. “Zoning variances and taxpayer subsidies have been granted for enormous projects downtown without any consideration of their impact on traffic. Every property owner has a right to develop their property within limits outlined in the comprehensive plan. I never want to interfere with that. But many residents are frustrated by city support for variances and government subsidies that make traffic worse.”

Gilvin also says he is optimistic about road capacity improvements and transit proposals designed to relieve traffic as part of the North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan. “For the first time since I started talking about traffic and transit a decade ago I am actually hopeful we may be able to set priorities based on data about costs, efficiency and the impact on traffic rather than just political agendas. But if we continue to approve height, parking and density variances on already congested corridors our residents are never going to see an improvement.”

Another priority for Gilvin is to invest in the renewal of the Northpoint Parkway corridor and Alpharetta’s residential areas. “Over the past few years our mayor and council have spent a tremendous amount of money reviving downtown and we have achieved excellent results. It is time for us to bring that same focus to renewing the Northpoint corridor while increasing our support for residential areas. The city is already working with Northpoint property owners to update the corridor and we need to be as committed to that revival as we have been for downtown. We also need to ensure the parks and infrastructure which support Alpharetta’s residential neighborhoods are brought up to the high standard our residents should be able to expect. Building twenty-six acres of passive parks in residential areas, expanding the Greenway trail system and providing community centers on both sides of GA 400 will improve the quality of life and property values for everyone.”

Gilvin is enthusiastic about the years ahead. “Alpharetta is a special place and our future is bright. The delicate balance of great schools in a beautiful setting with a thriving business environment will continue to draw families from all over the world as long as we preserve that special character. For the last six years I have consistently sought that balance for the people of Alpharetta and now look forward to continuing that service as mayor.”

Jim Gilvin has lived in Alpharetta since the late 1990’s along with his wife, Mary Anne, and their two children Justin and Sarah. The Gilvins live in the Windward subdivision and attend Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church. Jim Gilvin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Georgia Southern University and is a small technology business owner.

 

Politics and the Keeper of the Seal

Yesterday I logged into Facebook and was floored by a paid political ad I found in my timeline. Below is a screenshot of what I saw.

DBI and the city seal endorsement

My Facebook timeline contained a paid video from city council candidate Ben Easterling that was shot in the city council chambers of Alpharetta City Hall. Not only was the video shot in city hall but it included Mayor Belle Isle endorsing Mr. Easterling while standing below Alpharetta’s official City Seal in front of a placard with my name on it while liberally using the royal “we” in a speech about supporting his chosen candidate. I was appalled.

While I am proud of much that our mayor and council have accomplished I am offended that he chose to use the city council chambers and the dais with all seven of our names on it to further his personal political agenda. The mayor has every right to endorse anyone he wants but for him to do it in the people’s chamber, under the official seal of the city and with my name behind him is unseemly. And I don’t appreciate it.

Since Mr. Easterling paid to put his ad on my timeline I shared a comment on the video that it didn’t seem ethical for the Mayor to film a personal political endorsement under the seal of the City of Alpharetta in our City Council Chambers. Unfortunately Mr. Easterling chose to remove my comment from the page rather than replace the offensive video with one filmed in a different location.

So under the circumstances let me make it quite clear that in no way do I support or endorse Mr. Easterling in his race for Alpharetta City Council.

And let me make it quite clear that as a person who conducts the people’s business on that dais under their official seal, I in no way condone using that setting as a prop for a political ad nor do I appreciate the implication that “we” all support the mayor’s handpicked candidate.

And let me make it quite clear that a Secretary of State candidate whose website claims “the role of Keeper of the Seal” is “ideally suited to a mayor’s heart” should probably exercise better judgement about using those seals in political ads.

DBI Keeper of the Seal

 

 

 

Letter from Alpharetta Residents

Before I decided to run for Alpharetta City Council I was one of those peculiar people who would closely follow decisions of our local elected officials. I would go to city council meetings. I would speak up at public hearings and write about what I witnessed on this blog.

And coming from that perspective I found one exchange during last week’s Alpharetta City Council candidate forum particularly enlightening. At the Alpharetta Business Association forum a question about the current pace and scale of development in Alpharetta was posed to both candidates.

Answering first, Mr. Easterling said he supported the current pace of growth in Alpharetta and that if there were any residents unhappy with what is going on then it is their responsibility to show up for public meetings and speak up. Mr. Burnett’s response to the same question was that in his time on the Alpharetta Planning Commission he had seen hundreds of residents show up to speak out about zoning issues only to have their views ignored so he was running to give them a voice.

I was reminded of the candidates’ very different perspectives yesterday when I received an email from two Alpharetta residents who consider themselves some of the ignored residents Ben Burnett spoke about. They are just a typical couple who care about their community and feel their views are not reflected by many recent decisions of their mayor and city council.

Neither of them have ever run for office. They don’t depend on developers to keep a roof over their heads or fund their political campaigns. They have nothing to gain by speaking out about a city council race other than the satisfaction of making their voices heard when it counts.

So I decided to post their letter here:

Why We’re Voting for BURNETT for Alpharetta City Council

We met Ben Burnett through his service on the Planning Commission, and we think he’ll be a great addition to our City Council as a true voice for homeowners (rather than developers). With the phenomenal level of new (and large, and dense) developments recently approved, he sees the need for a more balanced approach to growth, and he wants to make future decisions to guide Alpharetta in the right direction while keeping in mind the best interests of residents.

While you may not see many signs on public rights-of-way (or in developers, contractors, and other businesses yards) for Burnett, you’ll see them in residents’ yards, as his message is resonating loud and clear with Alpharetta residents. The vast majority of residents feel the current growth is too much, too fast.

While recent newspaper articles tout there’s room to grow in Alpharetta and state that all this development meets the goals of the comprehensive land use plan, these articles have quoted developers and nearby businesses as to their support of all the recent rezoning and high density development. The comprehensive land use plan provides suggestions and guidelines.

From what we’ve heard from residents, it’s not that they’re anti-growth, it’s that the amount of development is getting out of control, and the city is approving one application after the other without first knowing the repercussions from the current rezonings that are still under construction and the additional approved ones that haven’t even been started yet.

In addition to Burnett’s emphasis on a more balanced approach to growth, we appreciate his emphasis and outlook on property tax breaks for residents and addressing much-needed transportation solutions. We need Burnett to provide a fresh voice on the Alpharetta City Council!

Edward and Christine Kujawski

 

Alpharetta’s Lack of Election Coverage

It has been nearly a month since I wrote this article about Alpharetta’s ongoing City Council election. Since that time I have seen no local newspaper coverage of the most important election the City of Alpharetta has had since 2011 when Mayor Belle Isle and I were elected.

But six years ago when we ran for office both local papers ran profiles of every candidate within two weeks and there were forums and debates. On September 7th of 2011 the Alpharetta Revue ran a profile of some unknown candidate named Jim Gilvin on September 7th of that year. You can still read that article here but only if you promise to forgive the 20 year old real estate picture accompanying it.

And as I go back and read that profile now I am surprised to see how similar the current election is to that one.

Traffic and high density development still seem to be the most critical issues. One of the current candidates promises to provide a much needed voice for the residents of Alpharetta and the commercial property owners, builders and developers are once again displaying giant signs for the other candidate.

Easterling Hodge E Andrews

Yet even though so many of the issues are still the same the local media coverage has been much different. Actually it has been nonexistent.

There hasn’t even been a newspaper article about the city council race except for the article announcing there was one. Alpharetta is halfway through its most important election in six years and there has been no profile of the candidates.

Not one local reporter has thought to ask Councilman Kennedy why he didn’t let his constituents know he wasn’t running for reelection until it was too late for other candidates to qualify. Not a single media outlet has bothered to ask candidate Ben Easterling what prompted him to qualify as a candidate for Councilman Kennedy’s seat on the first morning of qualifying when no one in the public had any idea Councilman Kennedy wasn’t running.

I know I’m just an elected official who blogs on the side but it certainly seems like those are the kinds of things local newspapers should do to inform their readers. At least they used to.

 

Alpharetta Has a Choice to Make

Most people who live in Alpharetta don’t realize they have an important decision to make about the future of our city on November 7th. That is when the election to replace Councilman Mike Kennedy will be held.

For the last six years Councilman Kennedy has served as Mayor Belle Isle’s appointed liaison to oversee Alpharetta’s community development department. A lot has changed in those six years.

This will be only the second time over those six years that Alpharetta voters have even had a choice to make. And if you think your vote won’t matter this November I’d like to remind you that the margin of victory in that election four years ago was decided by 7 votes!

Look, I get it. Most people are sick of politics. I’m one of them.

But six years ago I set aside my distaste for politics and politicians because I care about this community and wanted to give my friends and neighbors a choice about our future. So I very much appreciate the two candidates who are now making that same sacrifice on our behalf.

Of the 63,000 people who live in Alpharetta Ben Burnett and Ben Easterling were the only two people willing to step up and give the the rest of us a choice about our future. I am grateful. We all should be.

I have also had the privilege of getting to know both candidates over the past few years and in my opinion they are both good men. I believe they are both men of faith who are good husbands, fathers and public servants.

I first met Ben Burnett during a contentious zoning issue which affected his neighborhood on Mayfield Road. Ben was an active advocate for his neighbors and after the issue was resolved he continued to stay in touch. Eventually Mr. Burnett expressed a desire to serve his community in an official capacity so I took Mr. Burnett up on his offer by appointing him to Alpharetta’s recreation and park commission in 2014.

Ben Burnett served our city well on the recreation commission and when a position as an alternate opened up on the planning commission I nominated him to fill the vacancy based on his knowledge of zoning processes. Mayor Belle Isle and the rest of city council then unanimously supported Mr. Burnett’s appointment to the planning commission where he helped review zoning applications.

The other candidate running for Alpharetta city council is named Ben Easterling. I first met Ben Easterling in 2012 when I was appointed as the city council liaison to our recreation and parks department. At the time Mr. Easterling was Councilman Chris Owens’ appointee to the recreation commission and he served in that capacity until assuming the chairman’s role later that year. Ben Easterling has also served the city of Alpharetta well with his positions on the recreation commission.

The people of Alpharetta are very fortunate to have two such qualified candidates willing to run for city council this year. And the timing is critical. Alpharetta is at a crossroads.

In the wake of the great recession there has been a tremendous amount of growth and development in a few short years. And what we see being built now is just the beginning. Many of the developments already approved have yet to break ground.

Which means that whoever is elected on November 7th will be responsible for helping to manage all of that growth while also helping to set the course for future decisions. And at such a pivotal moment we are fortunate two candidates have stepped forward to give voters a choice.

Alpharetta now has a choice to make thanks to Ben Burnett and Ben Easterling.