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.

 

Advertisements

We’ve Come a Long Way…

It is hard to believe I first asked Alpharetta voters for the privilege of serving on their city council just four years ago. A lot has changed since then.

When I decided to run for office Alpharetta’s unemployment rate was 7.5%. Our office space vacancy rate was nearly 20% while residential property values had dropped by about 20%.

In that environment I took office and immediately began working with the mayor and council to revive Alpharetta’s local economy. We hired an Economic Development Coordinator and pursued innovative tools like the Opportunity Zone incentives which helped attract the Avalon development as well as major new employers like Fiserve and Halyard.

We aggressively sought a new technical school to maintain our skilled workforce and complement our award winning local schools. We began building a downtown Alpharetta our community could be proud of with special events and a restaurant scene to draw people from all over North Fulton.

Now four years into my service Alpharetta’s unemployment rate hovers near historic lows at 4.8%. The thousands of new jobs we attracted have reduced vacancy rates by half and for the first time in seven years new corporate campuses are being proposed to add more jobs in our thriving business ecosystem.

And during that extraordinary growth I never lost sight of how crucial it is to preserve what makes Alpharetta the best place in Georgia to raise a family and do business. I have consistently voted against hundreds of the apartments which further crowd our roadways and schools. I have devoted millions of dollars toward improving roadways and other infrastructure to accommodate growth. I promised to pursue fiscally responsible growth while rejecting tax increases and that is exactly what I have done.

So yes, we have come a long way from where we were 4 years ago… but there is a lot of work left to do. That is why I now ask the people of Alpharetta to extend to me the honor of serving them one more term on city council. With their blessing I will dedicate the next four years to continue representing this city honorably while fostering growth we can all live with. I hope I have earned your votes once again and appreciate any support you can lend in this effort.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                           Jim Gilvin                                                                                                                               Alpharetta City Council, Post 4

Thank you, Alpharetta

In case you haven’t heard, I won Tuesday’s Alpharetta City Council election by a huge margin.

We could never have won this election without the tremendous effort of dedicated volunteers and the encouragement we received from many of you. I will never lose sight of that fact as I serve you over the next four years and I will be eternally grateful for this opportunity.

And now that the challenge of a political campaign is over it is time to focus our efforts on the challenges ahead. Voters approved the new City Center project so the next four years should be exciting as we implement a plan to completely revitalize our downtown community. I will also work hard to improve Alpharetta’s traffic situation while keeping our taxes low and working to restrain high density development that will negatively impact our schools and quality of life.

There is a lot to be done and it won’t be easy. But neither was winning an election against an entrenched incumbent who enjoyed the support of the political establishment. With your help we achieved that victory Tuesday so there is no reason to think we can’t meet the new challenges ahead.

I know that as an elected representative of over 50,000 people there is no way to satisfy every person every time but I give you my word that I will always do these three things:

1)     I will always listen to your concerns.

2)     I will always keep an open mind.

3)     I will always be honest with you regarding my positions.

Regardless of the issue in question you deserve those three things from your elected representatives and you have my word that you will get them from me.

And I hope that all of you will feel comfortable calling me or emailing if you have any questions or concerns over the next four years. My cell phone number is 404 271-2716 and my personal email address is jimgilvin@bellsouth.net . Please accept this note as an open invitation to reach out to me whenever you wish.

Thank you again for this opportunity to serve you on city council. I am truly humbled by this honor and will serve you to the very best of my ability.

Sincerely,

Jim Gilvin

An open and honest debate

Last night the Alpharetta High School debate team hosted a candidate’s forum. In my remarks to the crowd I pointed out that open, honest debate is what elections are supposed to be about. I emphasized the word “supposed” because the political discourse in this city has become anything but an open and honest debate.

Almost two months ago I declared my candidacy for Alpharetta City Council post 4 because I knew my opponent’s track record and could not bear the thought of her running unopposed. At the time I knew it would be difficult to win a race against an entrenched, establishment candidate but I felt the people of Alpharetta deserved to have another option and regardless of the outcome I looked forward to an open and honest debate about the future of our city.

For the last two months I have done everything in my power to keep this campaign focused on the future of Alpharetta. Scandals and allegations have surrounded my opponent from nearly day one yet I have refused to get caught up in mudslinging. Instead I have devoted all of my time and energy to getting out my message: growth we can live with, leadership on traffic issues and low taxes.

But an open and honest debate takes two people and today’s Alpharetta Revue is a perfect example of what I have been up against.

Page 24 of the October 27, 2011 edition of the Alpharetta Revue contains a candidate profile that my opponent submitted for publication. In Mrs. Oakes’ profile she claims, “Then we must clean up some problems created before I arrived. For example, Prospect Park and Windward Mill were both voted on by council before I arrived”.

That statement is blatantly false. Mrs. Oakes did vote for the Windward Mill development which added seven condominium towers to one of the most congested intersections in Alpharetta. I know that because I was there and it is a matter of public record. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just turn to page 5 of the same paper.

On page 5 there is an article explaining how Mrs. Oakes publicly denied voting for Windward Mill during a debate. Then when the reporter confronted her with the truth, Mrs. Oakes quickly changed her story and responded, “I think it was the right thing at the right location.”

So on page twenty four Mrs. Oakes claims that she did not vote for a high density mixed use project and asks voters to re-elect her so she can clean up the mess left by her predecessor. But on page five Mrs. Oakes admits the truth and defends her vote for the project by saying it was the right thing to do.

It is simply impossible to conduct an open and honest debate with that kind of politician.

Alpharetta is at a critical crossroads of our future. These are challenging times and we can’t afford four more years of false claims with abrupt position switches.

We need leadership. For more than a decade I provided that leadership in protecting the quality of life that makes Alpharetta special. I have the track record to prove it.

So I ask you to please vote for Jim Gilvin, Alpharetta City Council Post 4.

The People of Alpharetta Deserve the Truth

On April 28, 2008 my opponent, Cheryl Oakes, voted to approve a high density mixed use project which will eventually be built at the corner of Windward Parkway and Northpoint Parkway in Alpharetta. I know this because the project called for seven high-rise condo towers to be built in my children’s school district and after months of trying to prevent its approval I was sitting in the audience when the vote was taken.

I mention this now because the Downtown Alpharetta Trade Association held a candidate forum last night and at the event I stated that my opponent for City Council Post 4 had voted to approve that project. Then something surreal happened.

My opponent stood up in front of a room full of Alpharetta voters and blatantly misstated the facts about her record.

Ms. Oakes told the people that she had not voted for the project at all. Ms. Oakes then went on to make the bizarre claim that it was actually her predecessor on council that had voted for the project before Cheryl took office in 2008.

I was stunned that a political candidate could stand up in front of a crowd and so blatantly misstate the facts.  The truth is a matter of public record.

Cheryl Oakes began her term on Alpharetta City Council on January 7, 2008 as reported here. The vote on the high density mixed use project was taken on April 28, 2008 as reported here. The public record shows that all city council members were present at the time and the vote was unanimous as you can see for yourself here.

Ms. Oakes’ predecessor was actually at the DATA forum as well and both she and a current mayoral candidate confirmed my account of the events.

There is no question that my opponent voted to add seven condominium towers to that corner of Windward Parkway. And now there is no question that she blatantly misstated the facts to the voters of Alpharetta.

I take no pleasure in pointing out what my opponent has done… but the people of Alpharetta deserve the truth.

And as a candidate for Alpharetta City Council Post 4 it is my duty to make sure they know the truth before voting on Tuesday, November 8.

The future of Alpharetta

Tonight the City of Alpharetta had planned to approve a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan that would forever change the complexion of our community. The plan was designed to serve as a blueprint for development in Alpharetta for the next twenty years and you can find the full report here on the city’s website. But late last week the city unexpectedly postponed the vote for the proposal and it will now be decided after the November election.

Why the change?

In recent years the people of Alpharetta have been busy trying to support their families in the middle of a devastating recession and very few have had the time or energy to follow the minutiae of local zoning issues. That is why I have worked so hard to help my fellow Alpharettans understand organizations like the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation have been busy working with developers and Alpharetta’s Community Development Department to devise a new blueprint for our city. A blueprint which calls for thousands and thousands of high density housing units to be added within mixed use developments all along Northpoint Parkway, Haynes Bridge Road and Highway 9.

If that blueprint is approved in its current form the future of Alpharetta will be one of more traffic, lower quality of life and endless cycles of school redistricting forced on our children. To help you see what I am talking about I have illustrated the vast acreage which would be designated for high density and mixed use residential complexes in the new plan. You can click on the image to enlarge it:

Alpharetta would never be the same.

People who support the urbanization of Alpharetta have tried to minimize the effects of this drastic change but Alpharettans need only look at what happened to Sandy Springs when this kind of development occurred there. The schools suffered, the quality of life completely changed and the traffic is worse than ever before despite the addition of four MARTA stations.

Fortunately our current election season has brought a great deal of scrutiny upon the revised land use plan and as a result none of our elected officials seem anxious to vote for the proposal before facing the voters next month. Although our current mayor and city council have unanimously supported the development plan in the past, some of them may be having second thoughts. So the city has decided to postpone the decision until after the election

But let there be no misunderstanding. My opponent fully supports the plan to urbanize Alpharetta. In her four years on city council she has already approved two enormous high density mixed use projects which are stalled by the economy. And to quote her campaign website,”Cheryl pushed a new comprehensive land use plan…”.

The choice is clear. If you want our city’s future to be more high density developments with thousands and thousands of high-rise condos or apartments… you should vote for my opponent.

On the other hand if you want a city council representative whose vision of Alpharetta is one that will always be a special place to live… you should vote for Jim Gilvin on November 8th.

It really is that simple. Thank you for your support.

We Deserve Better

There are millions of honorable men and women who will never run for political office because they refuse to subject themselves and their families to the ugly world of politics. Our nation suffers as a result.

And if a candidate dares to take on the political establishment the attacks can become outrageous. It happened to Sarah Palin, it happened to South Carolina’s Governor Niki Haley and it is happening to me.

Within days of announcing my candidacy for Alpharetta City Council there were vicious lies about my positions on a local blog. You can read about those attacks here.

And the lies haven’t stopped. Last night at a campaign event a woman asked me about my position on Amana Academy. I explained that I have consistently fought to protect Windward’s master plan over the years and told her that I made my opposition to the school rezoning clear to Alpharetta City Councilmembers before I ever decided to run for political office.

I also mentioned to the woman that my political opponents had spread false rumors about my position on the issue. As I handed the woman a campaign sign for her yard she replied, “It’s funny you should say that because someone called me the other day and told me that Cheryl Oakes’ opponent supported Amana Academy.”

So let me set the record straight. I have spent more than a decade helping the people of Alpharetta fight to protect their schools, property values and quality of life. Before I decided to run for council I personally distributed hundreds of flyers on behalf of people opposed to the school relocation because I wanted my neighbors to know the legitimate, objective reasons it would be bad for our community. Any insinuation that I support the Amana Academy rezoning is a bald faced lie.

In fact, my opponent, Cheryl Oakes, is the candidate who opened the door for changes to the Windward master plan by voting to approve seven high rise condominium buildings one block from the Amana site in 2008. She supported that project over the objections of hundreds of nearby families and when it is built there will be more than 12,000 cars added to one of the most congested intersections in Alpharetta.

Those are the facts.

The tactics of deception are disappointing but not surprising. I fully expected people to lie and deceive in this campaign because they have done it in the past and will continue to do so as long as it keeps them in power.

The episode reminds me of the old saying, “In democracy you get the government you deserve”. In the context of Alpharetta politics I hope that isn’t true.

We deserve better.