2016 Commissioner Questionnaire


Athens for Everyone sent a questionnaire about local issues of interest to our members to all ten Commissioners and the Mayor.  We have published their responses here, unedited and in-full.  Any Commissioner who has not yet responded is free to do so at any time and their responses will be posted.

A4E 2016 Commissioner Questionnaire

An upcoming T-SPLOST program is projected to yield millions of dollars of additional revenue for ACC transportation infrastructure over the next five years. How do you believe we should prioritize the allocation of this revenue, assuming the measure passes?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “Should a T-SPLOST referendum pass with the approval of the ACC citizens, I would like to see the funds prioritized to (1) complete the Greenway network, (2) complete the Firefly Trail (Rails-to-Trails project) into Winterville, (3) establish a multi-use trail that runs parallel to Lexington Highway from the intersection of Old Winterville Road and Lexington Road/Highway 78E to Southeast Clarke Park, (4) establish planted refuge islands along the Lexington Road/Highway 78E and Atlanta Highway corridors, (5) build more sidewalks with a focus on connecting together the existing ‘sidewalks to nowhere,’ and (6) purchase additional hybrid-transit buses to replace current gas-powered buses as their life cycles end.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “I’ve long been a die-hard advocate for so-called “alternative” transportation (i.e. walking, biking, and public transit). My husband & I are a one-car household & I do most of my getting around during the week via foot & bus & have always chosen the location of my home based on walkability & easy access to public transit. I was also a regular cyclist until three years ago when I was diagnosed with an inner-ear condition that causes unsteadiness & occasional bouts of vertigo. Because I could haphazardly veer into traffic even while riding in a striped bike lane, I no longer feel safe riding a bike on the streets of Athens and I miss it terribly. I dream of a day when I can ride my bike on a protected bike corridor in Athens and I hope such a project is made possible in the foreseeable future.

    If Athens is to become a truly sustainable livable city as we face a future of uncertain fossil-fuel availability and increasing cost of living, we must firmly commit to a functional transportation network that focuses on sidewalks, crosswalks, protected bike lanes, and convenient bus routes. I believe TSPLOST dollars should predominantly be spent on projects that make getting around town safe and convenient for people, not simply for cars. It is not merely a matter of quality of life and environmental impact, but an economic justice issue as an in-town affordable housing crisis leaves more people with less money to spend on keeping cars running…”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “I believe that the T-SPLOST process involves a committee for projects lists and priority. I think we should start with the list of projects developed for the Regional T-SPLOST that ACC passed but it failed due to other county opposition. Projects for ACC within that list should be a starting point for the new committee. I think Public safety is a key way to prioritize transportation improvements. Recently we had areas identified for improvements for pedestrian safety and to decrease vehicle to pedestrian and bike (scooters need to be addressed as well) collisions. Most were related to high volume UGA student areas for obvious reasons. I will ask for and support prioritizing improvements on our residential streets where traffic calming and sidewalk installation and repairs can provide preventative safety improvements and address issues similar to improvements other communities without high volume college traffic implement.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. Complete streets features such as sidewalks, bike lanes, road diets, pedestrian crossings
    b. Expanded public transit
    c. Street paving/maintenance
    d. Electric car charging stations”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “Should a TSPLOST pass, then an extra penny of sales tax will yield a little over $20 million per year in revenue. Much of this will have to go to the kinds of maintenance activities that are necessary to make sure that our infrastructure is up to par – street repaving, pothole fixing, bridge maintenance, etc. However, I would also like to see us use much of that money to expand the sidewalk network we have here in the county. Additional sidewalks is one of the things for which I most frequently hear requests. The other thing for which I hear many requests is traffic calming in residential neighborhoods, and I certainly think that we should use some of the money for that. I would also like to see us put some of the money towards completion of the Greenway and Rails-to-Trails networks. I think that we should also use some of the money to ensure that we have the most fuel-efficient (e.g. hybrid) buses and vans (e.g. for The Lift), so that we can save transit dollars and also have our buses generate less pollution. [Given that TSPLOST dollars cannot be used for operating expenses but only capital projects, we could not use them directly to expand the transit network but could use them indirectly – using TSPLOST monies for purchasing buses etc. could free up General Fund monies for operating expenses.] Finally, I’d like to see us improve the options for cyclists. In this regard, I would like to see us do like they do in some European cities like Vienna – instead of widening the road to put in a bike lane, widen the sidewalk, have a divider down it, and have pedestrians on one side and cyclists on the other with a painted sign on the concrete/ asphalt (a bike or a pedestrian) to indicate on which side of the divide an individual should be. I think that that would be safer for cyclists than putting the bike lane on the side of the road.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • How will you act to implement complete streets in Athens? Which areas of town do you feel are most in need of infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “I will act through the annual budget process and, hopefully, a T-SPLOST referendum to implement “Complete Streets’ in Athens by supporting the continued evaluation of our local roadways for these types of improvements with a primary goal to work toward completing and expanding our sidewalk network. While I support the idea of “Complete Streets,” I think we need to be practical and acknowledge that not all streets or all parts of all streets within our community should be “complete.” So to answer “which areas of town do (I) feel are most in need of infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists,” I offer the following response. In areas within our community where we have not only a high population density, but also business districts that support that population (such as along Oak and Oconee Streets, Five Points, or Prince Avenue to name a few), it is evident that infrastructure improvements are needed and it would make sense to continue working to establish a “complete” set of transportation alternatives in these areas as design standards allow and funding becomes available. However, as we move outside the Loop/Perimeter 10 it does not seem reasonable to implement all components of “complete” streets on all streets. In the less population dense areas of our community, we may only need to implement a couple of the complete street components. A good example is Lexington Road/Highway 78 East. This state highway runs from the west side of Clarke County through the core of downtown and all the way to the eastern most side of the County. The section of this highway that runs from the Loop/Perimeter 10 heading east to the County line would merit having a healthy sidewalk network and/or a multi-use trail or Greenway. Such a trail would provide for the safe and efficient travel of our citizens not only to and from bus stops along the highway, but also to and from town, shopping centers and/or Southeast Clarke Park. However, establishing bike lanes along this highway does not seem reasonable and certainly not safe. A better alternative would be to direct bicyclists to an established multi-use trail or Greenway that could run parallel to this highway and which would support various alternative forms of transportation. While I support “Complete Streets,” I do not think it is a one-size fits all policy for all our streets or roadways, and I expect the citizens would encourage us to use our limited resources to make decisions that best meet the needs of the citizens who live in these different areas within our community.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “There are dozens of miles of streets throughout Athens that are in desperate need of bike/ped infrastructure improvement. In my own district, West Broad Street is a terrifying speedway that has seen multiple pedestrian fatalities just in the past couple of years—it needs a complete overhaul from Downtown to the River. Prince Avenue has gotten a great deal of attention and outcry from citizen advocates who live along this corridor that is often considered the most walkable area of our community. But because so many people here are committed to pedestrian & cycling lifestyles, the safety shortcomings of this corridor are all the more apparent. Prince Ave is wide, straight, and flat and is perfectly suited to be a direct cycling route into Downtown for thousands of nearby residents. Unfortunately the predominant auto speeds mean that very few will brave it on a bike. It is my dream to see Prince Avenue properly reconfigured to safely accommodate a proper bike corridor and regular signaled crossings with pedestrian islands to further reduce auto speeds & offer respite for pedestrians.

    I also believe it is essential that we get a proper bike corridor through Downtown to encourage the thousands of new student residents to keep out of their cars and enable a safe, direct cycling route to the Greenway & future Firefly trail for the thousands more residents of the neighborhoods west of Downtown. Other priorities include Magnolia Street, a very busy pedestrian corridor connecting several neighborhoods directly to the ACC Library & Baxter St. that is in desperate need of a sidewalk, and Vincent Drive, a suburban speedway running through several very dense lower-income neighborhoods with an ACC park at one end which is utterly inaccessible to anyone on foot thanks to a lack of sidewalks on a road flanked by drainage ditches.

    Places outside my district that could use a road diet, complete street treatment, or general ped/bike accommodations include North Ave, Oconee/Lexington, Timothy/Mitchell Br/Atl Hwy area, & Gaines School/Barnett Shoals Rd. I would like to see us readdress our Planning code to more clearly direct developers to make ped/bike safety accommodations & implement impact fees to cover the cost of nearby improvements made necessary by the traffic impacts of new development on existing neighborhoods as illustrated by recent situations on Yonah Ave. & Sylvia Circle.

    There are many transportation-related projects that make their way through the system each year, and too often they do not optimally accommodate bike/ped & transit needs. This is why I’ve been continually advocating for the formation of an Alternative Transportation Commission to properly evaluate & offer recommendations on such projects & relieve staff of some burden in assisting in the design of such projects.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “I think areas to improve should be addressed to complete gaps in our existing sidewalk inventory. And give higher priority to the well worn pedestrian dirt paths scattered about our community. Our TPWs department can implement about $300K of sidewalks a year. We have nearly $2MIL in sidewalk SPLOST moneys, but the current rate of building them is stifling. We should address the need for contractor installation even though it will cost more and produce less sidewalk length. Additionally, for the past 3 years the TPW crews were focused on Sewer/Stormwater projects of urgent repair needs and our sidewalk implementation occurred at a significantly lower rate. The LCR committee is currently studying the ranking criteria for sidewalks. One area to study and that I have been talking about for 3 years is to make sure one side of a street has a sidewalk prior to creating the second side. This will allow more sidewalks through out the county. Criteria and best practices should be used for knowing when its safer on multiple lane roads to have both sides verses residential streets. Additionally, Areas across our entire county should be considered for Complete Street infrastructure improvements.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. I continue to press the Mayor for a complete streets ordinance.

    b. I continue to press the Mayor for new zoning/land use regulations for commercial corridors that abut residential neighborhoods.

    c. Needs:
    i. Prince Av from loop 10 to Dougherty
    ii. Boulevard (Northwest of town)
    iii. Chase

    d. NOTE: I do not believe that Commissioners are the best source of these priorities. An ad hoc citizens committee should be formed to make recommendations and justifications for those priorities.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “I was on the Commission and voted to pass our Complete Streets policy in 2012. I certainly believe in making streets as accommodating as possible for multiple modalities of movement, including private vehicles, mass transit, cyclists, and pedestrians. The key to implementing Complete Streets is having sufficient width to accommodate these multiple users. Without question, all new streets should be designed with the width necessary to include Complete Streets policies. Given the narrowness of some of our older streets, designed and built 200 years or so ago, implementing Complete Streets on these can certainly be difficult in some parts of town, especially in-town. However, just because something is difficult does not mean that we should not try to do so. In terms of the question “How will you act to implement complete streets in Athens?”, given that the policy is already in place probably the most important thing is making sure that our Transportation & Public Works Dept. has sufficient resources in the budget to be able to do the things that are necessary to make Complete Streets a reality (e.g., money for sidewalks & right of way acquisition). I think that in terms of the question “Which areas of town do you feel are most in need of infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists?”, my focus is upon District 8 needs. For instance, there are still segments of Barnett Shoals Road that lack sidewalks. I would particularly like to see sidewalks all along Lexington Rd. As part of the Lexington Road Corridor Study Committee that I chair, we have also talked about developing an access road along Lexington that would separate vehicles that wish to simply pass along the corridor from vehicles that wish to visit the various retail establishments along the corridor. The access road would also provide a space for cyclists to cycle without having fast-moving traffic hurtling by only feet away. If you have traveled to Washington, DC (and other places) such separated travel lanes are quite common and improve safety for all concerned.

    Although not directly part of the Complete Streets program, I do think it’s important to recognize that the “Safe Routes to Schools” program has been crucial in improving pedestrian & cyclist safety around our schools. Before I was on the Commission I worked on the original project that was eventually funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation in 2008 and we now have several such projects for local schools. By providing for general signalized improvements, stamped colorized crosswalks, and improved signage around each of the schools, improving safety around schools is part of an ongoing effort by the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County (UGACC) in partnership with a number of other entities, including the University of Georgia and the Clarke County School District. I fully support this.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Water buffers were narrowly voted down last summer and the proposed Green Building Ordinance has sat untouched for years. What role, if any, do you think the ACC government should play in protecting the environment, addressing climate change, or promoting sustainability? Are there any specific policies or programs you would like to implement in 2016?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “It has been my experience as both an employee of the Unified Government for nearly 14 years (1991-2005) and now as an ACC Commissioner that the ACC staff and elected officials have been good stewards of our environment and continue to work diligently to protect our environment in many ways. With the support of the ACC Commission, for the past 25 years the Solid Waste Department has established and maintained waste reduction programs that help to reduce what is being landfilled while expanding the opportunities for residents and businesses to reduce, reuse and/or recycle their waste materials within our community. For 20 years, the ACC Public Utilities Department has focused on and been very successful educating our citizens on local water conservation efforts and has plans to introduce solar power at one of the Water Reclamation Facilities in the near future. The ACC government also plays a direct role in protecting our environment through the appointment of local citizens to serve on various Boards, Authorities, and Commissions. For example, ACC’s Community Tree Council works to “conserve and professionally manage publicly-owned trees while providing education and support for private tree owners and managers.” ACC’s Sandy Creek Nature Center has a wide variety of nature/science education activities and programs for all ages. Other sustainable practices implemented by ACC include installation of recharging stations for electric vehicles and the purchase of hybrid transit buses. At this point, I do not have any specific policies or programs that I would like to see implemented in 2016. However, I remain open to considering any programs that our staff may present to us that would effectively address, promote, and/or incentivize sustainability within our community.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “Protecting the environment for future generations should be a primary role of government. I’m heartbroken and shamed by the fact that our wetlands remain completely unprotected thanks to the failure of half my colleagues & the mayor to recognize the vital role these ecosystems play in protecting our water and enhancing our general quality of life. And the fact that the Green Building Ordinance has sat on the hold list at the bottom of the agenda for over 5 years while millions of square feet of new, questionably sustainable development have transformed our cityscape is shortsighted and dangerous. While I understand the ordinance as presented under former Mayor Davison had some problems, there is no reason not to bring it back before a qualified citizen committee for proper tweaking so that we can ensure that our built environment grows and changes in an environmentally sustainable manner. Current advances and incentives in renewable energy technology provide all the more reason for such an ordinance to be readdressed & moved forward—I would like to see us do so as we develop incentives for implementation of solar & other renewable energy sources & commit to utilizing renewable energy in ACC facilities.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “We are working toward a better system to learn what is currently being done with our ACCUG departments so that the M&C have a better understanding of what is being addressed toward environmental protection and sustainability. Budget wise we need to maintain our current projects like the CHaRM facility, energy conservation for ACCUG buildings, support our Environmental Specialist and his recommendations which can address the disappointing water buffer vote. Currently we will be voting on a Resolution for Renewable Energy Resolution, which is always a strong step toward making our intentions and priorities for a topic clear. A Resolution document is a guiding force for staff and administration. It starts with the following statement:

    WHEREAS, the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County strives to be a leader in environmental stewardship while fostering a positive climate for economic development and a vibrant community for personal growth;

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. I supported the wetlands buffer ordinance and believe it should be adopted.

    b. ACC should take advantage of the Solarize Athens initiative using funds available.

    c. ACC should formalize a set of goals for solarizing its properties, especially water and sewage treatment plants.

    d. Additional electric car chargers should be available downtown.

    e. Shopping centers should be incentivized to install electric car chargers.

    f. ACC should continue to fund and support efforts to retrofit more efficient lighting (LED) and HVAC systems.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “The proposal that was voted down, whilst proposing to place buffers around some wetlands, would also have introduced “buffer averaging” in which stream buffers could be expanded in some places but – and this was the bad bit – significantly narrowed in others. The issue of stream buffers is important to me personally as I was on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee back in the mid-2000s that recommended the stream buffer policy that we have today, and I certainly do not want to see these diminished. Given that the most important part of any buffer is the part closest to the water that is being protected, buffer averaging would have reduced the effectiveness of our current buffers in protecting streams and water quality. Instead, the M&C voted to direct our staff to look at issues of water quality from a much broader, more holistic perspective and to come up with policies and procedures that can improve water quality overall for the community. These policies and procedures certainly do not preclude wetland buffers in the future but any such policies should not diminish the stream buffers that we presently have and for which we fought long and hard to implement and protect over the years. In this regard, I might point out that the good job that UGACC has done in protecting its natural resources such as drinking water has been recognized by several outside entities and we should not do anything to diminish this. In terms of water quality, what we know is that the biggest problem we face in ACC is the proliferation of fecal coliform in the water. Some of this likely comes from agricultural uses and some likely comes from failing septic tanks – our staff is currently studying where the worst problems in this regard are to be found in the county and their causes. Given issues with septic tanks, I would certainly be in favor of greater regulatory efforts being placed upon septic tank maintenance (understanding that septic tanks are regulated by the Board of Health). In this regard, some have suggested that we should simply run sewer into those areas of the county where there are lots of septic tanks. However, although this might be a good thing to do in some places, I am not in favor of running sewer lines into all areas as it may cause adverse development that would actually hurt our water quality.

    More generally, I think that the government has an important role to play in encouraging wise resource use, and I think that we have done a pretty good job of doing so (though there is always more to do, obviously). Thus, in addition to seeking to protect water quality, we have also been using alternate energy sources for some of our buildings. Several of our buildings already have photovoltaic/ alternate energy systems. The lighting in the new Park & Ride facility on Oconee Street is also powered by solar energy, as is the Department of Corrections’s LED parking lot lighting. In terms of our local natural resources, I was personally heavily involved in UGACC’s purchase of 310 acres of pristine, environmentally sensitive and historically important woodland, which sits along a stretch of the Middle Oconee River (the “Tallassee tract”). Specifically, after being approached by the Athens Land Trust, Commissioner Mike Hamby and I secured access to greenspace money to purchase this land and protect it in perpetuity.

    In terms of future policies, I would like to see us continue to move in the same direction, switching to non-fossil fuel energy sources where possible and ensuring that as much waste (both organic and non-organic materials) as possible is kept out of the landfill by encouraging ever more recycling.

    Finally, one of the best things that we can do is to inculcate in the next generation the values of recycling and wise resource use. In that regard the UGACC has been involved with our partners in the School system in several educational efforts to encourage students to learn about recycling and responsible use of the planet’s resources, efforts which I support.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • A recent study has shown that there is a shortage of affordable housing needed by our workforce in Athens. What changes to our local code or other incentives will you advocate for in ACC? Would you consider an inclusionary zoning ordinance?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “There is no doubt that affordable housing and workforce housing are priorities of the ACC Commission. In fact, Commissioner Diane Bell (District 7) and I have been appointed by the Mayor to serve on the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH); a three-year commitment. GICH is a public-private venture sponsored and supported by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Power, Georgia Municipal Association, and the University of Georgia. It is an initiative that helps bring key stakeholders together to address the unique housing needs of their communities and provides technical assistance, training, collaboration, consensus building and the opportunity to network with other communities in Georgia facing similar housing challenges. We, along with others in our community serving on the GICH “Housing Team” (i.e.: Planning Commission, Land Bank Authority, Athens Area Community Foundation, UGA, Action Ministries, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, Athens Land Trust, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, Clarke County School District, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, ACC Economic Development, Athens Housing Authority, and the ACC Housing and Community Development Department), will use the Workforce Housing Needs Assessment and Strategy, the Multi-Family Housing Inventory and Survey, and other information from team members to set goals and objectives that we hope will begin to address our community’s housing needs. In February, the ACC GICH team attended our first retreat and began laying the groundwork for our efforts. For now, I think it is premature to discuss changes to our local code and/or other incentives we might employ until we more clearly identify and prioritize our housing needs. Although there is still much to be discussed, I think there may be aspects of inclusionary zoning that we may find useful in certain applications and/or for specific zoning designations within Athens-Clarke County.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “The findings of the Workforce Housing Study are no surprise to me. For nearly a decade, I’ve seen my peers in the creative community increasingly struggle to find affordable housing in the in-town neighborhoods they essentially created—more and more have dispersed to the suburbs or outer counties & many have left the area altogether. I believe that an inclusionary zoning policy in Athens is an absolute necessity if we are to maintain the cultural & economic diversity of our in-town community and stave off the dangerous suburbanization of poverty that is quickly gaining hold in Athens.

    Unfortunately, we cannot develop a truly effective inclusionary zoning policy without seriously reconsidering the density allowances of our Downtown zone. Inclusionary zoning only works when municipalities can offer density bonuses as incentives to developers allowing them to build larger than typically allowed projects to accommodate required percentages of affordable units. Our current downtown density of 200 bedrooms per acre is the maximum our infrastructure can handle & unless we are willing to downzone this most coveted place to build, we have no leverage by which to enforce or encourage such a policy.

    I have been advocating for a moratorium on large-scale multifamily housing projects since before I took office. I believe it is long past time we took a break to truly assess our Downtown development & affordable housing situation & determined new design & zoning guidelines to properly guide the near future development of our community to accommodate the housing & economic needs of a greater diversity of our population. This is a recommendation that could be initiated via the Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee & I’ve repeatedly begged fellow committee members that we take it up, but committee chair Commissioner Mike Hamby insists that we are tasked only with addressing the myriad individual projects outlined in the DTMP and are not to address any policy initiatives related to Downtown. A meeting of this committee has not been called since October.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “I need to study the inclusionary zoning ordinance details before I can speak to that. Our shortage of affordable housing options can help us as we work on the Comprehensive Plan for 2018. The high prices for land in Athens is causing it to be a challenge for affordable housing options. I believe we should address the square footage minimum of houses, accessory building details, and lot size change as well as improved ability to have residential areas of our county where land prices are less expensive.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. I will seriously consider a inclusionary zoning ordinance.

    b. I think tax incentives, similar to TADs, should be implemented in appropriate locations, such as apartments and certain neighborhoods. These incentives provide tax incentives for their re-development.

    c. Some of our zoning/land use ordinances need to be re-examined in terms of their minimum home size, setbacks, etc., to make building of workforce housing more affordable.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “I think that it is important to distinguish between “affordable housing” and “workforce housing”, as these are slightly different. Whereas we have plenty of “affordable housing” we do have an issue with “workforce housing” availability. Essentially, many of the workers who are necessary for our community to function – school teachers, fire fighters, nurses, cops, retail & factory workers, etc. – tell us that they can find it hard to find housing close to where they work. For sure, not everyone wants necessarily to live close to where they work and many may prefer instead to live further out in a more rural setting than to live in-town, thereby trading proximity for a more bucolic lifestyle. But, at the same time, I think that it is important to have sufficient housing of good quality so that people who do wish to live close to where they work have options either to rent or to buy close to their place of employment.

    In this regard, I would absolutely support an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Indeed, it was one of the things on which I first ran back in 2007. Additionally, as you know, the M&C has commissioned a housing study and one of the things that I hope it will help us with is some suggestions about what to do with some of the deteriorating multi-family apartment complexes that exist across the county, but especially on the eastside. In particular, I would be interested in exploring some kind of public-private partnership in which we could improve these properties as they reach the end of their lifecycle so that they can be repurposed as good quality places in which Athens’s workers could choose to live, either renting or perhaps purchasing units. I would also be interested in trying to partner with some of the larger local businesses and other entities like UGA, the School District, the hospitals etc. to see if there were some type of housing assistance initiatives that could be started. Certainly, other communities do this and I think it is something that we should explore as well.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • While the movement grows around the country to raise the minimum wage and many municipalities are setting higher standards (as much as $15/hr by 2020), Georgia has a law prohibiting localities from setting their own minimum wage. Do you see low wages as a problem in Athens? If so, how will you support working class Athenians in light of such barriers from the State legislature?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “Low wages are a problem in Athens, but like in many other communities throughout the United States they are reflective of our community’s economy. A number of factors determine local wages, including population, cost of living, available workforce (skilled vs. unskilled), market competition, and location or geography. With the exceptions of UGA, ACC, our two hospitals, and a handful of industry manufacturers, if you look around most of what you see in our community are fast food chains, bars, offices, and retail shops. Most of these businesses’ entry-level jobs typically require very little skill and therefore, are paid a low wage. The prevailing problem seems to be that we have a healthy inventory of low wage jobs and a relatively healthy inventory of highly skilled jobs, but not much in the middle. With the University of Georgia, several smaller area colleges, and roughly 2,500 high school students (some of whom are old enough to work), there is no shortage of entry-level workers. Over the years, I have heard concerns from citizens that college students are taking away the lower skilled jobs that could be filled by citizens who already live in our community and are potential applicants for these low-skilled jobs. So the challenge is that we have plenty of people (and then some) who are willing to work for the current minimum wage, so there is no market incentive to change it. It is basic economics: supply versus demand. If the demand for certain skills is low and supply is high, the result is a low price paid for these skills. In converse, if the demand for certain skills is high and supply is low, the result is a rise in the price to be paid to these skills. Moreover, organizations conform their pay to the going rate in the area based on the cost of living. In other words, geography plays a role in how much a worker is paid. For example, the base pay for a cashier at McDonald’s here in Athens is $7/hour, but in Baltimore, Maryland the same job pays $8/hour. Barnes and Noble pays a Bookseller $10.50/hour in Washington, DC, but only $7.75/hour here in Athens. Finally, a Fork Lift Operator in York, Pennsylvania earns $12.75/hour; whereas, the same job in Athens pays $10.97/hour. Notwithstanding, we need to keep in mind that there are unintended consequences of increasing pay regardless of the other variables noted. One example is the impact it has on the cost of goods and services. One could argue that increasing pay will inevitably increase the cost of goods and services which the worker must purchase and, therefore, would not do much to address the worker’s ability to get ahead. In addition, forcing higher minimum wage could suppress the small entrepreneurial businesses that are present now and have already made significant investments in human and capital infrastructure within our community. Do I think everyone should be given the opportunity to earn a “living wage?” Absolutely, but I think our focus as a community should be to increase the skill level of our workforce in whatever way we can and by whatever means available instead of simply raising the minimum wage just because we think everyone should be paid a certain dollar amount per hour. For me, our greatest opportunity to help our fellow citizens is to invest in them. The upside of this is that industries that look to relocate or expand often point to the need to find communities with a highly skilled workforce; which translates into higher paying jobs. If we can increase the number of skilled workers in ACC, then we would stand a better chance of attracting these companies which would result in better paying jobs for our citizens.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “Low wages are a terrible problem in Athens—especially as our housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years. Thanks to the UGA students & football tourists, the service industry occupies a significant portion of our economy—an industry that is notorious for low wages. And because so many young, educated college students are willing to work part-time at these jobs for meager spending $ while many of their expenses are covered by their parents, there is no incentive for employers to increase such wages. In the meantime, many of the higher-paid service industry positions tend to be taken up by overqualified college graduates who can’t find work in their actual fields in Athens, thus traditional residents are often left to compete with college students & trapped in the lowest paid jobs with little hope to advance.

    ACC must focus on attracting New Economy info/bio tech & creative industry to Athens that will provide appropriate careers for all the bartenders, baristas, waitresses, & sous chefs with graduate degrees out there and open up better jobs for lower wage workers. ACC can also make a commitment to make life a bit easier for lower-income working class folks by investing in public transit, incentivizing affordable in-town housing, & committing to expanded & affordable youth programming via our Leisure Services Department to provide some additional childcare options for working-class families.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “Low wages are a problem that affects self confidence of the worker and also causes household stresses with the need for family members to work multiple jobs to keep up with the cost of living. This causes problems of households with children since parents are hindered in the area of involvement with a child’s school, after school activities and day to day family affairs because of multiple work shifts and often working 7 days a week. The State legislature is a barrier that needs to be addressed.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. I do see low wages as a problem for Athens.

    b. The State legislature should be encouraged by ALL local governments to either raise the minimum (state) wage or to allow local governments to decide.

    c. ACC government should implement a living wage for all employees and revisit that wage limit annually.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “Yes, low wages are definitely an issue. In terms of what to do about them, well, obviously, given the regulatory environment in which we work that you note above, there is not too much that the UGACC can do legislatively. However, there are some things that we can do policy wise. Thus, I am proud to say that all of our full-time employees already earn a living wage. Indeed, based upon the UGACC paying all of its full-time workers a living wage, I was very happy to work several years ago with my friend Ray MacNair from the Economic Justice Coalition when he approached me to get the UGACC certified as a “Worker Friendly” employer. But I am also an advocate for ensuring that our part-time & seasonal hires also earn a living wage. For me, the issue is not whether or not someone is full-time or part-time but whether the value of an hour’s worth of labor is the same for a full-timer and a part-timer. I believe that an hour of labor is an hour of labor and should be paid as such, regardless of whether it is done by a full-timer or part-timer. This is something I have long believed and worked for. Thus, before being elected to the Commission I worked on UGA’s Ad Hoc Committee on low wages on campus and we made some real gains there. I also think that our newly created Economic Development Department can and is playing an important role in seeking to attract to our community firms that offer higher paying employment, as well as encouraging the growth within it of local employers who pay living wages. I am proud to say that I was one of the Commissioners who led the charge to create this department, as I think that the economic security that having a good-paying job brings to people is essential to their being able to live full and rewarding lives.

    Finally, I recently served upon the implementation committee for the Economic Development taskforce. As part of this, UGACC has re-examined some of its planning and zoning requirements and adjusted them in places where they no longer made much sense. I am a firm believer that good zoning and planning requirements are important to our economic health.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Sexual assault is a serious problem in Athens as it is around the country, and the problem isn’t only on campus. What will you do to help build a culture of consent in our community?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “I believe that respect for one another as well as for ourselves is essential to begin building a culture of consent. The opportunity is to start with our children and teach them the value of developing and nurturing relationships that are equitable. On a personal level, my husband and I will continue to financially support local agencies whose missions seek to address this devastating problem. As a Commissioner, I will also support in any way that I am able and as much as possible the efforts of local groups not only to educate the public about consent, but also to develop and cultivate a strong consent-based culture in our community.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “One of the first things we can do is make a real effort to get some handle on the out-of-control binge-drinking culture that predominates Downtown Athens. While I’ve been pointing out this dangerous situation for years, ACC is just now getting around to seeking a consultant to do a “health & safety” assessment of Downtown which I hope will offer a comprehensive analysis of contributing factors to what is clearly a dangerous and pretty disgusting cultural shift in our community.

    Unfortunately, little action seems to happen in Athens without everyday citizens coming forward in significant numbers to demand change and the terrible stigma & culture of silence surrounding sexual assault means that the stories that the powers-that-be need to hear in order to implement some action are likely to go unheard. I hope that some brave young women will find some way to share their experiences & offer some insight into what the local government can do to help change the culture. I believe we can start by mandating sexual assault awareness training among all bar workers and also requiring that awareness info be predominantly posted in all bars in Athens. And we can make a clear plea to UGA powers-that-be to commit to educational programs on campus to demand a culture of consent.

    Most importantly, we need to be certain that our police force are thoroughly trained to deal with all manner of sexual assault & harassment incidents while women are thoroughly empowered to report them and perpetrators are properly pursued & punished. It is a terribly sensitive topic, but it is a problem we cannot solve unless we overcome the taboo & talk openly about it.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “I agree it is a serious problem nation wide and for our community. I will continue to be supportive of informative and educational preventive programs related to sexual predators as well as for potential victims. For the upcoming generation a culture of a different kind of sex education has been implimented in our Public schools in Athens Clarke County. The program and various topics of Sex education are age appropriate for from Pre-K through high school. It covers topics such as ‘Good touch Bad touch’ in elementary schools to programs on self confidence,bullying, and No means No in Middle schools to discussions regarding the variety of complex high school situations including but not limited to healthy verses abusive relationships, peer pressure and sexually transimitted diseases. Support for parent discussions and additional support for these courses is available and it can serve as the beginning of very important conversations through all ages and many stages of life for members of our community. Our continued support for area programs for prevention, victim support, and advocates are all areas of addressing this serous issue.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. This is, first, an issue of education about what consent is; what it means; how it is communicated. Kids who grow up believing that they and others have the right to control their own bodies are better-equipped to initiate respectful touch, to clearly say yes or no when touch is offered, and to interfere when they see someone else being violated.

    b. There is a rich set of aids (games, documents, discussion guidelines), available to teachers, Sunday School teachers and parents, designed to teach the concept of respectful touch and clear consent. Those materials should be made readily available to those teachers, scout leaders, etc. (These games and aids should only be used with parental consent.)

    c. Public health services and schools need to provide materials such as those available from Our Feminist Playschool to give parents a new perspective on the importance (and how to) include concepts and practices of consent into their parenting.

    d. People should be encouraged to get involved when they see what might be abusive or nonconsensual activities, whether the activity is sex or not.

    e. I should behave with respect to the concept of a culture of consent.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “The issue of sexual assault is indeed a serious one. In my opinion, it is tied in with much broader questions of violence in our society. Given that most sexual assaults are committed by people whom the victim knows, I think that the most effective means of trying to create a culture of consent is through education and that this involves starting young with including materials on consent in general sex education courses in high school (as California has recently done). People need to be taught both what “No” means but also what “Yes” means.

    In terms of what the UGACC can do, I think that the first thing is for our police officers and others to believe a victim when she or he says that s/he has been sexually assaulted, at least until evidence points in another direction. [I am not saying that they do not necessarily already do this, but it is an important element in the situation that we should always remember.] The worst possible feeling, I imagine, is having to convince the authorities that you have been sexually assaulted. We also need to make sure that evidence such as DNA from rape kits is processed quickly and stored securely, so that offenders can be quickly identified and arrested. Additionally, we need to provide our law enforcement and judicial entities with financing sufficient to prosecute these offenders. In this regard, the Mayor & Commission has provided matching funds in support of several applications for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) monies and I think that we need to continue to do this. Finally, as a government we should attempt to help people who find themselves in abusive relationships. In this regard, we have also supported entities like Project Safe, who have helped myriad women escape abusive relationships. In terms of protecting the community from stranger assaults, I think that police patrols and ensuring that walkways etc. are well lit are important. But, at the end of the day, the key is to address the culture of violence that seems to pervade our society. This is a longer-term issue but I believe that encouraging people to respect others and be civil to one another is central to this.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • The county officially cut the ribbon on our expanded jail (priced at $77 million) in October. What will you do to reduce the number of people spending time in our county jail each year?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “As a native and lifelong citizen of Athens-Clarke County, I will continue to support all the efforts of the ACC Police Department, Probation Office, and Sheriff’s Office to prevent and/or deter crime in our community. I will also continue to offer my support to our Judges, the traditional court system, and the following five Accountability Court programs that have been established: DUI/Drug Court, Family Dependency Treatment Court, Felony Drug Court, Treatment and Accountability Court, and Veterans Court. The treatment and judicial oversight provided through these Accountability Court programs has proven over time to not only divert people who would otherwise spend time in our jail, but also encourage accountability and reduce recidivism. These courts are, and continue to be a valuable resource to our community.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “Number one: We can pass a parallel ordinance decriminalizing minor marijuana possession. This is being done in cities across the nation and in Georgia (I just had a conversation with the Mayor of Clarkston last week where they are pursuing just such an ordinance). Considering the rampant alcohol abuse that takes place Downtown nearly every night, to continue to throw citizens in jail & ruin their lives with criminal records and thousands of dollars in fees & fines & lost work for possession of a comparably benign substance is utter hypocrisy.

    We also need to take a long, hard look at the underlying causes of criminal activity in our community, not just what we do with criminals once they get in the system. We need to reach out to high-crime communities, identify community leaders, & involve such leaders in understanding community needs & developing & implementing strategies to overcome factors that lead individuals to turn to criminal activity. Of course this starts with providing jobs & youth activities that are interesting, educational, healthy, & conducive to the communities they serve.

    Such an analysis hopefully will begin with the creation of a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee as requested in our FY17 Goals & Strategies. I look forward to seeing the formation of this committee & I trust that the Mayor will see to it that it is properly inclusive of individuals with the knowledge, experience, vision, & connections to ensure success.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “Spending time in jail for a crime that a person has done is part of the punishment for the crime. Effective and efficient use of our judicial system should minimize the time an innocent person spends in jail. Our Diversion center is an additional resource that is supported to assist in less jail time for the appropriate person. Additionally, continued support for drug and alcohol abuse solutions and resources for addiction can be helpful.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. Decriminalize possession of marijuana.

    b. Expand the use of Drug Courts, DUI courts, Veterans courts and other Restorative Justice instruments.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “No one likes to have to build a jail. The only thing worse than having to build a jail, though, is to have a federal judge tell you that you have to do so and to control how it is done. We were close to that situation because the old jail was decrepit and a hazard both to inmates and to the staff who worked there. We were also spending large sums of money to house inmates in Irwin County because there was not enough space at the ACC jail. This was not good for the taxpayers of the community nor for the inmates themselves, who were located some considerable distance from family and friends. Having said that we needed to build a new jail, though, I think that we also need to do our best to make sure that it gets as little use as possible without endangering the broader community.

    In terms of specifics, UGACC continues to be a leader amongst communities on diverting alleged offenders and convicted offenders from jail and we need to continue working on the progress we have made. For instance, we have created numerous accountability courts and pre-trial diversion programs as a way of keeping people out of the jail. These programs have won numerous awards for their innovative nature. By focusing upon treatment and requiring participants to hold down a job and/or to attend school, such programs have a higher success rate of returning people to productive lives than do programs which simply incarcerate them without treatment. Our Diversion Center for non-violent offenders (such as people who have failed to pay child support) likewise has kept many people out of the jail. This benefits both the taxpayers but also the individual involved. By being able to work they not only can have a more productive life than sitting out at the jail but they can also earn money to, for instance, pay their child support. In my early days on the Commission we also brought Probation Services back in-house (a previous M&C had privatized it). Not only did this generate savings for the taxpayers that could be put towards other things but it has been of significant benefit to probationers, too – not only do they no longer have to pay many of the fees that they previously paid to the private probation service who used to run the operation, but in many instances the ACC probation service has looked to alternatives to fees when those on probation have been deemed not to have sufficient funds to pay them. With the change in the way things are done, a higher number of probationers have been able to complete their GEDs than was the case when probation was done by that private service, which was interested in little more than collecting its probation fees. The in-house system has also helped reduce the recidivism rate amongst those on probation.

    More broadly in the realm of criminal justice, one important additional thing that the M&C has done is support the use of body cameras by ACCPD officers. Such cameras serve to protect both law enforcement officers and the general public – members of the public have evidence of police wrongdoing should such occur whilst police officers have video which can protect them from false claims of wrongdoing.

    All in all, most of the decisions about who is actually held at the jail are made by the judges rather than the Mayor & Commission, as it is the judges who determine who may be bonded out and/ or released on their own recognisance pre-trial and who must be held without bond. But the M&C should certainly continue to encourage and support alternate sentencing and diversion courts where appropriate. All of these developments in our criminal justice system are critical to making sure that we have a just system that punishes the guilty and protects the innocent, and we must continue finding ways to ensure that people have productive alternatives to conducting criminal acts.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Do you support the creation of a Human Relations Commission to hear, review, and make recommendations on discrimination complaints in Athens?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “I am still learning about Human Relations Commissions and, therefore, I hesitate at this point to say I would support one in our community. Claims of discrimination are very serious allegations that a court of law should address to ensure each party involved is allowed the opportunity to defend themselves (i.e.: innocent until proven guilty). An HRC made up of citizens with or without any legal skills could lend itself to harassment of and by either party and/or make the ACC government liable. Moreover, HRC’s can only make recommendations; specific actions would still be left to the courts for interpretation and enforcement. In researching HRC’s, the aspect I do like is the focus on education, training, and conflict management. I do not think anyone is immune to being prejudice. We are all guilty of discriminating in different ways and about different things. It is how we act upon these prejudices that often causes conflict. As a child, my parents taught me discipline and instilled in me a respect for all people regardless of gender, religion, race, age, or placement in society. It has been my observation that prejudices happen across and within all economic levels. What seems to be the common denominator is the breakdown of the family unit, and the fact that these kinds of values are often not being taught or even talked about. So again should an HRC be established, my hope is that education would be the focus.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “Of course! The only way to ensure an enforceable anti-discrimination policy in Athens is to establish just such a commission to properly hear & evaluate accusations of discrimination. We have made a commitment to not tolerate any kind of discrimination in our community via an Anti-Discrimination Resolution that was passed unanimously by the Mayor & Commission & read on the steps of City Hall before 400 protestors calling for an end to discrimination in our community. We must honor this commitment and move forward with an enforceable policy to ensure a truly equitable culture in our community.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “I do not support creating a group of citizens that would be responsible to “hear, review, and make recommendations on discrimination complaints”.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “I do.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “Assuming that we were talking about something along the lines of what the City of Atlanta has established, I would be interested in such a Commission as a medium for bringing to light complaints of discrimination and facilitating their resolution. Certainly, there are areas of the law where the federal and state laws have exclusive jurisdiction (and the passage of HB 757, the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, could even more severely limit local options in this regard). But anything that we can do locally to combat such things is something that I think should be explored. In this regard, I think that the recent anti-discrimination resolution and the direction to our staff to come up with an ordinance that will provide a mechanism for addressing discriminatory practices downtown is a step in the right direction.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Athens and how will you address it in 2016?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    “I think the biggest problem facing Athens-Clarke County is the economy. I think this may be addressed on a variety of fronts. First, we need to invest in our workforce. As I noted above, I think our focus as a community should be to increase the skill level of our workforce in whatever way we can and by whatever means available. Second, we need to face the fact that we have lost businesses to neighboring counties, and it appears the momentum may be gaining ground. While we have recently made significant changes that have greatly improved our local permitting process (which some may point to as one of the reasons we lost businesses in the past), ACC is still not perceived as a business-friendly government. We need to continue to work on retaining and growing our business base, or the tax burden will continue to grow for our homeowners. We are often told that “rooftop numbers” (not only the number of homes, but the income associated with these homes) is one reason we have trouble attracting businesses. So addressing our housing market seems like a logical step to take as well. As I have already mentioned, ACC has recently launched an effort to do just that by participating in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing grant program. Finally, as a member of the Lexington Road Corridor Study Group, we identified early on that the presentation of the corridor to our citizens and visitors has an impact on our economy and/or ability to attract businesses and, for that matter residents. If we want more businesses to locate along the corridor and people to reside here, then we need to take pride in our community and make it an attractive place to live, work, play, and retire. If we won’t, then who will? One way we think we could begin to do this is to address the aesthetics along Lexington Road/Highway 78 East. One particular action we hope to implement in the near future is the installation of unique, “artsy” bus shelters, like the ones citizens can see along West Broad Street. Not only will the shelter provide a functional benefit to the transit rider, but also it will be an aesthetically pleasing piece of art that will help convey a sense of pride along our corridor. We have also discussed a variety of ways to promote a “you have arrived in Athens” feeling to those traveling along and/or living near the corridor. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we recognize that our commercial design standards and zoning regulations are impacting our ability to attract businesses. There appears to be consensus among the Mayor and Commission for the need to address these regulations, so I anticipate we will see some recommended changes very soon. Although not a comprehensive list by any means, I am hopeful that these actions will attract and retain both businesses and residents along the corridor and within the greater ACC community; thus, helping our local economy.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    “I’m particularly concerned with economic issues as they relate to affordable housing, accessible transportation, inappropriate development, & cultural homogenization of our in-town community. These are complex, but interdependent issues that are strongly affected by the interrelationship between our persistent poverty problem and an ongoing drive to increase tax revenues in the public sector & profits in the private sector via rising property values. I feel we must readdress development guidelines, implement an inclusionary zoning policy as well as other zoning & design guidelines to encourage appropriate, affordable, & sustainable development while investing in a more accessible & sustainable multi-modal transportation infrastructure. I feel such moves will help stabilize our housing situation, encourage a more diverse & sustainable built environment, lead to greater quality-of-life, and attract New Economy businesses that are drawn to communities that demand affordable in-town housing & diverse transportation options and that provide decent living-wage jobs.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    “Alcohol and Other Substance Addiction and Abuse.

    I will continue to support programs and initiatives that can help end the cycle of Alcohol and Other Substance Addition and Abuse and that help those who suffer from it find successful treatment options. Additional, I will remain supportive of programs and initiatives that help the victims of Alcohol and Other Substance Addiction and Abuse’s surrounding issues.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    “a. Workforce housing has come front and center for me and others on the Commission, I believe. I will vigorously support tax incentives that will encourage the private sector to redevelop workforce housing. I will also support inclusionary zoning.

    b. Close behind is changing the economics and competitiveness of our suburban, auto-centric commercial corridors (Atlanta Highway, Lexington Road, for example). Our zoning/land use ordinances must be made appropriate for the commercial development in these corridors that we need for commerce, resulting in more employment and tax revenue to support public safety, transit, infrastructure, education and other essential services.

    c. At the same time, land use ordinances for such corridors as Prince Avenue must be changed to protect the values of the surrounding neighborhoods with regard to commercial encroachment, traffic (auto, pedestrian, bicycle) safety, and quality of life.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    “I don’t know that I can say that there is a singular “biggest” problem facing Athens, certainly not in the way in which a few years ago we could say that the “biggest” problem was the imminent threat of running out of water during the drought. But there are two things on which I would particularly like to focus during 2016 that strongly impact District 8.

    First, I think that it is vital that we prepare the groundwork for an upcoming TSPLOST vote. This will involve selecting projects and making sure that the referendum is successful, when it occurs. We have a lot of transportation-related infrastructure projects that are, essentially, shovel-ready but just lack the financing for them.

    Second, and somewhat related to the above item, I hope that we can make some significant progress on the Lexington Road corridor. In this regard, I would particularly like to see a planted median along the corridor, which will improve the corridor’s aesthetics, but also pedestrian bridges, for those seeking to cross it safely. I would also like to see sidewalks put in place and an access road. We have already begun to look at the possibility of some multi-parcel stormwater detention ponds that should make redevelopment of some of the parcels more feasible and are planning some beautification projects along the corridor too. I think that making the corridor look nicer is a key step in encouraging some higher quality private-sector investment that can provide some good paying jobs along it and also improve its revenue-generating capacity (property and sales tax revenues), as the provision of services to the residents of the county requires having a solid revenue stream to do so.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • What accomplishment are you most proud of during your time in local government?
  • Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner
    Sharyn served as Assistant Director of the ACC Solid Waste Department for many years, and has served as a County Commissioner for just over one year.

    “During my time as an employee with the ACC Solid Waste Department (1991-2005), I was honored to have been given the opportunity to be involved in the development and implementation of our Comprehensive Waste Reduction Program. As Recycling Coordinator and later as the Assistant Director of Solid Waste, I was in charge of managing the overall effort. The effort included the procurement of a public-private Recovered Materials Processing Facility, expansion of residential recycling collection services, establishment of commercial recycling services in downtown Athens, and the introduction of a Pay-as-You-Throw garbage fee system for both residential and commercial customers (which allowed the customer to manage their garbage much like other utilities such as gas, power, and water). Perhaps the accomplishment I am most proud of is the public-private Recovered Materials Processing Facility. As Project Manager, I was tasked with overseeing its construction. This facility was and is still today the cornerstone of our waste reduction program. With a private investment of $2.5 million dollars, the facility opened in August of 1995 and was the first and only one of its kind in the state of Georgia. Combining the use of publicly-owned, government land with a privately-owned and operated facility, we created a unique public-private partnership. The facility and the programs we established more than 20 years ago would not have been possible without the foresight of our local elected officials (especially, the efforts of then District 1 Commissioner Charles Carter, Chairman of the Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Committee), the hard work of all Solid Waste Department and Recycling Division employees, the continued support and countless hours of work by our dedicated Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Committee members, and the voluntary participation by the citizens of Athens-Clarke County.”

  • Harry Sims, District 2 Commissioner
    Harry has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at harry.sims@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Melissa Link, District 3 Commissioner
    Melissa has served on several boards and citizen councils and just over one year as County Commissioner.

    “I am most proud of the hundreds of citizens who have reached out & spoken up to influence the workings of their local government. I am a staunch believer in participatory democracy & this is most achievable at the local level, but citizens can only participate when they are well informed. I utilize a public Facebook page to inform citizens of meetings, news, happenings, etc. on a daily basis & maintain regular contact with citizens advocacy groups to make them aware of initiatives as they make their way through what is too often a very complex & bureaucratic system, encouraging them to pay attention & offer input at the earliest possible stages of an initiative. Almost every progressive measure that has been accomplished in the past year was initiated via citizen outcry and this reaffirms my faith in the power of democracy, despite the hurdles to transparency that too often stand in the way.

    If not for a handful of citizens offering input on tweaks to our Definition of Agriculture, chickens would still be illegal; It took a handful of young entrepreneurs stepping up to plead for the right to operate their businesses to enable food trucks to park Downtown; It took hundreds of citizens led by Athens For Everyone signing petitions, writing letters, & lining up at the podium to expand Athens Transit service to Sundays, transforming the lives of thousands who are now able to get to church or work, visit family, do their shopping, or take a day in the park; And it takes the ongoing activism of hundreds of residents led by BikeAthens & Complete Streets Athens speaking out regularly for safer streets & sidewalks for all to advocate for multiple improvement projects throughout the past year. I hope these voices will continue & grow so we can achieve our collective vision of an inclusive community that truly values the desires of everyday citizens.”

  • Allison Wright, District 4 Commissioner
    Allison served on the Clarke County Board of Education for seven years and as County Commissioner for three.

    “1. I was on the CCSD Sex Education Committee that studied and changed out District Policy so that CCSD school site personal could discuss contraception with students. CCSD was the 1st school district in GA to allow this. Before school personnel were ‘forbidden’ to discuss the topic of contraception will students. Our County’s teen pregnancy rate has decreased since that policy change. Additionally programs are in place of age appropriate discussions for sex education and related topics.

    2. Designating Elementary School attendance zones was another important accomplishment of our school district and I was a strong supporter of this change.

    It was challenging and emotionally charged process that took many years to complete. When my sons were unable to attend Pre-K at our neighborhood elementary school I was motivated to get involved beyond PTA and this led me to be on the school board. Our home was less than half a mile from our neighborhood elementary school and we were assigned to a school 14 miles away with a 45 minute bus ride – one way.

    3. Hiring a superintendent for our school district that became the Georgia and National Superintendent of the year in 2015. It is a reflection of all the ongoing hard work and progressive programs and initiatives executed by our teachers for students and district leadership.

    Audit committee work to address Leisure Services internal audit and funding support of external vendor to assist with this undertaking.

    Facilitating progress and implementation of School Crossing guards at the Five Points intersection.

    Current work for Sidewalk matrix improvements through LRC. Taxi stands in Downtown for ACC cabs only. Support for improved goals and objective process.

    All my committee assignments, KACCB, Community Tree Council, Legislative Review Committee, Audit Committee, economic development implementation committee, CCSD Citizens Oversight Committee. Downtown Master Plan Implementation.

    Taking 66 hours of continuing Education with Association of County Commissioners of Georgia to become a certified Commissioner, 2015.

    Completing the Georgia Academy for Economic Development’s Regional Economic and Leadership Development program, 2015.”

  • Jared Bailey, District 5 Commissioner
    Jared has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at jared.bailey@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Jerry NeSmith, District 6 Commissioner
    Jerry served on the Planning Commission for nine years and has served as a County Commissioner for three.

    “a. As a Planning Commissioner I was proud of the changes in our zoning ordinances, including making Conservation Subdivisions more meaningful, rather than an loophole for building dense, low-quality housing and degrading the greenbelt.

    b. As a Planning Commissioner I was proud to participate in prohibiting clear cut and mass grading practices and the tree (canopy) ordinance.

    c. As a Planning Commissioner I always tried to understand the negative impacts and positive impacts of a proposed development or zoning changes, especially on surrounding residential neighborhoods and place protection of those neighborhoods at the top of my considerations and decision-making.

    d. As a Planning Commissioner it was important to be sure that developers heard the opinions of the neighbors affected by their proposals and that their proposals considered ways to minimize these effects.

    e. As a County Commissioner, I am gratified by the Urban Agriculture ordinance.

    f. I am gratified about Sunday Bus Service.

    g. I am proud that we were able to balance the budget, even during the hard times, while respecting our citizens’ needs as much as possible.

    h. I am proud of my support of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission.

    i. I am proud of my success in raising awareness and finding a way to save the Rowland property on Atlanta Highway at no tax payer expense.

    j. I am proud that I supported the Wetlands Buffer ordinance, even though it failed. I will continue to support it.

    k. I am hopeful and committed to efforts to improve the economic viability of Atlanta Highway.

    l. I am hopeful about continuing to press for a Complete Streets ordinance.

    m. I am proud of the services that I have provided to my constituents.”

  • Diane Bell, District 7 Commissioner
    Diane has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let her know you’re interested in her responses! E-mail her at diane.bell@athensclarkecounty.com and ask her to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!

  • Andy Herod, District 8 Commissioner
    Andy has served on the Planning Commission, Hearings Board and as County Commissioner for over nine years.

    “For sure, there are some specific things to which I would point as accomplishments – ongoing protection of our environmental resources, encouraging economic development, funding various social service projects that are important to people’s lives, convincing my colleagues to locate the Tennis Center at SE Clarke Park, and being one of the Commissioners leading the charge to create our Department of Economic Development. But, in general, the thing I am most proud of is helping people solve the problems that affect their lives but which may not seem that important to many – problems such as making sure that a pothole got fixed or a sidewalk got built or that a flooding issue got resolved. These may seem small things but when they are affecting you they are very important. It is the kind notes and phone calls and emails over the years where people simply have expressed their gratitude for the small ways in which I have been able to help them address issues that they were facing that I will most remember when I am no longer a Commissioner.”

  • Kelly Girtz, District 9 Commissioner
    Kelly has served as County Commissioner for over nine years.  He also served on the Board of Family Connection, Keep ACC Beautiful, and the Cancer Foundation of NE Georgia.

  • Mike Hamby, District 10 Commissioner
    Mike has not yet responded to our questionnaire. Let him know you’re interested in his responses! E-mail him at mike.hamby@athensclarkecounty.com and ask him to respond to the Athens for Everyone Commissioner Questionnaire. Thanks!