Ovita Thornton

Candidate for Commission, District 9
ACC Board of Education Member, 2002 – 2018
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Questionnaire Responses


  • Do you support fare-free bus service?: YES

“I support for : for youth, elderly and those working for low wages.”

  • Do you support expansion of transit service (e.g. increased frequency, more locations, longer service hours)? YES

“It will allow people to have more options for mobility.”

  • Do you support increasing the budget for bike and pedestrian infrastructure from the general fund? NO

“This I don’t know enough about to have an opinion. I know pedestrian infrastructure is a need I have heard in my district. But maybe TSPLOST. ”

Criminal Justice Reform

  • Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES

“I support decriminalization of marijuana to address the disparity in prosecution of minorities and health issues.”

Environmental Sustainability

    • Do you support a ban or fee on single-use plastic bags? YES

“I don’t support a fee on plastic bags but I could support a ban much like Aldi grocery store. Good for the environment.”

Racial Justice

  • Do you support an Athens Civil Rights Committee established through the county government? YES

“I strongly support an Athens Civil Rights Committee be established with real authority.”

  • Do you believe that Athens-Clarke County should move forward with comprehensive non-discrimination legislation? YES

“This is long overdue.” Q: White people still hold a hugely disproportionate amount of economic and social power in Athens-Clarke County. If elected, what will you do to help fight this structural imbalance, increase the economic security of, and ensure the equal treatment of Athenians of color; especially black Athenians who continue to be most targeted by past and present systems of oppression? A: (click to read)

Trust is something you earn. It is not enough to have blacks in figure head positions without any power or in position to carry out a white agenda. I encouraged African Americans to serve on school and local government committees whenever. This gives a different voice, but to hear other voices and build new relationships. I try to promote African Americans on committees that I serve on, (usually I am one of maybe two blacks). I try remind other committee members there are other qualified African Americans willing to participate if asked.

Without being discriminatory, we need to find ways that qualified Afro-Americans and Hispanics are visible in our classrooms and in local businesses and institutions. I personally do not want white people translating my situation for me. While appreciate support but the best support you can give an African American is the same opportunities and respect. This may also need to be taught. This is even a greater problem for black women.

I would ask the power players the question; do you really want to change the structural imbalance, increase the economic security? If yes, step out of your comfort zone, let’s reevaluate policies that have oppressed black Athenians and change them.

Affordable Housing

    • Do you support repealing the single-family ordinance? YES

“While I understand the ordinance, this is really an unenforceable policy. Until we address homelessness this ordinance is not equitable.” Q: Rising rents and the proliferation of luxury student apartment complexes has been a major issue in town for the past several years. What will you do to promote affordable housing in Athens for its current residents? A: (click to read)

Utilizing resources from Department of Community Affairs such as Community Housing Designation Organizations (CHDO’s), Georgia Advancing Communities Together (GACT) which provides technical assistance to families with limited housing choices, HUD Community Development and Section 3 program. We must better support Athens Land Trust and Habitat for Humanities.

While some of these programs may be in jeopardy under the current administration, they are all worth advocating for to promote affordable housing in Athens. The local government can not work in silos, we must work with banks and to remove financial and credit barriers. This could be done in creative use of the Community Reinvestment Act.

The government must work with community groups to educate people at an early age that home ownership is a “wealth builder”.

Challenging Unjust State Laws

Q: County Attorney Bill Berryman has recommended inaction on certain issues in order to avoid, in his view, potential conflicts with state law. These issues have included operational funding in TSPLOST, marijuana decriminalization and comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. Citing his interpretations, the Mayor and Commission have elected to take little to no action on these and similar issues. Do you support a different approach, even if it may lead to Athens-Clarke County challenging state law? A: (click to read)
Under the new leadership of the school board, we work together to deal with the difficult issues. Our workshops and training has allowed us to view situations from a different vantage point. Decision makers must always be willing to be comfortable in a position to learn from others, especially if their decisions are having a negative impact on others. It is ok to disagree but all parties should agree to resolve…or the status quo will continue.

Childcare and Early Childhood Education

Q: Lack of funding in the CAPS program means that there is an “early learning gap” of over 2,000 children in Athens. There is also a lack of quality rated childcare providers here. Turning this situation around would be quite expensive and difficult, but also extremely important to the lives of many Athenians. Do you support policies that would expand access to childcare subsidies, encourage more childcare providers to become quality rated, and incentivize quality rated providers to accept children receiving subsidies? A: (click to read)
I helped a daycare provider several years ago start her daycare using CAP funding. She is a successful daycare provider, and has a waiting list. The school board has passed a legislative agenda including more funding for early education. I support any policies that would expand access to early childcare.


Q: The rates of poverty and income inequality in Athens remain extraordinarily high. What will you do to specifically support low-income and low-wealth Athenians? A: (click to read)
1.After visiting Green Opportunities in Asheville N.C., with the Athens Land Trust, several ACC commissioners, and school board members, I would advocate for a similar program to support low-income wealth Athenians. The mission of Green Opportunities is to train, support and connect people from marginalized communities to sustainable employment. This a partnership with local and state government, Duke University, the Housing Authority, the Chamber and the grassroots community. They offer training in construction, culinary, and CNA and a GED program. They operate in a historic black school in the community and provide after school programs. Their vegetables in their culinary kitchen is grown in their community garden. The culinary kitchen is becoming self sustaining through their catering business. Participants are ex felons, young adults that have been displaced or disenfranchised in the community. The program reported a 93% success rate based on placements and the follow up support after placements. visit for more info: greenopportunities.org

2. Through my employment, I learned out about an expungement program in LaGrange Georgia that would support low-income Athenians.Many people cannot find a good paying job because of an old criminal history. October 2017 the LaGrange Police Department held its first Record Restriction Day. Local judges, attorneys, and the district attorneys expunged criminal records of 50 people with a 184 charges. People with a history of arrests with no convictions or misdemeanors before they were 21 years old and had no more arrests for five years had an opportunity to have their records expunged. After the expungement process, participants were invited to special job fair in the next room. This is part of my platform not because it is a good idea, but it is solution for the poverty rate in Athens.

3. While I am not optimistic about all of the community surveys, including Envision Athens, they do provide valuable information if we use the information. One of the facts that came out of the Envision report, the majority of the industrial employees making above a livable wage, do not live in Athens, but is surrounding counties. We must help our local industries find employees with the soft skills, the work ethics, and technical skills for employment living in Clarke County; while creating and encourage entrepreneurship by providing resources and removing barriers to small business start-up. This could be done in the Human Community Development Department, which I believe is heading in the right direction.

I would try to tie these ideas to the Envision Athens and the Athens 20 year Comprehensive plan and other research. We have to stop all of these surveys, and use our monies on tangible infrastructure, and programs that can be measured.


Q: What is your most important policy priority for 2018? A: (click to read)
My most important issue is to engage and encourage housing management companies, particularly low income housing complexes,to provide on site social services and referrals needed for families until they are prepared to move on. Section 8 Housing should not be a revolving generational door. I have been working in Bethel Midtown Village since 2009. I have seen some success but we do not have a transitional plan. For many of these young mothers, this is the first home on their own. Many are not prepared for the new responsibilities of living on their own. Some do not have the experience or skills of paying their rent, maintaining a household or caring for their kids on their own. Some move in with mental health issues and not support. Several become a target for drug dealers, and other criminal behavior which increases the need for police. . The maintenance of some of the apartments are causing health and safety issues which becomes an issue for Code Enforcement and the Health Department. Young mothers are evicted because of lease violations causing a burden on the on the court system and school system -creating an increase in the homeless population-and the cycle continues.

We have small group of community leaders and community stakeholders. But local government has to do business differently if we are serious about decreasing the poverty rate. We can begin by reaching out to many of the low income housing management companies, especially if these companies are receiving government subsidies and are not located in Athens. Athens taxpayers are picking up the tab for safety, social services, education and homeless programs etc. We need governmental intervention to help families become self sufficient and productive citizens.