We Deserve Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are the facts.

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

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

We deserve better.

High Density = High Traffic = High Pollution

Common sense tells us that cramming 500  condos onto twelve acres of land will create more traffic and pollution than putting 50 single family homes on the same parcel. But common sense isn’t always the prevailing wisdom so it is nice to see this article on the newgeography.com website.

For years, regional  transportation plans, public officials, and urban planners have been seeking to  densify urban areas, using strategies referred to as “smart growth” or “livability.”  They have claimed that densifying urban areas would lead to lower levels of air  pollution, principally because it is believed to reduce travel by car. In fact,  however, EPA data show that higher population densities are strongly associated with higher  levels of automobile travel and more intense air pollution emissions from cars  and other highway vehicles. In short, higher emissions cause people to breathe  more in air pollution, which can be unhealthful. (emphasis mine)


To put in the economic terms that appear so often in  planning literature on “urban sprawl,” more intense traffic  congestion and the consequent higher air pollution emissions are negative  externalities of smart growth and densification.


There are myriad difficulties  with smart growth and livability policies, not least their association with  higher housing prices, a higher cost of living, muted economic growth, and decreased  mobility and access to jobs in metropolitan areas. As the EPA data show, the  densification policies of smart growth and livability also make air pollution  worse for people at risk.

Alpharetta voters should take the time to read the entire article linked above because the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan being proposed by Alpharetta’s Community Development Department calls for more of the same high density developments which exacerbate the traffic issues we already face.

The newspaper profile that could have been

Two weeks ago I was contacted by a reporter from the Alpharetta Neighbor for information to be used in an article about the Alpharetta City Council post 4 race. The reporter requested our positions on the crucial issues facing Alpharetta and I was happy to provide clear answers that would illustrate why I am the better candidate to represent the people of Alpharetta.

Unfortunately the article published yesterday left most of our positions on the cutting room floor. I appreciate the paper’s effort to cover our campaign but by the time our responses were edited it was impossible for the public to understand that my opponent has repeatedly voted for high density developments which will hurt Alpharetta’s schools and quality of life while I opposed them.

The people of Alpharetta deserve to know the actual positions of the candidates they choose so I am publishing my full responses to the reporter’s questions below:

1)   What would you say are your top three priorities for the city?

Growth We Can Live With

My top priority will be to defend our schools, our quality of life and our property values in Alpharetta. We live in a special place. We have great schools, great parks and a world class public safety department to protect us. We provide a welcoming business climate in a great place to raise families.

For four years those qualities have been under attack as my opponent voted for high density housing projects and zoning initiatives that will make Alpharetta’s traffic unbearable and force our children to endure endless cycles of school redistricting. Alpharettans realize that some growth is necessary; they also realize that growth which destroys our quality of life and is neither necessary nor desirable.

For more than a decade I have worked to protect our schools, quality of life and property values. The people of Alpharetta deserve growth they can live with and I will work tirelessly to make sure they get it.

Fiscally conservative means low taxes

One of my top priorities will be to make sure Alpharetta continues to be a good steward of our taxpayers’ money. Alpharetta has an excellent track record of financial responsibility but as we elect four councilmembers and a new mayor it is important to choose candidates that have demonstrated fiscally conservative principles.

Unlike my opponent, I opposed the outrageous GA 400 toll extension while there was still time to stop it. I was also one of the first people to point out that the proposed transportation tax increase will cost Alpharetta households thousands of dollars while doing almost nothing to relieve congestion or reduce our commute times. Alpharetta deserves a city council person who has demonstrated fiscally conservative leadership. I am that person.

Leadership on traffic issues

A third goal would be to provide much needed leadership in addressing Alpharetta’s persistent traffic problem. Fulton County and the state of Georgia have ignored the road improvements necessary to support our community’s expanding population for decades. Taxes paid here have been used to support road improvements and transit projects in other parts of the county and state. Roads built for a city of 10,000 people are now used by more than 50,000.

The solution to this problem is the widening of bottlenecked intersections and secondary arterial roads. Alpharetta deserves a city council person who will do a better job of prioritizing road improvements and actively pressure the county, state and federal authorities who refuse to adequately address our problem. I am that person.

2)      What direction would you like to see development and/or redevelopment take in the city? Any goals or initiatives you would like to take as a council member?

One goal I have is to see Alpharetta’s Community Development Department show more faith in the people of Alpharetta as we look to the future. Planning consultant Della Rucker once wrote, “If the people who live around a proposed development oppose a development, chances are those people know something that is important to the health of their neighborhood and the larger community.”

Over the past four years there has been an enormous chasm between the vision of the future shared by people who live in Alpharetta and what the city is doing based on the directives of outside consultants, developers and regional commissions. The people of Alpharetta know what is best for our community, our families and our schools. The city needs to show more respect for their wisdom.

3)      What are your thoughts on the Downtown Development Plan?

I am committed to helping the people of Alpharetta achieve their vision of a thriving and prosperous downtown community. I am proud to have played a key role in calling for an improved plan two years ago and there is no question that this proposal is far better for our community and our taxpayers.

I support this new plan for downtown and I hope that when voters approve the bond issue in November they also elect me because they deserve a city council representative that will revisit the need for a $9 million dollar parking garage at this time. Regardless of how the November elections turn out I look forward to seeing a revival of downtown Alpharetta.

4)      Transportation is always a hot topic in Alpharetta. What are your goals in regard to transportation and traffic problems?

Traffic is one of the biggest issues facing Alpharetta residents and has been for years. The solution is to increase our road capacity to a level appropriate for our current traffic flows. It isn’t really that complicated but it will take more time and energy than my opponent has dedicated to the issue. Here is a three point plan to reduce congestion in Alpharetta:

*Stop high density zoning initiatives that will make our traffic problem worse.

*Synchronize Alpharetta’s traffic signals using real time technology.

*Target transportation dollars to our overburdened secondary roads and intersections.

5)      How would you say your past experiences have prepared you to be the best candidate in this election?

For more than a decade I have dedicate my time to protecting Alpharetta’s schools, quality of life and property values. I publicly advocated for the expansion of Alpharetta’s parks and was instrumental in preventing the city from making an enormous financial mistake with the previous City Center proposal. I have served as the president of an Alpharetta homeowners group with more than 1,500 member households and continue to promote public awareness and involvement as editor of the group’s newsletter. My commitment to public involvement is also why I spend my free time publicizing the issues that affect our city through my blog and other social media venues.

The thousands of hours I spend volunteering in Alpharetta schools and recreational programs give me a valuable insight into what makes Alpharetta great… our people. That experience will serve our city well as I continue to support and defend the quality of life we enjoy.

I hope this is helpful to the voters of Alpharetta as they decide who will best represent them over the next four years.

Jim Gilvin profile in the Alpharetta Revue

In case you missed my candidate profile in the Alpharetta Revue:

In November of 2007, none of the candidates for Alpharetta City Council ran on a platform of unbridled urban development for our city. Yet looking back, we see that is exactly what we got.

Shortly after that election, the City Council approved a 47-acre high-density project with a 15-story condo tower at exit 11 on Ga. 400. Then, they approved a new zoning initiative which will bring thousands more condos and/or apartments to the Milton High School district. Recently, the council approved a third mega project, The Peridot, on Haynes Bridge Road, and they are advancing a revised comprehensive land use plan that will add thousands more apartments and/or condos.

These unprecedented zoning changes will make traffic in Alpharetta absolutely unbearable. The children of Alpharetta will be forced to endure an endless cycle of disruptive school redistricting. The struggling downtown community, the new owners of Prospect Park and the vacant properties that now dot the landscape in Alpharetta will be faced with even more competition for scarce shoppers, dollars and residents.

The people of Alpharetta realize that some growth is desirable and inevitable. They also realize that there is a limit to how much growth our community can sustain without destroying the quality of life we now enjoy.

That is why I am running for the Alpharetta City Council Post 4 seat.

The voters of Alpharetta can now choose between two very distinct visions of their future. Voters can choose to elect the incumbent with a record of supporting unbridled growth regardless of the consequences, or they can choose to vote for my proven track record of promoting growth that Alpharettans can live with.

Alpharettans deserve a City Council representative that will work tirelessly to promote and defend their vision of Alpharetta’s future. I am that person.

You can read the whole thing at northfulton.com.

So be it

Over the last few days there have been numerous attempts on local blogs to distort who I am and what I stand for in this campaign. As a parent that had to explain to my children what “DUI Debbie” signs on the side of the road meant four years ago I am not surprised but I am disappointed.

My campaign is about fiscal responsibility, growth we can live with and a passion for defending the quality of life that makes Alpharetta great. My campaign is about the vision of our future that I share with the people of Alpharetta. I will not climb into the gutter with my opponent’s supporters because I am better than that and I know my views and positions will win this election.

Any person that thinks I will be intimidated by distortions or vile, vicious and false claims obviously doesn’t know me very well. That kind of pathetic nonsense only serves to inspire me more. I have never backed down from a bully in my life and I am not about to start now.

I generally ignore the attacks on me but they reached such a level on one website that I felt the need to respond just to set the record straight. You can read my response below:

It is sad that baseless personal attacks have become part of Alpharetta’s political arena ever since Cheryl Oakes first decided to run for city  council. But I saw how the vile smears worked against her opponent four years ago and I expected them to resurface now.

If anyone thinks the Chamber of Commerce should be frightened by my platform then they obviously don’t remember when Brandon
Beach, the chamber’s CEO, was elected to Alpharetta City Council. He made the same promises to protect the quality of life for our residents that I make now.

I am simply trying to restore what used to be the norm. That I am now attacked as “anti-growth” or “anti-business” speaks volumes.  I am not anti-growth. I am pro-Alpharetta.

Every day for more than a decade I have been working with and talking to the people who make Alpharetta a great city. The Moms and Dads volunteering at PTA. The volunteer coaches who make our local sports programs possible. The new families who moved to Alpharetta to raise their children. The downtown residents and business owners concerned about the future of the downtown center. The people who have lived in Alpharetta for decades but are dismayed by what they see happening to their city and are now contemplating a move they never wanted to make.

When the offices all empty out… these are the people still here. They are the people who know me and support me.

If I’ve lost the unhinged blog commenter vote… so be it.

I would like to thank all of my friends and neighbors for your outpouring of support over the first week of this campaign. Obviously my opponents have every intention of making this race an ugly spectacle but you can rest assured that we will not stoop to their level. And when we win in November the people of Alpharetta will have sent a resounding message that such tactics are not welcome in the arena of ideas.

Yes it is true. I have crossed over to the dark side.

Former City Clerk Sue Rainwater wishes me luck

Today I registered as a candidate for the Alpharetta City Council post 4 seat. After complaining about politics and politicians for most of my adult life I finally decided that it was time to put up or shut up.

And as any of my regular readers know, shutting up was never really an option.

Looking ahead to the next two months of campaigning I expect it will be exciting, daunting, frustrating and sometimes even rewarding. I don’t know how much of the campaign I will be able to share on these pages but fear not… the GA Jim blog will survive.