An open and honest debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People of Alpharetta Deserve the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The future of Alpharetta

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

Why the change?

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

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

Alpharetta would never be the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Deserve Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are the facts.

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

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

We deserve better.

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.

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.

Campaign season picking up steam in Alpharetta

Alpharetta’s local elections are starting to heat up now that there is only a week remaining before the qualifying deadline.

So far we only have two contested races, the mayoral race and the City Council post 1 seat. That leaves two incumbents and one neophyte running unopposed for City Council but with a week to go a lot can happen.

Below is a snapshot of how things look right now.

Alpharetta Mayor’s Race

David Belle Isle

Doug Derito

Jim Paine

City Council Post 1

Ron Carter

Don Mitchell

City Council Post 5

Hans Appen

City Council Post 4

Cheryl Oakes

City Council Post 6

D.C. Aiken

Stay tuned because the fun should begin in earnest next week!