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Sparks fly at Johns Creek City Council candidate debate

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Nine candidates vying for four City Council seats met at The Standard Club Sept. 30 to debate issues and attempt to set themselves apart from the crowd.

No incumbents are running in any of the five Johns Creek municipal races this year.

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Student Leadership Johns Creek hosted the Thursday evening debate, having hosted a mayoral candidate debate one week prior.

Similar to the previous debate, questions centered primarily around the proposed town center, public safety and stormwater. Additional attention was paid to the city’s amenities including parks and the arts.

All of the candidates expressed support for the town center project which is scheduled to be reviewed by the city’s Planning Commission and City Council later this month.

The candidates also supported efforts to restore and preserve the Macedonia African Methodist Church Cemetery.

Public health questions divided the candidates during lightning-round portions of the debate wherein candidates had to provide yes or no answers to questions.

Asked whether they would support a mask mandate if advised by public health officials candidates Lee Heard-Tucker, Dilip Tunki, Rashmi Singh, Cassandra Littlejohn, Anthony Shorter and Pablo Cecere said they would, while Stacy Skinner, Bob Erramilli and Larry DiBiase said they would not.

Each post’s candidates debated each other with the Post 3 candidates selecting from their two opponents who they would debate for each of their questions.

Two candidates, Heard-Tucker and Tunki, are running for the Post 1 seat currently held by Councilman Lenny Zaprowski who is not seeking reelection.

Heard-Tucker and Tunki agreed about the need to further research stormwater pain points in the city before weighing decisions to dredge in private communities. They both acknowledged progress made by the sitting City Council and the city’s new stormwater-focused contractors.

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The two shared the same approach when asked about potential relocation of fire stations and fire station repairs. Again, the two said they would need city staff to research the issue and to collaborate with the fire chief to come up with a fiscally responsible and prudent solution, though Tunki said he did not believe there to be an issue with Fire Department infrastructure.

Singh and Skinner are vying for the Post 2 seat which was vacated by mayoral candidate Brian Weaver in July.

Singh and Skinner disagreed about which items in the city’s budget are currently underfunded.

Skinner argued that recreation and parks should receive additional funding, while Singh pointed to the city’s $40 million parks bond as evidence that parks had already received enough funding. Instead, Singh argued, more money should be allocated to expanding the city’s sidewalk system.

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The two also butted heads when Singh questioned Skinner about an item listed on her campaign website stating that she wants to keep Johns Creek “affluent.” Singh asked if Skinner meant to exclude middle and lower economic classes from the city.

Skinner disagreed with Singh’s characterization saying that “affluent” can mean many things, but she also stated she was against apartments in the city. She also cited a desire to keep schools from getting overcrowded.

Erramilli, Littlejohn and Shorter are vying for the Post 3 seat which will be vacated by mayoral candidate John Bradberry in December.

Littlejohn and Erramilli were in agreement about valuing and showcasing the arts in Johns Creek. Both said they supported the proposed Legacy Center.

Shorter diverged with Littlejohn on the implementation of workforce housing within the city.

Littlejohn argued that more individuals who work in Johns Creek should also be able to afford to live within the city. Shorter said he would prefer for neighboring cities to bear more of the brunt of affordable housing, though Shorter did conclude by saying that “affordable housing” means different things to different people.

The Post 5 seat is contested by Cecere and DiBiase. Councilwoman Stephanie Endres is not seeking reelection.

Post 5 candidates Cecere and DiBiase praised the city’s police department and its efforts to engage and integrate with the community. Both said they would encourage the department to keep up current programming, like Coffee with a Cop.

The two also discussed the specifics of the town center which DiBiase called an enormous lift that required creative thinking. Cecere discussed intentions to make the city more appealing to commercial developers.

Cecere and DiBiase were halted in the middle of responding to questions due to a fire alarm.

The venue caught fire at the tail end of the evening, cutting off DiBiase mid-sentence and ending the debate before any candidate could deliver their closing statements.

Fire at The Standard Club cuts Johns Creek City Council candidate debate short

Student Leadership Johns Creek is collecting submitted clips of candidates’ planned closing statements which they will post to their YouTube page to accompany the debate’s recording, Executive Director Irene Sanders said.

Both the debate and the closing statements can be accessed from the Student Leadership Johns Creek website studentleadershipjohnscreek.com.

Election day is Nov. 2.

Reach Sydney Dangremond at 770-847-7404. Follow her on Twitter @syddang_.

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