Candidate Q&A – Tony Powers, Decatur City Commission
Decaturish.com contacted every candidate running for office in Decatur and Avondale Estates and provided them with a list of questions. Tony Powers is running for the at-large seat on the Decatur City Commission.
Here are his answers.
1) Why are you running for this position?
First, I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to answer these very important questions. Decaturish provides a much needed resource for our community. Decatur faces challenges as our city continues to grow. As our downtown develops, traffic becomes a bigger problem. Our seniors are forced to face difficult decisions, wondering whether they can afford to stay in their homes. We have seen a dramatic rise in our school population and insufficient space to house the students. I grew up in Decatur and have seen the changes first hand. I have volunteered on numerous committees to help our city deal with these challenges. Running for City Commissioner is the natural next step, given the many ways I have already served the community. I want to continue to be a part of the solution.
2) What makes you the most qualified candidate for the job?
As co-owner of Intown Ace Hardware on Scott Blvd., I have the business experience that is such an advantage to helping manage a city. My store is well known for its helpful approach to the community and its successful business model. I have served on and chaired non-profit boards such as the Decatur Education Foundation and City of Decatur appointed boards like the Planning Commission. I understand what it takes to run a profitable business along with working towards a common goal for the community. I also have a deep understanding of how our city works. My experience right here in Decatur makes me the most qualified candidate for job of City Commissioner At-Large.
3) Decatur’s decreasing diversity is a concern for many in the city. Are you concerned about Decatur’s diversity? If so, as an elected official, what will you do to promote diversity in the city of Decatur?
Decatur’s diversity is what makes this city so great. When I was 12 years old, my mother moved to Decatur under the Dollar Home Program. That type of inclusion is what made Decatur work all those years ago. While that program is no longer available, we have to make sure Decatur remains affordable and welcoming to all of our residents. My mother and my wife Leisa’s mother still live in the Oakhurst homes we were raised in. Leisa and I never wanted to raise our children anywhere else. Tax relief for our seniors and affordability for our low-income residents is a priority. I intend to keep promoting and protecting all of our citizens to be a part of keeping Decatur diverse.
4) Closely linked to the above question is a question about the cost of living in Decatur. High home prices and taxes are pricing many out of the city. What role should the city play in addressing this issue?
We as a community have to provide a place where our seniors can age in place. We have to remove those barriers that prohibit that. Taxes are a very big concern for our seniors and must be studied to allow them to remain in the homes they have lived in for decades. We must also protect our low-income residents making sure their homes are protected as well.
5) Relationships between the city of Decatur and City Schools of Decatur have been strained at times. What will you do to improve the relationship between the two?
We have to communicate and cooperate. For example, the city operated a maintenance facility and so did the school system. Together they now share a new combined facility. We have to find more solutions like that. The fantastic school system Decatur has developed is one of the biggest assets our city has so we must make sure that the commission and school board have a productive working relationship. I have been involved with the schools since my daughters were students, serving as PTA President, as well as the Chair of the Decatur Education Foundation, so my experience will help me bridge the communication between the two entities.
6) Decatur has several apartment projects in various stages of development. Do you support the continued development of apartments in Decatur? Why or why not?
The apartments that we have now are the direct result of the strategic plan that the Decatur community created in 2010. The market will help dictate whether we continue to develop apartments anywhere in Decatur. In addition to the market, we have to continue to plan together as a community. Apartments provide opportunities for people who can’t afford to buy here, thus helping us stay diverse. They allow our teachers, firefighters, police officers as well as the people who work in Decatur’s local businesses a chance to live close to their jobs.
7) Community groups in Decatur have expressed a desire for more green spaces, like parks. If elected, what will you do to promote the development of green space in the city?
It is clear that people of Decatur value our greenspace. We want to protect whatever greenspace we can. The city recently purchased 2 acres of greenspace, which brings the total for our city to 110 acres. I support every effort we can make as a community to preserve our greenspace. We must strike a balance between development and greenspace so people can continue to enjoy the outdoors.
8) Being a commissioner will require working closely with the city manager of Decatur. Are you satisfied with the performance of City Manager Peggy Merriss? Why or why not?
Yes, Peggy has executed the plans that the commission put together and the city has been praised for its efforts.
9) What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the city of Decatur?
Managing growth and, at the same time, keeping our sense of community. Decatur is used as an example to other cities of how great a city can be. We need to continue being that example by strong leadership and progressive ideas to solving the issues that face us now and in the future.
10) What is Decatur’s greatest strength as a city?
Our ability for community collaboration is Decatur’s greatest strength. The formula that makes Decatur envied by other cities is our active citizens, our diversity, and our focus on collaboration. Better Together (http://www.decaturnext.com/) is a perfect example of that. Decatur brought a wide variety of our residents together to come up with ideas and solutions to make our city the best it can be.
11) If elected, do you promise to behave in an ethical and transparent manner?
I have no reason to change how I have served as an active and ethical citizen of Decatur for the last 38 years. My family volunteers, we vote, we help our neighbors. My cell phone number is on all my materials. I promise to always be ethical, transparent, and accessible.
The election is Nov. 3 and early voting begins on Oct. 12.