James Johnson looks to break the mold for Decatur City Commission candidates
Attorney James Johnson doesn’t have a resume of public service like his opponent for the District 2 City Commission seat, Brian Smith.
Johnson likes it that way. Smith chairs the Zoning Board of Appeals, is affable and connected to Decatur’s power brokers. Johnson thrives on being an outsider, someone who hasn’t checked the boxes that most people would when seeking a public office. He also has a penchant for profanity, as demonstrated by his remarks during a recent forum.
“My personal perception is that leadership in Decatur consists of about 15 people and they’re the same people that are always around, always hyping up their volunteer credentials, or leadership credentials,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of people, I think, like me who haven’t done those things, and I think there are a lot of people who are intimidated by not taking part in the system. When I saw the current slate, my first thought was it’s mostly the same old people. I said, ‘Well shit, I’ll do it.’ I think that Decatur needs fresh faces, fresh ideas.”
Johnson is a practicing trial attorney, focusing on “commercial litigation with an emphasis on real estate, lending, and construction disputes,” according to his company’s website. He lives in Decatur with his wife, Erin and their 2-year-old daughter, Drew.
He said if elected, he wants see Decatur become the first city in the state to pay teachers $60,000 per year. He wants to lower the age of the homestead tax exemption for seniors.
“I’m a proponent of raising permitting fees for new residential houses in Decatur with excess funds going directly to the schools,” Johnson said.
He also said he wants to promote downtown development.
“Decatur is awesome in that it’s got transit, it’s got infrastructure downtown,” Johnson said. “You don’t see too many big businesses there. I’d like to see offices get full downtown with new businesses. If those buildings are full with big businesses and occupancy taxes, that’s a hell of a way to fund schools.”
Johnson said the prospect of annexing more property into the city is one of his “pet peeves.”
“We talk about annexation because people are afraid to face financial realities,” he said. “They’re afraid to properly budget. … I think Decatur needs to go to the real issue that it’s not going to grow forever.”
Editor’s note: Decaturish is contacting every candidate running in the Nov. 3 municipal elections in Decatur and Avondale Estates. Candidates can send their biographical information and photo to email@example.com.