Bond referendum passes, Decatur elects commissioners and school board member

Posted by November 3, 2015

This story has been updated. 

By Mariann Martin, contributor 

A $75 million GO bond referendum to fund school construction and renovation projects for Decatur schools easily passed in Tuesday’s election.

Voters also re-elected incumbent city commissioner Scott Drake, elected Tony Powers and Brian Smith as new commissioners, and elected Tasha White to serve on the school board in District 2. Garrett Goebel ran unopposed for the school board seat in District 1.

Turnout was unusually high for a local election, with 39 percent of the registered voters showing up at the polls, according to information from the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections office.

As the bond referendum results came in, Brad Cornett, with the Decatur Citizens for Kids, described his reaction as “Pretty excited.”

“We’ve helped set the course for the future success of our community and our schools,” he added. Cornett said Decatur Citizens for Kids will remain engaged in ensuring the best use of money from the bond.

The GO bond, which passed with 78 percent support, will be used to build a new elementary school, renovate several schools and buy land for additional expansion. It will increase property taxes by about 8 percent, but many residents said they felt it was the best option to fund Decatur’s rapidly expanding school system. Schools expect enrollment to increase by about 2,000 students over the next five years.

Tasha White, who will serve on the School Board for District 2, supported the bond. With the additional funding and a new superintendent, it is an exciting time for Decatur schools, she noted. Her first priority as a new board member will be to help the school system grow and use the money from the bond as planned.

“I’m overjoyed, excited, humbled, shocked and grateful for this opportunity,” she said. “We need to keep the community informed and complete each phase before we move on to the next phase.”

Tasha White

Tasha White

White and her opponent Tom DeSimone praised each other for running a positive and clean campaign. DeSimone said he plans to remain involved in Decatur schools and possibly join a school leadership team.

Voters returned an incumbent city commissioner to office and elected two new commissioners in races that centered around diversity, taxes, traffic and development.

With the bond referendum passing, Powers, who will serve as at-large city commissioner, said his first priority is to get tax relief implemented for senior citizens.

“If we don’t get that done, there is going to be hell to pay,” he said, noting that Decatur will be in danger of having people move because of higher property taxes.

Tony Powers

Tony Powers

Powers said his second priority will to work on traffic issues such as cross walks, street calming and street safety.

“It’s a great day to be in Decatur. I am very humbled by the outcome and support I got from the community. It was truly a grass roots movement, and I will be forever grateful for every single person who got out and campaigned,” Powers said.

John Ridley, who ran against Powers, could not be reached for comment.

Drake also noted traffic issues as one of his main concerns for downtown Decatur and surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, he wants to focus on downtown development.

Based on initial election results, Drake got 49 percent of the vote, with only 128 more votes than his closest opponent Eric Tumperi. However, the city of Decatur elections are based on plurality, Drake said.

“The important thing is to see the community come out and vote and get involved in a positive way,” Drake said. “It’s great to win, but great voter turnout is more important.”

Decatur City Commissioner Scott Drake, pictured here with his family. Photo obtained via Facebook.

Decatur City Commissioner Scott Drake, pictured here with his family. Photo obtained via Facebook.

Brian Smith, who was elected District 2 city commissioner, said via email, “As we conclude this election season, the most encouraging thing is the number of candidates who were willing to come forward with ideas about how make Decatur even better.”

“Going forward, my goal is to continue the dialogue we began in this campaign around Decatur’s challenges,” Smith said. “Addressing our school facilities’ needs, keeping taxes low on our seniors, building an even more diverse community and supporting effective law enforcement policies are complicated issues. I need input from my fellow citizens to do it well, and I hope that everyone in our community will continue to keep the ideas we developed (in) this campaign front and center of this discussion.”


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  • Blackcatprowliii

    Same old, same old…

  • Ken

    I learned exactly nothing about Scott Drake during this campaign. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Literally, the strongest reason anybody could give me for why they were voting for him was because they went to school with him and he’s a nice guy. I’m sure that’s true, but he put forth no opinions on where he stands, no goals, and no plans for how to achieve any of his (non-stated) goals.
    Based on his history, and the quote in this article, we can expect to see a lot of new apartments being constructed downtown, fewer trees, and larger class sizes in our schools. At least he’s worried about downtown traffic, which he’ll alleviate by reducing lanes through business areas, thus shunting all those cars through our neighborhoods.

    • DavidDecatur

      Scott went to the forums and there was plenty of opportunity to ask him questions. Did you go to them?

    • DavidDecatur

      I couldn’t tell whether Scott’s main opposition was running for the school board or for the City Commission. I know his main competitor is an involved, intelligent man, but most of the that opponent’s website was about schools and that children were number 1. Children are important, but we’re a diverse community; run for the school board if that’s your main concern but don’t look as if you want to engineer a take-over of the City Commission just to push the CSD agenda. The City Commission and the School Board have different primary responsibilities.

    • Rob

      He is very open to talking to Decatur residents about what our city needs. Have you ever called or emailed him about your concerns?

  • Steve Vogel

    I hope each of the commenters here actually voted.

  • TaxDodgers

    There will be hell to pay if you transfer all the taxes to the not-senior, Tony.

  • Electorate

    At the same time that I congratulate Tasha White, I hope Tom DeSimone does stay involved and runs for a position on a school leadership team as he suggests he might. We need strong, committed leaders on SLTs. Hopefully, the new CSD Superintendent will recognize the value of SLTs and fully use them in the spirit of the system charter.

  • Bo

    Dude!! all you ever do is complain…. Is your life that miserable? If you hate the leadership in Decatur so much and hate the fact that they along with Peggy Merris and others have made this city the most desirable in the state as evidenced by the numbers of people that want to live here among other things then why don’t you move?? Tucker is now a City, why don’t you go troll their message boards and complain about everything you think they are doing wrong. By the way aren’t two of the three commission spots that were contested filled with NEW people? How is that “In with the old”

    • Doug Denton

      “In with the old”, as in Bill Floyd Status Quo Fan Club

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