Candidate Questionnaire

Cobb County Commission District 3 Candidate Questionnaire

Questions submitted by members of Canton Road Neighbors, Inc. 04/29/18


In 2010 and 2012 CRN hosted Meet and Greet events for Chairman and Commissioners and in 2016 we sponsored a Chairman Candidate Forum with Bells Ferry Civic Assoc. Because our members have asked some questions specific to Canton Road, and because there is no guarantee that these questions would be chosen at a Debate, we are sending this questionnaire. There are also several general questions included. This will not lead to an endorsement, but the Q &A will be posted on the CRN web site. Thank you for your time.

A number of questions and responses are posted below.

Canton Road Development

2. Can we expect any kind of a public park with walking trails and playground equipment for families in the immediate southern end of Canton highway ?

Smith:  Years ago (1995 when Little Noonday Creek was being constructed) it was suggested that a trail be run along the sewer easement from Noonday Park to the Gritters Library and Shaw Park area, then south along the Little Noonday Creek sewer easement but the previous Commissioner and the sitting Commissioner did nothing to help this project to get off the ground. There is also a property on Kurtz Rd. that is available for purchase and could be bought under the current parks bond program

Holko:We have at least 2 Million dollars in unspent parks money. Assuming the land is available - I think this would be an excellent choice for spending that money.

4. When will we get sidewalks along Canton Hwy.? They have been built in many other places.

Smith:  While there are many sections of sidewalks along Canton Rd. there are still gaps especially in the southern end. These gaps need to be filled in by using SPLOST money or as properties rezone. I would prefer to use the SPLOST money and have the future applicants for rezoning donate money back to the CDOT sidewalk fund for any sidewalks installed at the County’s expense.

Holko: At this time, it appears that the County does not require sidewalks except in new development -
and requires citizens to self fund sidewalks. It is possible that this can be funded with the 1% tax
collected for DOT projects. I will have to consult extensively with zoning and planning to
determine how sidewalks can be planned with minimal disruption to traffic.

5. What is the continuing vision/thought for Canton Road? What new steps could be taken to encourage more development that hasn't been tried?

Smith: The local Commissioner and the Cobb County Economic
Development Department need to work together to try and attract more small business to the corridor
such as full-service restaurants, bakeries, specialty shops, produce stores, and other types of business
that fit the need of a community. The businesses need to be offered inducements such as a small
business loan, some type of credit for hiring local residents, lower sewer connection fees, deferred
inspection costs or other cost reductions required for a startup business.

Holko:  First, I would examine what’s already been tried. I’m in favor of Community Improvement
Districts and limited tax incentives for small businesses. The entrepreneurial spirit is a vital part
of the American Story and I’m sure that Cobb County has plenty of citizens that would love to be
a part of that story. The Small Business Association would be a good place to start the
conversation about what we can do to attract local businesses to Canton Road.

6. Do you think it is a good idea for the County to have enough tax money to run itself? Or do you believe that Taxes should always be as low as possible? Which Departments would you cut first to save money? Do you foresee any problems if you cut these budgets?

Smith:  A County should always generate enough funds to run its self without being in the red. Low taxes are
wonderful, they attract business and residents, but they are a come on especially if you cannot furnish the normal and customary amenities such as libraries, parks, playgrounds, arts, senior centers, transit, trails and greenspace people are accustomed to having available to them. Eliminating duplication, merging several smaller departments into one or merging them into an associated department thus eliminating management positions no longer needed are doable and should be considered foremost.

Holko:  Taxes should be sufficient to fund services necessary to maintain the high quality of life we’ve
come to expect in Cobb County. I honestly have a hard time saying that I support cutting any
department. It is possible that some departments may be top heavy and should have fewer
executives and more “boots on the ground” workers. As it stands right now, many of our workers
are underpaid compared to other counties and metro areas with similar populations and costs of
living. I cannot in good conscience say that I am comfortable cutting any of these departments
or services in any significant way.

7. What is your plan to bring Cobb Fire and Police personnel up the recommended levels?

Smith:  Per 2017 data our firefighters were 12% under national pay average and our police were 17% under
national pay average. We must make sure our fire and police personnel are paid to the national
average, equipped with the necessary accessories to perform their duties and we must have the correct
ratio of personnel to resident.h: 

Holko: Like many things, it all comes back to the money. We simply have to have more money coming
in. I support a reasonable increase in the millage rate to adequately fund county services. This
is predicated on sane and reasonable property assessments and some citizens are currently
reporting significant increases in their property assessment that is causing unreasonable
increases in their tax bill. This is an egregious sleight of hand, and is not at all what I intended
when I stated that I support a millage increase.

8. As Cobb County expands, how do you plan to adhere to the Comprehensive plan and accommodate

growth and green space?

Smith:  The Comprehensive, Land Use Plan and Development Standards were
created as a guide, while they are nor code or policy they need to be conformed to as closely as
possible. The Development Standard for example states that metal building should be in Light or
Heavy Industrial areas, but yet we have them up and down every major and minor roadway some
disguised with a brick or stucco front. What use is a guide if you deviate from it?
We must pay attention to these guides and ensure that future growth both meets the plans, standards
as well as the zoning classification.
In regard to adding greenspace I would ask any applicant for rezoning to donate any floodplain to
the county. And, to look at existing developments that have significant flood plain property within
their development to consider donating the land to the county.

Holko: The land use plan currently calls for 10.5 acres of park space per 1000 residents. Pocket parks
in large developments are one way that we can be sure we are preserving enough green space
to maintain a healthy environment, and it may be possible to convert some blighted or abandoned properties into pocket parks as the land use plan does not specify that the acreage must be contiguous. Although - some minimum standards must be set. 2 trees and a mud puddle with 6 blades of grass are not going to cut it.

9. Cobb County is experiencing tremendous growth in the business sector. How do we prevent the

county from changing from a place where people want to live long-term and raise their families, to a

more congested area that pushes current residents to less urban counties?

Smith:  We must follow suit with the City of Smyrna, Kennesaw, Acworth and now Powder Springs to create pockets of “Work’ Live, Play mini communities or areas. These areas can take the place of older abandoned or under-utilized shopping
centers, vacant property or blighted properties. As we all know the days of large shopping centers will
be continuing to diminish as more and more companies expand their on-line shopping and offer next
day delivery.

Holko: Following the recommendations of the planning commission would be an excellent first step.
People bought their homes because those homes met their needs. While businesses are an
important contributor to our county, I would like to shift the focus to expanding small businesses
and ensuring that development proposals meet the land use plan.

11. Cobb County is one of Georgia's most populated areas yet there are only 4 commission districts

with @179,000 residents per district. If elected would you pledge to approach the Legislature to add at

least two new commission districts in Cobb County?

Smith:  Currently due to the diversity and dense population of some areas of Cobb, 6 commission districts would be better than the current 4, in the near future I see the need for 8 as the population increases and a more diversified mix of residents happens.

Holko: I would approach this issue cautiously. Cobb is a large and diverse county and the districts
would have to be created in such a way that all citizens are fairly represented. Ideally a
non-partisan independent study would be commissioned to make sure that the new districts are
compact and fair.

12. What is your position on term limits and if elected would you support a referendum to get citizen input on the issue?

Smith:  I strongly believe we should have term limits for every elected official, whether it be
local, state or federal. Too many people have made a political office their career rather than holding a
useful position in the real world. I would like to be able to include a referendum on the 2019
November Ballot to limit the terms of any elected Cobb County official.

Holko: I think that when people spend too long in the government they lose touch with the people they
are representing. One of the main reasons I am running is because the current Board of
Commissioners does not appear to represent the will of the citizens, but rather the will of
developers and special interests. I absolutely support seeking a public referendum on this topic.

13. What would you like to see the county accomplish in the next 4 years?

Smith:  First, I would like to get the budget balanced and the deficit problem solved. Then get some sort of rapid
transit system underway, require the Cobb County Development Authority to have full BOE
approval before giving out any tax abatements, and to see those abatements that do get
approved give the County a return before 10 years. Get a referendum on the ballot to limit term
limits to 8 years for elected County officials. Get a program underway to induce small business
to move to Cobb County. Acquire more greenspace by asking developers and existing
developments to donate floodplain. With the assistance of FEMA purchase every property that
has been flooded during heavy rain events in the last 10 years and turn that property back to
nature. Last would be to encourage the Cobb County Humane Society along with assistance
from other local animal rescue groups to turn the current Animal Services into a no kill facility.

Holko:  I would like to see our parks, libraries and senior centers fully funded. I would like our
employees to have living wages, and I would like developers to be compelled to comply with the
land use plan. I’d like to see us come together and shatter the perception that Cobb is unwelcoming to diversity and progress by creating a Diversity Advisory Council, a Civil and Human Rights Council, and exploring our transit options to bring us into the 21st century. I want the citizens of Cobb County to feel that their elected officials are working for them - not against them. And I would like to see more transparency. We shouldn’t have to file Freedom of
Information Act requests to get basic information about the activities of our elected officials.
In short, I want Cobb County to be a model of useful government. We can, and should, be
expecting more from our elected officials.