The League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County and Leadership Sandy Springs co-sponsored the forum, which drew a better-than-average crowd, numbers-wise.
The league’s Sally Fitzgerald, the mediator, lobbed questions at candidates who qualified for city council and mayoral races that touched on a range of issues — including proper utilization of a budget surplus, alleviating traffic woes and amending the tree ordinance.
Rusty Paul and Bob Brown, vying to succeed Mayor Eva Galambos, capped off the night with their session.
While, overall, the night lacked fireworks in terms of contentious moments and rhetoric, Paul and Brown expressed differing views on the fundamental role of the city’s chief administrator.
“The mayor is not the king job — the mayor doesn’t really do a whole lot,” Brown said. “The city council does everything. … Staff prepares it for city council and city council goes back and forth.
“But the mayor has to be a leader, has to have some sort of vision of what needs to be done in the community. [He or she] sort of has to direct the staff and city council in different ways. … That’s where I feel I can probably [be most effective.]”
Paul retorted that he sees the position as being of more importance.
“Mayor is the one office that’s elected by everybody,” he said. “The mayor sets the agenda, mobilizes people to get behind major, big ideas … and then builds the consensus within the council and the community to make great things happen.”
As with all the other municipal contenders, the mayoral candidates were given a minute to validate their campaigns during closing remarks.
“I’ve been here a long time. I understand the workings of business and I’ve listened about the [city’s] problems over the years,” Brown said. “I have some great solutions. Complaints are real easy — everybody can complain about this and that — but I have some ideas to do something about it.”
Paul responded in kind by saying, “We need to focus on our community and our neighborhoods, improvements emphasizing our parks, greenspace and street repairs. … All the things we’ve done over the last eight years have really made an impact on this community.
“We need to execute this downtown redevelopment project; it’s a one-time deal. It’s a 50-year decision. … It has to be done right and has to have the maximum amount of community involvement, participation and input. … That’s where I’m really going to focus — bringing folks together to make good things happen in Sandy Springs that we deserve.”