Last week’s forum at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, hosted by the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, were the candidates’ latest stop en masse.
The upcoming T-SPLOST referendum, commissioners’ purported rocky working relationship with DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and the precarious state of Stonecrest Mall were among the topics broached during the event.
Sharon Barnes-Sutton is attempting to fend off challengers Steve Bradshaw and Clyburn Halley to retain her District 4 seat.
Sutton defended her track record.
“My resume, my experiences back up what I say … I made some promises; I kept them. I’m getting results,” said Sutton.
Bradshaw alluded to Martin Luther King, Jr. in his closing statements to a near- capacity crowd.
“Dr. King, in his mountaintop speech, said there’s some difficult days ahead … he could’ve been talking about DeKalb County in 2012,” Bradshaw said. “If you need somebody to jump in that foxhole with you, that’s me.”
For his part, Halley addressed the crowd about education and public safety before stepping down.
“DeKalb County needs to be working more with the schools – the teachers cannot do it by themselves,” Halley said. “And the reality is if Brookhaven is incorporated, you’re going to lose police officers, lose services.”
Both Sutton and Halley voiced their displeasure with the current incarnation of the T-SPLOST initiative, citing the lack of MARTA train track expansion into South DeKalb. Bradshaw expressed his support for it, acknowledging reservations about the plan but said he was swayed by the absence of a viable alternative.
District 5 incumbent Lee May is facing opposition from Gina Mangham, Kenneth Samuel and Andre White.
May was peppered with questions and remarks from challengers about the board’s perceived at-times dysfunctional relationship with Ellis.
“Our form of government really breeds that kind of friction,” May said. “If [Ellis] and I are both re-elected, we have to figure this thing out for the future of DeKalb … but contrary to what you think, the board and the CEO actually agree 98 percent of the time; it’s just that 2 percent that [the media] harps on.”
May’s opponents seized on the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
Mangham countered, saying it is just not acceptable to say the county needs another form of government.
“At the end of the day, there has to be a real effort to come to some sort of compromise … too many stalemates have hurt the county,” Mangham said.
“This has come down to a crisis of personalities … we’ve got to stop playing politics with the lives of people,” said White.
“I’ve seen DeKalb County go from being a premier county in the state of Georgia to facing some severe challenges,” Samuel said. “We may have come over in different boats, but we’re all in the same boat now.”
Incumbent Kathie Gannon faced off at the forum with challenger Edmond Richardson for her District 6 seat.
“District 6 is the most diverse in DeKalb County and the best,” Gannon told the crowd. “I’ve been working with you to conserve the environment and to protect our neighborhoods … and I’ve worked with businesses, residents and stakeholders to come up with a vision for your communities.”
Richardson also stated his case.
“District 6 needs new representation,” he said. “We have to hire police officers and pay them what they deserve … and we have to be fiscally responsible with your tax dollars.”
Both challengers to Ellis’ office, Gregory Adams and Jerome Edmondson, were also on hand at last week’s forum to present their respective cases for election.
Ellis was absent as he was partaking in a town hall-style meeting with residents at the Community Achievement Center in Decatur.