Voter Guide 2019––Chamblee

KEY DATES

  • October 7, 2019––Voter registration deadline
  • October 15, 2019––Early voting (Absentee In-Person) begins
  • November 5, 2019––Election Day

Check your voter registration: https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

Early Voting locations and times: click here

WHAT’S ON THE CHAMBLEE BALLOT?

  • City Council, District 2 (non-partisan)
    • Leslie C. Robson (Incumbent) – website
  • City Council, District 3 (non-partisan)
    • Thomas Hogan (Incumbent) – website
    • Karen Lupton – website
      • I have endorsed Karen and believe she will serve Chamblee well.
  • City Council, At-large (non-partisan)
    • Darren Kusman (Incumbent) – website
  • Referendum: Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?
    • I voted NO on the proposed changes in DeKalb Delegation, on the House floor, and will do so again at the ballot box.  I believe the changes will significantly weaken the power of the Ethics Board as explained more fully below. Read the full Act here.
    • History – In 2018, the Supreme Court of Georgia held the makeup of the Board was unconstitutional because a majority of members were appointed by non-elected entities, such as the DeKalb Bar Association, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Leadership DeKalb, and DeKalb universities.  The makeup process had been amended to include these non-governmental appointments after a successful countywide referendum in 2015. The lawsuit that ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Georgia was brought by then-DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton after she was charged with ethics violations in 2015.  Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, a new law is needed to correct the appointment process.
    • Major changes that would go into effect if the referendum passes:
      • Appointments to the Board:  The new law would provide that all appointments be made by elected officials in DeKalb County, to be made as follows:
        • 2 members appointed by DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia House of Representatives;
        • 2 members appointed by the DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia Senate;
        • 1 member appointed by the DeKalb CEO;
        • 1 member appointed by the DeKalb Probate Court Judge;
        • 1 member appointed by the chief judge of the DeKalb Superior Court;
        • 2 alternate members appointed by DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia House of Representatives; and
        • 2 alternate members appointed by the DeKalb legislative delegation in the Georgia Senate.
      • Board-member terms: The length of terms for ethics board members is reduced from three years to two — members can continue to serve two consecutive terms, meaning four years instead of six.
      • No more Ethics Officer: The Board is no longer required to hire an ethics officer to help facilitate complaints and investigations — instead an ethics administrator role was created that is more clerical in nature.
      • HR as intermediary for County employees: County employees must exhaust all remedies through DeKalb’s human resources department before filing a complaint to the ethics board.
      • Former County employees/elected officials exempted: Former county employees and former elected officials (e.g. former Commission Sharon Barnes Sutton) can no longer be the subject of an investigation.
      • CEO/Commission have approval power over Board policies/procedures: The Board must adopt policies and procedures to operate but these would be subject to review by the CEO and must be approved by a majority vote of the Commission.  After submitting the proposed policies/procedures to the CEO, the Commission would be required to vote on their approval within 30 days.
    • Why I’m Opposed:
      • The Supreme Court of Georgia presented the Legislature with one constitutional problem: to fix the appointment process for Board members.  Rather than merely address that single issue, various elected officials in the County have attempted to make significant tweaks to other areas of the current Ethics law, in a clear attempt to weaken the power of the Ethics Board.
      • Dr. Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory University Center for Ethics, reviewed the proposed changes and wrote a letter detailing his significant concerns, which you can find here
        • Dr. Wolpe’s coup de grace:
          • The bottom line is that this bill is clearly meant to weaken and dilute the excellent policy passed in 2015, without any convincing reasons to weaken the bill. DeKalb is slipping back to a former posture that got it in trouble in the first place. I would agree that this bill should be strongly opposed.”
    • DeKalb Citizens Advisory Council has formed to oppose the Referendum.  You can learn more about their efforts here.
  • Referendum: Shall the Act be approved which increases the homestead exemption from City of Chamblee ad valorem taxes for city purposes from $30,000.00 to $50,000.00 of the assessed value of the homestead for residents of that city who are under 65 years of age?
    • I do not live in Chamblee but would vote YES.
    • I co-authored and helped to successfully pass through both legislative chambers HB 272 to expand the homestead exemption for all Chamblee citizens under age 65.  In April, Gov. Kemp signed the bill into law, providing for a referendum on November’s ballot.  Read the full Act here.
    • To qualify for this homestead exemption, a resident of Chamblee need only apply for it through the city.
    • The current general homestead exemption is $30,000.  The proposed amendment would expand this to $50,000 and would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
    • The estimated impact (read analysis by City of Chamblee here):
      • Each Chamblee homeowner would see an average annual reduction in property taxes of $128.
      • For the City of Chamblee, this would result in an annual fiscal impact of approximately $310,000.  However, it would also encourage homeownership, which is an express goal of the City Council.
  • Referendum: Shall the Act be approved which revises a homestead exemption from City of Chamblee ad valorem taxes for residents of that city who are 65 years of age or older or who are totally disabled in order to authorize such exemption to apply to ad valorem taxes levied by the city, except for taxes levied by the city to pay interest on and to retire bonded indebtedness?
    • I do not live in Chamblee but would vote YES.
    • I co-authored and helped to successfully pass through both legislative chambers HB 273 to amend the homestead exemption for Chamblee seniors and disabled citizens.  In April, Gov. Kemp signed the bill into law, providing for a referendum on November’s ballot. Read the full Act here.
    • To qualify for this homestead exemption, a resident of Chamblee must be 65 years of older or present a certificate to the City from at least three licensed physicians certifying an individual as 100% disabled. 
    • The current homestead exemption for seniors and disabled persons covers all ad valorem taxes levied by the city.  A potential constitutional conflict arose regarding taxes levied by the city to pay interest on and to retire bonded indebtedness.  The proposed amendment would make clear that bond indebtedness taxes would not be included in the exemption and would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.