Lithonia voters got an opportunity to hear from the candidates for mayor and city council and their ideas and plans for the city at a candidates’ forum Oct. 20 at the Lithonia-Davidson Library.
Council members Shameka Reynolds and Darold Honore are seeking reelection, and longtime resident and business owner Fred Reynolds is vying for the council seat left vacant by Al Franklin.
Franklin is challenging current Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson for her seat. Franklin said one of the reasons he is running for mayor because people have asked him to run.
“I have people, not only in the administration but citizens, who like the idea of having Al Franklin potentially serving as mayor of the city,” he told the audience of approximately 50.
Franklin said he has experience in business development, which is an area he said Lithonia lacks. He said his administration will increase the private sector relationship if he is elected.
“Having served on the council for some time, it’s always who shows up at city hall [that] really determines what businesses are opening inside of our city,” Franklin said. “Secondly, we are going to connect and link those relationships with available programs through DeKalb and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and thirdly we want to also link those strategies with our comprehensive strategy.”
Jackson said much has been accomplished under her leadership because of relationships that have been built.
“We’re making tremendous process,” Jackson said. “It’s like building a house, you have to build a firm foundation to get started we have a little bit more work to do to strengthen our foundation and you will see the results of your efforts because ultimately it is about the community.”
Jackson also credited the working relationship between her and the council for the city’s improvement the last four years. Councilwoman Reynolds also mentioned the positive relationship between the mayor and council.
“The mayor and the council always work together as a team and I am a team player,” Councilwomen Reynolds said. “I’m ready to keep Lithonia moving forward, I love this entire community and I’m not going anywhere.”
“I have worked hard for the city for the last four years to make sure the city is moving in a positive direction that’s best for the city,” Honore said to voters. “It can move but it has to be in the best direction for the city and the citizens.”
Reynolds said “I’m looking at three things—education, economic development and open, honest and effective government,” he said. “When I saw a survey that went out and one of the things that came back said, ‘these people are closed-minded.’ That bothered me. I don’t want us to be considered closed-minded. We want to be open, we want to be effective and we want to be honest.”
Lithonia Plaza was a hot topic at the forum. Asbestos was removed from the city portion of the plaza in preparation for demolition. The city has been working with developers on ideas on what to develop in place of the plaza.
In May, Bryan Hartnett from Wendover Housing Partners met with Lithonia residents to discuss a proposed $12 million apartment development for that area. The complex will include 75 units consisting of 24 one-bedroom, 45 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartments.
Councilwoman Reynolds said she is excited about those plans.
“It’s still a work in progress,” she said. “The mayor and [City] Administrator [Eddie] Moody has done a lot of work with the city plaza. The asbestos is out and we’re still moving forward with the plans for the city plaza and it’s going to take a while. It’s going to look better soon.”
Honore said he is not happy with the plans being presented.
“This guy is trying to build a private three-story wooden fixture in the middle of downtown, which I think does not do anything for downtown whatsoever but just become another eyesore in a couple of years,” Honore said. “To have that many people right down there does nothing for Main Street. It’s just a drag on the appearance and we have plenty of places to put housing and downtown Lithonia is not the place for that type of housing.”
Jackson said the city will not have a repeat of the plaza.
“Any develop that comes will be of [good] quality,” she said. “It’s about reaching out to partners to increase the opportunity of economic development.”
Reynolds said the city has to do something to replace to plaza.
“We know that we have a problem with the [plaza] and we got to do something,” he said. “The administrator has done an excellent job; the mayor has done an excellent job moving this project forward, whatever the project happens to be. If someone was to come in here and they want to do whatever, we can’t demolish the thing and leave a great big hole. You got to do something, whether it’s a housing development, whether it’s commercial development, whether it’s mixed-use, we have to do something. It’s time to move that [plaza] out and move something else in.”
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