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Q&A With Greg Coleson, Decatur Commission Candidate, Part 1

The independent software consultant wants to see Decatur maintain the quality of the school system and develop more means of alternative transportation. His opponent, Scott Drake, will answer questions on Patch Tuesday.

in the March 19 election for the Decatur City Commission seat representing District 1. He grew up in East Point and Fayette County and attended Woodward Academy, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. He and his wife, Nicole, started the Decatur Farmers Market. The independent software consultant lives with his wife and daughter on Wilton Drive. For more information about Coleson, visit his campaign webpage.

The other candidate, Scott Drake, will answer questions Tuesday on Patch. Their answers to other questions will appear on following days. Answers have been edited for length.

Why are you running?

I love Decatur, great city. My wife and I spent a lot of time looking around for a place to live when we decided we were going to settle down and have children and we did a lot of research and we purposely decided on Decatur. I really want to try to make it even better.

Because I’m on the sustainability board with the city I’ve been exposed to a lot of things on the inside. The city does an amazing job. They have a great strategic plan and I think it’s all about priorities. The plan has pretty much all the things the city needs to do but it’s a matter of how you’d like to prioritize things.

What questions do you have for the candidates? Tell us in the comments box below.

I have some things I clearly have an interest in and they’re more green-related type things. I started the farmers market, I’m on the sustainability board, and I like things that create community and community spaces. I think I could a do a good job of having those priorities and a vision for the city and moving those things forward.

Do you favor the annexation the city commission recently proposed and do you think it has a chance of success?

The commission proposed a couple of options and the one I favor most is the commercial option, where it’s a little more on the revenue neutral or possibly the revenue positive side.

I think that would be a great way for the city to have, in the first place, potentially more revenue or maybe not, you have to look at the exact numbers. Secondly, it would be a very good way for the city to have more zoning control over those particular commercial areas, things like the Walmart and Suburban Plaza areas, maybe having a little bit more control over what businesses were in a particular area and having more control over the look and feel of the way the places were developed. So I’d say I’d definitely be in favor of trying to move the annexation forward.

Do you think it has a chance?

I feel like it’s going to be a hard sell. I don’t think the DeKalb delegation is too behind that and I don’t think the commissioners in DeKalb are interested in seeing it happen. I feel like the commissioners probably privately think Decatur could do a better job developing and controlling those commercial areas.

I used to live in Medlock, which is right across from Suburban Plaza, and I know a lot of people there, and we thought that Suburban Plaza was quite an eyesore for many, many years. … I think people in those neighborhoods would certainly enjoy the fact that potentially Decatur could give them a Decatur-type feel.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Decatur?

It seems to be our increasing school age population. I think we’re definitely having a big population bubble of children coming into the city and our school system is going to be burdened under that. Our school system is amazing and my daughter goes to it.

I think we’d like to maintain the quality of the school system and make it better. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges facing Decatur, ... that potentially if you have more students you’ll need more revenue, where do you get revenue from, and do you increase taxes. There are a lot of complex issues related there.

I really think Decatur needs to focus a bit more on alternative transportation, like say more on bikes lanes and maybe some greenways and some connection to the beltline, which is an amazing project the City of Atlanta is doing. … I think the city could benefit from some more infrastructure related to that.

Other stories on the special election.

Bill Floyd resigns Decatur City Commission seat.

Decatur Commission sets special election  for March 19.

Q&A with Greg Coleson, Decatur City Commission candidate, Part 1.

Roxanne February 26, 2013 at 05:31 PM
I applaud Mr. Coleson's efforts on the sustainability front and for helping organize the Decatur Farmer's Market. However, on a broader scale, what credentials or qualifications does he bring to the table in terms of applying his goals on a broader scale?
Robyn February 27, 2013 at 01:46 AM
In looking at Greg Coleson's stated experience on his campaign site and in reading what he feels the biggest issue facing Decatur is, it appears he might be better suited to serve on the School Board. It might be frustrating for him to have a role where he won't be able to initiate changes within the school system.
JayJay February 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Do you disagree that school enrollment is the biggest challenge facing Decatur? I can't disagree with that, and I would welcome someone on the City Commission that is in tune with CSD and recognizes how important it is for the city as a whole. It seems like his experience on the Environmental Sustainability Board and founding the Farmers' Market has tuned him into the important role of the Commission. Seems an impressive resume to me.
Robyn February 27, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Disagreement is not the issue here, job duties are. Enrollment is a school governance issue, not city commission. As a voter I want my candidate to understand his job and authority as a city commissioner. I commend him for caring about the future of our school system, but not sure how that matters for this job. As a city comisioner he may realize he does not hold the type of power he seems to assume that would possess to create effective change in school system. I only noted he made this a priority platform issue, and city commission is not where he can follow through with that platform. Often the school board may speak with the commision to inform the other party about what they do, but the commision has no authority over the school system. Though the commission and school board meet, the governance control of school is with the school board, including the decision over millage rate. Note several years ago the commission voted to not raise their portion of the millage rate, while the school board did. I commend Coleson for his sustainability work, but Drake has served on a variety of boards for the city as well as the DBA, and his knowledge of his job duties seems far superior, as well as his past collaboration and work with the commission and citizens of Decatur.
Decaturette February 27, 2013 at 05:45 PM
But school enrollment is directly linked to city activities, e.g. activities that draw families to Decatur (e.g. walkability, family-friendly events and services) or discourage them(condos or apartments) and especially the biggie.......annexation. So I can see where someone with an interest and experience in CSD would be a good addition to the city commission. Not advocating for one candidate over another, just saying that someone with a CSD perspective or expertise would be good on the city commission. Likewise, I wish that someone with a city perspective were on the School Board. In fact, the latter is an even bigger need. I think it's hard for the community perspective to penetrate school systems.
Greg Coleson February 27, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Please feel free come to one of my many Meet & Greets this weekend. We will be able to speak in person. All are welcome. Hosts: Scott & Molly Marrah 525 Clairemont Ave. Friday, 3/1 6 - 8pm Hosts: Corky Gallo 300 Adair St. Saturday, 3/2 3 – 5pm Hosts: Marie Mealor 249 Forkner Drive Sunday, 3/3 3-5pm Hosts: Greg & Tiffany Comrie, Ann & Bob Hesskamp, Kristin & Billy Smith 161 Vidal Blvd Sunday, 3/3 5:30-7p I will also be at the Decatur Farmers Market this evening for 3 -6pm and in Saturday morning from 10 - 12noon.
JayJay February 27, 2013 at 07:00 PM
I think Decatur Mom put it just right, and her examples are good ones. The Commission and the School Board make a lot of decisions that affect one another, and I like a vision of the Decatur government that recognizes that fact. But this is probably a bit of red herring, as I assume he was just answering the question posed to him, which wasn't about challenges facing the Commission but the City as a whole. And a Commissioner should have in view the City as a whole. I've had a few extended conversations with Greg, and I think he's the real deal. He's very positive, energetic, easy to talk to, down to earth, and has an attractive vision for Decatur. Meet him and judge for yourself.

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