District Two Candidate Ratings and Responses

We asked the candidates running for City of Decatur Commissioner a few questions. Here are the District Two candidates’ responses and our ratings.

Phil Wiedower

Decatur Bicycle Coalition Board Rating: A+

Where do you walk and ride a bike? Do you have thoughts about how safe it is in those areas? What kind of plans do you imagine that might improve our infrastructure, making it safer for walkers, people on bikes, and people in wheelchairs?

I grew up in Arizona, walking, and biking to school every day, and I wanted the same for my children. Now living in Decatur, we walk or bike throughout the city whenever possible; it is one of the biggest reasons we chose to live in Decatur. My wife or I walk my daughter to Winnona Park Elementary School from South McDonough, near College Heights, and my son walks with a friend to Renfroe Middle School. We have chosen routes we feel are the safest for us and the kids, and while there is not any way to get to Winnona Park without crossing Candler Road, the crossing guard, Ms. Charlene Germany, has made the route much safer. Of course, the traffic in Decatur has increased over the years, and I have some safety concerns for the children walking and rolling throughout the city.

Admittedly, some of the recent projects Decatur has undertaken have been controversial with many of our residents, such as the narrowing of streets and developing protected bike lanes on North McDonough and Commerce Drive and the installation of the planters on West Howard. Other actions, while positive, will take longer to realize like the adopted changes to the UDO requiring the development of sidewalks, when one does not exist, for new developments and renovations.

I recognize that many residents are concerned about the increase in traffic throughout the city and are not in favor of projects which restrict the flow of traffic through town. However, as of 2018, Decatur has approximately 26,000 residents, where more than 20% of the population are school-aged children. I do not disagree; we need to consider the flow of traffic with future projects. We must also continue to support and promote projects that will continue to improve the safety of our residents who use alternatives to automobiles as their primary or secondary mode of transportation.

The Decatur Community Transportation Plan Update of 2018 recommends that the City of Decatur adopt Vision Zero. Do you support this? If so, what specific, actionable plans do you have to help the city achieve Vision Zero? Are there particular parts of the city that you find particularly worrisome or dangerous for motor vehicle drivers and people on bikes or on foot? What changes might you advocate for in those parts of the city?

I strongly support Vision Zero! Working in the Risk and Insurance Industry, I see human lives translated into dollars and cents every day. While this may be important to running a successful business, it shouldn’t enter the conversation when discussing projects in the City of Decatur. I believe our elected officials and city leaders need to look beyond solving the problems of today, but work towards solving the challenges of tomorrow.

It’s important for residents to understand that the City of Decatur develops a value-based annual budget that ties every line item back to the Strategic Plan. The 2010 Strategic Plan showed that residents continued support for the Community Transportation Plan, adopted in 2007 and states,

“At the heart of the Decatur Community Transportation Plan is the creation and support of a healthy and active community. For Decatur, that means the establishment of a safe, integrated transportation system that promotes bicycling and walking as a viable alternative to automobile travel. It also means increased connectivity between neighborhoods and destinations as well as equity for users of all ages and abilities. Four guiding principles shaped the creation of the Decatur Community Transportation Plan: the promotion of Health, Choice, Community, and Connectivity. The City chose to pursue transportation facilities that support the health of individuals in the community by promoting active living.”

I am willing to make decisions that may be seen as undesirable in the short-term for more favorable long-term benefits that align with the vision our residents have for Decatur. These decisions may include the continued narrowing of streets and the development of protected pedestrian/bike lanes along with the reduction of traffic flow through the City.

The areas of concern in Decatur I continue to see and hear about from residents are Candler Road and the intersection of Howard Avenue, College Avenue, and Atlanta Avenue. Since Candler Road is a state road, we must continue to work with GDOT to implement measures to reduce the speed of automobiles along this street. The Commission recently voted to approve the detailed planning, design, and development of a new railroad crossing at Atlanta Avenue and College/Howard Avenue. These plans will be reviewed and approved for construction next year. I will carefully review these plans to ensure they align with Vision Zero.

The Decatur PATH Connectivity Implementation Plan recommends a connected set of protected multi-use paths to make walking, biking, and wheelchair use safer in Decatur for children and others. What are your thoughts on the plan and its recommendations? What might you do to further its implementation? Is there anything you might change?

While it is not a popular position with those who are required to commute to work every day, I fully support the plan and all of the recommendations to create a safely connected community. While we currently live in a society where we want to make it easier for automobiles to move from place to place, we should not be afraid to take actions that require drivers to change their behaviors. We need to work together to ensure this continues to be a priority for our city in the 2020 Strategic Plan, which will allow for the continued funding of the projects outlined in the Decatur PATH Connectivity Implementation Plan. Just as we redo our Strategic Plan every ten years, I believe we should revisit the Decatur PATH Connectivity Implementation Plan in 2026.

Many municipalities are reexamining their parking minimum requirements. For example, the City of Atlanta recently lowered its parking minimum requirements. (Decatur’s parking minimum stipulations are in Article 7 of the City of Decatur’s UDO.) Research suggests that lowering or removing parking minimum requirements decreases traffic, promotes sustainability, and increases amounts of affordable housing. What are your thoughts on Decatur’s parking minimums? Would you support the removal of parking minimum requirements in the city?

I can see that without having a connected community, accessibility to parking is viewed as essential to attract and maintain a thriving commercial business. However, I believe that creating a connected city will allow local businesses to thrive with the support of residents and I am in support of reducing or removing minimum parking requirements.

Studies show that the most important factor in improving safety outcomes for all street users is to decrease traffic speeds. Unfortunately, The Georgia Department of transportation has frequently been an impediment to decreasing speed limits in the city of Decatur, particularly on state routes, such as South Candler Street, Scott Boulevard, and Clairmont Road. How do you imagine you might engage with the Georgia Department of Transportation to make our streets safer?

I recognize the priorities of Decatur do not always rank high on the list for GDOT. Therefore, I think the only way we will ever be able to get them to take action is to take the ‘squeaky wheel’ approach and continue to engage with GDOT regularly. We need to ensure GDOT understands how important reducing the speed on these roads is to our residents and our desire to have these changes implemented.

Road diets have been shown to be a good way to improve safety outcomes for all street users, especially for people on foot, on bikes, and in wheelchairs, who are the most vulnerable users of our streets. They can also have a positive effect on an area’s economic growth. What are your thoughts on road diets in the city of Decatur?

There is sufficient research demonstrating the value and effectiveness of Road Diets on improving safety and improving economic growth. We have implemented Road Diets in several recent projects throughout the city, and we should continue to use this solution, where feasible, in future projects.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in its 2018 report that humans have twelve years to make a series of urgent changes to phase out CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to forestall catastrophic consequences. What actions do you support in the City of Decatur to drastically decrease CO2 emissions? How do your transportation and mobility priorities support CO2 reduction?

We need to reduce our CO2 emissions substantially, and we need to make changes at a national and global level. This of course does not preclude us from acting responsibly at the local level. The City has recently approved the development of a Request For Proposal (RFP) to move our financial services away from Wells Fargo to a financial institution which more closely aligns with our values. Additionally, we should continue to evaluate, strengthen, and enforce the City’s tree ordinance to preserve and promote our tree canopy.

I am not running for City Commissioner to push my own agenda. If elected, it is my responsibility to support and promote the priorities of the residents of District 2. Taking action to reduce our CO2 emissions includes transportation and mobility issues; however, we should examine all of the activities the City undertakes to ensure we are taking positive steps toward reducing our CO2 emissions.

 

Lesa Mayer

Decatur Bicycle Coalition Board Rating: B+

Where do you walk and ride a bike? Do you have thoughts about how safe it is in those areas? What kind of plans do you imagine that might improve our infrastructure, making it safer for walkers, people on bikes, and people in wheelchairs?

I walk to and from the East Lake Marta station three to five days per week, as I use Marta as my primary method to commute to work. Recently, I have experienced some challenges during my commute, such as blocked or impassible sidewalks due to construction projects which have lead to having to cross at unsafe points or having to walk into the street to avoid the impediments. Some of our intersections in Decatur are difficult to safely cross. I think that often, pedestrians and cyclists are viewed as an inconvenience to drivers, rather than an actual commuter who deserves that same courtesy that we would offer to other drivers. It is so important to consider that the highest concentration of pedestrians in District 2 are our children. Many community members have worked hard to insure that our children have a safe way to get to and from school. Safe, well lit sidewalks and functional crosswalks are also essential for the kids and teens walking to after school activities, Oakhurst Village and the Square.

The Decatur Community Transportation Plan Update of 2018 recommends that the City of Decatur adopt Vision Zero. Do you support this? If so, what specific, actionable plans do you have to help the city achieve Vision Zero? Are there particular parts of the city that you find particularly worrisome or dangerous for motor vehicle drivers and people on bikes or on foot? What changes might you advocate for in those parts of the city?

I support Decatur’s efforts to adopt Vision Zero. I believe that the most immediate and impactful change that we should work with the DOT to implement would be the reduction of speed limits on streets that are mostly residential and have heavy foot traffic, like South Candler. Awareness is also incredibly important and helping to encourage small shifts in the way that we drive, in order to make our streets safer may also make an impact.

The Decatur PATH Connectivity Implementation Plan recommends a connected set of protected multi-use paths to make walking, biking, and wheelchair use safer in Decatur for children and others. What are your thoughts on the plan and its recommendations? What might you do to further its implementation? Is there anything you might change?

I love idea of the PATH plan. However, I believe that the actual plan may need to be reassessed. An evaluation of the traffic patterns of the future residents of the developments that are currently under construction needs to occur to insure that we are implementing the best possible plan for all of Decatur. I would also like to hear from people who are currently using the existing paths to understand what’s working, what’s not being used and why.

Many municipalities are reexamining their parking minimum requirements. For example, the City of Atlanta recently lowered its parking minimum requirements. (Decatur’s parking minimum stipulations are in Article 7 of the City of Decatur’s UDO.) Research suggests that lowering or removing parking minimum requirements decreases traffic, promotes sustainability, and increases amounts of affordable housing. What are your thoughts on Decatur’s parking minimums? Would you support the removal of parking minimum requirements in the city?

A thoughtful reexamination of the parking minimums would be appropriate, during which we would need to take in to consideration the needs of the individuals who commute into Decatur daily, the potential impacts to Decatur’s businesses and our goals for safer routes for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchairs.

Studies show that the most important factor in improving safety outcomes for all street users is to decrease traffic speeds. Unfortunately, The Georgia Department of transportation has frequently been an impediment to decreasing speed limits in the city of Decatur, particularly on state routes, such as South Candler Street, Scott Boulevard, and Clairmont Road. How do you imagine you might engage with the Georgia Department of Transportation to make our streets safer?

While I am still working to understand the protocol for the city’s engagement with the Georgia Department of Transportation, I do agree that a speed limit decrease is needed on some of our streets and will work in whatever manner is appropriate to help push for that change.

Road diets have been shown to be a good way to improve safety outcomes for all street users, especially for people on foot, on bikes, and in wheelchairs, who are the most vulnerable users of our streets. They can also have a positive effect on an area’s economic growth. What are your thoughts on road diets in the city of Decatur? 

I believe that Road Diets can be positive, but Road Diets must be implemented in a manner that corresponds with the growth and development of an area. Implementing a Road Diet in an area where the density is being exponentially increased is not a productive, nor safe approach when the increase in density corresponds with an increase in the number of cars on our roads. I strongly believe that our planning for future developments should not be counterintuitive to our plans for the development of walking paths and bike trails. Smart action needs to be taken to ease the traffic congestion in Decatur and I am open to considering all viable solutions and suggestions for improvement. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in its 2018 report that humans have twelve years to make a series of urgent changes to phase out CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to forestall catastrophic consequences. What actions do you support in the City of Decatur to drastically decrease CO2 emissions? How do your transportation and mobility priorities support CO2 reduction?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in its 2018 report that humans have twelve years to make a series of urgent changes to phase out CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to forestall catastrophic consequences. What actions do you support in the City of Decatur to drastically decrease CO2 emissions? How do your transportation and mobility priorities support CO2 reduction?

We are taking the right steps by becoming an even more walkable community, but we can certainly do more. Education is so important and engaging our community’s youth to help plan and promote efforts that we can take to make improvements in our CO2 reduction.

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