Q&A with Debora Herndon, candidate for Mableton's District 6 council seat

Feb. 28—Ahead of the March 21 Mableton mayor and City Council elections, just one candidate remains in the race for District 6 — Debora Herndon. Another candidate, Ricky Dickens, qualified to run but withdrew on Monday. It is too late for Dickens' name to be removed from the ballot, but votes cast for him will not be counted.

Voters in the new city are already casting early votes ahead of the election, the city's first since voters approved incorporation last fall. Candidates must win a majority — more than 50% of the vote — to be elected.

The mayor is elected citywide, and the council candidates will be elected by the residents of the district they are running to represent.

The MDJ reached out to candidates for mayor and City Council with a list of questions (Dickens did not respond). Herndon's responses are printed below.

Debora Herndon

Family: I have two adult children, Taylor and William Christopher.

Residence: I live in unincorporated Cobb County.

Occupation: Legal Practice Specialist

Age: 56

Education: BIS: Counseling Psychology and Communication

Have you served in elected office before: No

Hometown: I was born in the Bronx, New York but I grew up in Pasadena, California

Email where voters can reach you: votedeboraherndon@gmail.com

Q: Why are you running for a seat on the Mableton City Council?

A: I have been a resident and homeowner for over nine years in unincorporated Cobb County. I did not vote in favor of incorporation. I am often asked why would I run for a seat on city council if I am against cityhood? The answer is quite simple. If I have to be a part of the city of Mableton, I have a vested interest in the decisions being made that will affect my life and the lives of the people who reside in my district. Proponents of cityhood have presented their ideas for the development of Mableton and the areas south of Mableton. However, there have been no articulated plans for many of the unincorporated areas that were included in the city map. As those plans are being developed, the unincorporated areas should have a say in what those plans are and how they will be implemented. Now that we are a part of Mableton, we should have a seat at the table. Who else could possibly know what's best for our communities than the people who live in them? I am also running because I am committed to fulfilling the promise of "Same Taxes, Better Services."

Q: Should residents who don't wish to be part of the new city be allowed to de-annex?

A: Absolutely! Cityhood should not be forced on people who do not want it. I am all for Mableton becoming a city if the people who actually live in Mableton believe it is best for them and their communities. But to bulldoze unincorporated areas into the city without full and transparent disclosure does not lend itself to the affected areas fully trusting or supporting anything that is done after the fact. I feel that areas where the vote was overwhelmingly against becoming a part of Mableton should be allowed to de-annex, as is their right under the law.

Q: If the Cobb Board of Commissioners moves forward with a transit sales tax referendum next year, would you support it?

A: No, I would not. Cobb County has a transit problem, no doubt about it. It has to be addressed because people need a way to commute from Cobb County to other areas. But I am not in favor of raising taxes for a 5-to-30-year period of time without a well thought out and viable plan. I don't believe that the five-year proposal does enough to solve the transit problem, but I also feel that the 30-year proposal is a long time to collect taxes without an immediate benefit to the taxpayers. With some investigation and creativity, there may be other revenue sources available that can help finance the transit project without the need for additional tax increases.

Q: Do you believe that increasing housing density in south Cobb is the best way to make housing more affordable?

A: No, I do not. As a matter of fact, some of the most prominent research done on this issue suggests the opposite is true — that higher density is often associated with less affordability. Making housing affordable for people takes a multi-layered approach. First, people need a living wage that keeps up with the pace of rising costs. Despite the staggering growth in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs, wages have remained slow to increase which only contributes to the problem of affordability. There should also be tax cuts and other financial incentives provided to developers to reserve a certain percentage of housing units to make available to low-income families. In addition, focused collaboration among city government, public and private companies, and charitable organizations can create opportunities for investment in the creation of affordable housing and the rehabilitation of existing abandoned homes in blighted areas. There should also be programs where mortgages can be available at below market rates for those who qualify. These are just a few of the many avenues that should be considered with respect to creating affordable housing instead of increasing density in South Cobb.

Q: Would you ever vote to increase taxes in the city?

A: No, I would not. I believe in economic prudence and sound financial policies. Just like millions of American households do every day, a city has to make difficult decisions on how to spend the money in its budget without resorting to increasing taxes. The city of Mableton will be a city-lite model which includes zoning, parks and recreation, code enforcement and waste management. As such, providing these four services with excellence, and within budget, can be a way to build public confidence and attract more people to the city as residents. As the City of Mableton continues to grow, there will be opportunity for increased revenue and expansion of city services as the citizenry grows. However, this expansion should be accomplished where it is paid for by revenue increases rather than tax increases.