Q&A with Mableton mayoral candidates

Feb. 28—Voters in the new city of Mableton have begun casting ballots ahead of the March 21 election of the city's mayor and City Council, the first since voters approved the new city 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. There are four candidates running for mayor — Aaron Carman, LaTonia Long, Michael Murphy and Michael Owens. Their responses are printed below.

Aaron Carman

Family: Wife: Ashley Carman and 2 Sons: Brandon (18yrs) and John Luke (7yrs)

Residence: Mableton — District 4

Occupation: Senior IT Sales Manager (23+ years)

Age: 45

Education: BA — Business Management and Marketing — Wingate University (Wingate, NC) / Campbell HS (Smyrna, GA)

Have you served in elected office before: No

Hometown: Smyrna, GA

Email where voters can reach you: info@carmanformableton.com / www.carmanformableton.com

Q: Why are you running for mayor of Mableton?

A: I have spent the majority of my life in South Cobb and believe it is a hidden gem in the Atlanta area. I felt compelled to step forward and serve the community and the people by setting up a solid foundation for this city that will set it on a path for long term success. This will require a focus on building the city's core foundational services and infrastructure, while minimizing the financial impact on its residents.

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

A: Since the election I have supported the people that had concerns over the nature of the bill and how it was listed on the ballot. I fully support the people involved in the de-annexation effort. In working with these folks and seeing the passion they have for this area and the community, it was one of the reasons that inspired me to run for mayor. I also believe that if the de-annexation efforts do not go through, we will need someone that can bring our city together. As collaborative leader, I can help lead us through this by engaging and listening to both sides and working to build a bridge and unify our City of Mableton.

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

A: Yes, I believe the City of Mableton is lacking in public transit options for its residents. Upon being elected Mayor, one of the first actions in regards to transportation, will be to engage and begin working with the County and Regional Commission by collaborating with their efforts and partnering with our neighboring cities (Austell, Smyrna, Powder Springs and Marietta) to create investment and lasting change in public transit, not only for the City of Mableton, but the County and Region.

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

A: The problem of affordable housing extends far beyond a single strategy of increased density. There needs to be a multi-faceted strategy addressing several factors of affordability. For example, raising taxes will significantly affect the housing stability of many of our current residents — which is why I feel so passionately about stewarding our tax dollars well. Addressing the need for easily accessible public transportation options also plays a role in cost of living. There are also different needs depending on certain parts of the city. As Mayor I will work with each member of City Council and their respective districts to make sure that we understand the unique needs of each district and make sure that it is incorporated into the long term strategy for the City of Mableton.

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

A: If elected as mayor, my goal is to focus on the core services outlined in the city lite model in the feasibility study and offer the same/better services at the same costs. The focus should be to limit the tax burden on our residents as much as possible as we launch and build out the infrastructure to take over these services. Once we have proven that we are able to effectively take on these services as a city, we will have then earned the trust and the right to expand the discussions to other needs of the city. This should be done in partnership with the residents and business owners.

LaTonia Long

Family: Andrew (Husband), Carrington & August (Children)

Residence: Mableton

Occupation: Public Policy Manager

Age: 43

Education: Georgia State University-BS-Biology

Have you served in elected office before: No

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Email where voters can reach you: latonia@latoniaformayor.com

Q: Why are you running for mayor of Mableton?

A: My husband and I moved our family here to Mableton 10 years ago. It was and is a beautiful community that is comprised of small businesses, beautiful parks, great neighborhoods, and amenities that anyone would find desirable. Now that we are a city, I believe we need someone who is committed to making our city the best that it can be. As an experienced policy manager with regional ties from my time as Chief of Staff to the Senate Minority Leader and the regional chamber, I am able to lead our city and be a bridge to all communities.

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

A: Per the law, 100% of a community would have to agree to deannexing-that is not going to happen. A key part of my platform is to be a bridge, bringing together the deannex and pro city groups. We have a unique opportunity in front of us to create the most family friendly city in Georgia, one that is fiscally responsible and a model for other cities. I have a 90/120/180 day plan to put on solid footing. The first step is to create a Board of Advisors/Transition Team to help us unite and get to work. I will invite every member of Council, as well as representatives from the county, the General Assembly and other key stakeholder groups to help us understand our finances, negotiate contracts and get us on the road to success.

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

A: I would have to understand the terms and conditions. Is this to expand Cobb County Transit? Is it to bring MARTA into Cobb County? How much is the sales tax and for how long? What projects would be funded? There are too many unknowns at this stage for me to take a position.

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

A: Housing affordability is a key issue for the entire metro region. I support smart growth, which is based on density. However, we see from Atlanta that density does not necessarily equate to affordability so I do not believe that density will drive down costs to residents.

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

A: As part of my 90/120/180 day plan, I will launch a Board of Advisors/Transition Team. One of the key tasks of that team is to help us understand and quantify our revenue potential, and proposals to close any gaps with minimal impact on the taxes of Mableton residents. My hope is that there is not a gap, but, if there is, we must redouble our efforts to creatively generate revenue.

Michael Murphy

Family: (Did not answer)

Residence: Mableton, GA 30126

Occupation: Business owner, M3 Innovations, LLC

Age: 76 years young

Education: Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, DC; St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, B.S. Marketing

Have you served in elected office before: Board of Health, Canton, MA, Governor's Council Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Hometown: Fayetteville, NC

Email where voters can reach you: info@murphyformayor.com

Q: Why are you running for mayor of Mableton?

A: I am known in our community as the "Community Connector, and I believe that the City of Mableton will need a "City Connector. Due to my skills and experience, I am very qualified to fill that role. Our city is going to need strong, focused leadership to get off to a strong start in providing the promised services while doing so in a fiscally responsible manner.

I believe that my background as a successful small business owner plus as a past employee in Cobb County government as well as my years of corporate and civic involvement in the community that includes being past Chair of the Austell Community Task Force, current President of Sting, Inc, and current Vice Chair of the Family Life Restoration Center have prepared me to work together with my fellow City Council members to take the blank canvas of the city and paint a picture of progress, premier service, growth and prosperity that will foster a successful city of Mableton. I have the time, energy and commitment to serve the City of Mableton. I do not have higher aspirations — this is likely my last job interview, and I do hope to be hired.

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

A: I ask that those who are now asking for de-annexation take the time to truly look at what the City of Mableton can offer before rushing to a conclusion. We have a unique opportunity to determine what we feel will best benefit our community in the way of zoning, code enforcement, and recreation policies. I pledge to work with those residents who are considering de-annexation, to have discussions about their concerns about being a part of the City of Mableton, to discuss the benefits that the City of Mableton can bring. I hope that they will give the new city a chance and work with us to provide their input and expertise to help paint the blank canvas that we are starting with rather than rush to conclusions that the City of Mableton will not be of benefit to them and their families.

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

A: While I do believe that Cobb County, and specifically the area of the County now included in the City of Mableton has transportation issues that need to be addressed, the Board of Commissioners has yet to make a specific proposal as to what the transit sales tax referendum will be. The possible options that I have heard being considered are very different proposals with a very wide range of impact and possible results. Without a specific ballot proposal, it is impossible for me to say what my stance as Mayor of the City of Mableton. I will need to carefully study the final proposal and what it will do in helping fulfill the current and future transportation needs of our residents of the City of Mableton as well as Cobb County as a whole.

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

A: Our current lack of adequate affordable housing for our hard working families in Cobb County, including but not limited to those who serve our community as First Responders, Teachers, and other government employees, is an increasing problem. This includes both those who wish to own a home and those who wish to rent as rents also continue to increase significantly in Cobb County. It is also a very complex problem that defies a simple solution. While having some increased housing density is part of the answer, it is only that — part of the answer. We need to create a landbank of properties in conjunction with the County since it takes the County and a City to put that into action. In addition, we have an opportunity still with the Magnolia Crossings property. I would work to develop a partnership with the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority to ensure that this large property becomes part of the solution.

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

A: I have pledged that I will take the Taxpayers Protection Pledge. That is, I would not vote to raise taxes without the consent of the voters. To be clear, this does not mean that I would never propose a tax increase if one were necessitated by circumstances involving the economy, the needs of our residents, unexpected disasters, or other unforeseen circumstances. However, I believe that the Mayor and City Council's bosses are the voters, and that any such change would necessitate their approval.

Michael Owens

Family: Son 12, Daughter 11

Residence: Mableton, GA

Occupation: Cybersecurity Executive, Marine Corps Veteran

Age: 48

Education: North Carolina A&T State University — Bachelor's Degree, Computer & Electronic Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology — Master's Degree, Management of Technology; California Intercontinental University — Doctorate of Business Administration in Global Business and Leadership; Harvard University — John F. Kennedy School of Government, Emerging Leaders Program; United States Army War College — Advance Certificate in National Security Leaders

Have you served in elected office before: No

Hometown: Robbins, North Carolina

Email where voters can reach you: Michael@owensformableton.com

Q: Why are you running for mayor of Mableton?

A: I'm running for mayor because I believe in this city. I believe in our potential to create a city that we all can be proud of. My family has been here since 1998, and I'm committed to building a city that works for everyone. Mableton is where my mother lives and where I live with my children, and I want them and everyone else that lives here to have a city that works for them. I've dedicated my life to improving our community, defending our country, and serving its citizens, and I'm running for mayor because I believe that we have an opportunity to improve the quality of life for every person in the City of Mableton. I have the skills and experience to help make it happen. I'm running because this new city will need a mayor that is ready to lead on day one, and I'm the only candidate that has the combination of experience, skill, support, passion, and vision to ensure that we get off to a great start. As mayor, my goal is to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.

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

A: I am not against de-annexation and agree with the fundamental right for people to exercise their rights under the law as citizens and voters. I have no desire to hold people within the city if they do not want to be within the city. However, I voted for the city and want to focus on the vast majority of Mableton residents who wish to be in the city and who want to see a Mayor and city council who will focus on the needs of the city, whatever the boundaries may be. Whether the movement to de-annex parts of the city is successful or not, we must still create a new government and start providing best-in-class services for our residents and that is where my focus will be. My goal as Mayor is to create a city that everyone, including citizens that were opposed to cityhood, will be proud to live in. I am open to options that our state legislature has discussed which options are being explored that will allow a limited amount of de-annexation for some of our most northern areas of the city.

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

A: My level of support for this would be directly tied to what the citizens of Mableton would like to see for our city as it relates to transit. This will probably also depend on if the county seeks a five-year sales tax, of up to 1%, to pay for surface-level transportation spendings such as trails, bridges, and roadways or if the county chooses to implement a 30-year sales tax, also up to 1%, specifically for mass transit construction and operating costs.

I do believe that we need to improve public transit options for our citizens in Mableton and I'm willing to work with the county to find the most efficient and sustainable solution. We need a transit solution that will connect us, as well as area destinations such as Cumberland, Marietta, and Atlanta. Still, ultimately my level of support will be driven by what our citizens want.

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

A: The best way to make housing affordable is to first acknowledge that it is a real issue and worth addressing. Then we must create a comprehensive strategy that is supported by robust policy and cooperation with developers that will stabilize and lower housing costs through cost-conscious short-term and long-term planning.

As mayor, I will focus on delivering a plan for pathways to affordable home ownership. We should look at creating policies that mandate affordable housing units, and creating "workforce" housing options for our teachers, nurse technicians, and public service officers. Increasing the density of housing does not make housing more affordable, it only places more burden on our infrastructure and could even cause an increase in housing costs.

We should look at existing buildings and vacant properties to determine if they are suitable for affordable housing options, which would also address the issue with some of our vacant and unmaintained buildings within the city.

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

A: Any decision I would make as Mayor related to any tax increase would be based on the response I received from the citizens of Mableton. The people of this city must have a voice in the matter and I will make sure that city council meetings would be an open and inviting forum to have transparent discussions before any decision about increasing taxes was made.