By John Schaffner
There wasn’t enough room to seat all of the candidates on the stage for the Oct. 13 Atlanta City Council and School Board Dist. 4 forum at the Northwest Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, but it didn’t disrupt the opportunity to meet and greet for the 100-plus residents who turned out to hear their platforms.
The shear number of candidates making their pitches — 16 in all running for six offices in the Nov. 3 general election — made it difficult for voters to get a thorough understanding of any one candidate’s qualifications and positions in a two-hour meeting. But no one seemed to leave disappointed.
The purpose of the program was for residents in Buckhead to get to know the candidates running in contested City Council and School Board posts which represent the community: President of City Council, Council At-Large Posts 1, 2 and 3, Council Dist. 8 and Atlanta School Board Dist. 4.
Just as with various mayoral race candidate forums throughout the city, two of the major themes presented were getting a handle on the financial problems facing the city and addressing public safety with more money and manpower.
The other major themes were more transparency and accountability from the city government. All of the candidates were opposed to raising taxes to solve the city’s problems and almost all agreed there was a need for a culture change at City Hall.
Residents had an opportunity to hear specific positions from Council Post 1At-Large candidates Michael Julian Bond, Dwanda Farmer, Adam Brockman and Chris Vaughn; Post 2 At-Large candidates Amir Farokhi, Weslee Knapp and Aaron Watson; Post 3 At-Large candidates Shelitha Robertson and incumbent H. Lamar Willis; Council Dist. 8 candidates Yolanda Adrean and Rick Coleman; Council President candidates Ceaser Mitchell and Clair Muller, and School Board Dist. 4 candidates Nancy Meister and present at-large board member Mark Riley.
Of the two Dist. 4 School Board candidates, Riley is a real-estate developer who spoke of bringing business professionalism to the board for the past eight years as an at-large board member, and Meister spoke of her commitment to public schooling of her children and her work as a volunteer at Garden Hills Elementary and Sutton Middle schools as her children moved through the school system.
The only problems during the evening were the late arrivals of three of the candidates — Farmer, seeking the Council Post 1 At-Large seat, Watson for Post 2 At-Large, and Council Post 3 At-Large incumbent Willis — and the unscheduled appearance of unopposed Atlanta School Board Dist. 8 At-Large candidate Reuben McDaniel. Of all the candidates on the program, McDaniel was the only who is unopposed.
But room was made for them on the program and all were allowed a few moments to present themselves to the audience of predominantly older potential voters.
Each candidate was given a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and after all of the candidates in a particular race had spoken they were asked prepared questions by an officer from one of the Buckhead neighborhood associations. After all of the candidates had taken part in that exercise, the audience was permitted to ask questions either of individual candidates or of all candidates in a particular race.
The final 15 minutes of the two-hour program was set aside for the audience to personally meet and greet individual candidates.
The forum was sponsored by the Mt. Paran-Northside Citizens Association, Paces Civic Association, Peachtree Battle Alliance, South Tuxedo Park, Tuxedo Park Civic Association and Wildwood Civic Association. Northwest Presbyterian Church is located at 4300 Northside Drive in Buckhead.