An Open Letter to the Johns Creek City Council
With election campaigning now getting underway, I wanted to take this opportunity to address our City Council in order to make some points for your consideration as you prepare to ask me and my family for our support and our votes. I’ll preface my statements by saying that the perspectives and opinions I’m expressing are my own and that I don’t claim to speak for others – though I will say that I’m aware that many others share some of my viewpoints. I’ll let others speak for themselves. In the midst of our collective voices, are you listening?
My family and I moved to what is now Johns Creek twenty years ago. We chose this area because of the suburban residential character of the community, solid schools, and accessibility to Atlanta. We could have chosen to focus our search on more established, in-town, and more highly urbanized neighborhoods, but that wasn’t the environment we wanted for our family. We’ve made our lives and raised our two daughters here, and for the most part, have been happy with our choice.
Halfway through our residential tenure, I strongly supported the efforts to incorporate the City of Johns Creek. The hope was that we would realize increased local control over the substantial tax dollars collected in unincorporated Fulton County and that decisions affecting our community would be better aligned to our residents’ desires under local leadership.
As we approach almost eleven years since incorporation as the City of Johns Creek, my sense is that we are seeing the increasing distance between what our residents desire for our community and the vision that our City Council seems intent on driving. That disconnect can be summarized as a steady march toward increased urbanization and ever higher density, accompanied by the resulting traffic congestion and push to pave our way out of the problems of our own making.
I must ask why our City Council seems so intent on changing the fundamental identity of Johns Creek, an area that has been established as a suburban residential community? Does anybody benefit by taking the city in a direction that is so drastically different from the character upon which it was based?
As I consider those questions, I must start at the top of our City Council’s leadership – Mayor Mike Bodker. Mayor Bodker has been relatively consistently on the side of development, whether that’s championing The District (a widely criticized proposal to create a city center, mostly within privately promoted Technology Park) Promoting the benefits of T-SPLOST while assuring residents that any project would be publicly ve.tted before moving forward, and then insisting that by voting to approve T-SPLOST, that residents had “approved” those same projects. Promoting road widening projects over the objections of affected homeowners, or signing an Inter-Governmental Agreement that allows unaccountable officials in Forsyth County to exercise Eminent Domain seizures of private property in Johns Creek.
Was delegating the negotiation of a billboard settlement to Councilwoman Davenport, in spite of a seeming conflict of interest in that Ms. Davenport and one of the billboard principal owners are neighbors and friends. The outcome of those negotiations may be up for debate, but there is a fair amount of sentiment among some residents that Johns Creek ceded far too much ground without a great deal to show in return.
Adding further shadows of the doubt to the situation, it has been noted and acknowledged that, in his private employment capacity, Mayor Bodker works for a company owned by the Davenports. While that may be entirely legitimate, the perception that it creates is potentially troublesome. When a question about this professional relationship was posed at a City Town Hall Meeting, the reaction back to the questioning resident appeared to be out of proportion to a completely legitimate question. Again, in whose interest are our politicians working?
This is a track record that stands in stark contrast to the direction I would like to see Johns Creek pursue. And so I must question: does Mayor Mike Bodker have the best interests of Johns Creek in mind as he conducts the business of our city? Are you listening?
Mayor Bodker has stated several times that his elected position as Mayor of Johns Creek is not his primary source of employment or income. His primary employment is a Partner of nexDimension. A consulting firm that serves the financial, business, and technology industries, and co-founder of the firm’s Government Services practice. According to nexDimension’s website, some of Mayor Bodker’s accomplishments and qualifications include the founding of the North Fulton Municipal Association, Metro Atlanta Mayor’s Association, and Board Member and Chair of the Revenue & Finance Committee for the Georgia Municipal Association.
Bodker is cited as a “proven thought leader in topics related to local government and now uses this knowledge to help local governments improve using performance management techniques.”
So again, I have to ask, does Mayor Bodker have the best interests of the residents of Johns Creek at heart? Or is his role as Mayor serve as a key qualifying credential to further his personal career, and also provide him the platform from which he can build his private firm’s business? I would hope for the former, but actions seem to indicate the latter. Those who recall the last Mayoral election campaign may remember the allegations of bribery and abuse of power that haunted the Mayor through the process.
The Mayor’s seat, this year’s election will include City Council Posts 1, 3, and 5. Posts 1 and 5 will see incumbents seeking re-election (Councilman Lenny Zaprowski and Councilwoman Stephanie Endres). Our charge as residents is to carefully vet our candidates and elect those we feel best prepared to represent us on our City Council. A review of those residents who have stepped forward to present their case for our votes reveals a very clear, consistent set of messages:
The consistency across our candidates means something. Regardless of political party affiliation, they all see the same issues and concerns. Are you listening?
I know that some of you are listening – I won’t use this letter to make any endorsements. But I do know that we do have some representatives on City Council who are taking their responsibilities seriously, who are listening to the residents, who are putting the interests of Johns Creek residents first and foremost. I believe that the special election earlier this year was a warning shot across the bow for the others and that our residents are becoming more engaged in the conduct of our city. While I’m concerned about the direction current leadership seems intent on taking our city. I must also look at the positive outcome that has resulted as residents are first enraged, and then engaged.
This election may be a watershed event for Johns Creek. I wrote this letter because I want to see Johns Creek remain a premier, desirable, suburban residential community. I want our representatives to do what we elected them to do. Represent us, and not use a seat on our City Council as a political career launching pad, a personal resume enhancing business development opportunity or a vehicle for personal enrichment. I want our City Council, and our candidates to be prepared to do the job they are asking us award to them with our votes.
Are you listening?
Johns Creek, GA