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Published in the A-Times:

Why I am running for Mayor of Brookhaven:

I’m not a lawyer, nor a politician.  I am a long-time resident, and a graduate of Oglethorpe University with a passion for our city, our community, our neighbors.  My reason for running is to work with the citizens and their passion for guiding our city’s future. We are a great city made up of smart people that can find a consensus that will benefit everyone. From new developments to restoration and preservation of neighborhoods, we are in the midst of an exciting time and should take full advantage of our growth opportunities, but we must also be responsible to the current residents, and businesses.  

Since Brookhaven became incorporated in 2012, we have tackled and accomplished some great things.  Simultaneously, we have made some missteps that need to be addressed. I will work with the people of Brookhaven to ensure that we put our best foot forward as we step into the future.  A future that keeps what is wonderful about our community like our neighborhoods and develops what will enhance our quality of life in this great city.

Five years ago I founded “We Are Brookhaven”, a community-based group of volunteers that has diligently worked to get the information from city hall to the community at large so that our residents could be informed and make their own decisions.  I have worked with the heads of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board to hold meetings to inform residents on how the city government worked so that they could support or oppose issues brought forth effectively. Members of our group have researched and attended meetings to make sure that we can provide the information to the community on how projects are being handled and where your money is being spent.

After five years of working to do what we heard the citizens wanted from city hall, I decided it was time to give our residents a choice.  A choice for true transparency, a choice to have a voice, a seat at the table when it comes to our city’s future. An ability to engage with the city and help set priorities that are important to YOU, not something that looks good in a headline.  I want us to be the best brand ambassadors for our city, a happy resident talking about their city is far more valuable than any manufactured branding campaign. We the taxpayers work hard for our money and need to know that the city will be as fiscally responsible as you and I are with our hard-earned money.  We need to know that the growth in our city will not displace us or our neighbors, and will take into consideration the impacts on our infrastructure and quality of life. As your Mayor, I only have one interest, and it is not a political career, I want to make Brookhaven the best it can be for ALL of our residents and businesses. 

On the Issues:

Smart Growth: I’m for development that complements Brookhaven’s neighborhoods.  We need to have new development and growth to sustain our city and parks, but we also need to abide by the Character Area Studies adopted by the city.  Each zone has different needs and wants but the common need for all is to Protect, Preserve and Enhance the neighborhoods. Brookhaven is a city of neighborhoods with threads of commercial development between them.  Each of these areas brings something unique to Brookhaven, and all are built around homes and families.

Tree Canopy: We enjoy a city with beautiful old-growth hardwoods, and while we are seeing lots of new street trees, we have been too quick to allow for specimen tree removal.  A more comprehensive tree policy that allows for the necessary removal of trees but prohibits removing trees just to make it easier to develop a site will help preserve our precious tree canopy. I’m in favor of the comprehensive audit of the trees in the city that the Tree Conservancy has requested and would like to see some stop-gap measures put into place now while we wait for the city to adopt the new ordinance.

Traffic: We all have issues with traffic.  There is not a major road in the city that hasn’t experienced an increase in traffic and that will continue as the metro area grows.  There are many theories on how to "fix" traffic in a city. I believe we must focus on pragmatic solutions. We can't double the capacity of our roads or build a public transit system that everyone will want to use overnight.  We can look into implementing various systems to address traffic congestion like Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and Vehicle-To-Infrastructure (V2I) communication which will allow for better timing of lights and notifications of impacted roadways as well as planning our growth in areas that can handle additional traffic.

Parks: YES, I love our parks, and like you, I am concerned with some of the costs and plans that have been put in place.  I recently toured many of the parks with residents to hear what they had to say. There is much room for improvement and cost savings that will allow us to provide more of what we want for our parks without breaking the bank.

The Peachtree Creek Greenway: Being part of a large path plan has potential, and I can’t wait to see a path that will allow families to walk and bike together safely.  We need to learn from our neighboring cities and identify what they struggle with in terms of use, maintenance, and safety so that we can have the premier path.   

Multi-Use Paths and Sidewalks: We need to plan these strategically.  We must be smart and reasonable about how to implement them. I’d like to see a plan that makes major roads a priority rather than a second sidewalk on any street.  There is definitely justification for multi-use paths on some streets and wider sidewalks on others but we need to be reasonable and deliberate in planning to minimize property disruption.  We should look at the planned use to make sure that we minimize curb cuts along paths and if multi-use paths or complete streets are a better option. The goal should be to minimize the negative impact on residents while providing safe walking, biking, and running areas.

Emory / CHOA:  It’s a huge opportunity, we benefit from having these organizations as part of our city fabric.  We must remember that we are a highly sought-after location. The ramifications of these developments are going to be quite costly to our city. We need to be concerned with the cost when looking at incurring debt or guaranteeing debt that will need to be paid by the taxpayers for these initiatives.   

Debt: The city has no real “revenue” other than taxes and fees which for the most part, are paid by the residents with their property, permit, sales, and franchise taxes.  We need to be good stewards of the funding provided by our citizens. Transparent and accountable should be two words used to describe any city activities and expenditures.  Transparency needs to happen before the money is spent as part of the planning. Having access to what has already been spent is not true transparency

Police, Fire, infrastructure: We are lucky to have a great group of professionals protecting us every day.  With the increase in density, we need to look not only at what protections need to be taken for stormwater and traffic but also how we provide police, fire, and EMS services for the additional residents and buildings. I will work with our police and fire staff to understand what is needed in this area for our growth and work with the city or county to provide for these needs.

Community: For many years, I have been an engaged citizen of Brookhaven.  As a result, I founded the "We Are Brookhaven" community group - a group trying to understand developments that were in direct conflict with the promises that had been made by the County and then by the City. Our group has spent the past five years helping to get information to the affected neighborhoods from the city so that they are better informed and better able to participate and help shape these developments based on their vision for their neighborhoods.

I believe that a transparent and engaged city will be better managed, received and supported by the residents which will result in smarter growth, more fiscal responsibility and exciting events. 

As your Mayor, I will work to help Brookhaven thrive as a community, a city of diverse neighborhoods, businesses and amazing people as we move forward to the bright future before us.


Neighbors for Jen Heath
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