By Rebecca Gaunt
Six of the seven candidates for the Kennesaw City Council Post 1 special election participated in a candidate forum Tuesday at the recreation center.
Rod Green moderated the debate. The questions were not provided to the candidates in advance.
Asked what they see as the city’s biggest challenges or areas for improvement, the perceived lack of communication from the current city council was echoed by most of the candidates.
Candidate David Blinkhorn served as the Post 5 council member from 2018 to 2021.
“If you’ve listened to me speak over the last few times at some of the council meetings, I bring up questions and there’s no response…several times I have asked legitimate questions in meetings and no one spoke up. I can tell you when I served on the city council, if you asked me a question, I answered it,” he said.
Anthony Gutierrez proposed the city use social media to communicate about zoning issues and other council matters. State law requires public notices to be published in print newspapers and that signs are posted.
“How many signs do you pass a day? With all the text on it, do you have time to read it in the two seconds you’re driving away?” Gutierrez said. “I get all my information online.”
Jon Fred Bothers said the city website could be better utilized. “No one reads newspapers anymore. If it’s not online, it’s not gonna happen.”
Jason Acree focused on the need for smart development.
“Change is inevitable, but there is responsibility to manage that,” he said. “We’re a great target for developers and businesses to come in because of our diversity that we have. And we have a strong workforce and a talented group of citizens around this whole area.”
Blinkhorn followed, saying, “Residents aren’t going to read 300 pages of stuff that developers provide. But that’s our job as city council to read through that and make sure that it fits.”
Madelyn Orochena had a lot of ideas for pedestrian safety, such as speed cushions. An alternative to speed bumps, cushions slow down traffic without delaying emergency response vehicles.
“One thing that is challenging for us is the speed downtown and also past schools and in some key areas,” she said.
Orochena also suggested adding in-street pedestrian signage and art in the crosswalks.
“There’s actually been studies showing that this [art] reduces traffic incidents and accidents, and when accidents do occur there are less frequently injuries because it does slow down the traffic and it also beautifies the community,” Orochena said.
Acree noted the need for better lighting and sidewalks along Old 41 Highway.
Candidate Daniel Bowie advocated for all sidewalks to be updated to the widest possible width in code and said he’s concerned that development is occurring faster than the roads can be updated to compensate for heavier traffic.
Bothers said, “We speak a whole lot about downtown Kennesaw, and downtown Kennesaw is absolutely wonderful, but Kennesaw…is nine square miles of city. And there needs to be improvements not only to downtown, but there’s sidewalks that need to be placed all over the city.”
Bringing fiber optic internet to Kennesaw is a big part of Gutierrez’s platform.
“In a city with a major university and a city with 35,000 plus residents with the new age of technology and many of us working at home relying on online classes or simply day-to-day tasks…of the three providers I don’t have any option,” he said.
Candidates also addressed concerns about the high cost of housing, trash service, and standard enforcement of city ordinances.
James “Doc” Eaton resigned in June when the city issued a business license to allow Wildman’s Civil War shop to reopen. The special election is part of the Nov. 8 midterm election.
Candidate Lynette Burnette was not present. Lazy Guy Distillery sponsored the forum. It can be viewed on their Facebook page.
Read the Courier’s September Q & A with the candidates.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.