Andy Yeoman Responds to the DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey

DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council

How involved have you been with DeKalb County government or community issues? What expertise and experience in working to address community issues do you bring to the BOC?

Robert Patrick – District 1
I was a municipal employee with the City of Norcross in the planning department for 14 years. I was also a Doraville councilman for 8 years. As a DeKalb County Commissioner for the past 3 years, I am the first District 1 Commissioner to have the honor to serve as the Presiding Officer of the Board of Commissioners. Currently, I am serving as our Deputy Presiding Officer. I became interested in running for DeKalb County as I was concerned that any improvements to city services also needed accompanying improvements in county services in order for our communities to grow.

As the current District 1 County Commissioner, I have been very active within the county on a variety of issues. I have engaged on everything from the county budget, to storm water concerns, pothole repairs, road repaving, utility billing assistance, zoning text amendments to increased housing options for current and future residents. I helped support the current version of SPLOST/EHOST within the Board of Commissioners.

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
I have extensive involvement with DeKalb County government and community issues through several significant roles:
Doraville City Council Member: I served on the Doraville City Council, where I participated in the governance of the city, contributing to local legislation, policy-making, and community engagement. This position gave me invaluable insight into municipal governance and the intricacies of local government operations.

Past President of Homeowners Association: I led the homeowners association, focusing on addressing community needs, resolving disputes, and managing budgets and projects, which honed my leadership and negotiation skills.

Past Chair of the Doraville Planning Commission: This role involved detailed urban planning and development discussions, enabling me to contribute significantly to the city’s growth and zoning regulations.
Former Director of the Doraville Development Authority: I was pivotal in the redevelopment of the former General Motors Assembly Plant, involving extensive planning, stakeholder negotiations, and project management. Negotiated Amendments to the 2023 Tax Allocation District for the General Motors Site: I collaborated closely with DeKalb County to amend the TAD to match the needs of the new owners, showcasing my ability to negotiate and work within governmental frameworks.

What is your experience in managing an organization’s finances, and what is the largest budget for which you have been responsible?

Robert Patrick – District 1
During my service as an elected official, I have reviewed and approved budgets annually. This also includes reviewing the annual audit. The largest budget to date is DeKalb County’s $1.74 billion dollar budget.

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
As a candidate for the DeKalb County Commission District 1, I bring a unique blend of experience from both the private sector and local government, highlighting my commitment to fiscal responsibility, strategic planning, and community engagement.

In my past, I was a business owner, personally responsible for making weekly payroll and managing a team that depended on me for their livelihood. This role instilled in me the importance of financial prudence, strategic decision-making, and the profound impact leadership can have on people’s lives.

Currently, I hold a senior leadership position in a $5-billion packaging company, where I’m responsible for overseeing a business unit with a budget exceeding $31 million. This role has sharpened my skills in budget management, strategic planning, and operational efficiency, ensuring I’m well-prepared to handle large-scale financial decisions.

Moreover, during my tenure as a city council member in Doraville, I served on the budget committee, contributing to the management of the city’s $28 million budget. This experience gave me deep insights into the complexities of government budgeting, fiscal responsibility, and the necessity of transparent and accountable governance.

My combined experiences in leading both a private enterprise and contributing significantly to municipal governance equip me with a balanced perspective, ensuring that I understand the intricacies of managing large budgets, the importance of strategic long-term planning, and the value of listening to and serving the community. As a candidate for the DeKalb County Commission

What are the Top Three issues that you want to address for change in DeKalb County once you become a member of the BOC?

Robert Patrick – District 1
1) Continue to improve the level of customer service that county staff provides to our residents and businesses. That includes improved responsiveness in everything from public safety to permitting, parks and utility billing;

2) Address the current labor shortage by working with my colleagues to make DeKalb County a desirable place for current and future County employees to work;

3) Address both the homelessness issue and animal shelter concerns;

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
As a candidate for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners (BOC), I am committed to restoring action and trust to the District 1 Commissioners Office. My campaign focuses on addressing three critical issues:
1. Improving Public Safety and EMS Response: Despite large tax increases to the police millage rate in 2023, our police and EMS departments suffer from high vacancy rates and slow response times. There is currently over $10- million in vacancy in the police budget. EMS response times routinely exceed 45 minutes. I propose partnering with the DeKalb Board of Education to establish career pathways programs in public safety and EMS within local high schools. This initiative would provide students with essential training and secure job opportunities at graduation where they would rotate to different positions in the department until certification at 18 and 21.

2. Restoring Trust with residents and cities: My opponent’s neglect of community concerns, especially regarding the expansion of PDK airport, has eroded public trust after refusing to meet with residents after they collected 3200 signatures on a petition. His relationship with cities has deteriorated as he has grifted on a number of issues in the last four years. As a member of the BOC, I will prioritize community engagement and transparency. With the upcoming retirement at the DeKalb Municipal Association, and so many new commissioners, we have a unique opportunity to hit the reset button and work collaboratively address concerns, including annexation..

3. Focus on all living things: We have to fix the crisis with animal services and the crisis center. The county faces significant challenges with the underfunded animal services department and a mostly empty crisis center because there is not enough staff to run it. There is also a new crisis brewing as Atlanta clears the camps and an influx of unhoused individuals migrate toward the county. I will work with the CEO and BOC to make sure that proper attention is being made, develop comprehensive strategies to support the incoming unhoused population, and get people mental health solutions outside of the jail.

By addressing these issues, I aim to bring effective change and renewed trust to DeKalb County’s governance.

What other areas do you consider needing improvement in DeKalb County and how would you change them?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Rehabilitate or redevelop the old Presidential Parkway Hotel into a gateway feature we can all be proud of. I believe improvement to the site will bring considerable positive attention to this part of DeKalb and make a phenomenal gateway feature reminding everyone that DeKalb County is a desirable place for people and business.

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
In addressing the need for improvement in DeKalb County, one critical area is the management and issuance of tax abatements, often seen as the “wild wild west” due to their lack of standardization and transparency. My opponent granted a lucrative abatement to a New York developer that 9 months later still doesn’t even own the property on North Druid Hills Road. These abatements, intended to encourage development, can sometimes lead to unequal benefits and missed revenue for the county, affecting public services like education, transportation, and public safety.

I would propose a collaboration with state legislators to develop a more uniform and fair framework for granting tax abatements. This would entail creating guidelines that ensure tax incentives are awarded only when they align with broader economic goals, such as job creation, environmental sustainability, and equitable development across the county.
Moreover, I would support the eventual elimination of all of these authorities in Georgia. Instead, I would push for the formation of new regional development authorities that follow the boundaries of the 12 regional commissions. This would ensure a more cohesive and strategic approach to regional development. This alignment would facilitate a balance between attracting investment and safeguarding public interests, leading to a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.

By implementing these changes, DeKalb County could foster a more transparent, equitable, and effective economic development strategy that benefits all residents, not just a select few. This reform would lead to a more sustainable and fair future for the county, ensuring that development efforts enhance the quality of life for all its citizens.

DeKalb County used to have a more robust #311 platform for fielding and tracking questions, problems, and complaints from DeKalb citizens; then the budget for #311 was cut significantly. As a member of the BOC, what would you do to make the #311 system more functional, transparent, and effective?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Since taking office, I have consistently supported and invested in 311 to expand their coverage to include calls for roads and drainage, code compliance and water billing. In last year’s budget, I supported increasing staff in 311. I will continue to advocate and encourage the expansion of this customer service platform for the county.
Additionally, I support expanding this customer assistance program in planning and sustainability.

Andy Yeoman – District 1
It’s encouraging to note that the 2024 budget has already addressed part of this need by funding four additional positions and increasing starting salaries to $20 an hour. The #311 centers budget has increased approximately a 40% over the last four years.

However, I recognize that enhancing our #311 system extends beyond just budget increases. As a future member of the Board of Commissioners, I am committed to not only sustaining and expanding this financial commitment but also ensuring these resources translate into tangible improvements. In my view, the true measure of success for our #311 system is not just in logging issues but in resolving them promptly and efficiently.

From personal experience and feedback from our citizens, I am aware of the current gaps — such as prolonged resolution times and lack of resources for essential services. These are unacceptable delays that undermine trust and efficiency.

Improving the #311 system is more than a budgetary commitment; it’s a pledge to our residents for a more responsive, transparent, and effective government. I am dedicated to making this a reality for DeKalb County.

DeKalb County has over 40 citizen advisory and oversight boards. Neither the BOC nor the Administration has evaluated the administration and reporting of these boards for many years. Board positions in multiple boards have been vacant for months and years or filled repeatedly by the same people. How much of a priority is this for you to tackle when you enter office? What would you do to make sure these boards are functioning effectively, and more citizens have opportunities to apply and serve on these boards?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Citizen advisory and oversight boards present a tremendous opportunity to enhance citizen engagement and understanding of the County’s activities. I support reviewing a complete list and description of each board and determine the purpose and need for that board. It may be that existing boards can be modified to foster the much needed communication and dialogue from the neighborhood level.

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
The health and functionality of these boards are crucial to the democratic process and to ensuring that the voices of our citizens are heard and acted upon.
I am fully aware, thanks to research conducted by your organization last year, of the dire situation we face regarding the administration and reporting of these boards. It is critical to address these issues to ensure that our boards are representative, effective, and accountable.

I have firsthand experience with these challenges, notably with the Assembly TAD Advisory Board, which has not had a quorum since 2016 due to unfulfilled appointments by the county’s two appointees that the CEO is responsible for. This is a clear failure in governance and one that directly impacts our community’s ability to effectively plan and implement development projects.

I am open to introducing a hearing officer process where legally permissible, to streamline decision-making and have fewer boards and commissions. i.e. I think a hearing officer can hear a taxi appeal.

I believe we can restore trust in our local government, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our advisory boards, and create a more engaged and representative DeKalb County.

An ongoing issue that is top of mind among residents is annexation into existing cities. What is your stance on annexation of unincorporated DeKalb areas into adjacent cities?

Robert Patrick – District 1
As many of you know, I am a former municipal employee, former city councilman and former President of the DeKalb Municipal Association. I support the will of the voters. If they choose to join an existing city by any of the allowable methods under state law, it is their decision. However, I have concerns about how two cities have approached the 60% annexation method.

Together, they have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on what appears to be an extremely questionable effort to pull residents into their jurisdictions. Over the course of at least a year they hired a company to collect signatures and to create maps to their advantage. After all this effort, their gerrymandered maps and questionably obtained voter signatures, they still could not get close to 50%, let alone the required 60% approval. I think this would be an excellent case study for the legislature to review and come up with guardrails to protect our residents from potentially fraudulent behavior.

Andy Yeoman – District 1
I believe that the question of annexation of unincorporated areas into adjacent cities should be approached with careful consideration, ensuring that all stakeholders are heard and that there is clear, accurate, and accessible information available to all affected parties. This has not been the case in the last twelve months.

I strongly advocate for the principle of letting the people vote on annexation issues, and that it should emerge from the grassroots level, reflecting the genuine wishes and needs of the community members themselves. . The residents of both the unincorporated areas and the adjacent cities should have the right to decide their future based on a full understanding of the facts and potential outcomes. This democratic process ensures that the will of the community guides the development and growth of our county.

However, the right to vote must be underpinned by access to clear and accurate information. It is imperative that citizens are not only informed about the immediate effects of annexation but also about the long-term implications for their communities. As such, if elected, I would work to establish transparent, accessible, and comprehensive educational initiatives to ensure that all voters have the knowledge they need to make an informed decision when they go to the polls.

Another ongoing issue that is top of mind among residents is the formation of new cities in DeKalb County. What is your stance on further creation of new cities in DeKalb?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Again, I support the will of the voters. The voters should consider the financial viability of any new city as significant non-residential properties have already been incorporated into the tax base of existing cities.

Andy Yeoman DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Survey Response
The decision to create new municipalities is not one to be taken lightly, and it must be approached with a clear focus on the desires and needs of our residents. My stance on this issue is straightforward but nuanced: I believe that any further creation of new cities in DeKalb County must be fundamentally community-driven. I want to spend more time fixing the issues that people are upset about and wanting to leave.

I recognize the potential benefits of having more localized governance structures for addressing local issues. Local leaders, who live in and deeply understand their communities, are often better positioned to address specific local concerns and priorities. This localized approach can lead to more effective and tailored solutions, enhancing community well-being and satisfaction.

I personally believe that the delivery of county-wide services and utilities would improve greatly if more time and focus was spent on them and residents were served by a local city, but this decision needs to be made individually by all voters.

There is a technology platform called OpenGov that is a tool many counties and cities across the nation use for providing governmental accountability and transparency to their constituents. Would you support adopting OpenGov or a similar platform in DeKalb County for this purpose?

Robert Patrick – District 1
I whole heartedly support OpenGov. The city of Suwanee currently uses the platform. It makes government finances more approachable and easier to understand.

Andy Yeoman – District 1
Transparency and accountability form the bedrock of a well-functioning democracy. Integrating technology platforms like OpenGov can substantially enhance these crucial elements by democratizing access to financial records, budgetary decisions, and other key government operations, ensuring they are more visible and understandable to the public.

However, I would need more information on the county’s “readiness” to implement this. For example, the DeKalb School District’s ongoing ERP system implementation, which is millions over budget and has been in progress for years, serves as a cautionary tale. Consolidating procurement, planning, budgeting, permitting, and asset management into one cohesive system can offer substantial efficiencies and provides residents with a “single pane of glass” to see inside the whole thing.

DeKalb has just completed the first comprehensive review of its Organizational Act in over 40 years. A set of specific recommendations have been made by the Charter Review Commission and its report has been presented to the CEO and BOC. Which, if any, of the recommendations would you NOT support being changed in the Organizational Act and why?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Rather than say what I do or don’t support, I think equitability is the lens to view the recommendations of the Charter Review Commission. I believe good governance is an iterative process where all laws and ordinances, including charters, should be reviewed at least once a decade. I believe the intent of the reviews is to ensure that accountability is clear and that services are delivered to the residents as efficiently, deliberatively, openly and timely as possible. I appointed a District 1 representative that was involved with the writing of the City of
Dunwoody’s charter. However, it became clear that the opportunity for larger changes would not be possible. Making things make sense is my top priority. While reviewing the proposals recommended by the Charter Review Commission, I believe they need additional consideration by the Board of Commissioners to ensure we can deliver on our county’s commitments to the residents and businesses throughout DeKalb. As public officials we need to listen to the public while ensuring that the power within the governing authority is balanced.

Andy Yeoman – District 1
The Charter Review Commission has performed admirably, producing a final draft that, in my view, merited immediate approval and inclusion on the November ballot. I disagree with the remarks from some commissioners who deemed the process that started in January of 2020 was “rushed.”

One of the recommendations for change in the Organizational Act is for the Board of Commissioners is to establish one or more citizen engagement groups intentionally designed to foster more “bottom-up” communication and dialogue from and with neighborhood residents about planning and zoning issues, but also potentially other concerns involving multiple departments. Would you support the development of such programs? WHY or WHY NOT?

Robert Patrick – District 1
Any opportunity to enhance citizen engagement and understanding of the County’s activities is a discussion the governing authority should consider. It may be more practical that we look at the existing citizen advisory and oversight boards to determine if their purposes are still relevant or if they can be reconstituted to foster the much needed communication and dialogue.

Andy Yeoman – District 1
I would support establishing citizen engagement groups that leads to more active and meaningful participation from community members leading to more democratic and community-focused decision-making.

By fostering open dialogue and bottom-up communication, these groups can improve the trust between the community and local government. When residents see that their opinions are being considered, it can enhance the transparency and perceived legitimacy of the governmental process.

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