In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini meets with Curt Thompson who is currently running for Gwinnett County Commission Chair. Listen in and get an in-depth look at Curt’s views regarding public safety, smart-city technology, affordable housing and much more.
“Job one is working on a transit plan and either implementing it and getting it passed. I also think that we need to seriously look at our County planning infrastructure in general. I think if you’re going to have half a million people move here over the next 10 years, you’d better plan well for that. I think that especially in places like West Gwinnett and South Gwinnett, you’re going to have to look at trying to incentivize a lot of mixed use developments that are more vertical where you’ve got the residential above and the retail at street level.”Curt thompson
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:04] – About Curt
[00:03:27] – Defining CIDs
[00:07:26] – Public Transit
[00:13:51] – Running a Campaign Amidst COVID-19
[00:20:23] – Affordable Housing
[00:25:45] – County Makeup before and after election
[00:26:53] – Criminal Justice Reform
[00:28:28] – Economics and Supporting Families
[00:30:39] – Technology in Gwinnett County
[00:34:59] – Public Safety
[00:38:08] – Closing
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi, this is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life the podcast, one of several that we do here in the city of Peachtree Corners, and I appreciate everyone showing up, either live to this Facebook live stream, or if you’re seeing this on demand on iHeart radio, Spotify, you’re listening to it later, please put a review on the podcast or wherever you are and share it to people that you like. Peachtree Corners Life, Facebook pages, where this originally is streaming from. And I have a guest tonight that’s involved in politics. We’ll get into that in a couple of minutes and I just want to mention our main sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They are a fiber company here in not only in the Southeast and Georgia, and they’ve been working really close here in Peachtree corners as well as Southeast, but this whole Metro area, they’ve come into over the past few months working with companies and they have fiber optics to be able to peak at companies online fast. Provide bandwidth, provide great customer service, a lot different than the cable guy, let’s call it. They’re really involved in the community, and you’ll see them more involved in the community as they grow in this area. So find out a little bit more about them and their, I think it’s 90 day internet free if you sign up with them you can do that at HargrayFiber.com. So now let’s cut to the chase and let’s talk to our guest tonight. Curt Thompson, who’s a Democrat running for Gwinnett County commission chair. Hey Curt, how are you?
Curt: [00:02:03] Good. How are you?
Rico: [00:02:04] Good, thank you. So tell us a little bit about yourself and, and how, you know, how you got into this. What would you expect from doing this?
Curt: [00:02:13] Sure. Well, I’m a lifelong Gwinnett resident. I was born in Decatur, but that’s just where the hospital was. I started at Camp Creek elementary and I graduated from Shiloh high school. So I grew up in sort of in South Gwinnett for the last, well, for 16 years I was in the state legislature representing parts of Gwinnett County. Two of those I was in the general, state house member. 14 of those I was a state Senator. And then starting last February, I announced I was running for Gwinnett County commission chair and of course I’ve been running hard ever since. I am a lawyer by education and trade, went to Georgia state university law school college of law and I have two law offices. One’s in Norcross in the historic district and one is in Duluth, in an office building near Gwinnett mall.
Rico: [00:02:57] Oh wow. Okay. So you’ve been, you’ve been involved in a lot of different things actually being in the legislator session for 16 years, I think it was.
Curt: [00:03:06] That was, yeah 16.
Rico: [00:03:07] As a house rep. You’ve helped pass legislation to deal with CIDs, which. If you want to explain that you were actually head of one in West Gwinnett I think, correct?
Curt: [00:03:17] What’s now called Gateway 85 it was called Gwinnett village when we founded it, and I helped get the statute pass that actually allowed for CIDs to even happen in Gwinnett County.
Rico: [00:03:27] And CIDs are what?
Curt: [00:03:29] A community improvement districts are sort of, it’s a commercial property organization where commercial properties band together, and it’s, I guess either a quasi governmental organization, if you’re trying to be real lawyerly sounding about it. Where they have the power to tax and the power to offer essentially some municipal services, like especially a lot of it goes into planning and streetscaping and traffic planning is one of the primary things as well as clean up. But they can also spend money on security. I know that the Gwinnett village, which I was a part of, or gateway 85 is now, it had paid security cars and things like that going through the district and you’ll see that as a common thing and other community improvement districts as well.
Rico: [00:04:14] So if most people don’t understand that’s actually a self taxing district. So they help themselves.
Curt: [00:04:19] They add money to the millage rate, and then that money gets spent in that district’s area. Similar to the way a township would, but it’s just, or a city would, but it’s just for commercial properties.
Rico: [00:04:30] So being, so being head of that, you actually had to handle similar, some of the similar things that you, that you possibly would, as a County commissioner would?
Curt: [00:04:38] You do, you handle municipal service issues just like you would. I mean, obviously at the County Commission level, it’s a much bigger issue. And it’s a much bigger budget. But it’s similar issues, municipal services, yes. You have to work with the County when you’re doing, when if you’re a CID, just like a city, you have to work with the counties. And if the CID, like the Gwinnett village is partly in the city of Norcross. So you also have to work with that city as well. They get a board member on the, on the board of the community improvement district actually.
Rico: [00:05:11] All right, so you get, you have to deal with different levels of government to, to do what you need to do there. The reason I pointed that out first is because that is a big deal in Gwinnett County when it first came here and because it was the first, because of what Gwinnett Place mall in that whole area was like some years ago. This was, how long has it been now?
Curt: [00:05:34] That CIDs have been in existence? Probably about, I want to say about 12 years. I have to go back and look. But I would say.
Rico: [00:05:43] So, it’s been a while. I mean, and that whole area has changed. In fact, the Gwinnett place mall, I think is all, it’s being sold or there’s some…
Curt: [00:05:51] Gwinnett Place CID is a, is a different CID from Gateway 85. But yeah, that, that property is currently on the market. And obviously that has changed. And that’s probably one of the things that has to be, forgetting CIDs, you know, dealing with the Gwinnett Place mall areas, probably one of the top priorities that at any County commission chair is going to want to address when they’re, when elected. Certainly it’s one of my top priorities.
Rico: [00:06:19] Because the, that’s a huge expansive land right there. That’s not going to remain that way. Right?
Curt: [00:06:26] I would hope not. You know, I, I would hope that being a dead mall is not something that you really want at, in the Gateway to West Gwinnett.
Rico: [00:06:36] Yeah. I mean, I, it’s been talked about as a multi, multi-use development, maybe something similar to the maybe not quite similar, but like the infinity. The way that area in Duluth is being developed with the convention center, hotels, retail and all that.
Curt: [00:06:53] Yeah. There’s been different talk. I mean, over the years you’ve heard everything from a cricket stadium to youth development to building a shopping center area similar to Avalon just over in the Alpharetta area. I think that the, the main thing you need is, is actual leadership in the area to make sure that something actually happens. Otherwise we’ll be talking about it for the next, you know, we’ve talked about it for six years. 10 years, we could be talking about it and another six to 10 years if we’re just right.
Rico: [00:07:26] For sure. And, well part of that too, I would think is the idea, and we’re going to jump a little bit around here a little bit, but the idea of transportation also coming because that was going to be the first footprint of Marta, or if not Marta…
Curt: [00:07:43] Some regional transit, whether that’s, or something…
Rico: [00:07:46] Or maybe Marta Manage, but whatever it is. But it’d be the first entry to Gwinnett County of mass transit of that nature. Which in the vicinity of that would likely make sense, I guess, but that failed twice, I think already.
Curt: [00:08:00] It failed once in 92 I guess it actually, I think. There was some initial failing vote back in the early seventies, like when Marta was created. Then in 92, it went down hard in a vote. I remember, cause that was one of the first elections I voted in. And then, and of course recently just failed in a special election ballot. I think that you know, one of the lessons from that is to not put something like that on a special election ballot.
Rico: [00:08:27] Yeah. It was the only item on the ballot, which really to me, made no sense. I mean, spent money for no reason and it actually could have…
Curt: [00:08:34] Spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it’s one of those things, if you plan to fail, you’ll fail.
Rico: [00:08:38] Yes, and not for anything it probably could have passed maybe if it went to a general election, but.
Curt: [00:08:44] I think if you had had high turnout, it would’ve passed just because of the nature of Gwinnett County voters. If you’d had a full turnout election, not a special election, I sincerely believe it would pass now, hopefully, you know, it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s hard to think of it that way as someone who supports mass transit. But hopefully we will get a better transit plan. And get a better transit plan passed, you know, soon.
Rico: [00:09:08] And, and it may, I mean, I come from New York and, you know, brand it was on the subways and stuff. I can see the use of mass transit makes a lot of sense, although in a suburb area, people don’t look at it that way. They look at it as just more traffic, more money. It’s billion dollars being spent just to put one station somewhere. And I can understand that versus let’s say light rail or other forms of transportation that’s less expensive.
Curt: [00:09:36] But all of that, even when you say light rail I think that, yes, the heavy rail is expensive and I think that we need to seriously look at whether or not, you know, you were mentioning you’re from New York, so you, if you look at the long island rail. Going out, waiting on the suburbs. Cause if you go all the way out to Smithtown on the other end of the Island, which the long island rail does. You know, that that’s a pretty sizable distance. Or if you even look at the Boston area rapid transit or Washington DC’s transit, it goes way out into the suburbs. That doesn’t mean you have the heavy rail always going way out into the suburbs. That’s not how every system is designed. I do think that light rails and bus rapid transit are probably more cost effective, although, you know, when you’re committing to doing that instead of heavy rail, you’re also committing to having transfer stations every time you connect to the Marta system, it would have to be, because you’d be changing rail lines.
Rico: [00:10:26] Right. So transit hubs and, and maybe if the, I mean that’s almost scary to see. Cause if it’s just a transit hub and not development around it as part of that scheme, if you will?
Curt: [00:10:39] Well, I mean, I think it can be built. I think you just have to be very intentional about it. And, and every, every large transit metropolitan transit system has transfer stations. It just means that if you’re going to emphasize bus rapid transit or light rail when you connect to the, to the heavy rail system, those will always be a transfer station.
Rico: [00:11:00] So do you foresee yourself then as a proponent of this as a County commission chair to be able to like be an advocate for mass transit in Gwinnett County?
Curt: [00:11:10] I’ve been an advocate when I was a state Senator, I was an advocate when I was a state rep. Before that, I had been an advocate on the campaign trail. That would be my hope. It’s not my decision. It would be my hope that you know, I say, Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise, that this County commission would decide to put it on the November ballot so that when I’m running for office in November, assuming that, you know, if I win the primary running in November. That it’s on in the ballot and passes. And then it’s my job to do the best job possible of implementing that plan and updating it as soon as things change. And I think that, that, you know, these plans are living, breathing documents and I think that you will have to update them over the 10, 15, 20 years of their life span or whatever the life span of the agreement is. As you actually find the, as you know, the actual reality of the half million people that are going to move here in the next 10 years according to the ARC come in, where, where do they actually move and what are the actual traffic needs? So you’ll see some updating, but it would be my hope that I would be implementing something, if not one of, job one is to get something ready for a ballot initiative. I guess that would be 2022 if you’re trying to put it on the general election ballot, but, but getting something on the ballot. Well, that would be the earliest you could do it. I’ve heard arguments for and against that particular date, but that would be the earliest if you don’t do it this November.
Rico: [00:12:33] Yeah. So being able to do that now, whether, whether it gets on the ballot or not at this point is, is questionable right? I mean, our primary has moved from April to May to June. Hopefully it will happen in June. I mean, at some point they have to hold it, right?
Curt: [00:12:51] At some point they have to decide. I think that legally I think the chairman, the current chair, chairman Nash had wanted the decision made in April. That’s what I recall. I think that legally the lawyers have said you could wait as late as July or August and still get it on the November ballot in terms of meeting all the legal notice requirements. I don’t think, I guess, you know, one of the lessons from the last referendum was, is that it had a very short ramp window to run a campaign, and so I can understand why you wouldn’t want to do that at the last minute. But legal, you know, what is it, what’s legal and what’s advisable are not necessarily the same thing. April is better, especially if you’re trying to launch a significant campaign. Of course, doing something in the middle of a pandemic is, doing anything in the middle of a pandemic always sends a challenge, I would think. There wouldn’t be a lot of a campaign ramped up in April, I think, even if they voted on it at the next meeting.
Rico: [00:13:51] Yeah. So it may be a problem actually. So let’s, let’s segue right into that, because running a campaign is really difficult to begin with. When you have, how many candidates actually?
Curt: [00:14:03] I guess there’s eight total. There are five Democrats, and apologies if I miscounted someone, but five, and then there are three Republicans. Total of eight.
Rico: [00:14:14] Do you guys have a primary?
Curt: [00:14:15] We do. Yeah. It’s a partisan race, so there’ll be the June 9th primary will be the Republican, and it’s the general primary. It’s also the presidential primary on the democratic side.
Rico: [00:14:29] Whoever wins June 9th is the commissioner or the chair?
Curt: [00:14:32] No, whoever wins June 9th goes on, whichever Republican wins June 9th and whichever Democrat wins June 9th, go.
Rico: [00:14:40] Okay, that’s…
Curt: [00:14:41] November ballot, because it’s a partisan race. It’s not like a judgeship that’s said, we do have, you know, Georgia has the 50% plus one rule. So if no Democrat gets 50% plus one, it goes into I want to say it’s a July runoff, July runoff, and the same on the Republican side. They’ve got three candidates. They can…
Rico: [00:15:01] Well, that’d be, that’s easier for three, maybe five is a little bit more difficult to get the plurality. Right. How has it been running a campaign? I mean, what are you doing?
Curt: [00:15:15] You still go to events. There was a, I think there was about a week or two. We’re honestly, nothing was happening and I think most people weren’t. And so everyone was trying to adjust. Now instead of going to the Gwinnett NAACP meeting, you go to the Gwinnett NAACP zoom meeting. It’s a lot of zoom meetings. And so it’s not nearly as impressive to be checking in from your kitchen taking a picture of a computer screen where there’s a screen, you know, a grid of nine people on it or what, or however many people are there. That’s not nearly as impressive as checking in at an actual event with an actual selfie with actual people. But, but it’s a lot of zoom meetings. You can’t really canvas. So things shift to phone banking and you worry about the mail because you know, the postal service has been affected by the pandemic as well. And so you worry about campaign mail and whether that adjust, you have to adjust your schedule for campaign mail and things like that. Other than that, it stays the same. I will say that you also, you know, campaigns are not free. They cost money to run. I tell folks that any campaign, campaigns are not run on love and affection, you know, and so being in the middle of a pandemic with the economy shutdown is not a great time to be what we call dialing for dollars. You know, when you’re, especially because Democrats have a stereotypically, you know, if you look at say, whether that’s Bernie Sanders up to Joe Biden up to anybody. The Democrats are much more dependent on their small dollar donations from individuals because they don’t get, we don’t get as many of the big pack contributions, and those are definitely, it becomes harder to justify that. You know, you can’t go out and ask folks that don’t have a job to give a campaign contribution.
Rico: [00:16:59] No. And the primary is probably, it’s not as much of a problem because the, if you, if you win your primary income, the November election with Biden, likely the one that’s going to be on the ballot.
Curt: [00:17:10] And he is the presumptive nominee on the democratic side, and Trump is obviously going to be, it’s got to be Trump-Biden and…
Rico: [00:17:16] Right. Unless something further happens. I mean, right now.
Curt: [00:17:19] If something bizarre happens and you know, knock on wood, I don’t want to jinx it because we’ve had a lot of bizarre happen this year.
Rico: [00:17:27] Yes, we have. We have absolute power and we have all sorts of things going on.
Curt: [00:17:33] We have people that think they have absolute power. When they want credit for something and then suddenly it’s everybody else’s responsibility.
Rico: [00:17:40] Right? So you have a bit of that going on. Then we have 6 million absentee ballot applications going out for this one. Right. So lots of things going went on. And I know, I forget the percentage. It was a really small percentage of voters that voted absentee, I’d imagine this time around, and maybe way more.
Curt: [00:17:59] A lot higher, I would assume if they’d mailed out applications to everybody. You know, some percentage, it’ll be a much higher than it was now. They also moved the primary, my knowledge, I’ve never moved to primary in the middle of an election and we moved the presidential primary has been moved twice now. Right now, the presidential primary is not even competitive because Bernie Sanders has conceited and endorsed Biden, but that may be a wash on that side. But we’ve moved the general primary that all of us run in for the local races and state legislative and congressional races. But I still think that even with that being moved, there’ll be a lot more vote by mail, just because of what’s going on.
Rico: [00:18:39] Do you think that’s a detriment to Democrats?
Curt: [00:18:44] Well…
Rico: [00:18:45] In the primary, it doesn’t matter.
Curt: [00:18:46] In the primary it doesn’t matter. Because, I suppose if we had, you know, you saw what happened in Wisconsin where it was really about whether or not a conservative right wing judge on the Supreme court there would get reelected or not. And he did lose. For those that don’t know, they’re, he did lose in spite of the Republicans going to court to take, to, to force the election in the middle of the pandemic. But since our election, the general will not. Vote by
mail increase, may increase the turnout in the primary on the Republican and the democratic side, I would assume. You know, it may, you know, we won’t know. We’ve never done it this way, so you don’t know till you get there. But that’s a working assumption, but we don’t know what, you know what we’re going to have in November. If you have a double dip of this pandemic, which there, the scientists are talking about the fact that it could, if it is seasonal. Remember the Spanish flu lasted three years. There wasn’t the 1918 flu that was just in 1918, it was still around for 1920.
Rico: [00:19:49] Well there were no vaccines.
Curt: [00:19:51] If nothing, a vote by mail election in November, you know, or, or a, a significant absentee vote in November. We’ll see. We don’t know yet, but you, the, and I’m not sure in a state as narrowly divided as Georgia who that favors the betting money is that, you know, certainly the Republicans, they get favors the Democrats, by the way they talk about it. I’m not as certain of that, but I also don’t know if we’re going to have that happen in the general we’re, we’re dealing with it in a primary.
Rico: [00:20:23] Right. So let’s talk about as if, as if everything’s going to be fine and normal and we’re going to be just gung ho about this. And we’re gonna, you know, everyone’s going to be doing the right thing down the line. And elections come in November and we do the elections. But, so let’s talk about some of the other issues. We talked about transportation a little bit. We talked a little bit, we touched on development with the CID. Is there anything particularly you want to add to either one of those?
Curt: [00:20:56] Well, I mean, I think that, you know job one is working on a transit plan and either implementing it and getting it passed. I also think that we need to seriously look at our County planning infrastructure in general. I think if you’re going to have half a million people move here over the next 10 years, you’d better plan well for that. I think that especially in places like West Gwinnett and South Gwinnett, you’re going to have to look at trying to incentivize a lot of mixed use developments that are more vertical where you’ve got the residential above and the retail at street level. It doesn’t have to be high rise is like Midtown Atlanta, but at least you know, something that looks more like downtown Decatur or even Bindings areas.
Rico: [00:21:42] Like seven stories, six stories. Eight stories, something like that.
Curt: [00:21:45] Something like that.
Rico: [00:21:46] You also mentioned about affordable, affordable housing there’s some philosophies on that. How do you incentivize that? So then the developer will provide reasonable rental for people that, you know, they’re not on a living wage, but they have to live in the area maybe.
Curt: [00:22:03] Well to have, whether it’s affordable housing or workforce housing or senior housing, I think you do have to incentivize it at some level. Think of what you’re talking about. Some of that may be in speeding up the permitting process. Some of that might be you know, allowing people those height variances. It’s a lot harder to get a height variance in Gwinnett County than it is in Cobb or Dekalb or Fulton in terms of to go vertical. Because the only way you’re going to see the cost of land is only gonna go up. I mean, you may have this. The, the pandemic recession or whatever they’re going to call this is probably gonna flat, you know, flatten out some real estate costs. But in general, real estate’s going. You know, the days of having, if you’re looking for affordable housing, being everybody on a half acre or three quarter acre lot, that’s not going to happen. You’re talking about bringing condos in and tent more counterparts and things in the mixed use development, especially you would want that in the area where they’re going to build the Amazon plant in South Gwinnett because otherwise there’s folks who are just going to work in the Amazon plant and live in Dekalb County where the housing is cheaper and then they get all of the benefits of people living there and shopping there and, and you know, Dekalb gets all the benefits and we’ll just get the traffic in and out.
Rico: [00:23:12] So how do you force developers to do that? How do you?
Curt: [00:23:14] I don’t think you can force it. I think you have to incentivize it. You have to offer either speeding up the permitting process, speeding up rezoning process where necessary. And you probably have to give them, you may have to go to higher density, which means smaller square footage similar to what you have in the city of Atlanta or city of Decatur or some of these townhomes and condominium communities.
Rico: [00:23:38] Okay. All right.
Curt: [00:23:40] To allow for higher density cause once they can have higher density, once they can actually build something with higher density than they can you know, lower the price without necessarily lowering the quality. Cause I don’t necessarily want us to, you know, affordable housing needs to be quality affordable housing and not substandard affordable housing.
Rico: [00:23:58] Right. Because otherwise, I mean, I remember when I was on the planning commission some years back, I mean, you get developers coming in and they would build. High intensity properties, 13 units an acre, maybe, you know, we’re talking about town homes, and then people would just buy it up like 6, 12, 10 of them and then rent them.
Curt: [00:24:16] Rent them and then they bring them up. And that’s not what we’re trying to do, we’re wanting owner occupied stuff or long term renters, not folks that move every six months chasing a $15 rent discount kind of.
Rico: [00:24:28] Yes. And that’s 70…
Curt: [00:24:30] That you really have to look at that.
Rico: [00:24:32] Yeah. All right. So…
Curt: [00:24:35] But it’s really hard to mandate it. I mean, I’m not, there are places that haven’t had mandates like that. I don’t know if that would really work in Georgia’s construction environment. I think you have to look, you know, look at what other folks have done, whether that’s in the city of Atlanta or in Dekalb County or Cobb County.
Rico: [00:24:51] Okay. All right. Listen, it makes sense. And the problem with these things is always, whether you actually mandate it or if you incentivize it, can they get around that? This, there’s always a little give and take there.
Curt: [00:25:04] And you can use things like other areas like Chicago’s use tax increment financing, tax allocation districts. So you can give tax incentives also so that it makes it more affordable for folks to move in because then they have five years. You know, oftentimes it’s done as a, the property taxes phase in over five years so that people have time to essentially grow their income end of the property they’re living.
Rico: [00:25:27] All right. So there are ways to do it and we just need the courage to be able to do that, right?
Curt: [00:25:32] You need courage and leadership and focus. You’ve got to actually be willing to say this is a priority. Make it a priority. Tell your planning commissioners, it’s a priority. Tell your planning department it’s a priority.
Rico: [00:25:45] Do you think the County makeup right now, as far as who’s commissioners right now will be, have the same mindset as you? If you became County chair.
Curt: [00:25:53] You’ve got three seats up for, they’re going to be three new commissioners and every time I think you have an election, like every time you have an appointment to the Supreme court, it changes the makeup of the court entirely. Because it changes how the interpersonal reactions are, so I think that broadly, yes, I would expect there to be more of a focus on affordable quality, affordable housing, and more of a focus on mass transit. You won’t have Tommy Hunter’s leaving, you know, the, I guess, you know, this is the, you know, he’s the NIMBYs NIMBY kind of guy. I mean, there are things I could say, but they’re not sort of, you know, they’re, they’re definitely PG-13, at the very least, you know, but the, but you know, that type of commissioner is going to be gone, you know? That’s not an offense to him necessarily. It’s just saying that no one running for, you know, the current set of seats is going, is of that mindset that I’m aware of.
Rico: [00:26:53] More moderate. As far as justice, criminal justice reform, 287G is, is a big deal with what’s going on now. I know several of the sheriff candidates have said that they, one, they will, they’ll just disregard that because it’s a voluntary thing anyway. What’s your feeling?
Curt: [00:27:14] I think it needs to be abandoned. I think it costs the County money. And you’ll have people say, Oh, well there’s a, you know, the County gets a grant for it but the County is going to get that grant, regardless of whether they, from the federal government, whether they do 287G or not, it’s costing us money that we’re not getting reimbursed for, because that’s an additional expense that that same federal grant could be, could be used for something else. And so, you know I, you know, it’s my hope that whoever’s the next sheriff ends that program because it’s ultimately the Sheriff’s call. If the sheriff doesn’t want to do that I think the County commission needs to look at cutting the sheriff’s, you know, we have the ultimate power of the purse spring, on the purse strings on the County commission side, and they need to take a serious look at either cutting the Sheriff’s department budget or restricting County funds to not be used from that. Make them go get it from Brooke forfeiture money or actually get it from the feds and not get it from the County budget.
Rico: [00:28:13] And from some people that don’t know, 287G is, is the regulation to work with ice detention program right? To that the sheriff actually, his team acts as if they’re ice agents almost.
Curt: [00:28:27] Right.
Rico: [00:28:28] Okay. So as far as economics, supporting families. We’re gonna go through the list real quick, a little bit about middle class, lower middle class, working class. Are there certain policies that come to the forefront for you?
Curt: [00:28:45] I think that the, you know, we talked about, we touched on affordable housing, and that’s one. You know, I’ve, I’ve proposed that the County look at operating or contracting. We’re in some sort of public, private partnership to offer countywide wifi and come forward so that folks don’t have to take their kids to Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s to do their homework. Because nowadays, you know, that’s a real problem is that, you know, not everyone, especially at the lower income strata, can afford. My Comcast bill is 180 a month, and I do not have the premium channels. That’s Internet, TV. And, now granted I have the higher speed internet, but if they’re trying to do it to study, but I don’t have any premium channels. And that’s what it’s costing me. And so that’s the, you know, I can afford that. But that’s serious money for a lot of families. And I think that the County might be able to get a better price for folks and that, and definitely should look at offering that. And I think that we also need to look at our library system. There’s a program in the library system that allows folks to get a high school diploma who aren’t necessarily traditional students, but it’s an actual high school diploma, not a GED. And I think that we need to look at expanding programs like that where possible.
Rico: [00:30:02] Would that be expanded through the Gwinnett school system?
Curt: [00:30:06] No, that that’s through the public library system, which is part of the Gwinnett. The school system is part of the school board that I definitely would love for the school board
and the County commission to coordinate better together. They almost act like they’re on different planets. They don’t talk to each other it seems. At least that’s how it appears. And I wish that there was more cooperation between the two, but ultimately the K-12 stuff is on them, you know. This is just a program that’s offered through the library system, which the Gwinnett County public library is about 80% funded by the County.
Rico: [00:30:39] You were talking about wifi before. What about, 4G networking, there’s a lot of talk about 4G being used. I mean, you know, if you’re talking down the line future, I’m sorry, 5G. The next one will be 6G, but 5G, yes. And that’s what we have in Peachtree Corners on the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. It’s one and a half mile track that’s supposed to work. With IOT with, you know, self driving cars and all that.
Curt: [00:31:15] My Rotary club meets over there at the Peachtree Corners City Hall. So I see the track every day or at least once a week.
Rico: [00:31:22] So the, does the, does any, you know, 5G is one thing that’s sort of, let’s call it sexy and stuff, it’s great to have 5G because you need that for self driving cars, IOT. But what, what smart city. Because even counties plan these things out, right? Whether it’s water, whether it’s energy, whether it’s having charging stations for cars, whether it should, using solar, anything. Any ideas that you want to, that you’d like to see planned out over the next decade, let’s say, that would work in that realm?
Curt: [00:31:55] In the technology realm, specifically?
Rico: [00:31:58] Technology, energy.
Curt: [00:32:01] You know, I don’t know if this is where you were going. I mean, I do think that, you know, the countywide wifi that I was talking about would be part of that. I think if we want to ever, you know, we occasionally talk about creating a high tech corridor along 316. It might be nice to actually do more than talk about it and put it as a, you know, a paragraph in a blurb about things we’d like to do but we never actually get around to doing. At least around the Gwinnett Georgia college area. We ought to really look at it and actually trying to implement that. And then you know, I don’t know if this is, you know, what you meant from long range planning, but eventually we’re going to have to address the issue of water, you know, I mean and possibly upgrading the yellow river plant. I mean, the White Hill water treatment plant is sort of worldwide state of the art. There’s not a lot higher you could go with that. But you’ve got the two other, the, the substation down close to where, close to the, to where, Gwinnett, Fulton and Dekab come together. And then you’ve got the yellow river treatment plant that may, you may want to look at upgrading, depending on what the technology available is, you know, and now those are expensive projects that are done through the water department. But, but it took, you know, the reason that things called the Wayne Hill water treatment plan is because Wayne Hill took lead in that area. And I think that someone may have to take you know, in the next 10 to 15 years. And it’s, it’s always cheaper if you can do it sooner than if you do it later. We’re going to
have to address the issue of water and simply asking the courts to let us take more out of the Chattahoochee river is not really a solution because there’s only so much water in the Chattahoochee and eventually that like getting credit for putting water back in the Chattahoochee doesn’t put, it doesn’t put more water actually in the universe. It just gives us more credit for what we’ve done, but it doesn’t put more water in the universe. Or potable water in the universe.
Rico: [00:33:58] Right. But even so, let’s take it a step away for a second. Let’s go back to quickly to development for a second. You were talking about maybe doing six, seven story mid rises to be able to park, you know, the development that’s going to be coming up 85. You know, should they be LED buildings, should they be, you know, you know, should we move towards a more.
Curt: [00:34:23] We’re going to have to move towards a more energy efficient type of construction definitely. And some of that’s going to be market-driven. Some of that’s going to have to be driven by the government. But, it has to happen. I mean, whether you’re looking at it from a global climate change perspective and doing our part to not contribute more to that. To just how do we get the most bang for our buck when it comes to things like water and electricity and land use.
Rico: [00:34:59] Public safety. There’s a lot of security.
Curt: [00:35:03] What the County, you know, that’s the most important thing the County really does, but yes.
Rico: [00:35:07] So do you think that needs to be strengthened a little bit? Where are we with that?
Curt: [00:35:11] You know, the way I’ve usually talked about that is that, you know, we have one of the largest police forces, but we don’t have one of the best response times. And I think that at some point we need to take a look at that and figure out what’s going on. If you just look at it and compare our police force to the only comparable one of it’s size, which is the city of Atlanta. We have a very top heavy police force. We have far fewer people on patrol and a lot more people in headquarters than say the city of Atlanta does, which is the only comparably sized thing. And the only way you’re going to increase response times on calls is if you have more street-level cops. And so I think that we need to look at not just necessarily increasing the size of the force. We have one of the largest forces in the state, but, but how has that force allocated?
Rico: [00:36:08] What about technology? Right now? I know, for example, the city of Peachtree Corners is, is putting out through Georgia Power 15 cameras to, plate recognition cameras and actually to some degree, facial recognition cameras as well within some of the city, the city, a
town center. That recognizes faces and I think they’d be able to count the size of the crowd, if you will. Do you see more technology needs to be rolled out into Gwinnett Police?
Curt: [00:36:39] You know, that runs into a civil liberties issue to be honest. And so you’re always a little bit cautious about that. You know, we had the issue of, first there were traffic light cameras, and then suddenly there weren’t because you couldn’t cross examine a traffic light camera if you wanted to protest your ticket kind of thing. And I think that then it’s, it requires a lot of balancing. I mean, I think that. You know, it’s, it’s wrong for us to say, Oh, well, you can’t do any of that. You know, in a culture where we’re, we always click agree to the terms and conditions without ever reading them, whether it’s Amazon or anything else. We apparently have no problem with sharing our data with corporate America. I think that, that inevitably, some of that’s gonna come. But I don’t know how much of that’s a priority in terms of, you know, and I would have to look at, talk with our police chief, really and see what is really the best, highest, best use of our dollars. I would rather have more street level cops than more cameras taking photographs of people because the idea is to deter crime. All the camera does is catch the criminal, which is, you know, that’s great, but I would like to deter the crime so that it doesn’t happen. And I think that, you do more of that if you have more street-level cops, if you have more patrols, if you even have, depending on the density of the area, you know, foot patrols even.
Rico: [00:38:08] Probably the last question then I’m going to ask you to give, let me know if we’ve missed anything, but just because it’s on your website, it’s last thing on there and I’m wondering how our County commission may be able to help this, and that’s decriminalizing marijuana.
Curt: [00:38:21] Right. So you know, our solicitor’s already decided he’s not going to prosecute it because he says the current hemp statute makes it hard to tell what’s hemp versus marijuana. I think that the city of Atlanta, the city of Atlanta, Clark County. I think city of Clarkston, Dekalb County, several places have decriminalized it to the sense that if you’re a cop for simple possession. Which is, you know, possession of less than an ounce. That they just get, they will issue you a ticket. You don’t go to jail, because to be quite honest, it’s very disparate how this law is enforced. And you know, you, the majority of folks that get arrested and sent to jail, in Gwinnett County on marijuana possession are, the vast majority are people of color. You can’t tell me that, that the vast majority of people smoking marijuana are people of color. It’s just being selectively, like, that’s not how that works. There’s nothing about marijuana that has that, that says a particular race is more likely to use it than other. That’s not how that works.
Rico: [00:39:26] I’m sure if you go to Johns Creek, or other places it’s used a lot.
Curt: [00:39:29] Yeah. So I think that if you gave a, because you know what currently happens could change the moment, either the state legislature changes the hap statute or the, if you ever get a different solicitor that has a different view. And I think that one thing that you should do is just, you know, put that out there, have that be an ordinance so that it can be. Have that be an
ordinance so that they can write a ticket. You still get to have to pay a fine, but you’re not going to go to jail. You’re not going to have to try and figure out what, how to make a thousand dollar bond and it’s not going to disproportionately impact minorities.
Rico: [00:40:02] I think the ticket in city of Atlanta is only 75 or something. It’s a minimal amount.
Curt: [00:40:06] Yeah. I would say something like that. But a lot of cities have gone to that, even in Georgia. And I think that that’s what Gwinnett County should do too, cause it will also save money at the jail, you know. Because to be quite honest, no one who says when they’re a kid, they said, I want to be a cop it’s because they want to go arrest people for smoking weed at fraternity parties. That’s not, what people want to go, that’s not why anyone wanted to become a cop. And then they can focus on human trafficking. They could focus on domestic violence, they could focus on the actual crimes against people, crimes against persons, crimes against property. And so that we actually have violent people in the jails and not folks taking up space in the jail who are there on small drug or small level marijuana offenses.
Rico: [00:40:49] For sure, especially our jails, which I think is somewhat overcrowded as is. All right, so we’ve come.
Curt: [00:40:56] … Bail money and allow the police to focus on more serious crime.
Rico: [00:41:01] Yeah. The violent crime, that makes more sense to me. We’ve come to the end of our time together. So let me ask you, was there anything that we didn’t cover that you’d like to share first?
Curt: [00:41:10] Well just, you know, I got into this race, basically saying, you know, I’m here to ask for your vote, and if you honor me with your vote on election day, if you honor me with your vote on election day. I promise you that I, the one thing I can promise you is that I will fight for you every day in Lawrenceville, just as I fought for you every day in Atlanta in the general assembly. And for those that want to, you know, find out more about the campaign or volunteer for the campaign, they can go to CurtForGwinnett.com.
Rico: [00:41:45] Right, right. Thank you, Curt. I appreciate you coming on the show with me. Everyone, if you need that information, just remember also you should have gotten the mail in ballot application probably a week, week and a half ago,
Curt: [00:42:04] And they should be mailing them out starting the 20th to 24th of April, they should go.
Rico: [00:42:09] Yeah, I know. We got it last week and it’s really easy. There’s three things you have to do on it. Just check the information, sign it, and either mail it back or you literally can take a picture of it and email it from your phone. So it’s, you know, and then you get the ballot. Then you got to fill out the ballot. So don’t forget that.
Curt: [00:42:26] Pick whether you want a Democrat or Republican or a nonpartisan ballot.
Rico: [00:42:29] That’s right. That too. All right, cool. So appreciate you coming on, Curt. Thank you for, you know, sharing the issues of, where you believe in what you, what you want people to know about you. And everyone just remember June 9th is the election day, so pay attention to what’s going out there.
Curt: [00:42:49] If you’re mailing in your ballot. It has to be received by June 9th. Don’t be mailing a ballot on June 9th that won’t.
Rico: [00:42:54] No. Yes, it has to be postmarked or received?
Curt: [00:42:57] Received June 9th. So that means, you know, I wouldn’t be mailing it. Please don’t mail the ballot after June 1st cause we don’t know how slow the. Mail is sometimes quick, mail is sometimes not. I would be mailing it earlier not later.
Rico: [00:43:08] It’s good that you said that, cause most people might think it has to be postmarked that.
Curt: [00:43:11] In some States it is. So if you’ve moved here from somewhere else, postmark governs in places like Arizona and California. It doesn’t govern here.
Rico: [00:43:20] Okay. So make sure you mail it a week ahead at least.
Curt: [00:43:22] Yes.
Rico: [00:43:24] All right, good. Thank you, Curt. I appreciate you. Hang in there with me for a minute and then we’ll just sign off right now. We’re going, you know, if you’re getting this on the feed later, just leave a comment in the box if you’d like. If you’re getting this on podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, leave a review, LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com is where you can find more information. Thank you.
How will State Senate Candidate Matt Reeves Help Peachtree Corners
Republican State Senate District 48 candidate Matt Reeves joins host Rico Figliolini on Peachtree Corners Life podcast to discuss COVID-19, the Governor’s response, mask-wearing, social justice, police reforms, Black Lives Matters, kids going back to school, education funding, state ethics and why he’s running for the State Senate.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:16] – About Matt
[00:07:01] – Thoughts on COVID
[00:13:26] – Education Issues
[00:16:31] – Budget Cuts
[00:18:55] – Black Lives Matter, Immigrants, and Minorities
[00:26:55] – Police Force
[00:32:47] – Term Limits
[00:34:55] – Ethics in Government
[00:38:38] – Closing
Social Media: @MattReevesGA
“We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward.”Matt Reeves
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. And, I appreciate you coming to the show. We’re doing this socially safe in the city of Peachtree Corners. And before we get to our guest, who’s on screen. Matt Reeves. Hey Matt, how are you?
Matt: [00:00:45] Hello.
Rico: [00:00:46] I’ll introduce him and go in to introduce himself. But first, before we get into that, I want to just talk about our lead sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They’re a Southeastern company that does fiber optics for the business community and for consumers. But the fiber side of it is delivering the type of speed and services necessary for small businesses and large businesses, enterprise businesses, to do their work in this teleworking environment, during the COVID-19. And hopefully, and providing services, unlike the cable companies. Really they’re right there community and they’re providing a lot of things in the community. They are very involved in every community they’re in, whether it’s Savannah, Peachtree Corners, Macon Georgia all over the Southeast, Tallahassee, Florida, they are there. So visit HargrayFiber.com or Hargray.com/business to find out how you can work your smart office and work with them. So now that we’ve done that, I want to tell you that we’re going to be discussing a lot of issues over the next 30 to 40 minutes with Republican State Senate candidate, Matt Reeves. We’re going to be discussing issues of the day; COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, state ethics, term limits, all sorts of things. We’re going to be going back and forth on this, but before we get into all that, I’d like to have Matt introduce himself and tell us why we should be listening to him as a candidate for State Senate.
Matt: [00:02:16] Thanks Rico and great to connect with folks in the audience from Peachtree Corners. Definitely want to be a great advocate for Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, in North Bolton, in the States Senate. My name is Matt Reeves. I’m a resident of Duluth for the last 17 years. So I live right next door in Gwinnett County. I have practiced law business and real estate litigation at Anderson St. Cornwall firm for about 17 years. I went to university of Georgia law school before that, and then Mercer undergrad to college before that. My wife Suzette and I, and our three kids who are eleventh grade, eighth grade and fifth grade. Live in the Duluth, we’re active in the community. And I just want to serve our community and keep the quality of life strong in Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Swanee, Lawrenceville, Johns Creek, part of Alpharetta, part of Norcross, for the next generation. We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward. The State Senate has 35 Republicans and 21 Democrats. I’m reaching out to independents, to centrist Democrats as well as Republicans, to be a good advocate for our community, because I believe I can get more done for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate on the Republican side of the aisle. I know there are a couple of issues, Rico that you’ve selected, but just, you know, one thing to know is, I spent some time at the Capitol years ago, was a lawyer for the house judiciary committee in 2008. I worked with Wendell Willer, who was the, one of the leaders on the new cities movement, which Peachtree corners benefited greatly from. Chairman Tom Rice was laying the
groundwork for the work in the legislature for Peachtree Corners as was Senator David Schaefer in 2008, when I was down there. Dunwoody was the city that was spearheaded during the session that I was down there. But, I got to see the early stages of Peachtree Corners. And over the last eight years, Peachtree Corners definitely has been a leader in our region, as a new city and I look forward to being an effective advocate and a bipartisan problem-solver on behalf of Peachtree Corners in the state Senate. And I hope to earn people’s support, in the community for this, competitive State Senate seat.
Rico: [00:04:32] Yeah, I’m glad you, you came on with me. I remember doing this from home. I think about two, two and a half years ago during the campaign in 2018, when you ran the first time. And that was, you know, during the, was it the blue wave, we shall say. Democrats coming into, house seats in positions. 2020 is a little different. You know, I don’t know if that, if that still will go on. So this is a proven, this is going to be a test, right. To some degree to see what the voters want. And so this is good way to be able to talk to you and, and see if, if your points of view is what the voters here want in 2020.
Matt: [00:05:12] And I, politics, and partisan politics, changes like the weather. I think what, folks in Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett County, what they ask is who can do the best job for them in this particular office. And, that’s what I’m focusing on in the States Senate race. Who can do the best job for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate seat for the benefit of our schools. The safety of our communities, transportation solutions, health care, the things that are important to us and make our communities strong. Who can be a better advocate in the State Senate. And, you know, David Shaffer was the president pro-tem of the Senate. He was number one out of 50 senators. The, the Democrat who won in 2018 got put on the agriculture committee, which is not exactly the kind of position Peachtree Corners wants to have down there in the Senate and then wait for higher office. And it’s an open seat again. So we get to make a choice about for the next two years, who can serve Peachtree Corners and tackle the issues that face our homeowners and, and, voters, families, and small businesses in Peachtree Corners and be a good advocate in this turbulent time where you’ve got, you know, COVID-19, you’ve got civil unrest. Who can lead the way and make sure Georgia remains number one in jobs, has increasing number of jobs with health insurance coverage. You know, there’s no government program any better for an adult then a job is. There’s no government program, any better for a child than a family is. I think state government ought to do a few things and do them well and keep a climate where we have, where we continue to be, attractive for employers and jobs so that, families can meet their, their needs and have their kids, getting educated and going to college and have a bright future in the job market. That’s my goal, in the State Senate.
Rico: [00:07:01] Yeah. And it’s interesting cause it’s, it is certainly a different look at it. More conservative, look at it. I do believe in personal responsibilities, but I also believe government is there to do certain things. Certainly I believe the federal government you’re spearheaded more than they have during the COVID-19 time. But you know, different points of views. And this is what this is about. An election in 2020, different than any other election in our history for a simple matter that lot of people may not be going to the polls in person, right? They’re going to
be mailed ballots. I mean, Georgia put out over 6 million absentee ballot requests forms, and over a million responded, more than any, you know, I think it was 10 to 12 times more than any other year in fact. So that may still happen November third. We may still end up doing that, seeing that happen because of COVID-19. So staying on the issue of COVID-19, do you think Governor Kemp has done the right job in, in, in the approach that he has done? Would you do anything different? Do you see the State Senate providing any other leadership in this from your point of view?
Matt: [00:08:09] Going forward, what, what I would do, as a State Senator is to make sure that the 95% or more of the population that has not directly encountered COVID, that they have their healthcare needs attended to without disruption. This has been an unexpected, invisible enemy that has attacked us. We’ve handled things on an urgent basis, but, it troubles me to see that a hundred percent of the resources in health care and in, you know, the government part of the government that deals with healthcare is devoted to COVID, when we got folks with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, many other elective surgery. I talked to somebody this week who has had a thyroid procedure delayed since March, due to COVID issues. And I want to make sure that we definitely attack COVID to preserve lives and livelihoods, but also, make sure that healthcare needs for the other 95% of the population are attended to. And, you know, part of that is, making sure that we’re smart about how we open back up. You know, it sounds like right now, the thing that has gotten us up at the top in Gwinnett County, and then you look in Texas and Houston, we have a very, strong young population and, people like my mother-in-law and people, my age and older have heeded, the warnings. I’ve got my, I’ve got my UGA mask and you know, if I’m out in doors in public, I’ve got that mask on. My office has adopted a protocol from a local engineering firm that is working well here. We get the memo and the middle age and up here in Gwinnett County, but young people have, I think, too rapidly, disregarded social distancing and other health cautions for COVID. And also translating into multigenerational families, who, with English as a second language, I think that we need to do a better job of reaching out. Because both in Atlanta, as well as Houston and some other major Metro areas. Those are two areas, I heard Dr. Arona, the Gwinnett County and Rockdale and Newton health director, this, this week, mentioned that. That Wilburn and Norcross, the testing centers there, you see a lot of multigenerational families, with English as second language, getting hit hard by COVID. So we need to literally communicate in a credible and strong way, that’s easy to understand for our diverse population. I think that will turn the curve. You know, back in March and April the focus nationally and in Georgia was bending the curve. And we did that for a large portion of the population, but we are now a top 15 Metro area in the country. And Gwinnett County is leading Atlanta in cases because I think in large part of young people, as well as they…
Rico: [00:11:02] We’re a larger population. We’re a larger population too, right? The biggest County in the state. I mean, when I drive by CVS that’s right near here on certain days, there will be 15 cars wrapped around that building. So people doing the testing. We’re still some of the, some of the testing. It has to be referred testing it seems. So you have to be symptomatic to a degree. The doctor has to send you there. In some places you don’t have to be symptomatic.
Like Georgia Tech, Walgreens, I think will accept and do testing for you if you’re asymptomatic. You know, there’s that, but for a long time too, I know some of the cities that, it’s difficult to mandate a mask, I guess, right to some degree? Cause if you’ve mandated, you have to penalize it. If you’re not wearing it, right? Cause otherwise does that work or not? Now I’ve had the discussion with my son about this and he brings up a good point. He says, well, Yes. Sure. Do you cite people $50 or $75 for that ticket? Or does the governor mandate it and even if no one gets cited for it, right? There’s a different feel about being, saying that the mask is mandated and people will understand then maybe that they really do need to wear that mask. You know, so sometimes it’s perception, right? It’s the, the lens that you look through it. But we need to do something because it’s just not, I mean, I go out with the mask all the time, I guess I’m part of that demo.
Matt: [00:12:28] Well, and also COVID is an international crisis. And so not only do we have 50 States that we can learn healthcare and medical lessons from, but we have literally hundreds of countries who have approached the situation differently. And there are some success stories in Asia and other countries, South Korea, Japan. Also the US is one of the few countries that takes the summer off of school. And so, hitting in January and, and, ramping up and really reaching us in mass and March, now, and having six and seven months of experience internationally with COVID. I, you know, 95% of the parents locally want to get their kids back in school in person, but I think we can look around the world and see best practices on, getting kids and teachers safely returned to school.
Rico: [00:13:26] So what would, what would you do to do that? I know there’s a, you know, I have a 16 year old that wants, he wants to go back to school. He’s, he wants to be able to do an AP Calculus in person versus online, right? So there are kids that want to go back for social reasons also. How can we keep them safe then? Is there anything, how would your leadership change on that? You know, how do we put them back to school?
Matt: [00:13:51] Number one, I trust the locals. I think the local school boards and local school superintendents, can make decisions for the best interest of their teachers and students better than somebody in downtown Atlanta or Washington, DC can. And I think that North Fulton, which their biggest schools in North Fulton are, you know, 1,500 to 2,000 students. Where in Gwinnett we have the jumbo size high schools with closer to 3,000 or more students a lot of times. So every school system is different. I think that, we all listen closely to parents and, and in large numbers of students also, saying they want to get back in person. But there are some outliers where people want to do digital learning for health reasons or other reasons, or personal precaution reasons. So I think that we ought to give people choices whenever possible in this uncharted waters of COVID. But I think we need to do everything we can to get kids back to school safely, as well as teachers. And we need to look around the country. We need to look around the world about how other countries and other States have safely, had had, students returned to school. The toll on these young people’s education is high. And, we need to make sure that, the ground that was lost in March and April and May, that we make up for that and the kids don’t get behind. Because you know, there’s a digital divide in Gwinnett it’s discernible. A
lot of kids didn’t have the technology readily available when they got sent home, kids never logged in. Some of that is, support at home priority on education. Other, other, situation is it’s resources. But getting those kids’ attention back on their education is critical.
Rico: [00:15:33] So, so let me ask you this and then we’ll, and then I want to move on to another subject. But just to close this out a little bit, the budget, the state budget cut education. They cut a lot of things across the board, but it did cut education as part of it. Gwinnett County’s remaining, with its budget, I believe they’re not going to furlough people. They are mandating masks, so obviously they need to buy PPE stuff to be able to do that. Because some people may not have masks and some kids and families and stuff. They’re going to need those masks, right? So they’re mandating that for the Fall, if they actually open up. And they’re giving two choices, either you do online learning or you do in person learning. So it depends on how people want to choose that, or where they want to go. And if they can afford to do that. Like you said, people are going back to work to some degree, unless things get rolled back. So where do they send their kids while they working, right? Because the school works almost as a daycare in a way.
Matt: [00:16:31] Yeah.
Rico: [00:16:31] Kids in school during the time that adults are working and stuff. So, you know, the State cut that budget. I mean, would you have voted for that cut? Would you, what would you have done? How would you have affected that? How would you want to help school systems throughout the state because Gwinnett County is one that probably can afford to do some of this stuff, but there are other counties and other parts that might not be to do that same thing. So how would you, how would a Matt Reeves position be on some or something like that?
Matt: [00:17:02] Rico when times are tough and the revenue decreases in state government, it becomes all the more critical to have a strong advocate for your area down in the State Senate, because I was there in 2008 when revenue started to decline, as the great recession hit. And I saw what happens when you have limited resources, the ones who were effective advocates for their districts, or the areas of Georgia that are looked after well, at that point, that was towards the tail end of Governor Perdue’s time in office. So folks in middle Georgia, were well looked after. That’s where, Larry O’Neil was chairman of ways and means. He was literally Governor Perdue’s lawyer back, back home on personal matters. And so, in a competitive political landscape where we have, very strongly held feelings on national issues. I would ask folks in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and North Fulton for this critical State Senate seat ask who can help our area the best in the State Senate, where it’s 35 Republicans, 21 Democrats. I want education money at a time when times are tough financially to go to Gwinnett County schools. If we have somebody who’s on the short end of a 35 to 21 vote, you’re going to have funds go to Cobb County, Forsyth County, Cherokee County, where folks are in the majority. I want to be a strong and effective advocate for North Fulton schools and Gwinnett schools in the State Senate. When, you know, there’s a saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table. And, you know, we’re talking a lot about healthcare and, and, I want to be in the position of
getting resources and decisions and public policy made in favor of our Gwinnett and North Fulton schools, rather than having others make those decisions for the benefit of their own districts elsewhere.
Rico: [00:18:55] How do you, so, so let’s, and I appreciate that. And I think that the citizens of Peachtree Corners appreciates that point of view. They want their representatives to, you know, think big, broad, but they’re also local, right? Because we all, that’s why we have a representative there to be able to talk local and be able to help a city like ours or the area that you represent, Swanee and the other areas as well. But let’s change directions a little bit. Let’s talk about the other news because 2020 is just unusual for all sorts of reasons. So COVID-19 is one, but also the social unrest. Black lives matter, the, whole social justice, police violence against black community, people of black and brown color. It’s just been a tough situation, it’s been also a tough situation to speak honestly, a little bit about these things, because sometimes people can get shut down on both sides of it. Rather than being, allowed to be transparent and talk about issues, because it’s a sensitive issue. And, so I know people are out there saying, well, some people shouldn’t even talk about this issue because maybe they don’t have a, an experience in it. But I think we all need to talk about it right, culturally and for a variety of reasons. How do you feel about this issue? Where would, you know, what do you think the state Senate should do? What do you think your position on, on this should be? And where are you on the speed?
Matt: [00:20:24] Well, I learned a lot and I listened in the peaceful protest in Duluth. My wife Suzette and I went to that along with friends from a group of, city ministry team friends that we had through Perimeter church. There’s a group of pastors in Duluth called the Unite Churches, which is a culturally diverse group of pastors, African American, Asian, Latino, perimeter church, which is, you know, a growingly diverse church, but a lot of Caucasian people, there. But, we went to that peaceful protest, listened and learned a lot, and cared and expressed attention and concern, with this issue. Obviously what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and others, it’s wrong. It’s tragic. It showed us that sometimes you can have a fatal and, and murder, actions by folks who wear a uniform. You know, the bill of rights, going back to our founding documents, half of the bill of rights dealt with the criminal justice and keeping government in check and serving the people. 99% of folks with a badge and law enforcement are good people who are serving the public. But there’s always a danger of disastrous consequences of folks in, in, with government power abusing that, particularly, with minorities and other people who are, you know, are helpless, and in custody and, you know, can’t breathe. And so, that hurts my heart. It’s something I want to do something about, but I would like to acknowledge the fact that Georgia has been a leader in what people are asking for now, criminal justice reform. Over the last decade, Georgia has been a leader in the nation in that area. We have, put a priority on getting people rehabilitated and back into the workforce and not having a Scarlet letter for life if you make a mistake. We’ve, we’ve said in Georgia, we want to get people off of drugs and out of a life of crime, and we want to get people educated and employed. I think that’s a good thing. And, you know, we don’t want to warehouse people in jail and throw away the key. We want to get people rehabilitated. Now, folks, who’ve made a decision to live a life of armed robbery and
home invasion, and rape and murder and gun crimes. Yeah, they need to be locked up . But yeah, there are many, first time offenders, sadly people who’ve come, back and are young veterans who, you know, were suffering from a disruption in their life. We have a veterans court in Gwinnett, as a result of that criminal justice reform that we’re helping young veterans who’ve come back and kind of lost their way in addiction and, and other pain, and made some bad choices. So DUI court, veterans court, mental health court, intervention in a way that turns around, people. That’s been, something that’s been good, you know Georgia started as a debtor’s colony. We’ve always believed in a second chance and I think we need to realize our…
Rico: [00:23:19] Also Georgia has a lot of history and other things as well.
Matt: [00:23:24] Well, Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King is from here, the black community and the Christian community in Georgia produced Martin Luther King. And so Georgia has some very special things. We’re now a leader in population and economy. We need to step up to the plate and lead the way in the country on criminal justice reform and other things.
Rico: [00:23:44] So what would you? So then Matt I, listen, I come from New York. So moving down here in ’95, South of the Mason Dixon line, if you will. It’s an old term right, now most people won’t know that I guess. But you know, it is different. If I go out into, and good people, I’m not saying bad people, good people, good ways. But there’s certainly different points of views depending where you go in the state. So not everything is, as good as, as it needs to be, right? That’s all be honest about that.
Matt: [00:24:13] Right, and Rico, let me say on that, my metric, whether you’re in Americus Georgia, or Albany Georgia, or Macon, or here in Gwinnett County. I think every black parent and grandparent, they want their young people to have a diploma, to have career opportunities, to have money in the bank, to be treated fairly. Those are things I think that we can agree on across racial lines, and make sure that the American dream is alive and well in Georgia. But my metric is those. Let’s get our young people educated, have bright employment opportunity, and make sure that they have access to the American dream and they’re not barriers there. Look around Atlanta, we even have more community banks with black entrepreneurs leading the way and, and, if you look at Metro city bank at Verse Intercontinental bank you have some Asian and Indian banks, we even got a Chinese, a new bank and John’s Creek. We need to have a black…
Rico: [00:25:11] There’s Loyal Trust Bank, yeah.
Matt: [00:25:12] That’s right.
Rico: [00:25:13] Yeah. And I, and I agree with you. I mean, I think economically anyone that moves up into the middle class is always better. Because any, any group group of people that do that. I mean, it goes back, I could go back to, you know, we could do the history lesson or go back to the Irish, to Germany, the Italian. Go back to the Asians that came to this country from a
variety of countries, whether it was Laos, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam. And how a lot of them moved up the ladder. The Latinos that came here that, hard workers, all of them. It seems to be immigrants are always hard workers. There’s a reason why they took the danger and the things to be able to come here because they want to succeed. So there’s a lot to be said about that, right?
Matt: [00:25:58] Here’s, here’s a good example about immigrants. The pharmacy in the neighborhood where that Wendy’s was where the shooting and then the ensuing civil unrest happened, the pharmacy in that neighborhood was started by an immigrant gentlemen from Swanee who invested his life work and life savings down there in that neighborhood, which is near where the brave stadium was where Georgia state has taken over. He had some confidence on that neighborhood, but there are a lot of senior citizens there who are homebound, they deliver a lot of those prescriptions, those senior citizens in need. There are schools there. It is tragic to have all hell breaking loose in that neighborhood that was on the upswing and revitalizing. That has a lot of people who’ve lived there their whole life, and now they’re senior citizens. You’ve got kids in school, George Washington Carver is the high school there. We need to restore safety to communities, ASAP.
Rico: [00:26:55] So then what would you do, Matt? As far as, and then let’s, let’s move on to some other issues too, but just to, because it’s, it’s the thing that’s out there. What would you do to reform police? What would be legislation that would be out there? You know, there’s the, there’s several proposals out there as far as, stopping choke holds and, and, limiting liability so that people can sue the police and stuff like that. What would you do? What would be the specific reforms that you’d like to see go in?
Matt: [00:27:24] Well, I would get to the basics first. I think that the, examining police training and make sure that the new officers who are coming in the Police Academy are getting best management practices of being effective law enforcement and also not having unnecessary escalation. I think that, community policing works. So I think having a recruitment effort of letting middle school and high school students in Clayton County and Dekalb County and Fulton County inside the perimeter know that you have a bright future, both on your, your education as well as employment. If you want to devote your career to being in law enforcement in your own community and making things better in your own community, everybody wants free college. You can go to technical school, do criminal justice there, or get a two year degree for a very low cost and then go to a four year college in Georgia for criminal justice, again at very low costs. And then graduate and be a community police officer in Atlanta and have a bright future. And I think letting kids know that in Georgia, we respect law enforcement and that we support law enforcement and young people in our diverse, young generation have a bright future in law enforcement and we ought to be on the same side. So I think the police training, recruitment. Also little things like, Bruce Lavelle reminded me of the CIB community improvement district. They had an idea about cops, cops in the neighborhood program where housing is an issue. You mentioned the salary of police officers, as we were talking earlier is low. And that pushes a lot of police officers to go moonlight in second or third jobs, which stresses them out when
they’re back on the job as a police officer. Housing, if we can get some affordable housing for law enforcement officers to live in the communities that they police and, be integral parts of the community. Many are already, but housing costs in Atlanta has really sort of disrupted. I, as I’m out in neighborhoods across the 48 Senate District, I see police cars for multiple jurisdictions. And if we could, make sure that, the law enforcement officers are in the community and visible and tied in with their own community where they’re policing. I think that’ll help a lot. But more than anything else, I think we need to have the message that America is a republic and a democracy. Things don’t work in America for people to be out of work and out of school. We need to get things back where our kids are learning and our businesses are functioning fully because bad things are happening. Some of them we needed to address. But when I, you mentioned, your background in New York, I was very disturbed to see what’s happening in New York this week, in terms of violence, gratuitous violence. That is not helping anything for people to be hitting police officers over the head with bats. And, and it raises the question, who’s giving out those bats? I’ve seen some pictures of people dropping pallets off of bricks during a protest.
Rico: [00:30:23] I don’t know about that part of it. Yeah, I mean, there’s all sorts of things on the web and stuff and social media that, are they real are they not. I mean, it’s just, it’s a variety of things. And I’m not saying, you know, violence, even if, if, if a group is angry because of what’s going on, there is no reason in the world. I don’t care. There’s no reason to throw a Molotov cocktail into an empty police car. There’s no reason to be burning a Wendy’s down. There’s just no reason for any of that violence. It’s just, it, it doesn’t help the cause. And it changes, it does change the narrative and to a bad way, right? Because everyone says, Oh, that changes the narrative when you discuss that. You don’t what, it has to be discussed because it’s wrong. How do we teach our kids? I teach my kids right and wrong. Now, you know, I don’t know about other people, but if it’s wrong to throw a Molotov cocktail into a car, it’s wrong. You just don’t drive by and throw one in there. Even if it’s empty. It’s just like, I can never understand that. But, I agree with you. I mean, we have to, it’s a cultural thing too, and we have to really observe all of that and really come, at least move down the road a little bit right? Everything you’ve said, it makes sense to, you know, to that. And we do need to way change the way some of the police are trained I guess. Let’s move on to some other issues we are getting towards the end of our time together. So I do want to make sure we hit a few things.
Matt: [00:31:52] Sure. And Rico, let me just say, Gwinnett schools. Gwinnett police that’s who polices Peachtree Corners? Gwinnett Police, Gwinnett Police, I’ve done ride alongs through leadership Gwinnett and pay attention to what’s going on in my local. Who’s gonna fight for the budget gaps that are needed when, we need funding as well as public policy changes, for Gwinnett Police and, and for our local police departments. I want to be an effective advocate. That’s the stakes in the State Senate race. Who can go down there and get things done for our local law enforcement, our local schools, transportation solutions, healthcare. Washington is not going to solve our healthcare. We can’t just punt and say Medicaid is going to take it over. We need to make sure that we have jobs and insurance and good health care networks here in Georgia. No one’s gonna do it for us. We’ve got to go, send an advocate from our community down there to get good things done on those basic needs.
Rico: [00:32:47] Okay. Good to hear. The other issues you’ve been talking about, I think on the campaign trail has been, nonpartisan, County officer’s nonpartisan term limits. Do you think State Senate should be term limited?
Matt: [00:33:02] Yes. I think if you can’t go get good things done in eight years, pass the baton to somebody else who could do it. Now, when you get elected, I think you oughta serve out your term, and, you know, not be looking at some other higher office. You need to be focused on doing a good job in a short amount of time and then go live under the laws that you make. That’s the principle of having nonpartisan and term limited elections. All of the cities in the 48 Senate district have nonpartisan municipal elections and it works great. Gwinnett County, we now have a multi billion dollar County budget, a multibillion dollar school budget, and of course in Fulton County, they have an equally large school and County budget. Their population is over a million we’re right at a million in Gwinnett. I think having more people having a seat at the table with this high population and budget is a good thing. I think, having citizen legislators and not partisan career politicians, I think that would be a good improvement. Our cities are already doing it and let’s pass it on to our counties. Now this is not a new issue for me. I’ve been an advocate for this in the past, I was the Republican party lawyer, as well as, the Gwinnett County bar association president. And I got called upon, from having served in those two roles to advocate for the master court and the probate court, in Gwinnett to go nonpartisan, six or seven years ago, representative Chuck F Thracian, was a leader in that initiative. Those offices went nonpartisan years ago. I got to go to the bill signing. I’ve got the, the bill signing pen from Governor Deal and those nonpartisan offices have worked well since then, as well as our cities being nonpartisan. And listen, I’m a bipartisan problem solver. I’m a fiscal conservative and, and proud to be a Republican, but I want to reach out to Democrats and Independents and get some good public policy that will serve our community in our state. That’s what I’m all about.
Rico: [00:34:55] Cool. The, let’s get back, okay. And by the way, if anyone notices, there has been some interruption of our Facebook live stream, so you’ll get this full version, after, after the show. So what, you know, let’s. Let’s talk a bit about, you know, term limits is one thing. Yes, we want to make sure that, we have new, new, fresh people in place instead of someone in there 20 years, let’s say. Cause that’s having people in a position too long. There’s something to be said about experience, but there’s also something to be said about, the power structure. When you have people in place for 20 or 30 years in the same seat, right. It becomes a bit of a, contrary to growth if you will. But ethics, ethics is the other issue, that you discuss. Ethics is very tough issue. It’s tough to be self regulated. It’s tough for a body, a State Senator, a state house to have their own ethics committee. And they’re going to self regulate themselves. That’s a bit of an issue. I don’t know how well that can be done. And it seems like it almost never can be done well, I’ve never seen it yet that way. How, how do you think you can do it differently?
Matt: [00:36:06] Sure. And I put this in there just to let folks know in the Senate district, that I think that, state government and the State Senate ought to serve the people and that ought to be the focus and we ought to have transparency in government. And, we need to have, you
know, a vibrant system where everybody knows what’s going on at the Capitol. Now, the state ethics commissioner is across the street from the Capitol, the house and Senate have their own ethics committees. But what I’m talking about is the state ethics commission, I want to make sure they have the resources and the infrastructure to handle their matters promptly. There was just so much, so much turnover over the course of a decade in that office. So we’ve now got a good former prosecutor in there. We’ve got some great lawyers and personnel in the office, and I want to make sure that they can process their cases efficiently. Just like a good district attorney’s office would. You look at Danny Porter and how well he runs things in Gwinnett. And I, I, I don’t think that their focus should be prosecuting people, but I think that they, they should have a good efficient system where they process their cases from beginning to end a lot more quickly and efficiently. And there’s a procedure to weed out the overtly political matters that get opened up versus ones where there’s an actual problem with disclosure and transparency. I’ve raised my money locally from people primarily in the Senate district, or sometimes at the Senate district. I look at races around Metro Atlanta, and you have this flood of outside money coming in and you don’t really know where it’s coming from or why it’s, you know, being spent here in Georgia. But I want to make sure that the State Senate has its focus on serving the people in their districts and there’s transparency and ethics in government public service and citizen, legislators. That’s what we need down there at the Capitol and transparency and I believe strongly in that. My dad retired a couple years ago from being a DA in the Southwestern circuit. I worked at the DA’s office in law school. I drove up to Madison County every Friday in my last year in law school and did prosecution there so I’m familiar with that whole process of how a prosecutor’s office works. And although they’re not, I don’t want them to be criminal, I do want them to have the resources, the personnel, the procedures in place to be efficient and effective and make sure that we match up with our population. Georgia is going to be almost a top five state after the census. We’ve been number one in jobs. We’re almost the top five state. We need to overhaul everything in state government and make sure that we’re delivering that kind of excellence to our citizens.
Rico: [00:38:38] Excellent. We are at the end of our time together. So usually what I do, Matt and we’ve done this before, is that I’ll have the candidate ask for the vote. So you have about two minutes. Give us why Matt Reeves should be the State Senate rep for district 48.
Matt: [00:38:58] Peachtree Corners, you are blessed to have some great elected officials. Mayor Mason, the city council, first lady mrs. Mayor, Debbie Mason, Mary Kay Murphy school board representative, Ben Coux, formally, Linette Howard. You’ve got a great bunch of local elected officials. I want to, augment that excellence down at the State Capitol and effectively be an advocate for Peachtree Corners down there. Bi-partisan problem solving, you look at the Simpsonwood matter where I represented the church. I worked closely with UPCCA that’s how I met Scott Hilton years ago. I worked with the elected officials at the city and the County went to probate court, superior court, appellate court. But problem solved along the way in a way that, that property is now a park rather than not a controversy that worries everybody. So, that’s a good example of what I’ve done out here and the history of the last 17 years as a business and real estate litigation lawyer. And I’ve also cared about the community. I’ve been actively involved
in things like the Duluth parks board, the Gwinnett County education, SPLOST renewal campaign, rotary and other civic matters. I care about the future of our community, just like you do. I want to be an effective advocate for Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and other communities down in the State Senate. I’d be honored to earn your support. Matt Reeves for Senate is my website. Matt Reeves for State Senate on Facebook and, @MattReevesGA on Twitter. Let me hear from you (770) 236-9768 is my number. Call me anytime. I’d love to get to hear about you and your perspective on how Peachtree Corners can be an excellent community through advocacy in the state Senate over the next two years. Thank you.
Rico: [00:40:40] Excellent, Matt. Thank you. I appreciate you coming on. Stay with me while we log off, but everyone, thank you for listening in. Matt Reeves candidate, Republican candidate for State Senate district 48. That represents, that represent Peachtree corners among other cities within that State Senate district. So that’s coming up, November 3rd is the election. There’s early voting. That’s going to be happening obviously for that, I believe
Matt: [00:41:03] October 12th
Rico: [00:41:05] October 12th.
Matt: [00:41:06] That’s early voting
Rico: [00:41:08] Well, okay. Right. The election if you deemed to go in the, November third is, is the it’s but yeah. October 12th. So check out the, go to, you know, make sure you, you’re actually, can people register to vote yet?
Matt: [00:41:23] Absolutely. Gwinnett County board of elections, as well as secretary of state, if you’ve moved or you’re new, get registered now. Make sure there’s no surprises as you get close to the election and be prepared to either absentee vote, early vote, starting October 12th or vote in person November the third.
Rico: [00:41:43] Excellent. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you everyone
Matt: [00:41:46] Thank you for your time.
Official drop boxes available for absentee/advance by mail ballots
Eight official ballot drop boxes are now in place across Gwinnett County to provide eligible voters with a new way to return absentee/advance by mail ballots for the June 9 Presidential Preference Primary, General Primary, and Nonpartisan Election. No postage is necessary on ballots placed in the drop boxes. The secure drop boxes are monitored by video and available 24/7 at these locations:
- Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford
- Dacula Park Activity Building, 2735 Old Auburn Avenue, Dacula
- George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee
- Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville
- Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross
- Mountain Park Aquatic Center, 1063 Rockbridge Road, Stone Mountain
- Shorty Howell Park Activity Building, 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, 455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200 Lawrenceville
Multiple options to cast your ballot for the June 9 elections
Voters are not limited to Election Day to cast their ballot in the June 9 Presidential Preference Primary, General Primary, and Nonpartisan Election.
Eligible voters may vote advance in person every day, including weekends, through June 5 at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, located at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. The office is open for advance voting Monday through Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from noon to 7:00pm.
Voters can also cast their ballots advance in person every day, including weekends, through June 5 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, located at 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville (use the Davis Road entrance) Monday through Saturday from 7:00am to 7:00pm and Sunday from noon to 7:00pm.
Satellite voting will be offered daily from Saturday, May 30 through Friday, June 5 from 7:00am to 7:00pm at four satellite locations.
- Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford
- George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee
- Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville
- Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross
To check the status of your voter registration and see a sample ballot, visit My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov. For more information or to stay up-to-date with elections in Gwinnett, follow @GwinnettGov on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or visit GwinnettElections.com.
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