Ruwa Romman is the Democratic nominee running to represent Georgia State House District 97. During our conversation, she addresses the most pressing issues for the residents of Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners, and growing up Muslim in the American South.
Ruwa’s Website: https://www.ruwa4georgia.com
Timestamp (Where it is in the podcast):
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:00:55] – About Ruwa and Her Background
[00:03:53] – Dealing with Bullying, Discrimination, and Rumors
[00:15:08] – Education Issues
[00:21:51] – Economic and Employment Issues
[00:27:19] – Opinions on Healthcare
[00:32:35] – Concerning Community Safety
[00:39:45] – Voter ID Laws
[00:45:30] – Combating Misinformation
[00:47:08] – Ruwa Asks for Your Vote
[00:48:16] – Closing
“We live in a digital age where anyone can write anything and send out anything that they want with little to no consequence… I would hope as constituents, as people who care about our society, that we start to more critically think about some of the things that are being sent to us. The one rule of thumb that I’ve started to implement for myself is if somebody tells me about a problem and is only scaring me about it, and they’re not offering me a solution, then they’re not going to fix it. They just want to fear monger me into a vote. And so please, think about the world around us. How much control does the person that is leveraging this issue actually have on that issue? And ask those critical questions of them.”Ruwa Romman
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Transcript of the podcast:
[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. Thanks for joining us. I appreciate you coming out. This is one of those podcasts where I’m interviewing a candidate that’s running for office that certainly could affect us here in Peachtree Corners if they win their seat. So I want to introduce Ruwa Romman, she’s a candidate for Georgia House 97. Hey Ms. Roman, how are you?
[00:00:52] Ruwa: Hi, I’m great. Thank you. And thanks for having me. How are you?
[00:00:55] Rico: Good. It’s a beautiful day today. Now this may be streaming on another day, but it’s a really nice, sunny day. A little cold, and I think we hit that frost in the morning at about 30, 31 degrees. But before we get into Ruwa Romman’s campaign and who she is and stuff, let’s just say thank you to our sponsor. Corporate sponsor who supports journalism like this, podcasts and our magazines. And that’s EV Remodeling Inc. And Eli, who’s a resident here in Peachtree Corners, it’s a business based in Peachtree Corners. They do a lot of remodeling. If you’re familiar with Houzz, H-O-U-Z-Z.com, that’s a place where you could go online and find out all the latest types of remodeling that’s going on. He’s part of that. You could check his reviews there. He does a great job here, great corporate citizen and great community citizen as well. So check out EVRemodelingInc.com. Now that we’ve gone through that, and of course, Peachtree Corners Magazine and Southwest Gwinnett Magazine supports this endeavor as well. So Ruwa Romman, you’re a Democratic nominee looking to represent this district. In fact, District 97 takes up Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners here in Gwinnett County. And if you’re elected, you’d be the first Muslim woman in this Georgia State House as well. Tell us a little bit about you. I know you were raised here in the district practically, I think, right?
[00:02:19] Ruwa: Yeah, so I was originally born in Jordan and my family and I moved to Georgia when I was about seven, eight years old. And my family established a business actually right here in Gwinnett about 25 years ago shortly after that. But that meant that we were trying to settle in, trying to figure out where we wanted to live. So I moved around a lot. We lived in Fulton, Forsyth. I was a public school kid, so it was sort of one of the few constants in my life. I’ve essentially lived a majority of my life in Georgia. Went to DC for three years to get my Master’s in Public Policy and came right back.
[00:02:51] Rico: And you went to Georgetown University, I think, right?
[00:02:54] Ruwa: Yes, I did.
[00:02:55] Rico: Cool. Your background and your studies are in what field?
[00:02:58] Ruwa: It’s sort of, I look back on my journey and it’s very interesting because I feel like it builds an arc almost, of everything connecting together. So after I graduated from high school, I went to Oglethorpe University, which is literally down the street from me. Like if I take a left outta my neighborhood and keep going straight, I’m at the university. That’s where I met my husband. I worked for several civil rights organizations and nonprofits. So I worked for Points of Light, which was an organization started by Bush Senior to increase civic engagement. I worked for CAIR Georgia, which is a Muslim civil rights group. And I worked for the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, which was established to increase civic engagement particularly in the Muslim community, but within immigrant communities as a whole. And then I went to grad school, got my Master’s. And then I worked for a professional management company, which I don’t say the name just because I’m running for office and out of respect for them and the corporation. But yeah, I’m currently working full time for them.
[00:03:53] Rico: Okay, neat. Going through the public school systems, I gotta ask. Because certainly, I’m first generation American in my family. I was born here, in Brooklyn, New York I was born. My parents came from Italy. They’re immigrants. Typical immigrant story, right? Four kids in my family, we all grew up, we’re all over the country. I mean, one’s in Canada even now. But you know, growing up with language and stuff like that on my end, should have been easy because I was born in the States. Because my family spoke Italian in the household when I grew up young, I was speaking Italian and English. Almost a brooklynese, if you will. Yeah, it was sad. They had to bring my mother in to say, he needs to learn English and stop speaking Italian to some degree, you know? So being Italian in New York is a lot different. Being Muslim in Georgia is probably a lot different also. So how did that affect your life growing up? How does that affect your life now?
[00:04:47] Ruwa: Yeah, so I’m actually the oldest of four. So it’s really interesting that we both had the same number of siblings. Yeah, I’m the oldest of four. I’ve got two brothers and a sister. And moving around a lot meant that I was exposed to different types of community. My mom tried really hard to make sure that we knew our culture. And a lot like you, we didn’t speak English at home. I had younger siblings and my mom felt that it would be unfair that they wouldn’t be able to learn. We spoke Arabic at home, so she felt it would be unfair if they didn’t know Arabic. So she would pretend not to understand us, the whole nine yards. And she taught us to read and write. So I’m, because of her, I’m actually fluent in both English and Arabic. But then the biggest shift for me, I was kind of oblivious to people’s reaction to me. I started wearing a headscarf when I was really young because I really wanted to. My parents were actually really concerned for my safety. They were like, please don’t like, just wait until you’re a little bit older. And I was a stubborn child, for lack of a better way to describe myself. And I said, well my parents said, don’t do this, so now I’m going to do this. So I was in middle school and I started wearing my head scarf. And a couple years after that we moved to Forsyth County Georgia. And Forsyth County, at least where I lived, was very different at the time. I think a lot of people like to paint the south with a broad brush, but that wasn’t, it was a little more complicated than that. I was stereotypically, I was one of three non-white kids in my entire eighth grade class. Which meant that, you know, people have stereotypes about Muslims. They would call me a terrorist. They would point out my house as the bomb lab.
[00:06:16] Rico: Oh my God.
[00:06:17] Ruwa: But simultaneously, yeah, it was not fun. And the first black kid I ever met in Forsyth County was sophomore year of high school. It’s very different now. My sister goes to the same high school that I go to and her experience is night and day from mine. But it really taught me a couple of things. One, it taught me that not everybody is militantly hateful. Some people just don’t know any better. And if you give them a chance and you talk to them, you’d be surprised at how open and understanding they can be. Obviously that wasn’t fair for a child to have to deal with, but it really did teach me how to talk to people very different than me and who don’t agree with me on anything. And the second thing that it taught me was the importance of knowing who you are and just really living within your identity. Because I don’t think that I could have gotten through all of that sort of bullying and that experience growing up had I not been comfortable in my own skin. And I was very lucky as a kid to have a support system around me that let that happen. When I say my teachers saved my life, this is exactly what I’m talking about. They were some of the first people to step in when students were being too much. But they did it in a way that didn’t increase the harm. Instead they used it as a learning opportunity, a teaching opportunity for me and my fellow students of, how can we do this better? Why is this not okay? And truly it’s because of them that I had gotten through that part of my life.
[00:07:35] Rico: You’re fortunate. I mean, I believe the school system has a lot of great teachers, but sometimes not. And so I think you were fortunate then, that that was the case. And I can see that. I mean, I see it unfortunately in adults that speak about Muslim experience and stuff. And they know nothing about the Muslim experience. Not that I know enough, but I’m, I feel educated a little bit, at least on it. And from coming from an immigrant background and seeing what my parents had to face also. And sometimes what I faced even. And people look at me and say like, you’re white, what’s the difference? No, no. You know, Rico Figliolini, italian, people remember the Sopranos from HBO? And I’m like, no, we’re not all monsters. You know, and so, there’s a bit of that sometimes.
[00:08:22] Ruwa: Exactly. And I do wanna say my primary election, I think was the kind of election that I wanted to have. Where it was very much on the who’s gonna work really hard? What are the policies that matter to the people the most? And we really ran on our merits. I felt like JT and I really ran a good campaign where it stayed clean and we were able to go back to that ideal of what politics should be. Unfortunately, this time around, that’s not what’s happening. So we found out this weekend that people in my district received a mailer saying I have ties to terrorism. And the way I explain it to people is that, it’s shocking and upsetting and we have to absolutely respond to it. But at the same time, it’s one of those things where, unfortunately, my threshold is so high. That it was just like an extra to-do list on my list to deal with, right? And to explain why we had to deal with it. When I worked for CAIR Georgia, CAIR Georgia is a Muslim civil rights organization.
[00:09:18] Rico: And that’s spelled C-A-I-R. Wasn’t that?
[00:09:21] Ruwa: Yes, C-A-I-R. Yes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations. I helped start the Georgia chapter. The Georgia chapter didn’t exist. I mean, it was kind of there as like a board, but we weren’t offering any services. And I had just graduated college like two years earlier, and this was at the time when then candidate Trump was like, we need to shut down all Muslim immigration. And then a year later signed the first iteration of the Muslim ban. So we weren’t sleeping. Like, that’s not an exaggeration. There were people who were stuck at airports whose entire lives were upended. And my team and I, brand new team, just started out this organization were like in airports translating. There was a grandfather that was trying to, he visited the states multiple times from Syria. Like this wasn’t his first time visiting, but this one time he actually did need to be here because he needed life saving cancer treatment that his family was completely paying for. And he was banned. It delayed his treatment, and it really, really jeopardized his life. So when people say that she’s got ties to terrorism because of that, it shows some pretty intense ignorance. Because not only has CAIR been investigated because of these conspiracy theories, we actually had anti-Muslim groups infiltrate the organization and put people on our payroll who were eventually outed like 13 years later because we were so boring and they couldn’t find anything on us. Like it was your typical like non-profit drama office stuff and whatever. But it wasn’t what, It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t what they were looking for. And so they actually outed the guy earlier this year. Because they’re like, we’re not getting anything juicy off of them. This is useless. So, but again, I do want to go back to the point about why we responded to it. It’s because one, network is really important, good work. And two, my life was put in danger. We didn’t have an office. And so at the time it was pretty easy to find where I lived and who I was. And I was targeted by an armed militia. We all were. We were put on like multiple hit lists.
[00:11:12] Rico: Is that something that was reported to the authorities?
[00:11:15] Ruwa: Yes. Yeah.
[00:11:16] Rico: How did you know you were on multiple hit lists?
[00:11:19] Ruwa: So we had a GBI agent. Each of us was assigned a GBI, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent who anytime we received a threatening phone call or voicemail or whatever the case may be, we had to submit it to them. So each of us basically had a file of just threats that were accumulating over that year, year and a half.
[00:11:38] Rico: And how long ago was that? Or is that recent?
[00:11:41] Ruwa: So it was 2015 and it continued until I went to my graduate program, or maybe 2016. 2016 until I went to my graduate program. Even when I went to DC I was still getting the phone calls until about 2018. So it was about two years of just constant, you know, my social media was always full of comments. My emails were always full of comments. Our inbox was always full of comments. Which is again, quite unfortunate because, like every organization we were dealing with having to provide services for the people that needed them. We were dealing with your typical office stuff of like how to properly set up as an organization, what strategy works best, all of those typical things. And on top of that, I’d call my GBI agent and be like, hey, I just got another one. Here you go, so.
[00:12:21] Rico: Wow. Now just to let people know, I mean, obviously when I interviewed John Chan, your opponent in this race for the 97. Because there’s no incumbent for this seat. This seat is a brand new seat.
[00:12:34] Ruwa: Yeah, it was actually mostly Beth Moore’s old district and then partly Bonnie Rich’s old district. So yeah.
[00:12:39] Rico: So it’s brand new. So John Chan was a guest, for those that haven’t seen the episode, you should probably look at it. Running also for the seat. And towards the tail end of that interview, he mentioned that you were part of CAIR Georgia, which is recognized, according to him as a terrorist organization. I think it was by Syria? By some foreign country. I forget which country.
[00:13:01] Ruwa: Yeah, he said the UAE designated us.
[00:13:03] Rico: The UAE. That was it. Sorry. That was it.
[00:13:05] Ruwa: No, no no, you’re good. He said the UAE designated us as a terrorist organization. Which the last time I checked, we live in the US. The UAE is not a civil rights friendly country.
[00:13:16] Rico: No, by far.
[00:13:17] Ruwa: So it’s not surprising that they would want to designate a civil rights organization as a terrorist organization.
[00:13:23] Rico: In fact, before this interview I went online. Anyone can go online and go search. I did not find anything disparaging about CAIR Georgia on there or the organization.
[00:13:33] Ruwa: What you’ll find, by the way I really care about internet literacy and mis- and disinformation. There are literal think tanks whose entire, for a while it was like a 300 million industry to increase fear about Muslims in America. And they literally would fundraise off of, let’s find the terrorists among us. And we’d see these, like, it was truly like that’s how they would fundraise. And they went after everyone. I mean, they went after CAIR Georgia. They went after an organization called Islamic Relief whose literally only job is to feed and house poor people. That’s truly all that they do. And I think there was a comment on the last podcast that was like, I can link to everything that John Chan mentioned today. And so I went to look at the organization that she cited. And the first thing about it that you read is that it’s an anti-Muslim think tank. And I lived in DC, I know these think tanks. I know how they operate. I know how they’re structured. We know how this stuff works. But unfortunately for a typical person who’s reading, they don’t know that, right? They never walked down K Street. They never saw like what these buildings look like or who these people are that there’s people sitting behind their computer.
[00:14:34] Rico: Right and there’s no transparency about who funds them and such. Which is, which is a bad thing because anyone can be funding anything secretly through third party corporations into a pack or a think tank even. Alright, good. So, I just wanted to make sure we got that out of the way.
[00:14:50] Ruwa: I appreciate it. No, you’re good. Thanks.
[00:14:52] Rico: Cool. So now let’s get onto some real issues. I think, that will matter as far as if someone wants to vote for either one of you, so this way they can see where you guys sit.
[00:15:01] Ruwa: Also this detracts from the issues. We have so much happening in our communities and I’m like, we don’t have time for this. But anyway, I digress.
[00:15:08] Rico: Yes, just it’s the economy stupid. So anyway, let’s start with education. Let’s go there first, okay. So I know that education is on your website, one of the first items someone will look at and see. And you talk about teachers, you talk about reinvestment in schools and stuff. So tell us a little bit, because this is of the biggest budget in education, that’s 50% of Georgia’s budget according to your website. And I know we rank, everyone knows and we hear the stories that we rank 38 at the bottom, maybe even lower depending on how you actually look at that statistic. So tell us a little bit about what your campaign would like to see and how in practical purposes, what you would specifically suggest.
[00:15:53] Ruwa: Yeah, I firmly believe that teachers are the cornerstone to our education system. I think technologies come and go, I think teaching methodologies evolve over time. But the ones that stay, the ones that are in that building the longest are truly our teachers. And that’s why I really do stress paying them better, because we really don’t pay them well. And one of my favorite things that I learned recently is that Georgia has a multi-billion dollar budget where we could give teachers an $11,000 raise tomorrow and not raise a single cent in taxes. $11,000. It wouldn’t be a one time bonus like Governor Kemp did, it would be a consistent raise that would stay over time. And that’s truly one of the first things because we’re losing teachers at a rate that is just astonishing. I know some teachers that are actively applying to my company. We’ve seen an influx of teachers that want to just get out of the profession completely and not just go to a different school. Which tells us that it’s not like a particularly bad administrator or administration. It’s the profession itself. But if you invest in teachers and you invest in that pipeline, that means a couple of things will happen. One, you’re able to retain teachers better. Two, you’re able to then recruit more teachers to decrease classroom sizes. And three, the students now get more attention from their teachers. But also the reason I’m so stuck on public schools isn’t just because of my personal experience, but also what that personal experience looked like. A good chunk of my public education was in Forsyth County. I had access to five different magnet programs. One of them, and not all of them were like STEM and STEAM and stuff like that. One of them was a culinary program. One of them was a robotics program. One of them was a career based program. And it was all within a public school system that every child had access to, regardless of their income level. And that’s what I want for students. It’s not that I’m saying one size fits all and let’s just throw money at the problem and it’ll go away. What I’m saying is that if you invest in your people, they are and can be very innovative and can give students the kind of opportunities that I had. Which was truly an incredible education.
[00:17:51] Rico: Peachtree Corners itself, and Norcross, and the parts that you’ll represent if you were elected. I mean, we have good schools here, right? To a degree. It varies, obviously, depending. Peachtree Elementary, Norcross Elementary, you have, although you also have the IB program at Norcross, you have Paul Duke’s STEM, High school. Which is not a testing school, you don’t have to test to get into that school. So it’s a school that you can attend and get into STEAM. And also allows, in that particular case, kids to learn like 3D printing, coding, actually graduate or possibly get a job right out without going to college. So paying more. I know, you know, listen, Kemp has done the refunds, the state refunds to families and stuff. Which is a good thing. But you know, everyone can debate on where to put that money. And education certainly would be at, I know that Gwinnett County has empty slots and they can’t fill it. I mean, probably because they can’t get enough applicants actually into it. Yes, more pay would be helpful. But what else do you think should be done there?
[00:18:56] Ruwa: Yeah, so I love when people ask me what else, because a lot of things I’ve talked about are multi-prong approaches. So you also have to look at the sort of teacher pipeline as a whole. In order to become a teacher you have to become certified. There are a lot of hurdles to becoming fully certified. Some of it financial, some of it just a support system for people as they’re going through their education. And there are grant and student loan forgiveness programs for teachers that I think if we were able to reduce the timeline of those for people to see that payback of it a lot faster, we would see a lot more people entering this profession. Versus now where I get the student loan forgiveness program is there, but it’s 10 years. And when you’re a kid who decided to become a teacher and you’re constantly paying this loan, even though it is adjusted for your income, it’s still an extra expense. What if we did a five year loan forgiveness? Because then that teacher pay isn’t as intense for them to feel, especially in a rising, where everything is rising in cost would be really great. Additionally, is there a way to have people working maybe under a mentorship program or something so that the certification requirements are adequate enough that they are able to be good teachers, but they’re not cumbersome? Like are we asking for too much based on the level that a teacher is teaching? How much certification do they actually need? What are these schools offering, especially some of our public universities within their education? Are there classes that they’re taking that they don’t have to be taking? They can save time and money on and get them into the classrooms more. But it really does come down to respect. I think that the other piece of this, so money, the pipeline itself of educating our teachers. But then also how we treat our teachers. I had mentioned this during the Peachtree Corners debate. I have watched the disrespect, and the harassment, and the threatening of teachers that has increased over the past year, year and a half, maybe two. We need to stop that. Period. It is a cultural shift that needs to happen. We need to actively call it out and support our teachers, and it needs to come from our state legislatures.
[00:20:54] Rico: Okay. Are you seeing that mainly from parents? Or parents and kids?
[00:20:59] Ruwa: It’s sort of one of those things where, and I want to be clear, most parents are awesome. The parents I’m seeing are very supportive of teachers, but there’s a very small but vocal minority that is doxing teachers, that is calling for surveilling teachers. And of course that’s going to permeate to their students, right? If you’re a kid and your parent is constantly talking badly about your teacher, you’re more likely to disrespect your teacher in the classroom. You’re more likely to misbehave in the classroom. You’re less likely to listen to your teacher, whether as an authority figure or as someone to teach you. And so we need to change this culture that we have as politicals. As a whole, by the way, across the board. Of talking to teachers more, respecting them more, and treating them like the professionals that they are.
[00:21:42] Rico: Cool. Yeah, I agree with you on most of those points. It’s a tough profession. I can’t see being one of them. I don’t, I wouldn’t have the patience for it.
[00:21:50] Ruwa: Me neither.
[00:21:51] Rico: That’s a tough thing. Economic opportunity. We have a tremendous amount of inflation right now. Interest rates have gone higher, gas is going a little higher. I mean, that’s a fluctuating thing. And unemployment is low. And it’s ridiculously low and to the point where, businesses, like where was I just now? I went to a local gas station that’s fairly new and they just opened and I went to gas up, gassed up. I went to go into the convenience part, which is brand new, beautiful looking. Couldn’t go in. There was no staff.
[00:22:23] Ruwa: Yeah.
[00:22:24] Rico: They just couldn’t hire anyone, I guess. I mean, it’s just crazy. So how can we deal, how can a state, at the state level. I mean, we’re feeling that in Norcross. I constantly, when I go to Dunkin Donuts, they don’t have enough employees. When I go to Town Center and I see a sign in the window that literally says $15 an hour, where they would never put out that sign. How can the state help local cities combat that and other issues?
[00:22:52] Ruwa: So again, with my multi-prong approaches, and sorry for my dog, she’s excited.
[00:22:56] Rico: No, you’re good.
[00:22:57] Ruwa: We need to talk about the facts first and foremost. The fact is that a million people died of Covid and millions more are disabled because of complications from Covid. The reason I know that is because I’m experiencing long-term Covid symptoms. None of my blood levels are normal, every time I go to the doctor’s office, like something new. So it’s real and it’s impacting people. And a lot of the jobs that you mentioned, are very strenuous jobs. On my campaign, we’re offering $17.50 an hour to canvas. We’re actually working to up that to 20 for the last couple of weeks hoping to get like a grant for it. But even still, that is not enough for a lot of people. And I don’t think any of us expected this kind of lower unemployment rate because we thought, oh, the economy is struggling, so therefore X, Y, and Z. But it’s also important to recognize that a lot of these local stores. Some of them are corporations of course, but a lot of these mom and pop stores are competing with large corporations. These large corporations can offer healthcare. They can offer benefits in a way that a small business cannot afford. And in a place like Georgia, and again, I’ve lived in DC, it’s uniquely bad and expensive on healthcare. So if a mom and pop shop wants to compete with a company to hire people, it just simply can’t afford to because healthcare is so expensive. And we’re leaving billions of dollars on the table in Medicaid that you and I paid for in our taxes, that could really help ease that burden and bring down some of those private insurance costs that we’re seeing. And that’s one way that we can help mom and pop shops compete because then they can offer a benefit they can afford to then bring back some of those people from the private corporations. But we also need to think a little bit more long term about, again, our students, our education system, our future generations, so that they are equipped to enter the workforce. Maybe even faster, but making sure they can have a living wage if they do leave school early, because that’s the unfortunate part. If you have a high level of education, you tend to be paid very high. So we also need to fix that disconnect of, we want more people in the labor force, but we also want them to be able to afford to live. And so how can we, like you said, those apprenticeship programs. You know, my sister currently, which I didn’t do in high school, but I think it’s really cool. Two of her days in high school now are working at a clinic. She gets an opportunity to get real world experience as a high schooler before she even graduates. So there are ways that we can think about this creatively, but we also, again, for me, it’s all about the safeguards, right? Like making sure that kids aren’t being exploited, that they’re getting these opportunities, and that we’re fixing this labor problem at the same time. By sort of having people, or at least mom and pop shops, be a little more competitive, increasing the labor market. Because a lot of people are about to retire and I don’t think we’re ready for that.
[00:25:31] Rico: Right. I think people retired during Covid even. Because they found that this is the perfect time, let’s just get out of it. And I appreciate the apprenticeship program idea because I see that in Europe. I see companies now beginning to, large companies like Bosch and some other companies, beginning to talk about that. Because not every kid can go to college. Not every kid wants to go to college. Not every kid can strive through four years of college and then come out. I mean, I’ve seen kids come out with a degree and then not do the work in that degree. I mean, so what’s the point? If you could come out of a school within, through an apprenticeship program and making 70, 80,000 possibly even. Like HVAC or electrician or plumber. There are definitely jobs like that. And they can’t get enough people, it seems. So do you see the state being able to step in to some degree to help with those types of apprenticeship programs?
[00:26:24] Ruwa: Yeah, the state, there were a few pilot programs that started as early, that I know of in 2015. The problem with the pilot programs was we didn’t put proper safeguards in place so that students were being pushed to leave the apprenticeship program early, and then they were stuck in a lower income bracket because the company that they were on offered them like $12 an hour, which to them was a lot of money. And then they grew up and they wanted to buy a house and wanted to start a family and realized, oh shoot, I can’t live on my high school pay anymore. And so we need to make sure that if a company wants to take advantage of those apprenticeship programs that they commit to allowing students to finish their degree in full before they pull them out. Because you know, apprenticeship programs come with certificates and degrees and stuff that you can then take with you to other companies and be able to shop around for a job. And so that’s a very important piece that I don’t think we have fully invested in. Because it, a lot of people were like, oh, this might not be great for my child.
[00:27:19] Rico: Yeah. I agree with you. There’s different problems in different states, right? New York State has a lot of unions, which is not a bad thing, but can be a bad thing. So it can be a detriment or an impediment, depending on how you look at it. And it can be good. Georgia doesn’t, right? Georgia is a right to work state or work at will state, depending on how you technically want to call it. So I agree with you. I believe in free market, but you have to make sure there’s oversight because people will take advantage. Totally. Healthcare, you mentioned that before about affordable and accessible healthcare. So the state of Georgia is not part of accepting the expanded Medicare system. I mean, I can understand part of that reasoning, even though the federal government will pay for 90% of that cost, at least for the first few years or first two years. And then after that, the state will have to pick that up. We can’t pay for everything. We can’t do $11,000 increase in pay for teachers and then do this and that. So how do we handle healthcare?
[00:28:19] Ruwa: Yeah, so the interesting thing about our current surplus is that the immor, amortization, I can never say that word. But the rate on it actually would replenish the fund even as we use it. The thing is we have a real opportunity in Georgia right now. These surplus funds came mostly from ARPA funds and other pieces of legislation that President Biden had signed into law recently. So we have a windfall and a real opportunity to invest in our people. And no one is saying that we can pay for everything tomorrow. But the idea is that if we have this opportunity, we’re able to make these investments now for a better future without raising taxes and that are sustainable and long term. Why wouldn’t you? And that has been my question over and over and over again is, this is a moment where we can really fix a lot of these problems we’ve been having in Georgia. I would say that have gotten worse since 2008. But our rainy day fund is fully funded. All of our budget items are fully funded and we still have this surplus. So on the issue, and again, this is something that I think a lot of people, I appreciate and understand that we do live in sort of a capitalist society and a free market system. But healthcare is not something that can be controlled by the free market because it’s an inelastic good. If I had diabetes, I can’t just decide not to purchase insulin because it’s too expensive. That’s not an option for me because I will die. It is that simple. And so when we treat healthcare as a typical market good, we end up with a lot of market inefficiencies. I do understand economics because I spent a good chunk of my public policy learning economics which I think a lot of people think, oh, she’s just a kid and she’s idealistic, and oh, she’s very cute. But no, I know the principles I’m talking about. I just don’t share the values of people should die because they couldn’t afford insulin. Which by the way, Medicaid is just one solution, right? Again, I like to talk about multi-pronged approaches. Georgia’s also bad on public health. We don’t teach our people when to go to the emergency room versus their primary care doctor versus an urgent care. And that causes a lot of strain on our hospitals that is exacerbating the closures. So if somebody needs insulin, they’re probably better off going to an urgent care clinic than they are going to an emergency room. But you know what would be even better is if we could give them insulin, right? If we could give them an inhaler for their asthma so they’re not ending up costing thousands of dollars instead of whatever the cost of the medication is.
[00:30:36] Rico: Absolutely. But hospitals have to accept, there are people without insurance, right? I forget what the number here is in the state of Georgia. So you can’t go to an urgent care, likely, or a doctor maybe, because you feel you’d have to pay there for sure. Whereas a hospital has to take you. Although depending on which hospital you go to, they may also shift you out.
[00:30:56] Ruwa: Right, right.
[00:30:57] Rico: And they’re not allowed to. But the people that don’t know that, don’t know that.
[00:31:01] Ruwa: Oh, of course. But we’re talking about tears of people, right? Like if the people who have insurance instead of going the emergency room all the time, they went to these other doctors, then that’s one less critical in the emergency room, so on and so forth. But then again, if you have a public healthcare option that people have access to, then they don’t even go to the emergency room at all because they have access to insulin. And if we’re gonna really have a serious conversation about the market, having a public health option that is competitive in the market forces health insurance companies to stop price gouging. Because again, we don’t really have a choice in, we have the illusion of choice in health insurance, but they’ve all consolidated into like two or three companies I think now. I mean they’ve got like subsidiaries, but that’s not choice to me. They’re literally running a muck with the market and doing whatever they want to do, and no one is stopping them.
[00:31:48] Rico: Agreed, agreed. I know someone that’s going for a diagnostic mammogram, I think it’s called. A screening mammogram, actually. There’s different levels of that, right? So I saw the sheet and there’s no pricing on it. There’s no price transparency. The interesting part that we know how much it costs, it actually costs less going and paying in cash out of pocket then if you went with your insurance in hand. I’m like, now why is that? Why does it cost less for me to pay out of pocket let’s say, versus going through the insurance. And then you see when they send you the explanation of benefits, it’s like a horrendous amount. It’s like, but that’s not your bill. But it is your bill because in a way, you’re gonna end up paying it.
[00:32:30] Ruwa: Right. Why did a bandaid cost me? What was it? $200 the other day kinda thing.
[00:32:35] Rico: It’s ridiculous. Let’s go on to, let’s try crime and safety. So public safety, community safety, that’s the new phraseology used. Community safety because that’s just about the public, I guess. It’s about how we keep our community safe. So here in Peachtree Corners, I mean, there are things that happen. Shootings at extended stay hotels and other places. And there was a shooting at the QT not too long ago, if you may remember that. Three perpetrators tried to do a carjacking. The kid, 29 year old that used to coach, I think at Norcross High School, didn’t want his car jacked. And it was on Peachtree Parkway, really busy intersection. And I think for a lot of people, a wake up call to, like, it’s not just other places. It happened here. Now those three were found within a month, I think. All three of them were arrested and I guess they’re going to be fully prosecuted, supposedly. We’ll find when that goes. But part of it was technology was being used. Fūsus is a Peachtree Corners company that does crime center in the cloud, computations and uses algorithms and video cameras and such. They’re one of many companies, right? They’re based here. Those three were found because of some of these efforts. Using technology to track people to be able to find them. I know there was a point of people wanting to defund the police. Do they need an armed vehicle carrier to bring the people in? I don’t know. But how should the state work with local cities to make sure that technology can be used? Because it’s effective. And to be able to look at how the police operate. Also, in a social environment where maybe police aren’t needed and maybe a social worker is needed, or a social professional is needed, maybe even in concert with a police officer. Because I wouldn’t want to send somebody out to a domestics disturbance by themselves without a police officer. Because those things can turn deadly. So how would, Romman handle this as a State House Rep?
[00:34:40] Ruwa: I do want, there’s a couple things I want to say here about this conversation and then I want to talk about my solutions. One of the things that has been very upsetting to me around conversation about public safety and crime is it has almost felt like some people have been giddy that that shooting happened. Because then they can go, oh my god, crime Democrats and defund the police. Somebody died that day. And the lack of sensitivity around that conversation, frankly, has been very upsetting to me. It’s also important to note, like you said, that the perpetrators were apprehended pretty quickly. And that’s due to investment by our county commissioners, who are all Democrats, by the way. None of them are defunding the police. That are supporting law enforcement in a way that does increase public safety. So I’m really glad you mentioned it that way because while it is scary and terrifying, I mean, I’ve always gone to that QT. The Forum mall is like one of the first malls I ever went to as a kid, right? You hang out with your friends, you’re supposed to be in a safe space. But we need to look at public safety holistically from a prevention and a response perspective, like you said. So a lot of these extended stays, what can we do to make sure that people have affordable housing? Including first responders, by the way. A lot of first responders can’t afford to live where they’re serving. That’s not good for public safety and doesn’t increase trust. The second piece of it, like you said, is mental health and social workers that are useful, that do have to be escorted by police officers. Like I said, my husband’s a part-time first responder, and if it’s a shooting scene, police always go and clear the scene before they’re able to support anyone that’s been hurt. So that’s like a, again, a holistic approach. At the same time, we have to make sure that the public, we are focused on community and public safety in a way that doesn’t increase harm. And what I mean by that is you mentioned the technology, you mentioned how there are these really awesome and cool tools that we have in our back pocket that we can apprehend criminals. We also need to make sure that our privacy is continued to be protected. And this is coming from me as a woman, right? If I go to my OB-GYN tomorrow and that OB-GYN happens to also provide abortion as a service, do I then become a suspect for the state based on our new laws? Even if I’m not pregnant, even if I’m not whatever. How can we make sure that those safeguards are in place so that we can adequately respond to crimes? While making sure that completely innocent law abiding citizens aren’t ensnared in that system of suspicion that only the wealthy are able to get out of quickly and be able to overcome. The other piece, and I know I was attacked on this recently, I think. I’m not really sure. On cash bail was, our prisons and jails are overflowing. Especially our jails. And it’s because nonviolent offenders can’t afford to pay their bail even if they didn’t. This is only people who’ve been charged of a crime. They haven’t been convicted of a crime. And I had a friend the other day tell me they work for like an ankle monitoring business company type thing. They said that they had to put an ankle monitor on a murder suspect because they didn’t have space in jail to hold that person. And they know for a fact that the people in that jail are nonviolent criminals. That they could be let out with those ankle monitors instead, but they just can’t afford it. And so when you put money and tie it that closely to freedom, it doesn’t make any of us safer. In fact, it’s actually putting a lot of us more in danger. So going back to that holistic approach, I was talking about. It’s, support our first responders better, and I think I would add social workers to that term as well. Increase their certification along with that increase in pay so that there aren’t any bad actors in that type of workforce and field. And two, how do we support these new technological innovations while protecting innocent, average everyday citizens? And three you know, educate the public on how to be a part of that community safety approach of how do we care for one another? How do we look out for one another? I think is sometimes something that we don’t always talk about.
[00:38:20] Rico: Yeah, true. I think that depending on the community and outreach, you find a lot of that from the faith institutions reaching out, providing services, jobs, how to find a job. To people that may not know how to find a job. So there’s a lot of that going on in certain communities, there’s more than in other communities sometimes. I agree with you on the privacy. I think technology is moving faster than legislation can catch up with and right? And unfortunately there are legislators that are older than me out there that don’t even understand the technology and what the privacy issues. It’s a very complicated, right? It’s very complicated. There’s a lot of gray areas. I know the idea of cashless bail, people are like, no, no, that’s bad. And you get a TikTok video of someone that you know, smashed someone to the ground, and now they have a brain injury and it’s a misdemeanor, and why are they on bail or cashless bail? Well, that’s just bad judgment call. Some of it has to just be like, the judge has to realize there has to be some latitude in what’s done, right? Everyone picks the extreme of a problem.
[00:39:29] Ruwa: Exactly.
[00:39:30] Rico: And say that’s the problem. So yeah, I get what you’re saying. And I like the fact that multi-prong is important because it’s not a black and white thing.
[00:39:38] Ruwa: I’m a nerd like that, yeah. I tend to geek out on policy because I’m like, you’ve gotta address the whole thing not just bits and pieces of it.
[00:39:45] Rico: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. I love talking shop. So let’s go to voting rights because that’s a big thing for me too. Because sometimes when I have to pay by check, I have to show an ID.
[00:39:56] Ruwa: Sure.
[00:39:56] Rico: When I go pick up drugs, I have to show an ID. There’s some things I have to show an ID for. And I fervently believe, when I go to vote, I should show my ID. That makes sense. Now what that ID is can be you know, it’s a government ID or your driver’s license or something like that. But I believe that if we’re gonna enforce that, then we should actually make it as easy as possible for these people to get their IDs.
[00:40:22] Ruwa: Right.
[00:40:22] Rico: If that means you know, drop it off by Door Dash or something then that’s good. You know, it’s alright. You know, because as long as you do the initial thing and you have a picture and you have a fingerprint and you say you’re IDed. You’re good to go, right?
[00:40:37] Ruwa: Yeah.
[00:40:37] Rico: So what do you, how do you feel about that?
[00:40:39] Ruwa: Yeah, so full disclosure on this, I actually did, my master’s was on voter ID laws and voting in general. And I looked at every single county in the 48 contiguous United States to look at the impact of voter ID laws. One of the most interesting things about my findings is that it wasn’t necessarily the voter ID law itself that reduced turnout, which by the way, I used some of the strictest models I could. We were all shocked that my findings were, to get really nerdy like statistically significant, in the fact that there’s a negative correlation between voter ID laws and turnout. But the caveat and the nuance there is the type of voter ID law that was implemented. So in other states what they do is, they have voter ID laws, but they also allow somebody who goes to vote to prove their identity in a different way. They can sign an affidavit, they can look them up in an already existing system. There are so many different ways that somebody can prove their identity right then and there so they don’t leave and can’t come back to vote, that doesn’t prevent them from voting. And that’s the biggest piece of nuance I think that a lot of people miss on the voter ID laws is, nobody is saying that we shouldn’t verify who is voting. That’s like 101, like you’ve gotta trust but verify, right?
[00:41:51] Rico: Right.
[00:41:52] Ruwa: But one, of the billions of ballots that researchers in this field have looked at over time, there has been no voter fraud. And when there has been voter fraud, it’s immediately been found and none of it has ever flipped an election. Period. Those are facts. I get that we live in a society where I can write whatever I want on the internet. But there are people who study this and they have been looking at this in a way, way, way deeper than I can in a quick Google search. And so you’re right. There are ways to write these laws where we’re securing our elections without preventing people from voting. One of them is making sure they get IDs. That’s what they do in Mexico. Mexico has a very strict ID law, but they ensure that every citizen in Mexico gets an ID. To the point that they have like the people who are census takers, kind of like what we saw during the census, their only job is to deliver IDs. They literally go to the highest mountains, to the deepest slums.
[00:42:41] Rico: There you go. Right, and that’s what we should be doing too, then if we’re gonna be forcing that. And I like the idea of multiple ways to validate someone’s identification.
[00:42:50] Ruwa: Right.
[00:42:51] Rico: Using other means. But that also means the state would have to step in to some degree. We’re a county by county, right? Every county uses their own election thing, whatever they want to use. Whether it’s a ballot receipt or a scanned ballot or whatever it is. There’s too many ways to do this from county to county that it becomes difficult unless you’re going to be able to make some sort of broad ID that’s accepted by every county, right? I mean.
[00:43:18] Ruwa: Which exists, like, that’s what the driver’s license system is. And county officials do have access to those records, by the way. So during my day job, I’ve got various clients, a lot of them are federal agencies and some of this stuff really is just technological supply chain process. Boring stuff that you just need to put in some time, effort, and yes, funding into. But it makes life so much easier in the future.
[00:43:39] Rico: Yeah. And I think that makes sense. So I agree with you on most of your points there. There’s a lot of valid places, valid ways to be able to say who you are. And the only thing I have is that I’ve been out of Brooklyn, New York when I was part of the Democratic machine, became a Reagan Democrat later. But in New York, and most anyone that’s listened to me often enough knows I worked for Chuck Schumer when he was a congressman early on for a year, just doing constituency work, but worked in politics. You know, people should be more afraid of how votes are suppressed, people’s rights are taken away, not physically, but just by mailings. Of if you get slammed with enough mailings, you become so immune to it that you’re like, I don’t even want to go vote. I know lots of young kids that don’t even, they five years into their voting ability and not once have they gone to vote. So there’s so many other ways to get people to vote. And that’s, voter ID is not really one of them.
[00:44:39] Ruwa: You’re speaking to my heart here. I mean, I always tell people you know, a lot of people say, what’s the point of getting politically involved? And I remind them that there have been races, like in Virginia, the state legislature stayed Republican for an extra two years because of the equivalent of a coin toss. Like it was a tie and they had to break the tie. And we have our city council race up here in Duluth was decided by four votes. So I have a hard time believing that this doesn’t matter. But you’ve also gotta build political power during off years so that if somebody, including me, doesn’t do what you elected them to do, you’re able to vote them out and get a better person in.
[00:45:12] Rico: Yes. People love to complain and I love to say, well, if you haven’t voted then. And I know people get tired of that, but you know what, if you haven’t voted, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care, and I wanna hear you. It’s like that type of thing. Because, and then people say, well, it doesn’t mean anything, but those four votes in Duluth it meant something.
[00:45:29] Ruwa: It matters.
[00:45:30] Rico: Right. Could have been something else. There’s so many other issues we could talk about and we’re running into 50 minutes right now, almost an hour. And I do want to give you an opportunity to ask for that vote. Is there a particular burning issue that we haven’t touched on that you wanna spend a couple of minutes on?
[00:45:45] Ruwa: This is sort of a very meta issue, I think. But I really want to encourage, listeners and voters to reach out to their candidates and hear from them directly. Trust me, I know a lot of money goes into marketing. I have to fundraise for it. I get it. But you know, my number is on our website. My email’s on our website. If you leverage that, I will respond to you. And the reason I say that is we live in an, in a digital age where anyone can write anything and send out anything that they want with little to no consequence. And as you saw even during this podcast, we had to spend the beginning of it dispelling a rumor that someone took five minutes to write and say. And that kind of stuff really does detract from the real issues. And I think, I would hope as constituents, as people who care about our society, that we start to more critically think about some of the things that are being sent to us. So I think the one rule of thumb that I’ve started to implement for myself is if somebody tells me about a problem and is only scaring me about it, and they’re not offering me a solution, then they’re not going to fix it. They just want to fear monger me into a vote. And so please, think about the world around us. How much control does the person that is leveraging this issue actually have on that issue? And ask those critical questions of them. Again, I have solutions and ideas. I think that with my expertise in everything, I can do a lot. A lot of good in this work, but I’m also not naive and I know my limitations. I don’t wanna over promise and underdeliver kind of thing.
[00:47:08] Rico: Let’s go right into you asking for the vote, then. We might as well, let’s go right there. And tell people where they can find you.
[00:47:15] Ruwa: Yeah. So, as I mentioned, my name is Ruwa Romman. I’m running for Georgia State House District 97. You can find out more about me at Ruwa, R-U-W-A , the number four, Georgia spelled out, .com. So Ruwa4Georgia.com. There you’ll find a form that you can reach out to me directly. You can ask questions, we can have great conversations. And more importantly, I really, really hope that I’ve earned your vote and that you will vote. Early voting is happening right now and ends November 4th. Gwinnett County does provide early voting on both weekends, between now and then. And then the last day to vote is November 8th. I urge you to vote early so we can help you if you run into any issues. And if you do, contact us. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet you, talk to you, let me come to your home and knock on your door. It has been a true privilege doing this work.
[00:48:00] Rico: Cool. And where can they find out, what’s your website and your social media address?
[00:48:05] Ruwa: Right, so it’s all the same. Ruwa, R-U-W-A, the number four, Georgia is spelled out. So Ruwa4Georgia. And it’s dot com. It’s every handle. I’m learning TikTok, so I’m making a fool of myself there, but trying to have fun.
[00:48:16] Rico: Alright, cool. Hang in there with me while I just close out. Thank you everyone for attending this podcast, listening to it on iHeart, Spotify, or watching it on Facebook or YouTube. You can find more of these types of podcasts, either by searching Peachtree Corners Life on Apple, or wherever you find podcasts. Or by just liking our Facebook page which is Peachtree Corners Life. Or our YouTube channel, which is Peachtree Corners Magazine. Leave your comments. I’m sure Romman’s team is monitoring things. So wherever you’re at, if it’s on Facebook and you want to leave a comment or a question, you can put it there and they should get notified about that. Check out LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com for further stuff on Peachtree Corners and SouthwestGwinnettMagazine.com as well. So we have two magazines. Thank you again for being with us. Thank you Ruwa for coming.
[00:49:06] Ruwa: Thanks for having me.
What to know about voter registration and municipal elections in Peachtree Corners
On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Diane Fisher, a representative from the League of Women Voters Gwinnett chapter, delves into the world of voter registration and municipal elections in Georgia. With the implementation of automatic voter registration and the upcoming municipal elections in Peachtree Corners, Fisher sheds light on the importance of informed voting and active participation. From understanding address updates to exploring the power of thoughtful voting, listeners will gain valuable insights on enhancing voter engagement in their community. This podcast serves as a guide for residents to make their voices heard and shape the future of Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
Diane’s Email: Fisher@lwvga.org League of Women Voters
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lwvgwinnettcounty/
“Being a prepared voter means being an informed voter. It’s not just about the presidential election, but about all the congressional seats, the House and Senate seats, and county positions. So, there will be an awful lot on that ballot. Knowing when and who is on the ballot is crucial for an informed vote.”Diane Fisher
0:00:00 – Introduction
0:01:54 – Voter registration process and information for new residents in Georgia
0:05:13 – Voter maintenance and the importance of updating voter registration
0:08:34 – Absentee voting process and how to request an absentee ballot
0:10:52 – Municipal elections in Peachtree Corners, Georgia
0:17:18 – Being a prepared voter for the 2024 elections
0:20:37 – The need to know who’s on the ballot
0:21:31 – Sharing personal experience about involvement in politics
0:23:02 – Misleading information and the importance of understanding the ballot
0:23:45 – Lesser-known positions on the ballot and the impact of voters’ knowledge
0:25:42 – Thoughtful voting and participation in local elections
0:28:04 – Encouraging voters to engage with candidates and attend events
0:29:39 – The process for third-party and write-in candidates in Georgia for the 2024 elections
0:31:25 – Seeking additional information that Georgia voters should know
0:33:28 – Advising voters to verify their voting location due to possible changes
0:34:17 – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. Appreciate everyone joining us. We have a special guest today from the League of Women Voters, Diane Fisher. Hey, Diane, thanks for joining me.
Diane Fisher 0:00:11
Nice to be here.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:13
Yeah, this is going to be a good educational podcast. We’re going to be discussing how to be a prepared voter and everything that comes with that for 2024 and municipal elections. But before we get to that, I just want to thank our sponsors, Clearwave Fiber, our corporate sponsor. They’re an internet providing business here in Peachtree Corners, serving over a thousand businesses. Peachtree Corners Life, they’re actually based in the Southeast, and they provide better than what you would expect from a cable provider. Fast Internet connection, great support, especially to businesses and residents. So check them out. Clearwave Fiber also check out EV Remodeling, Inc. Eli, who is the owner of the company. Him and his family live here in Peachtree Corners. It’s a great business. They do design to build renovation work. Lots of good activity out there, lots of good references for them. So check them out, Evremodelinginc.com, and you’ll be able to find out a little bit more about our two supporters that way. So let’s get right into the show. Diane, I appreciate you joining us. League of Women Voters, it’s been around for quite a while. You are the Gwinnett chapter of the organization, correct?
Diane Fisher 0:01:28
We are the Gwinnett chapter. The national organization has been around since 1920, founded out of the movement for women’s suffrage. And we in Gwinnett in this iteration, have been around since 2019. Comes and goes. And so it is relatively new coming back. And so that’s where we are now.
Rico Figliolini 0:01:54
Excellent. So I saw you, I met you at the Peachtree Corners Festival, which is part of what you all do, outreach to the community. And you were out there, I think, at the time when I passed, you were registering a new voter that came on and she was asking questions so similar to what we’re going to do here. We want to know a little bit about how if you’re a new voter and you haven’t voted yet, or if you just moved to the state of Georgia and you have to register here to vote. Because obviously, from where someone comes from, you have to register in the state that you’re going to be voting in at the residence that you’re going to be voting in. So tell us a little bit about what would be needed for someone to register new here in the state of Georgia and Gwinnett County.
Diane Fisher 0:02:40
Sure. So in Georgia, we have automatic voter registration through the DDS, through driver services. And so when anyone gets a new license or changes an address on a license or does anything with DDS, they actually are automatically registered to vote. So we actually have very high voter registration in Georgia because of that. What doesn’t happen, though, is sometimes people you know move down the street, sometimes they move across town, sometimes they move within a county, sometimes they move out of the county. And you do, as you mentioned, need to be registered to vote at your current address. And so it’s important for everyone to make sure that they take care of making sure that that happens. Because sometimes people don’t always update a license in a timely fashion, but they actually move. And the reason why it’s linked to where you live is because who you vote for is determined by where you live, what precincts, and so it is important that you are registered your current address so you can always check. One of the best resources for checking the status of your registration is the Secretary of State has their website which is MVP, SOS ga gov and if you put in your name and birth date and county you can find out where you’re registered to, if you’re registered, where you’re registered, what precincts you vote for, where you vote. All of that information is available on that site. And so we encourage every voter before every election to check the status of their registration, to make sure that everything is above board, that it’s where you need it to be and that nothing happened. Because there is a list maintenance that happens as a regular part of the process and sometimes people are put moved to inactive status if they miss a notice or something like that. So we just always want to make sure that everybody checks their status, which makes sense.
Rico Figliolini 0:04:55
I just did that for two of my kids, I showed them how to do it because they hadn’t voted since they hadn’t voted. So I think one of them, in a decade maybe voted once and I said there’s maintenance, they could purge you from the list and they were still on the list, right?
Diane Fisher 0:05:13
So if you don’t vote in two federal election cycles, then you are moved to inactive status and that starts a process of eventually dropping you off the roll. So you’re not obligated to vote in elections. But obviously we encourage everyone to vote, but it is important to respond to those kinds of requests that you get because they probably did get some kind of notice in the mail indicating that, questioning if they are still at address, that they live, that they were registered, right, no doubt.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:48
And I think younger people have a bit more of a problem following that up because it’s not on their to do list, obviously. I think the demographics show that older people more regularly, younger people less regularly, unless it’s a presidential race and even still sometimes it just depends. And COVID hasn’t helped either, people moving back home with their parents, whether they moved in from out of state, maybe they still wanted to vote for if they were living in New York, maybe they still wanted to do an absentee ballot back up there, and that’s possible, but they wouldn’t be able to vote down, right, right.
Diane Fisher 0:06:26
You can only be registered to vote in one location. And quite honestly, one thing that people don’t know is that if you register so say you move I’ll use your example from New York and you move to Georgia and you register to vote in Georgia. There is not a process like an automatic unregistering. You from New York, you actually have to request that. My daughter, when she moved out of state, it took us a long time to get her off of the voter rolls, know, because you actually have to request that to happen. Most people do not think that that’s something that they have to do. And that’s why sometimes the roles are not updated or updated. You might show up on a place where you have no intention of voting and never voted because you’ve moved and you just didn’t think that you need to do anything about it.
Rico Figliolini 0:07:17
Sure, I think you’re right. Most of my friends would not even think about, oh, I need to know if someone know. Technically, you could end up doing a mail in ballot to New York, let’s say, and vote here, and no one would know the difference, apparently. Obviously we don’t want that happening.
Diane Fisher 0:07:39
There have been cases before the state election board that come, people being caught doing that, and it is not situation. So yes, that is illegal.
Rico Figliolini 0:07:50
It’s a federal offense.
Diane Fisher 0:07:51
It is a federal offense. That is certainly not something that we encourage. And most people who register, they move someplace, they register, they have no intention of voting elsewhere. But young people particularly, or people who are transient, it does mean that you have to pay a little bit more attention and make a plan to vote. I think it’s also important to think about not just being registered, it’s then knowing when elections are, knowing what your plan will be. Will you vote absentee, will you vote early advanced voting, will you vote on election day? What’s that plan? To make sure that you’re actually being able to vote.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:34
So in the state of Georgia, if I’m going on vacation or even an absentee, you don’t need an excuse for an absentee ballot. You can ask for that.
Diane Fisher 0:08:44
Rico Figliolini 0:08:45
So you could go online to one of the sites or which site to go to to get an absentee ballot.
Diane Fisher 0:08:51
Yes. So that depends on the election. And I will say, and I only raise that because we’re coming up on municipal elections here in Gwinnett County, actually statewide, but also specifically here in Peachtree Corners and in Gwinnett, the county does not run the municipal elections. Every city runs their own municipal election. So the answer for coming up for the November 7 election, which will be the municipal election here in Peachtree Corners, is that you need to request the absentee ballot from the county clerk in Peachtree Corners. And if you go to the website, you can get that information. There’s a form there that you can request the absentee ballot for the Peachtree Corners election. Typically for every other election, you would go to the county. Well, actually either the Secretary of state’s website or the county Board of elections office, and you can get the form there. One of the changes that happened in election forms is that you can’t register just on an online portal anymore. You have to print out the application because it has to have a wet signature. It has to actually have an actual signature on it. So you have to print off the form, fill it out, sign it, and then you can send it back digitally. But you can’t just I think there was a time when there was a portal where you could just go on and put in your information and request it. So now you have to print out the form and then return it to the county election office.
Rico Figliolini 0:10:29
But you can scan that form, return.
Diane Fisher 0:10:31
It digitally, scan it, or take a photo of it, and then email it back to the elections office and do it.
Rico Figliolini 0:10:40
So they’re just forcing you to print it out to do that website, which.
Diane Fisher 0:10:45
Means that you now have to have access to a printer, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:10:49
How many people do know?
Diane Fisher 0:10:52
And so that is the process now and where you go. And again, because Gwinnett is unusual, Gwinnett’s one of the few counties in Georgia that the municipalities run their own elections. Most other counties in the area, Fulton, Jacab, the counties run the municipal elections as well. And so what that means for us here in Gwinnett and in Peachtree Corners is that when you go to vote on election day for the municipal elections, you will not go to your regular location where you normally would are used to voting. So at Simpson elementary or at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church or any of the different locations where you always go to your regular precinct location, everybody in Peachtree Corners for the municipal election will vote at City Hall, down around in the room, around the bottom, the community trust room, around the left side of the building. That’s where elections are held for the county, for the city, I’m sorry, for the city.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:02
And there’s one open seat, one open contested seat, I should say.
Diane Fisher 0:12:09
Every other election cycle we would have. So in this case, on the ballot is the mayor, post one, post three, and post five. So the only contested seat is the post five. And post five is an at large seat. And so that means that everybody, Peachtree Corners will vote for that seat. Post one and three are geographically defined, so the first three posts are based on geography. So post one, I think, is the southern section. And then three is the sort of the northern part of Peachtree Corners. So Alex Wright, Is and Phil Sod are in those seats, and those are uncontested seats. And then, of course, the mayor’s race is also citywide, and that is uncontested as well.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:07
So people understand this, come November, you’re going to have to go to two different places to do this.
Diane Fisher 0:13:15
No, the only election in 2020, right. The only election in 2023 is the municipal election.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:23
Diane Fisher 0:13:23
There have been times when you’ve had to go to two places because there were simultaneous elections, but that is not the case now. So November 7 and actually early voting and early voting does start for the municipal election on Monday, October 16. So Monday through Friday from October 16 through November 3 and then October 21 and October 20 Eighth, which are Saturdays from nine to five, is early voting. So you can go for three weeks early voting, including two Saturdays. And then, of course, on Election Day is seven to 07:00 a.m. To 07:00 P.m., election Day, November 7, and that will be just at the City Hall. If you go to your regular polling location, there won’t be anything going on there other than school or church or whatever might be happening.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:19
So people should also be aware, I think, when they send in the absentee ballot, how long do they have? How does it get date stamped if it arrives three days later? I mean, how is that process explain?
Diane Fisher 0:14:32
So, legally, your absentee ballot needs to arrive, in this case, City Hall by 07:00 P.m. On Election day. If it gets there the next day, it’s not going to count. It has to arrive. So if you’re going to be voting with an absentee ballot, you need to make sure that you’ve planned ahead to request it. And I would say request it like today. When you hear this, make sure you request it, and then as soon as it comes, fill it out. And you can actually I mean, if you are local and you’re just going to be out of town, you can actually just bring it down to City Hall. Worry about the postal service. Obviously, if you’re a student who lives out of the area, needs to mail it again, do all of that life ASAP, because the time is a very limited window.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:31
Okay. And just because I’m thinking along this line, if someone was going to drop it off, like if I was going to drop off my son’s ballot, I could drop that off at City Hall. That’s okay.
Diane Fisher 0:15:42
Yes, you can drop off a ballot for immediate family, relatives, so your wife, your kids, a parent. You can’t, though, start collecting from people in your neighborhood and bringing those in, but for close family.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:00
Okay. All right, that sounds good. So the League of Women Voters is known for providing good nonpartisan information to get people to do to vote, to fulfill their civic responsibilities and all. And we talked a little bit about what it means to be a prepared voter before we started. So tell us a little bit, Diane, what does it mean to be a prepared voter going to 2024 into the presidential race, election year, where there’s going to be a lot on the ballot, I’m sure in a variety of states, but even here in Georgia, sure, because.
Diane Fisher 0:17:59
It’s not just about the presidential election. There will be all the congressional seats, there will be all of the House, the Georgia House seats and the Georgia Senate seats. There will be county positions, all of the county constitutional positions will be on the ballot. So there will be an awful lot on that ballot. And so being prepared voter means being an informed voter. So obviously, the first is to know when you need to be voting. And there are lots of elections in 2024, starting in March. The presidential preferential primary will be in March. Then we’ve got the regular primaries in May, and then we’ve got November elections and then any runoffs that may need to happen as well. So there will be a lot of elections. So it’s not just go in and vote once and be done with it. So that’s one thing knowing when all those different elections are. The second is knowing who’s on the ballot. And through that MVP site that I mentioned earlier, the MVP. SOS Ga gov, you can pull up it’s not available right now, but it will be available for 2024. All of who is on your ballot, you can pull up sample ballots. And so that will be really helpful to know ahead of time because I hear people all the time saying, like, I got into the polling booth and I had no idea that there were all of those things on the ballot. I wasn’t prepared. And so you can be prepared by pulling up the sample ballot and actually marking, doing your research. And there are lots of different ways to get information. There are candidate forums. Certainly the candidates themselves are out there putting information out. Will. The league is known for doing candidate information forums as well, and we likely will be doing particularly for our county races. The state may be doing some larger scale ones, but here in Gwinnett, the Gwinnett League focuses very much on what’s happening here in so, you know, doing your research in terms of getting information about not only what’s on the ballot, but then being able to check out the candidates so that you know who aligns with your values and with the things that are important to you. And so that becomes part of the conversation it’s important to have.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:37
Yeah. Coming from New York, I was involved quite a bit in political politics when I was younger, 1820. You see the things that go on, the amount of so doing it for such a long period of time to hear people say, I’m not prepared, or I don’t know who’s on the ballot. It gets really frustrating when there is a lot of information out there between news outlets. Granted, there’s a variety of news outlets, so some agendas on some of these outlets, but for the most part, you’ll be able to get the information out there. Candidates are especially local candidates are doing more door to door campaigning. You will get it inundated with mail, right? I mean, last year or the year before was just ridiculous. The amount of mail that was going out, literally three or four postcards a day coming in.
Diane Fisher 0:21:31
And you have to be careful about that mail because it’s not just the candidates who are sending out mail now. It’s all kinds of organizations, and some of the information is not always accurate or it’s political spin. And so I think if you’re looking to find out candidates positions on things, that’s where it’s important to look at various sorts. So the league does run nationally, a website called Vote Four One One, where we reach out to candidates to get their input so that you can hear from them what they believe about certain things. So we ask questions. There are other sort of neutral, if you will, sites. Alopecia has sort of a candidate profile site. So there are ways that you can get sort of just factual information candidates, as opposed to sort of the political spin that can sometimes make noise. And so we do encourage, but at the very least, pull up that ballot to say, this is what’s going to be on there. So you don’t get in and say, I didn’t know county, the clerk of the court, I don’t even know what that is. Those are the things that sort of sneak up on people.
Rico Figliolini 0:23:02
I mean, they’re lesser known positions. They get less exposure. People either tend to skip over them or they tend to, depending on the politics, tend to either vote for the incumbent because there’s an eye next to it, because that seems safer, or if they want to stir the pot, they’re voting for the other candidate to come in. It’s a variety of reasons, right, that people vote.
Diane Fisher 0:23:24
Rico Figliolini 0:23:24
And then there’s referendums on the ballot, and because they’re written in such legalese, sometimes you may be reading it in that moment at the ballot box and not realize really what it’s saying, because some of it’s written in such a way, you would think, oh, that’s easy, that’s what that means. And then you find out later, no, that’s not what that meant.
Diane Fisher 0:23:45
Right. If I vote yes, it’s actually voting against. That’s right, because of the way that it’s written. Right. And so I think that those referendum and those also those are available, you’ll be able to pull those up on your sample ballot at the MVP site so that you can actually see it and read it and do your research. I mean, I know that I sit down when my kids were first voting, we would sit down and literally go through the ballot and research candidates together. And the referendum questions, even life, talk about what they mean and what the pros and cons, and if we didn’t have an answer, we disagreed or whatever, we talk about it. Sometimes we disagreed and they would vote one way and I would vote a different way. But point being that having that conversation and being informed because that is how we citizens are being able to make sure that what we want is actually happening. I mean, you hear so often people saying like, it doesn’t really matter who I vote for if I vote, because it just doesn’t matter, my voice doesn’t matter. Well, it matters if you do it thoughtfully. And if everybody were to participate, then we’re all in a better place. Here in Peachtree Corners, just going back, we have 27,000 registered voters, and in the last six municipal elections, the most we’ve ever had is a 10% turnout. So like 2700 voters. So when people complaining about whatever they might be complaining about, about the city, you need to actually vote to have your perspective put forward.
Rico Figliolini 0:25:42
It’s the frustrating part. Yeah. When I read things on nextdoor and people say, these people, they have an agenda, this is what they want to do, and it’s like it doesn’t take much. You’re right. Sometimes there’s more than 2700 votes. Right. There’s more than that, depending on the year now, really.
Diane Fisher 0:26:05
More than 10% of the voting. I think that when we first became a city that was a higher turnout, but since then, yeah, it’s a very small and we know there are elections that have been won by 15 votes, there are elections that have been won by one vote. And so especially in these smaller elections, makes it more important to get out there and have your voice heard.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:39
Yeah, especially because, I mean, in small elections like this, it depends on how many friends you have. You’re right. There was one election, I think was the last election that we had, where it was a 14 vote difference or something along those lines. If you want to make change. You have to be involved. You have to knock doors. You can’t just send postcards. You have to meet your neighbors, your voters, and figure it out.
Diane Fisher 0:27:10
I will say, I think candidates these days are very open to certainly the local candidates, the county positions, the state House representatives, and so mean you can go onto their websites, know, ask for a meeting. They will meet with you. And I think that that is important. And it’s important to meet with not just the people who you think you might agree with, but also the other side to hear what they stand for and what they plan on doing. And I think that we are in a time when it is easy to access your candidates, particularly at the more local levels, and go to events that they’re having or send an email and say, I’d love to talk to you. Will you have coffee with me?
Rico Figliolini 0:28:04
Right. Yeah. Some of them will put out their cell phone numbers, and you can literally call them and talk to them because how many people in their district, how many people actually can actually call their representatives? And I think people should be aware that their representative is they’re there to be able to expedite things. The constituent service, if they have a problem with government that rep, that represents you, is there to help make things easier or to at least guide you into what you need to do. They’re there for a reason. They work for you. I know that’s, like everyone says, they work for me. But they do work for you, and you’re the one that votes them in, and you should be able to they’re there to represent you. So to fill a purpose that way.
Diane Fisher 0:28:52
Yeah. You have resources and access that we don’t have, and they’re happy to facilitate things for us. Yes.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:00
So let me ask you. I’m a bit of a political junkie, but you don’t know about Georgia politics as much as I probably should after being here since 95. But now that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. For example, decides he’s going to run as an independent candidate because the Democratic Party, according to him, has not given him the right for a debate or to run properly, they’ve changed the rules a bit, I guess. What happens with a third party candidate in 2024 when you live in the state of Georgia? Can you do a write in on a candidate like that?
Diane Fisher 0:29:39
So, two different things. There is a process for being put on the ballot as a third party candidate. And my presumption, I mean, we’ll often find a Green Party candidate on the ballot or things. So there is a process for that. Write ins are a whole nother story in Georgia. So I know a lot of people know, I’m going to write it in my husband, I’m going to write my neighbor, or I’m going to write in whatever you actually have to register to be a write in candidate. So only, the only write in votes that will count are people who have gone through the process of actually registering to be a writing candidate. If you don’t write in one of those people, it’s not going to count. So they don’t do a tally of all of those. Rico you couldn’t get 100 votes as a write in because unless you obviously go, yeah, so that notion of sort, I’m just going to write somebody in, in Georgia, it’s not possible. The different part, you do not have to be just a Republican or a Democrat to show up on ballot. There are processes for being a registered candidate from whatever party it happens to be.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:11
What should a Georgia voter know that we haven’t covered that may be trivial or not trivial, but detail that most people know that we should mean? Is there anything gone over?
Diane Fisher 0:31:25
So I will say that one of the things that I always say about voters is voters are creatures of habit. So if the last election I showed up and voted in this location, and I voted in that location for the past three elections or ten elections or 20 elections, don’t always presume that things stay the same. We know that we just had so, for example, we know that we just had redistricting with the census and numbers have shifted. And so there is a shifting of precincts and so on. And most of the time you’re going to stay in the same place, but always, again, check to make sure that you know where you’re voting. And just because you always voted at Simpson or New Age building or wherever it might be, don’t presume that that’s where you voted last time, that’s where you’re going to vote this time. Because sometimes because of the ways that the numbers have shifted, they shift. So again, I think it’s really important to always check, even if you think I’m pretty involved, and I check my voter page periodically and certainly before every election, just to make sure that, first of all, my precincts, not just the precinct is the same, but that I know who I’m voting for. Because we know that there were changes in congressional seats and House and Senate races and even County Commission seats. We have a new County Commission situation now from a couple of years ago. And so just knowing where the lines are, because the lines do sometimes change. So I think that that’s something that particularly coming right off of the redistricting situation that we had. If you haven’t voted recently since the last election, you may find that things have changed a little bit.
Rico Figliolini 0:33:28
Makes sense. I know that state House and Senate seats have changed. People have disappeared, or they’ve been drawn out of a district that they were in.
Diane Fisher 0:33:40
They may be running, and the lines have just changed. The numbers have changed. The lines have changed. Yeah, it’s.
Rico Figliolini 0:33:46
Amazing. So it really should go to that website that they have mentioned, MVP.
Diane Fisher 0:33:50
SOS ga gov, if you just remember MVP, if you start typing in MVP and in Georgia it’ll show up. And that really is if you remember one thing from this conversation, I would say remember that. And then the other piece is remember that for the upcoming election in Peachtree Corners, you’re going to be voting at City Hall right.
Rico Figliolini 0:34:17
For 2023. All right, cool. I think we covered quite a bit. We’ve given places that people can go. Is there anything else that you want to share, Diane?
Diane Fisher 0:34:31
I don’t think just I think if we want our government and our society to work for us and we need to be actively engaged with the process and the League of Women Voters is always happy to give information. I get calls all the time, emails from friends, neighbors, people across the county asking questions. So you can always call the county election office. But if you I’m a local Peachtree Corners gal, people are welcome to reach out to me. It’s Fisher@lwvga.org and I’m happy to answer any questions that you have.
Rico Figliolini 0:35:13
Cool. If anyone wants to volunteer for the League of Women Voters, they can reach out to you.
Diane Fisher 0:35:18
Absolutely. We are always looking for new members. As I said, we are relatively new in this iteration and we started right in 2019 and just as we got our feet wet and going COVID happened. And so we are eager to engage people who want to do voter education, voter registration work, helping people. We are nonpartisan. We do not support candidates or parties. So we really are just wanting to make sure that people have the information that they need to be able to exercise their rights.
Rico Figliolini 0:35:54
Excellent. Doing great work. I mean, that’s the biggest battle, getting people educated because walking into that booth, not knowing three quarters of that ballot would be the worst thing to be doing. So I appreciate, Diane, your time with us. We had a little power outage before so this recording took a little later than it was and there was not even a storm cloud in the sky and yet we had a power outage. So go figure. But appreciate you helping with educating our listeners on this. Thank you everyone for being with us. All these links will be in the show notes as well. But do remember MVP, I think if you put MVP elections, it’ll probably pop right up as the first thing on that page. But thanks again, Diane, and appreciate your time.
Diane Fisher 0:36:41
Thanks for having me.
Rico Figliolini 0:36:42
Advocating in a Different Way
Lorri Christopher will remain active in the community but wants to pave the way for the next generation of local leadership.
When it comes to Peachtree Corners City Post 5 Councilmember Lorri Christopher, her actions speak for her. Not one to raise a ruckus, her four decades as a resident of the area before it became a city had been chock full of leadership in business, education, and community service.
With all she has accomplished, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this 80-year-old woman with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny has decided she won’t be running for re-election when her term expires in 2024.
“I’m not going to stop advocating for the city,” she said. “I’ll still be Lorri Christopher. I just won’t be a city council member.”
A life filled with achievements and successes
Christopher’s bio on the Peachtree Corners website points to a career brimming with numerous titles. Here are a few:
- Principal in CAP Associates, a human resources consulting firm
- Computer Information Systems (CIS) Faculty Program and IA Director at Gwinnett Technical College
- Trustee of the Gwinnett Senior Leadership program
- Former IT Project Manager for the 1996 Olympics
- High school Math and Science teacher,
- Management Information System (MIS) Director and CIS Program Chair at Trident College
- COO of Atlanta Desktop
- Co-president of United Mortgage Company
- Marketing Director of Right Associates
- Vice President at Midland Associates
- Vice President of Finance and Management Information System (MIS) for Edwards, Inc.
- Marketing and technical leadership positions at DCA and Burroughs/Unisys, and
- Founding Director of Paces Bank & Trust.
Christopher has been well-recognized through the years. She is a recipient of the 21st Century Award from The International Alliance, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) award, and the Triumph Inspiration 21st Century Woman Award. Christopher is also a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Academy of Women Achievers.
Her accomplishments include service to the community, business, and charity organizations. Christopher served on the leadership committee for the Center for the Study of the Presidency, chaired the Gwinnett County March of Dimes, and served on the Georgia Alliance for Children Board.
She is a member of several chambers of commerce, including the Gwinnett, Hispanic, Southwest Gwinnett, and Atlanta chambers, as well as the Gwinnett Village Alliance Board. Christopher is a past officer of Fox Hill homeowners’ association and a member-volunteer for United Peachtree Corners Civic Association (UPCCA), Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), and the Peachtree Corners Festival.
Then there’s her education. Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Information Systems at Nova Southeastern University, Christopher holds an MBA in Business and Finance from Emory University, an MBA in Global Ecommerce from Georgia State University, and a BA in Mathematics and Chemistry from the State University of New York. She has additional graduate studies in CIS at Georgia Tech and Education at Hofstra University — and she holds a number of professional certifications.
“I worked in Peachtree Corners in the 70s and 80s in the Summit Building. Our technology firm, Burroughs/Unisys, was located there where we developed financial applications for the world …we had over 400 people in that facility,” she told Peachtree Corners Magazine in a 2019 podcast. “So, I’ve seen Tech Park when it was in its heyday. I’ve seen it since, and it is so exciting with what’s happening now.”
She added that seeing the vision that she and several others had for the area during the cityhood movement more than a decade ago now coming to fruition makes the hard work worth it.
A vision that’s blossoming
Besides the business growth and economic development, Christopher said she is proud that the city has remained one of the few that doesn’t collect property taxes from its homeowners. And instead of building a city hall right off the bat, Peachtree Corners officials chose to turn the Town Center property into a place for people to gather and be together.
“We’ve worked really hard at keeping the millage zero and being fiscally responsible,” she said.
Christopher is a pioneer in her own right, blazing a path in Information Technology when women were often relegated to administrative support roles instead of heading departments.
After college, she’d gone back home to Charleston, S.C., and was offered a position as Chief Financial Officer and IT Director for a chain of stores where she’d worked as a cashier in her youth. Even back then, Christopher realized that she didn’t have to tell anyone what she could do — she just had to show them.
That’s what she hopes for the future of Peachtree Corners. She doesn’t want future leaders judged by anything more than their credentials.
It’s that kind of stewardship that Christopher said she’s looking for in her successor. She has someone in mind but insists that she’ll back anyone who has the knowledge, passion, and energy to continue the work that was begun more than a decade ago.
Christopher hopes someone will bring Peachtree Corners into its next phase with diversity and inclusion. “I’d like there to be more people who don’t look like me involved in city government,” she said. “I think it’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that we’re an inclusive city.”
Passing the baton
From the outside looking in, many people may not see the pockets of need in this seemingly affluent area.
Christopher would like the city to start receiving federal funds to pay for things like a homeless shelter. “We don’t have a plan for people that are indigent,” she said recalling a section of Spring Drive that had no streetlights for seven years. “It took too long to get lights there and that subdivision has over 200 homes,” she said.
Even though it’s impressive to gather a list of titles, Christopher stressed she does what she does because it’s the right thing to do — and she wants to see the city continue doing what’s right.
“I don’t want to be one of those people who die in office,” she said. “The City of Peachtree Corners is going to go on long, long after I’m gone. I see my decision as making room for another person.”
Photos by George Hunter
What to Know About Ballot Questions — SPLOSTs, Amendments and Referendums
Before you head to the polls to vote, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the questions you’ll face on the ballot. Peachtree Corners Councilman Eric Christ included the following information in his recent newsletter, along with his insights.
Voters may want to do some further investigation on the ballot questions.
SPLOST and other ballot questions
In addition to the Federal, State and County races on the ballot, there are also five questions for Gwinnett voters to decide. You will see these questions at the bottom on your ballot, so be sure to scroll all the way down.
Gwinnett SPLOST Renewal Referendum
Question: Shall the one percent sales tax in Gwinnett be renewed for a period of six years commencing on April 1, 2023 to raise an estimated amount of $1.35 billion to fund courthouse facility renovation, transportation (roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks and related facilities and equipment), public safety facilities and equipment, park, trail and recreational facilities and equipment, senior services facilities, animal welfare facility renovation, fleet management facility expansion, city administrative facilities and equipment, city water, sewer and utility capital improvements, etc.?
Christ explained, “If it passes, the existing 1% Gwinnett sales tax (in place since 1997) will be continued for another six years. The sales tax is charged on purchases within the county, and it is estimated that 30% to 40% of the taxes are collected from people residing outside of the county who shop in Gwinnett.
The taxes collected are split between the county and the 16 cities in Gwinnett. The City of Peachtree Corners is projected to receive $58 million over the six years and has allocated these funds as follows: 80% to Transportation (roads, streets, sidewalks, etc. and related equipment); 9% to Administrative Facilities; and 11% to other Capital Projects.”
On the other hand, if it doesn’t pass, “the county sales tax will end in March 2023 and Gwinnett County and its cities will have to make up a $225 million annual gap in revenues for each of the next six years by increasing other taxes and/or by cancelling projects,” Christ said.
Constitutional Amendment #1
Question: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to suspend the compensation of the state-wide elected officials or any member of the General Assembly while such individual is suspended from office following an indictment for a felony?
Christ said that if it passes, Georgia will become the first state to stop paying the salary of an elected official immediately upon being indicted for a felony and prior to their trial. He noted that other states only do this if the official is found guilty after a trial.
“If the Georgia elected official is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, the suspended pay will be reimbursed,” he added. “If it doesn’t pass, the current law that stops salary payments if the official is found guilty of a felony will continue.”
Constitutional Amendment #2
Question: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so that the local governing authority can grant temporary tax relief to properties within its jurisdiction which are severely damaged or destroyed as a result of a disaster?
According to Christ, if it passes, counties, cities and school boards will be able to make temporary adjustments to property tax after a natural disaster so property owners whose property has been severely damaged or destroyed don’t have to pay some or all of the property tax.
“If it doesn’t pass, property owners will have to pay the full property tax [as valued at the start of the year] even if their property has been severely damaged or destroyed,” he said.
State Referendum A
Question: Shall the Act be approved which grants a state-wide exemption from all ad valorem taxes for certain equipment used by timber producers in the production or harvest of timber?
“If it passes, timber producers will be exempt from property (ad valorem) taxes on some of their equipment,” Christ noted. “If it doesn’t pass, timber producers will continue to pay the same taxes they do now.”
State Referendum B
Question: Shall the Act be approved which expands a state-wide exemption from ad valorem taxes for agricultural equipment and certain farm products held by certain entities to include entities comprising two or more family-owned farm entities, and which adds dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry as qualified farm products with respect to such exemption?
“If it passes, family-owned farms and dairy and egg farms will be exempt from property taxes on some of their equipment,” Christ said. “If it doesn’t pass family-owned farms and dairy and egg farms will continue to pay the same taxes they do now.”
A further explanation of this Referendum can be found here.
A sample ballot for Gwinnett voters can be found here.
Don't miss out on news and events in Peachtree Corners.
Peachtree Corners Welcomes Solis Apartment Development with Groundbreaking Ceremony
Embracing Winter Wellness with MAGISNAT: Fortifying Your Immune System and Veins
Read the Digitial Edition of Peachtree Corners Magazine Dec/January 2024
MAGISNAT: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Personalized Wellness
Gwinnett Co. Commissioner Spreads Holiday Cheer with Toy Drive
Read the Digitial Edition of Peachtree Corners Magazine Dec/January 2024
Gwinnett Co. Commissioner Spreads Holiday Cheer with Toy Drive
MAGISNAT: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Personalized Wellness
Embracing Winter Wellness with MAGISNAT: Fortifying Your Immune System and Veins
Peachtree Corners Welcomes Solis Apartment Development with Groundbreaking Ceremony
Petfolk Veterinary & Urgent Care: Committed to Your Pet’s Health
Norcross Women’s Water Polo Claims State Championship Title for the First Time
Is a Pickleball Complex on the Horizon for Peachtree Corners?
Light up the Corners [Video]
Capitalist Sage: Business Leadership in Your Community [Podcast]
Cliff Bramble: A Culinary Adventure through Italy
Top 10 Brunch Places in Gwinnett County
A Hunger for Hospitality
THE CORNERS EPISODE 3 – BLAXICAN PART 1
Top 10 Indoor Things To Do This Winter
The ED Hour: What it takes to Remove Barriers from Education
Topics and Categories
SPONSORED CONTENT2 days ago
Embracing Winter Wellness with MAGISNAT: Fortifying Your Immune System and Veins
Digital Edition2 days ago
Read the Digitial Edition of Peachtree Corners Magazine Dec/January 2024
SPONSORED CONTENT2 days ago
MAGISNAT: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Personalized Wellness
Community2 days ago
Gwinnett Co. Commissioner Spreads Holiday Cheer with Toy Drive