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My 2 Cents

Thoughts on our Special Election

By Malaika Geuka

Last week, during a walk, a friend and Stonecrest resident asked me who I was voting for. I admitted that I hadn’t yet made up my mind. This week, I wrote down my thoughts and decided to share them because I’m curious to learn how other residents feel about our upcoming special election and the selection of candidates. 

Speaking honestly, I’m not inspired by any of the candidates. However, I acknowledge that our responsibility to participate in the governance of our city isn’t dependent upon how inspired we are. I understand that voting is an important way to contribute to building community and we do that by running for and/or supporting the type of leadership we want in office. My local vote is an investment in our community; as I consider the following candidates, it’s a risk vs rewards calculation. Even as I share my thoughts below, I recognize that I have a decision to make. To help me make an informed one, I look forward to engaging with and/or hearing more from these candidates during candidate forums, including the one scheduled for April 14 and hosted by SDIAE. I also found it helpful to listen to the recording of the DeKalb Dems candidate forum hosted last week. Lastly, I look forward to engaging with the candidates out and about in Stonecrest at meet & greets that they organize for residents. I am eager to see these candidates out in Stonecrest encouraging eligible voters to vote and hope to see them helping to register non-registered voters in our city.

Dr. Diane Adoma – Dr. Adoma has an incredible backstory; there’s tragedy, trials, and triumph. As the child of a single parent, with a younger sibling who was a teen parent, and now as a mother myself, I can identify with her story, its struggles, motivation, hope, and victory. Her life’s journey from GED to PhD includes being elected as the City of Stonecrest D5 representative in 2017. She is intelligent and accomplished, and her list of business credentials (including VP of Governmental Affairs at the Atlanta Black Chambers) is impressive. While I recall the drama surrounding her run for mayor in 2019, including the headlines and news stories outlining her contentions with former mayor Jason Lary culminating in a restraining order and lawsuit, I also remember that she was active and vocal during her time on Council and in articles like this one seemed willing to be a dissenting voice when necessary in order to give voice to her constituents. I admired her willingness to amplify the residents’ voice in a time when I observed the city doing very little to encourage citizen participation. However, with her recent press release calling out potential discrepancies within council’s governance, like others, I wonder whether she is able to be a calming presence, reconcile disparate visions, and work in cooperation with others to bring the promise of a world-class city to fruition. While her website doesn’t share her platform, outline her intended initiatives, or detail her 100-day plan, you can learn a bit more about Dr. Adoma at dianeformayor.com. And I recently saw that she, like candidate Cobble, is hosting in-person conversations and community meet & greets at different locations in the city.  

Ms. Jazzmin Cobble – In my brief interactions with her and from what I’ve gathered from watching her in city council meetings, Ms. Cobble is intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable. I was excited for District 3 residents when they reelected her as their representative on Council in November 2021. I had long sympathized with her struggles in office, including soldiering through a frivolous lawsuit, and admired her composure in the face of often blatant disrespect by the former mayor. When I spoke with her during her most recent campaign for councilwoman, I was pleased to hear her stated belief that the whole of council is responsible to represent all residents, not just those in their respective districts. I remember that election cycle was fairly tense, with mailers circulating suggesting that Ms. Cobble’s voice was a divisive one on Council, and the Committee for Progress in Stonecrest supporting a different candidate in D3 and touting the need for new leadership. I recall the relief voiced by friends in D3 when election results confirmed that Ms. Cobble had won. So I was bewildered when just a short time later, she announced she was running for mayor. The question on my mind now is why. Considering what is lost in transitioning from council to mayor, what is the benefit to Stonecrest residents in her giving up her seat on council to run for mayor? I also don’t understand the push for continuity because even had she kept her council seat, the dynamics of the council would have changed regardless with the election of a new mayor. And if she is elected mayor, the dynamics will still change with the election of a new councilperson. The only certainty with this special election is that change is coming. District 3 will have been without representation for eight months before they are able to again cast their vote, and so far, only one candidate has stepped forward with interest in the seat. Neither has the Council identified who District 3 residents should contact with their concerns while they are without representation. Add to that my concerns that Ms. Cobble formally announced her mayoral campaign on February 10, significantly in advance of the qualifying period but kept her seat on council until she qualified, and during that time participated in discussions and decisions concerning the planned special election. While the CobbleforCouncilwoman website and FB pages are disabled, her cobbleformayor.com platform is up and broadly identifies her objectives and she is actively advertising public events. While I love her visibility and creative constituent engagement during her campaigns, I wish I’d seen that same effort in the several years she served on council. 

Dr. Charles Hill – I don’t know much about Dr. Hill, other than that he’s a long-time resident of Stonecrest, ophthalmologist in practice in Decatur, a husband, and the father of Charles Hill, Jr (who ran for Stonecrest mayor in past elections). He seems genuine, capable, and willing to serve the people of Stonecrest with no other agenda. My concern is his affiliation with Mr. Bill Allen. I’ve not yet forgotten the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute’s (AEI) connection to the Stonecrest CARES Act funding fiasco and to the Committee for Progress in Stonecrest, a group that publicly backed candidates in the last election (all of whom lost). I am also mindful of the recent allegations regarding the poor treatment of vendors at the New Black Wall Street. When I consider this candidate, I’m juggling the “bad company corrupts good character” issue with the “we are more than who we know ” counter. Dr. Hill also has no social media or online presence (outside of inclusion in videos posted on the NBWS FB page) that I’ve found thus far, so there’s no place for me to research and learn more about his platform, vision, or goals for the city or to learn how he intends to serve the people of Stonecrest. 

Mr. Kirby Frazier – Mr. Frazier is relatively unknown. That fact makes him very interesting to me. Why? One of the promises of his candidacy is a clean slate. To me, his apparent lack of affiliation with the previous or even current administration potentially makes him an objective voice that might be capable of effectively balancing the needs of the city and the needs of its residents – and possibly even visioning a way to marry the two. As a clean slate candidate, free of alliances, he could be a bridge builder between elected officials and the community. As the entire council is still learning how to effectively govern, I don’t think his learning curve will negatively impact city operations, especially given the reduced responsibilities in the office of mayor under the revised city charter. But I don’t like the fact that Mr. Kirby has no social media presence – there’s nowhere I know of that I can go to watch a video where he introduces himself or his candidacy or shares with the community his reasons for running or his vision for Stonecrest, etc. I just recently saw a few signs around town, but not nearly enough. However, I understand that greater marketing efforts, including abundant campaign signage, usually indicates a candidate with deep pockets. So far as I know, Mr. Frazier has advertised no in-person meet & greets, and I know of no way to donate to his campaign or even to contact him with questions. I thrive when I know and understand what I’m expected to make a decision about, but am looking for more from this candidate to help me do so.