Sandy Springs Voters Guide: Megan Harris
Candidate for Sandy Springs City Council, District 1
Click here for a full list of Sandy Springs applicants.
1) What are three issues affecting your district that you would address as a board member?
My 3 main pillars are: accessibility, transparency and budgeting.
2) How would you encourage more diversity and affordability of housing in Sandy Springs, especially for city workers and others who cannot afford to live where they work?
Housing diversity and affordability is a hot topic of national discussion. Growing concerns about diversity and inclusion fit into the conversation about how zoning practices still contribute to the disparities realized in the gap in economic wealth, transportation opportunities and racial inclusion. Inflation and income stagnation are impacting the cost of living and affordability of our working class, essential workers and young professionals seeking to become homeowners; one of the most important assets of a personal balance sheet is seriously threatened! According to our fire chief, only 5 of 116 full-time firefighters live in Sandy Springs. To encourage more diversity and affordability of housing in Sandy Springs, I believe in a multi-pronged approach including: 1) establishing inclusive zoning laws, 2) updating parking minimums, 3) reviewing a city housing trust fund.
3) How would you encourage redevelopment in Sandy Springs, like the city’s North End, while balancing travel issues for low-income residents?
In conversations with the North End neighbors, there are two common statements: 1) I like living in Sandy Springs and 2) I’m afraid that if the rent goes up again, I will have to move. Redevelopment allows us to identify the current needs of our community and invest in growth. Diversifying housing options for multi-family and mixed-income developments, preserving existing multi-family housing, and investing in access to parks and community centers is a start. It can help manage the displacement of our neighbors who are working class and essential workers. Our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group recommended incentives for developers to support housing affordability when renovating old apartment complexes or building new constructions. The second phase of the housing study carried out by HR&A Advisors consists of defining a strategic housing action plan. It is awaiting reinstatement. Through education, transparency and productive actions, we can reduce fears / worries of change and enhance creativity in developing solutions for all of our neighbors.
4) How would you work to improve equity and diversity in Sandy Springs?
The levers that lead to the improvement of equity and diversity are access, communication and transparency. We can do more to make sure everyone feels included in the community. For example, there is uneven access to official publications (Sandy Springs Reporter / Northside Neighbor) because physical copies are delivered to renters of apartments where the vast majority are residents of color. City documents are not translated for our Spanish speaking neighbors, excluding them from participating in city plans. A partial and cost effective solution can be our Sandy Springs Works app by including translation functionality and working links to city news / resources. A campaign to disseminate this resource would help stimulate engagement and promote accessibility.
5) If the city’s finances were to decline, would you consider raising taxes or would you rather cut back on city services and programs?
If the city’s finances were to go down, I would not raise taxes or immediately cut programs that help and meet the basic needs of our residents. For example, instead of increasing taxes by 4%, I would vote to reduce the mileage rate. City Council recently approved a record budget with a healthy $ 10 million reserve fund increase, bringing our rainy day fund to over $ 30 million. Not to mention approximately $ 16 million in additional pandemic relief and additional funds for our capital improvement program. The goal is to ensure that we are careful stewards of our budget and meet the basic needs of everyone in the community.