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Candidates talk revitalization at forum

NORCROSS - Revitalization was on the minds of political candidates Wednesday, during one of the first political forums before the July 15 primary.

"I think we're at a very critical crossroads," said former Suwanee Councilwoman Carol Hassell, who is seeking the District 1 commission seat.

At a forum hosted by the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District at Meadowcreek High School Wednesday, candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the commission seat and for county chairman talked about increasing public safety and fixing traffic.

"What we need to do is really focus on revitalization," Commissioner Lorraine Green, who is running for chairman, said. "If density is going to come, it needs to be in areas with the infrastructure to support it."

The night began with CID Board member Bruce LeVell holding chairs out for his District 1 opponents, and continued with agreements on issues from illegal immigration, revitalization and transit.

The only negative comments - when Green accused incumbent Chairman Charles Bannister of missing the majority of Transit Planning Board meetings - came in a moment where many complained they couldn't understand the speakers.

Green said she wants to see more police officers on the street and even more focus on illegal immigration, a topic on which she has sparred with Bannister for months.

"The reason illegals flock to Gwinnett is because of jobs. We need to cut off that life line," she said, adding that she wanted help from the Legislature to impose a rental ordinance to also attack housing issues.

Bannister, who said hiring illegals should be a reason to take away business licenses, had ideas to improve the zoning process by forcing people to register as lobbyists to relieve political pressure and to consider changes to the county's land use map before taking up a potential rezoning.

Glenn Pirkle, an electrical contractor from Buford running for chairman, distinguished himself as the only candidate opposed to the use of tax allocation districts to fund redevelopment. The issue will also be on July ballots.

For the District 1 candidates, Hassell talked about reinvigorating the county's Operation Fixing Broken Windows to take care of blight and combat crime, while former Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter emphasized early education to keep kids out of gangs.

LeVell, a business owner, railed against the proliferation of clubs and bars along Jimmy Carter Boulevard, vowing to shut them down.