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Suwanee candidates share spending platform

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of local city election previews that will run during the next two weeks. The previews will culminate with an election guide to be published on Nov. 1.

SUWANEE - Three candidates for Suwanee City Council have banded together on a platform of cutting the city's spending, reducing taxes and protecting the established residential areas.

But their opponents, including two incumbents, said the campaign is spreading false information and warn that cutting planned capital projects could collapse the city's infrastructure.

Political newcomers Brad Alexander and Don Trawick and former Suwanee Zoning Board of Appeals member Winship Rees said they teamed up because they have the same concerns, which are outlined online at www.votesuwanee.com.

"We all have a similar philosophy," Trawick said. "(But) we're independent minds, and we want to do what's best for Suwanee."

Alexander said it's time for the city to stop spending money on big capital projects and start focusing on core services.

"I want to stop some of the $26 million the city wants to spend of the next five years," he said. "The core services I want to focus on are maintaining our green space, facilities, water management systems (and) landscaping, along with our police and fire services. In slowing down the capital projects, I fully intend to reduce the tax rate."

But incumbent Kevin McOmber, who faces Trawick in the general election for Post 3, said cutting those planned projects would threaten the city's core services.

"It scares me, quite frankly, to think that those kinds of basic services would be cut," he said.

Post 2 candidate Dick Goodman, who spoke out earlier this year against the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioner's plan to raise taxes, said eliminating that spending could lead Suwanee's current quality of life to disappear.

"If that program was gutted, that would turn the clock back," he said.

When he moved from south Florida, Goodman said he chose to settle inside the city limits of Suwanee for the same reasons Money magazine named it one of the best places to live in 2007.

"When I first came into this city, I made a point of finding out how it worked," said Goodman, adding that he has attended City Council, zoning and Downtown Development Authority meetings. "I'm not a stranger to this place."

Goodman faces Rees in a special election to fill a post vacated by longtime council member Jeanne Rispin. Rispin resigned because she was getting married and moving to a home outside the city limits.

"I wouldn't have (run) if it involved challenging any of the incumbents, because I respect those people," Goodman said.

Rees, who resigned from the Zoning Board of Appeals to run for City Council, said the city has spent too much money on projects like a pedestrian walkway under the railroad tracks near Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. Constructing a sidewalk at that intersection would have been more economical, he said.

"Think about how much core services you could have spent $1.7 million on," he said. "It's not that hard to see a train coming."

Incumbent Jace Brooks said the opposing campaign has some information wrong about such projects. The pedestrian tunnel came in under budget and was paid for with a $900,000 federal grant. The rest of the money came from voter-approved sales tax money.

Trawick, who is running against Brooks, said he's concerned that the city collects almost as much in property taxes as Gwinnett County. If the city reduces its debt payments, it can afford to spend more on core services - and maintain its quality of life.

Brooks said his experience - seven years on the City Council and more than 100 hours of municipal education training - and financial background would serve him well if re-elected to Post 4.

"I want to continue our path of excellence and ensure that Suwanee remains a place where businesses prosper and families thrive," he said.

Incumbent Dan Foster is running unopposed for Post 5.

SideBar:

Council Post 3

· Kevin McOmber (i)

· Age: 43

· Education: Bachelor's of science in civil engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, associate degrees in architectural engineering and construction management from Alfred State College

· Occupation: Civil engineer

· Political Experience: Member of City Council since 2007, Gwinnett County Water and Sewerage Authority (2005-2008), founding member and former vice chair of Suwanee Downtown Development Authority (2001-07), Gwinnett County Planning Advisory Committee (2006-07), Georgia Municipal Association Revenue and Finance Committee and Transportation Committee (2007 to present)

· Family: Wife MaLisa; children Marissa, 17, and Andrew, 13

· If Elected: "I will continue to provide the experience, leadership and vision that is needed to keep Suwanee one of the best places to live in the nation."

· Don Trawick

· Age: 51

· Education: Bachelor's of science in business management from East Tennessee State University

· Occupation: Medical sales

· Political Experience: None

· Family: Wife Charlotte; two children

· If Elected: "I will reduce spending, taxes and preserve residential zoning. I will concentrate on core services and maintaining our existing green space and roadways."

Council Post 4

· Jace Brooks (i)

· Age: 41

· Education: Master's degree in marketing from Georgia State University, bachelor's degree in finance from Louisiana Tech University

· Occupation: Financial adviser

· Political Experience: Elected to City Council in 2002, former member of Suwanee's Planning and Zoning Commission, past president of Gwinnett Municipal Association

· Family: Wife Kirste, children, Ally and Aidan, 8

· If Elected: "I want to continue our path of excellence and ensure that Suwanee remains a place where businesses prosper and families thrive."

· Brad Alexander

· Age: 35

· Education: Bachelor's of science in electrical engineering from University of Toledo

· Occupation: Electrical engineer and sales at Eaton Electrical

· Political Experience: None

· Family: Wife Stacie; children Justin, 6, Reid, 3, and Michael, 1

· If Elected: "I would reduce the spending on capital projects and focus on the core services. ... I would also make it a focus to control the growth..."

Special Election

Council Post 2

· Dick Goodman

· Age: 67

· Education: Bachelor's of science in liberal studies from Clarkson College

· Occupation: Writer

· Political Experience: Citizen representative on Engage Gwinnett committee

· Family: Wife Louise, six children, 11 grandchildren

· If Elected: "I promise to oppose unnecessary taxation while ensuring the city maintains and improves the community assets that have made the great quality-of-life we have here in Suwanee possible."

· Winship Rees

· Age: 59

· Education: Juris doctorate cum laude from Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law, bachelor's of arts from Emory University

· Occupation: Lawyer

· Political Experience: Served on Suwanee Zoning Board of Appeals from 1999 to 2008, former member of Gwinnett County Board of Elections and the Executive Committee of the Gwinnett County Republican Party

· Family: Wife Elizabeth; son Tom, 20

· If Elected: "I will vote for lower property taxes, conservative spending, a reserve fund within GMA guidelines and the providing of core city services promptly and efficiently."