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Revitalization top topic for Lawrenceville council candidates

Lawrenceville City Council candidates participate in a forum Thursday sponsored by the Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance. The candidates, from left to right, are Larry Troutman, Rory Johnson, Keith Roche and Renita Hamilton.

Lawrenceville City Council candidates participate in a forum Thursday sponsored by the Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance. The candidates, from left to right, are Larry Troutman, Rory Johnson, Keith Roche and Renita Hamilton.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Improving neighborhoods and attracting the right businesses for Gwinnett’s county seat were the main topics for discussion at Thursday’s candidate forum for the upcoming Lawrenceville City Council election.

The four candidates vying for an open seat on the council agreed on many of the issues discussed by the Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance, although they had different paths to those results.

“We need to be the crown jewel of Gwinnett County,” said Keith Roche, a retired executive who spent years on the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. “I want to clean up the corridors. I want to invest in our neighborhoods.”

All of the candidates said the city should follow through on its code enforcement, continue a push to revitalize the infrastructure in older neighborhoods and stop the growth of pawn shops, used car lots and other less desirable businesses. But Larry Troutman, who owns Atlanta Auction Company, said the city often uses intimidation and has confusing regulations that could drive business away.

“Before we are too quick to judge, we need to look at every situation,” Troutman said. “… I don’t think we will survive unless we embrace our business owners.”

Renita Hamilton, a candidate who had to close a business on the Square, said the city needs to work to bring foot traffic to the downtown. She’s also working to create a mentorship program with Georgia Gwinnett College to help reduce the local high school’s low graduation rate.

“I believe very much that education is the key to our economic success,” Hamilton said, adding that she wanted to fill a void in communication between the government and the community.

Rory Johnson, the senior executive director of the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club, talked about strategies the club uses to make sure that diverse groups have a voice, and he talked about increasing city recreation and decreasing crime.

“We need to make sure all people are included in all decisions,” Johnson said, adding that anothertop priority is accountability of taxpayers’ investments.