GPCID Guest Blog Post: George Awuku
2020 Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Candidate (Republican)
Introduction: Gwinnett Place CID has asked candidates running for both the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman and the Gwinnett County District One Commissioner to answer several questions explaining their vision for the County and Gwinnett Place.
Learn more about George by clicking here.
Guest Blog Questions
Why are you running for Chairman, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners?
Gwinnett has been a blessing to myself and my family. Having relocated from the comforts of England (UK) to Gwinnett with my young family was of great risk. However, the opportunities and warmth encountered over the years has proven to be the best decision I made. Unfortunately, these opportunities and characteristics that made Gwinnett a great place to live, work and play is fast disappearing. Having worked with several developers, property owners and clients (with combined investments over $100 million) the affordability of Gwinnett is fast slipping the reach of most people.
Our roads are clogged during peak travel times, developments (commercial/residential) are subject to availability of public infrastructure, fees are rising (and new ones being created), debilitating rules and regulations are stifling businesses and sections of communities are being left behind in the very fabric they helped to weave. I have seen the end results of these adverse impacts both in my country of birth and England, and much closer home – New York and California. I have my kids invested in the county and those of future generations and to this end I owe it to the citizens of Gwinnet to offer to serve. My background, education and skills uniquely equips me for this position.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Gwinnett Place area and why?
I love movies – especially science fiction/futuristic movies (might explain my optimistic view of the future). I patronize the cinema in Santa Fe mall at least twice a month. I also like to dine in any of the several restaurants that throng Pleasant Hill Road (and its immediate surroundings). It provides my wife and myself the opportunity to sample excellent meals/cuisines from various part of the world.
What do you see as the role of CIDs in Gwinnett, and how would you work with the Gwinnett Place CID, if elected?
The concept of CID is a laudable in that it is a private sector driven initiative. And I see the similarities with HOAs. As much as I would like to minimize government input in private sector matters at certain times we need government to step in not to run the show but to put in place enablers to assist the private sector. To this end if elected I will work in partnership with other members of the board to create environment that will help our business succeed in this very competitive environment. I can support an idea which see a tax credit system reward business that choose to keep investing and stay longer in the county.
If elected, will Gwinnett Place be a priority for you? If yes, what is your vision for the Gwinnett Place area?
The gate way to Gwinnett will be amongst my premium priority. My vision (futuristic yet achievable) is a Gwinnet Place that is a smart mini city where you can work, live and play and who knows even with a fast/high speed rail link to Hartsfield International Airport.
What is your vision for transit in Gwinnett County? How will you bring transit to Gwinnett Place?
I like the model of park/ride hubs. At the same time we need to look to the future and learn to understand that future transport will not only be on roads. A working Gwinnett may not necessary require massive investments in roads, rails and others. If we are to take advantage of the work/live/play model discussed above I believe half our problems with transportation will be solved.
Do you endorse the Transit Review Committee’s plan submitted to the Board of Commissioners in February?
Gwinnett Place Mall has extended beyond a local issue to become a national punchline, around the topic of the “dead mall.” How will you address Gwinnett’s dead mall problem?
As previously discussed I envisage a smart mini city where you can work, live and play in place of the current mall. To achieve this or similar vision will require leadership. Former mayor Franklin saw the benefits of Mercedes Benz stadium and personally got involve in seeing the project through – from concept to completion. Developers and/or investors need to have confidence in people/area they invest. It includes willingness to cut through bureaucracy, tax credits, safe environment, and availability of supporting infrastructure.
If elected, what would be your plan for the mall site?
Working with the current crop of owners of the mall, the CID and local communities the concept of a mini smart city can be realized. I have witnessed (in the England) the coming together of design professionals, contractors, and investment banks to develop railroad projects using sovereign guarantees. A leadership vacuum, which if elected, will be filled to create that environment needed to revitalize the mall (and other similar locations).
How will you work with the Gwinnett Place CID to accomplish your plan?
Community engagement is at the very core of my campaign platform. We cannot accomplish much without the involvement of the primary stakeholders (CID). Personally I will work with the various communities in and around Gwinnett Place CID to come up with a short to medium term program of revamping the visual outlook the area, work with police to enhance safety, provide tax holidays and to encourage various ethnic groups to host their celebrations/festivals in the general area. As it gains popularity and acceptance a smart mini city or similar can be planned for on long term basis.
During the last SPLOST, of the $486,343,270 in transportation funding available, the Gwinnett Place area only received $9 million. Had the CID not had a list of potential projects prepared and shared information about transportation needs in the area with SPLOST committee members, it is likely even less in SPLOST transportation funding would have been allocated for the area. How will you ensure greater equity in future SPLOST funding distributions for Gwinnett Place?
It will be difficult to comment on funding ratios without a thorough review of SPLOST’s intricate workings. All the same if a case can be made that the CIDs including Gwinnett Place area CID contributes more than it gets I will like to reverse that. Ideally, I will like to see our revenues as a county depend more on sales/services taxes instead of property based taxation. Our revenue now and in future will dwindle due to demographic changes. As guardians of tax payers’ money we need to ensure that such monies (revenue) are invested wisely in services needed by the people and business of Gwinnett. There are areas of government that I can see private sector better than government. I will encourage privatization of areas of government whenever practical.
Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett Place CID collaborated on the ACTivate Gwinnett Place plan focusing on area infrastructure. However, most of the projects outlined in the plan are not fully funded. What is your plan to address this issue and move these projects forward?
As discussed in 7 above I will like to see our revenues as a county depend more on sales/services taxes instead of property based taxation and that with the privatization of areas of government whenever practical will lead to significant improvement of our finances. Strong finances attracts favorable low interest loans as well as best bonds. Through private public initiatives we can bring several projects to fruition at the least cost/risk to tax payers.