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Mayor and Commission candidates talk housing, crime at forum

Questions about policing, affordable housing, and homelessness took center stage at a candidate forum last night.

Each candidate for Mayor and Commission had six to seven minutes to answer questions at the forum presented by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. In what was framed as a casual discussion between Bryant and candidates, questions focused on campaign promises and budgetary priorities if elected.

Incumbent Mayor Kelly Girtz highlighted his administration's work on raising wages, "We know that housing is also connected to so many other things. ... So we've also sought to push up the number of high wage jobs in this community so fewer people are challenged by the price point," Girtz said.

Other topics, like poverty and race, saw some candidates speak to their own lived experiences.

“In my neighborhood, when the police pull up on you, they pull up on you with aggression," said District 3 Commission candidate Tiffany Taylor. "They don't pull up to you asking ‘How may I assist you?’ Or ‘How may I serve you?’”

All candidates for the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission were in attendance, the first time all six mayoral candidates have appeared together. Mayoral hopeful Mara Zuniga, a no-show at previous forums hosted by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and Historic Athens, focused mainly on public safety funding.

“Having spoken to quite a few police officers trying to find out what the problems may be there, they don't feel supported," Zuniga said.