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Candidate Q and A with Kennesaw City Council Candidate Post 1 Madelyn Orochena


The municipal elections for five of the seven cities in Cobb County are currently underway. This includes Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Powder Springs, and Smyrna.

The Cobb County Democracy Center, in partnership with Spotlight, believes that voter engagement and informed decision-making are crucial in shaping the future of these cities. Candidates within competitive races have been asked to provide their positions on various issues to allow voters to gain insights into the candidates’ perspectives and priorities as voters make their choices in these local elections.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Tell voters about yourself.

MADELYN OROCHENA: Kennesaw is my home. I can walk to every house I’ve ever lived in and every school I’ve ever attended. My friends are here. My family is here. My memories are here. This is my community and I want to be a part of making it better! I’ve been a volunteer for the city serving as the Chair of the Arts and Culture Commission. I am running for Post 1 because I want to continue to serve my community and because I believe that I will bring a new and underrepresented perspective to the council. I am a passionate supporter of the Arts, and my background gives me unique insight into the economic and social impact of local art which I believe could be a huge benefit to Kennesaw. I am dedicated to doing all that I can to foster downtown development and cultivate a thriving entertainment district. Pedestrian safety, walkability, and affordability are all important issues for me, as well as working to change the negative reputation we are still faced with by focusing on compassion, equality, and progress.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Tell voters why you are the right choice for the Kennesaw City Council and why they should cast their ballots for you.

Madelyn Orochena: Serving my community has always been an important part of my life. I have been a regular volunteer for MUST Ministries. I began volunteering for the city in 2019 and was happy to serve as the Chair of the Arts & Culture Commission before deciding to run for office last year. Since then, I have stayed engaged and continued working towards the goals I set out to accomplish. I worked on a temporary mural project in the heart of downtown to celebrate “everyday people,” featuring the work of local artist, Sean Mills. I supported my Main Street neighbors in protecting our historic residential neighborhood from commercial rezoning. I helped organize and promote inclusive community events and stayed engaged in council meetings and commission meetings. I do not have any conflicts of interest. I strive to always make myself available for questions, and transparent in my platform and values. My decision to speak out against the reopening of Wildman’s Civil War Surplus store last year was a motivating factor in my decision to run for Post 1. I was disappointed in the response of my elected leaders, and I knew I had something to offer. I believe that it takes courage to speak out, humility to listen and hard work to make a difference.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: What experience will you bring to the role?

MADELYN OROCHENA: My experience in the arts, in the service industry, as a community volunteer, as a mother, and my life growing up here, has prepared me greatly for serving the people of Kennesaw. As a passionate supporter of the arts, I understand the value art brings to a community. My experience serving as Chair of the Kennesaw Arts and Culture Commission and working with local arts nonprofits gives me a unique perspective into the wide range of art benefits as well as how cities can partner with art organizations to bring more public art to their communities. I’m used to taking care of people and prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. I have relevant skills and experience in creative problem solving. I’m used to running towards a challenge. I look forward to bringing a new and underrepresented perspective to the council and I am ready to serve my community and represent the people of Kennesaw.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Give voters your thoughts on Ethical Leadership and why it should be a factor they consider as they elect the next Council person for this position.

MADELYN OROCHENA: The importance of Ethical leadership is difficult to overstate. At all levels of government, we are seeing rampant conflict of interest and lack of transparency. I urge voters to look critically at how each of their elected leaders and candidates may stand to personally benefit from their elected position. Consider all candidates actions, inactions, and campaign strategies. Do they show that they value transparency, communication, and the democratic process? Do they show up to forums, respond to press Questionnaires or individual inquiries? What financial interest might they have in becoming elected? As a candidate I believe it is my responsibility to make sure all voters can access my platform, know my values, and reach me for questions or comments so that they are able to make an informed decision in the voting booth. During my campaign I have prioritized one on one communication with individual voters, media communication, as well as live candidate forums.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Other Cobb cities are actively looking at setting up ethics committees to review complaints and remedy conflicts of interest by city officials. Would you consider setting up an Ethics Committee to address unethical behavior in government

MADELYN OROCHENA: Kennesaw currently has an Ethics Board that meets biannually in the Spring and Fall. Its 5 members are all appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. Reconsidering how members are appointed and the board’s review process would be an excellent opportunity to regain the trust of our citizens who have expressed their concerns with me while we have been out canvassing our community.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Tell voters your thoughts on Transparency in Government.

Transparency is key to the health of our democracy. Many in our city are frustrated by inconsistent code enforcement, no ability to make public comments during work sessions, and no response from the Mayor and Council on most public comments at official meetings. Still more feel unaware of issues affecting them despite their best efforts to stay engaged and informed. While the city posts all the meeting minutes online, data dumping isn’t digestible. As an elected official, I will do all I can to help constituents stay informed by posting summaries and updates online as well as making myself as accessible and transparent as possible to community members. I would also like the city to create a more user-friendly and up-to-date dashboard along with a printed newsletter option for citizens to easily keep up with what’s going on. Residents should have easy access to view all the approved developments with clear deliverables so they can see what was promised and what isn’t being delivered by developers. We must also hold city staff accountable for enforcing codes fairly across all businesses. If we want to encourage sustainable growth, we must first be consistent in our enforcement and clear on our policies and procedures.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: What are your thoughts on Kennesaw’s economy?

MADELYN OROCHENA: Kennesaw is growing rapidly. Despite the City’s minimal millage rate reduction, most residents are seeing their taxes increase and unfortunately, housing costs have been increasing all around us. Right now, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment, in Kennesaw, is over $1,900/mo. The minimum annual income you would need to afford this (assuming 30% of your income spent on rent) is $76,000 while the average salary for jobs in Kennesaw is less than $63,000. This means working in Kennesaw likely means you can’t afford to live here. When a developer says “don’t worry, we’ll only put top of the line appliances in here, so students won’t be able to afford them” – this to me is unacceptable. This not only prices out students but most single parents, many seniors, and average working families as well. I will engage with the community and developers to bring affordable housing options that reflect the wide range of income levels within our community and protect our existing low/ medium income neighborhoods as well. I would also like our city to prioritize developments with more ownership options such as condos, townhomes, and multi-family homes to diversify our housing stock while working to restrict corporate landlords’ buying power over those desperately seeking to own homes in our community. Our downtown entertainment district also continues to face high vacancies and blight while the city has been criticized heavily for inconsistent code enforcement. For our small businesses to thrive, downtown patrons need to feel safe and welcome, and code enforcement must be fair and consistent across all businesses. Supporting the arts throughout the city, especially within the downtown entertainment district, can also provide a substantial benefit. According to Americans for the Arts, “the nonprofit arts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity annually. Arts attendees spend $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and lodging—vital income for local businesses.” Not to mention, the Arts have great social impact as well. “University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to greater civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates.”

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Share with voters your views on Kennesaw’s infrastructure.

MADELYN OROCHENA: Our infrastructure in Kennesaw is under pressure. With our recent and projected growth over the next few years, it’s a critical time to invest in infrastructure to support a more walkable, bikeable city that works efficiently for drivers passing through, residents, and visitors alike. Our current infrastructure is in desperate need of pedestrian safety and traffic calming tools as well as traffic flow improvements. We must also ensure that roads are maintained equitably and prioritized by need. Additionally, I would like to see our city focus future efforts on supporting alternative transit options from public transit to expanding walking/ biking trails and paths to help alleviate traffic congestion, parking limitations, and reduce the burden of transportation costs on residents.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Share your thoughts on Diversity and Inclusion and why it is important in Kennesaw.

MADELYN OROCHENA: It’s exciting to see Kennesaw becoming increasingly diverse. An inclusive community is one where community members feel safe, respected, comfortable being themselves, and share a sense of belonging. We must seek to expand access, create opportunities for community members to share their voices, and acknowledge the injustice of the past and present in order to move forward together. Kennesaw still has more work to do to prove that we value and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Decades of abhorrent behavior from various elected officials, a bigoted decision to deny a mosque a special land use request, a $2 million racial harassment/ discrimination lawsuit, and up until recently, a confederate flag flying in our public park have all contributed to a negative reputation. The City of Kennesaw, for over half a century, has given preferential treatment towards a store that promotes white supremacy and has boldly displayed lynching tokens including scalps in jars, Nazi memorabilia, and photos of murder victims. A Klan robe and noose are displayed prominently alongside racist jokes that are presented as though they are meant to be funny. The store is a stain on our city, standing as an implicit threat of violence to many. This blatant racism does not reflect the kind and compassionate Kennesaw that I know and love. The horrors of the holocaust and slavery in America belong in museums and textbooks rather than sold for profit in our downtown sowing fear and extremism in our community. It is important that our elected leaders share our city’s stated vision “To cultivate a progressive, vibrant community fostering an environment of opportunity, inclusion, and security, we strive to be a city inspired by innovation, guided by ethics, and enhanced by diversity.” I am dedicated to creating a more inclusive community that celebrates diversity.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: What are your thoughts on Kennesaw’s Public Safety?

MADELYN OROCHENA: As our city continues to grow, public Safety is a top concern. It is our elected leaders’ responsibility to ensure that our police officers have the training and resources necessary to continue to keep our community safe and are accountable for equitable policing at the highest standard. After recent years of increased tension and national outcry against police brutality, I appreciate the efforts made by the Kennesaw Police Department to improve community relations and public trust. Transparency, trust, and fair policy are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing.

COBB COUNTY DEMOCRACY CENTER: Please provide a closing statement.

MADELYN OROCHENA: Growing up in Kennesaw, I feel deep gratitude for the life I’ve had here: the community that has molded me, mentored me, supported me, kept me safe, and encouraged me. I am proud to represent a growing number of young people who are eager to get involved in their communities and be a part of the decision making in their local government. I hope to earn your support and your vote Nov 7.


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