Five months ago, a 20-year-old Myanmar refugee was gunned down in an apparent drive-by shooting as he and his friends were walking to their apartment complex on Jolly Avenue in Clarkston.
Now that dark half-mile stretch of road on the border of Clarkston is getting street lights, thanks to a vote by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners last week.
The owners of 62 percent of the property along the road signed a petition asking for the street lights and agreeing to pay 40 cents per lighted street-side foot per year to pay for the lights.
In August 2010, 20-year-old Pa Lee Klo, who had been in the country less than a year, was killed on the street that is heavily used by pedestrians.
And many of the pedestrians are easy targets of criminals, said Adam Hoyt, a Clarkston resident who works for Friends of Refugees, a Clarkston-based group that helps refugees become contributing members of society.
About two weeks after Klo’s murder, 400 marchers participated in a Walk for Solidarity to commemorate his life and bring to light the growing violence in the apartment complexes where refugees and other immigrants live.
“They are terrified every day when they go out,” said Susan Pavlin, director of policy for Refugee Family Services. Since Klo’s death, the Clarkston area has seen 177 crimes, including 62 assaults, 23 robberies and one murder, Pavlin said.
The lights could mean the difference between life and death, Hoyt said.
Clarkston mayor Emanuel Ransom asked the commission to approve the special lighting district in the memory of Howard Tygrett, the former mayor of Clarkston who died suddenly in office in December. Tygrett, who was elected to office last year, was a proponent of the street lights.
In other business, the board of commissioners approved the appointment of Joel Gottlieb as the county’s financial director in what was dubbed “a semi-confirmation hearing.”
Gottlieb, who was hired as the county’s assistant finance director about 15 years ago, has been serving as interim director since then-director Mike Bell retired last summer during the county’s early retirement program. Gottlieb has approximately 35 years of government experience.
“Long gone are the days when political appointments and hiring rule the day,” Commissioner Lee May said as the commissioners questioned Gottlieb about his willingness to work with the board.
“We’re going to be pushing the envelope,” May said. “Are you sure you want to do it [the director’s job]?”
Commissioner Larry Johnson, whom the board chose for its presiding officer again this year, said the commission is serious about the roles of the legislative and administrative branches of county government.