In an effort to help voters prepare for the Nov. 7 elections, Atlanta Loop sent questions to candidates running for Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Mayor and Atlanta School Board. Early voting begins Oct. 16. To see district maps, click here.
1) Why are you running for office in the city of Atlanta?
I am running for re-election because I am well-qualified for this position, and I enjoy serving the citizens of Council District 5 in particular and the citizens of Atlanta in general. I look forward to continuing my efforts to make Memorial Drive safer and more pedestrian-friendly. In addition, I want to continue working with my constituents relative to quality of life issues such as: property tax relief, traffic congestion, affordable housing (including addressing the homelessness crisis), and the efficient and cost-effective delivery of city services. I also am very passionate about addressing storm water management issues across our city.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I am more experienced than my opponent. Over the past 16 years, I have served as a member of the Atlanta City Council. In addition to serving as a member of every committee on the city council, I am currently serving as the Chair of the Community Development/Human Services Committee, and representing the city council on the following boards: Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Beltline, Inc., and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. During my tenure, I have secured over 10 acres of greenspace for Council District 5, helped bring the Edgewood Retail District to the Edgewood neighborhood, secured funding for 2 new fire stations in the district, and funding for streetscape improvements in East Atlanta and Kirkwood. Additionally, I secured funding for the purchase of the Cabbagetown Community Center, and funding for park improvements across the District. I am the chief architect of Imagine Memorial, and many other initiatives that have resulted in sidewalk improvements, traffic calming measures, and safer routes to school. By way of background, I am a product of the Atlanta Public Schools, having graduated from East Atlanta High School. After receiving my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I received my law degree from the University of Georgia. As a practicing attorney, I understand and appreciate the complexities of the legislative process. I also have a deeper understanding of the benefit and value of community involvement as the result of my experience working as a community organizer for The Atlanta Project. In that capacity, the communities I served were located within Council District 5. Following that experience, I worked as the Executive Director of the Dekalb Initiative for Children. Later, I founded and served as the president of the East Atlanta Business Association for 3 consecutive years. I have been and remain active in my local neighborhood association, and have served as the neighborhood representative to NPU-W. By the time I was elected to represent the citizens of Council District 5, I had already established a proven track record of strong leadership, inclusiveness and effectiveness. My opponent has not been involved at the community leadership level.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Atlanta’s greatest strength is its people. From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ivan Allen to Mayors Hartsfield and Jackson, Atlanta is the reflection of the vision and investment of these and many other legendary leaders. Today, we have strong neighborhood organizations, a vibrant NPU system and a number of boards and commissions that work to make Atlanta innovative, relevant, and inclusive.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Managing our success. By the year 2030, it is estimated that the Atlanta’s population will increase by nearly 180,000 additional people. We have the world’s busiest airport and are home to several premiere institutions of higher learning. Our city is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, and home to such corporate giants as: Coca Cola and Home Depot. Plainly put, people stay in Atlanta and move to Atlanta because it is a desirable and inviting city. We must manage our growth by being smarter and greener. We must address issues of housing affordability, traffic congestion, sustainability, public safety and government integrity and accountability so that Atlanta will continue to be a best-in-class city.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is not being able to move our legislative agenda at the state legislature. For example, the city must secure the approval of the state legislature before we can implement property tax relief for our citizens – including our seniors. We need the state’s approval to establish a parking tax or to create a commuter tax. The proceeds from a commuter tax or a parking tax (we should exempt residents from these taxes), could be used to fund the affordable housing trust fund or to improve transit, install or repair city sidewalks, etc. As the capital city of this state, the legislature should be more supportive of city-driven initiatives involving transit and finding ways of providing property tax relief for citizens.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
Completing the Imagine Memorial Project
Building an Affordable Housing Trust Fund and implementing policies to address homelessness and housing affordability
Public Safety – Increasing and retaining the number of beat officers; increasing the number of security cameras around the district; and, ensuring that all police vehicles have a dash cam and that officers are equipped with a body cam.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline?
The Atlanta Beltline has transformed Atlanta. The vibrancy of the trails, parks, and nearby developments have exceeded the city’s expectations.
Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
Yes. With the recent revelation that 5,600 affordable housing units should have been built with the Beltline’s affordable housing allocation, the Beltline must do more to insure real estate development around the Beltline includes a sufficient number of affordable housing units. Additionally, the Beltline should work more closely with community members in a collaborative manner. Installation of art, and other Beltline amenities must be done with greater community input.
8) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Streetcar?
The Atlanta Streetcar must be incorporated into a larger transportation connection plan. Standing alone, the Streetcar in underutilized and we have not yet realized the full benefit of the investment made in this system.
Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
On Monday, September 18, 2017, the city council will consider legislation authorizing MARTA to assume total responsibility for the management and operations of the Streetcar. If that legislation were not pending, that would have been my recommendation for moving forward.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
First, we must incentivize people to get out of their cars. I believe we should carefully consider reducing our parking requirements on commercial and multifamily residential developments. We should encourage more transit oriented development across the city. We should do more to encourage rideshare programs, and work-from-home options for our employees, and increase our biking infrastructure. MARTA is the spine of our public transportation system. We need to expand MARTA to meet the needs of people in getting them to and from centers of employment, entertainment and education.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
We should adopt a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy, we should establish a well-funded affordable housing trust-fund, and we should adopt best practices from our sister cities around the country, and from the Urban Land Institute. We must find permanent affordable housing options, and utilize the Fulton-Atlanta Landbank in a more robust manner than we have in the past.
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes, of course!