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?
My vision is to bring a culture of collaboration, partnership, and transparency to City government. The issues that our city faces are not unsolvable, but they require that leaders set aside self-interest and work together. Transparency in leadership is lacking and has caused a lack of confidence towards the city government. As a public servant, I plan to restore the trust that citizens have in leadership at City Hall as we address the issues of Affordable Housing, Economic Development, Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Transportation.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I am currently providing effective solutions and leadership to address the issues facing my district and the City of Atlanta in general. My back round includes 30 years’ experience with The Home Depot Inc. as well as extensive public- private partnerships with community based and non-profit programs. While at The Home Depot I hired and provided career development for hundreds of residents in my community. As the founder of The Launch Pad Foundation, my team provides transitional housing, educational assistance, job and life skills training for homeless individuals. I lead a community based child literacy program that increases life chances for elementary school aged children. While my opponents promise to address these issues if elected, I am already doing the work of bringing partners together to deliver solutions.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
One of Atlanta’s greatest strengths is its business environment. As evidenced by the number of fortune 500 companies that locate their headquarters here, Atlanta has a business-friendly focus. This creates jobs and provides the base for economic development. There is a clear focus on business attraction and development at the regional and municipal levels. The challenge is making the City a top tier place to work, and making it affordable to live and convenient to commute to work.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Affordable housing is an issue that must be addressed as a priority and not an afterthought. The recent exposure of the Beltline’s affordable housing short comings is a classic example of what happens when development moves forward with affordable housing on the back burner. As the founder of a non-profit focused on transitional housing for homeless single mothers, I experienced the struggle to place graduates of our program, into independent housing. Sustainable solutions will require public-private partnerships between Developers, AHA, the City Planning Dept., Non-Profit Organizations, and the School Board.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
One affordable housing option that should be leveraged includes the vacant and blighted properties that number in the thousands. There have been recent moves to allow these properties to taken over by the city and turned over to developers. These properties present a huge opportunity for first time home buyers via Invest Atlanta’s existing program and for Atlanta police officers via the Police Foundation. Developers should be included in the program as partners in the fashion that Habitat for Humanity assists new home owners in their program. For every property that the developer can develop independently they should first be required to sponsor/assist a property for a first-time homeowner/police officer. The new homeowners would be required to provide sufficient sweat equity in the project. This would build strong community ties for the new home owners and the developers.
6) What are the top two or three things that you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
In my opinion, the three greatest issues facing the City of Atlanta are Affordable Housing, Transportation, and Public Safety. The biggest issues facing my district are Economic Development and Public Safety. These issues are not new to the City and are becoming increasingly interrelated. I plan to focus my efforts on Affordable Housing/ Homelessness, Economic Development, and Public Safety.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The Beltline has tremendous potential for great things to happen in our city. Unfortunately, the focus has been on high end housing with affordable housing being placed on the back burner. I feel there should be stringent guidelines for developers to produce affordable housing as a priority. There should be penalties and fines for failing to develop affordable housing as contracted.
8) What is your opinion of The Atlanta Streetcar? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
I think the Streetcar is a nice to have but not a need to have for the city. When the population density doubles or triples, the Streetcar may prove to be valuable as a mode of transit, provided we can keep it maintained and repaired that long. I think the money could have been spent much more productively to address transportation needs.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
Transit oriented development is what MARTA is requesting. This doesn’t seem to align with the City developing the Streetcar vs rail routes and upgrades to make the option more appeasing to commuters. My point is, being on the same page is the first step to solving problems of this magnitude. There must be equity in the development approach. Regional participants should be included in the discussions and asked to contribute their fair share of the costs.
10) What should the city so to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
I mentioned leveraging the blighted and vacant properties earlier. In addition, I support investing significantly in Invest Atlanta’s first-time buyer program with a focus on Atlanta Police and Firemen as well as Atlanta School Teachers. By supporting the housing dreams of those who work hard and serve our city we can build stronger neighborhoods and communities. Additional options include supporting Community Development Corporations as well as Public and Private partnerships to increase access to affordable housing.