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?
Atlanta is a special place. It is the city I owe everything to – it raised me, made me and has given me incredible opportunities. Our city does a lot of things well. But there are areas where we need to strive to do better. I am running for mayor because I love this city. And I believe ALL of Atlanta deserves an opportunity to realize the promise that she holds – no matter where you were born or where you live.
City government should be seen as a partner in helping its residents achieve success and reach their goals and not a barrier. When I am Mayor, City Hall will do just that. I look forward to building an Atlanta that works for everyone, not just a selected few.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I am uniquely qualified to serve as the 60th Mayor of the City of Atlanta because of my proven leadership and ability to do the job on Day 1. I will not need a manual, or time to ramp up. From the start, I understand how to effectively manage city government and have the know-how to get the job done.
I have won four city-wide elections, (2) as an At-Large Councilmember and (2) as Council President. Additionally, as President of Council, I am the second-in-command at City Hall. I assume the role of acting mayor in the event the current Mayor becomes incapacitated or when
he travels outside the city. I am also a longtime community servant and practicing real estate finance attorney, who actively advocates for all of Atlanta, specifically around issues on 1) Education, 2) Community Building and 3) Economic Opportunity. A few key accomplishments include:
· For more than 10 years I have partnered with APS to advance the educational opportunities for young people via a semi-annual College Prep Series.
· Lead the restoration of the city’s strained relationship with APS and paid outstanding moneys owed to the school system under the terms of the Beltline Agreement.
· Championed key legislation facilitating economic revitalization in underdeveloped areas by authoring measures to create 4 of the city’s 10 Tax Allocation Districts and supported legislation for community input in the Beltline Project.
· Fought for Community Benefits Agreements for neighborhoods surrounding the Beltline, the Dome, and Turner Field which led to adding trails, sidewalks, road improvements, green spaces, affordable housing, and historic preservation.
· Created Atlanta’s first Community Policing Training and Preparedness Program.
· Formed a Campus Safety Taskforce to improve safety on Atlanta’s college campuses.
· Created a Parks Advisory Group to provide recommendations for Atlanta to achieve and sustain a world-class parks and recreation system with a governance structure.
· Economic Opportunity
o Since 2001, I have sponsored the Back to Business Conference, to make entrepreneurship and access to resources a reality for minority, veteran and women owned-businesses.
o Initiated and won the fight to raise the floor to offer livable wages to full-time
o Increased minimum wage from $10.10 to $15.00 per hour
o Re-negotiated Philips Arena deal to get $5M community benefits package for
residents affected by the departure of Turner Field/Braves Stadium
· Ethics & Transparency
o I am the first council member to make his financial expenditures accessible to the public online.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Atlanta’s greatest strength is her people. The racial, economic, and social diversity of this City allows to attract the best Fortune 500 companies in the country, while also being a leader in film and entertainment. Atlanta is one of the most educated cities in the nation, and is a top City for minority small business owners.
Another strength are the assets that located in our City limits. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, and the largest employer in the state of Georgia. It solidifies Atlanta’s reputation as a commercial and logistical hub. We have some of the best colleges and universities in the nation that produce a qualified pool graduates in fields such as engineering, computer science, and the health professions.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Currently, Atlanta’s biggest challenge is maintaining affordable housing. Long-time residents are experiencing higher property tax assessments, and increased home values are affecting rental trends. Our teachers, public safety personnel, and hospitality workers should have the opportunity to live where they work. The success of projects like the Beltline and Ponce City Market have hurt feasible housing options in the City.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
I provide for a comprehensive affordable housing policy. Requiring affordable housing opportunities citywide would lower transportation costs for our most vulnerable residents, and
maintain the diversity that makes our City great. I would also establish a Housing Trust Fund to provide a funding stream to create and preserve affordable housing options.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
Public safety will be my top focus as Mayor. I will improve our recruitment strategies to increase the number of sworn officers in our police department. I will increase the use of technology and data in policing, and expand the network of cameras into the City’s Video Integration Center. Finally, I would focus on more community policing with neighborhoods to identify problems and provide solutions.
As the next Mayor of Atlanta, affordable housing is a major issue that I will address. I will implement a citywide policy to require new developments set aside 15% of total residential units for income levels below 80 percent AMI. I will also establish a Housing Trust Fund to increase and preserve the number of affordable units in the City.
I will also place emphasis on the implementation of the Beltline, as well as projects from the Renew Atlanta Bond Program and TSPLOT. The coordination in how these projects are designed and constructed will affect our transportation network for decades to come, and must command the attention it deserves.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The Atlanta Beltline is one of the most dynamic urban renewal projects in the United States. I sponsored legislation authorizing the project’s creation as a member of the City Council. It has offered our residents and visitors another way in which to explore our city, and transformed neighborhoods. The Beltline’s success has raised real concerns on how all of our residents can benefit from this project. As Mayor, I will act aggressively to reach the Beltline’s goal of providing 5,600 affordable housing units. I will also work to increase the pace in which the design and construction of Beltline is completed.
8) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Streetcar? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The Atlanta Streetcar has received mixed reviews since its opening. The level of ridership that was projected has yet to be achieved, yet economic development has increased along its route. The Streetcar can be used as an important part of our overall transportation plan. Heavy rail is cost-prohibitive to expand citywide, but the streetcar may reach areas of the city that are currently not served by train service. I believe opinions of the streetcar will improve with expansion along the Beltline and other parts of the City.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
The only meaningful way to address traffic congestion is to provide a comprehensive transportation plan that offers multiple ways to move about our City. As Mayor, I would establish a dedicated funding source, such as a parking tax, to expand transit options across the City. I would expand bike facilities throughout the City, and prioritize construction of the streetcar system along the Beltline and in areas like the Campbellton Road Corridor and Grant Park. I would also be a strong advocate for the use of MARTA and ride-sharing services. A parking tax would also be used to address the backlog of sidewalk repairs in my administration.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
As Mayor, I would create a comprehensive affordable housing approach. Reasonable housing options should be available in every corner of our City. I will implement affordable housing requirements citywide. I will also establish a Housing Trust Fund to increase and preserve the stock of affordable units. Invest Atlanta will expand its homeownership activities for residents, and my administration will partner with the private and nonprofit sectors to provide additional affordable housing opportunities.
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes, as Mayor I will conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner, as I have done throughout my tenure as a public servant. Additionally, as Mayor, I will create the most ethical and transparent City Hall in the history of Atlanta. I will do this by bringing transparency to the City’s contracting and procurement process, reorganizing the City’s Office of Compliance to provide greater oversight, and enhancing the City’s ethics rules to create a culture of openness and accountability.