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?
For too long, Atlanta has been the tale of two cities—a tale of the haves and the have nots. While Buckhead booms and midtown sky scrapers stretch further into the sky, many of our neighbors live in poverty, lack access to transportation, and are shut out from jobs that pay a living wage.
Atlanta has the highest wage gap in the entire country, ranks #1 in child poverty, and dead last in economic mobility. In the city that is home to the world’s busiest airport, the third highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation, and a consortium of colleges and universities that is second to none, this kind of inequality is unacceptable.
I’m running to create safe, accessible and educated Atlanta. I’m running to build a city that works for everyone. I’m running to make Atlanta the city of choice for everyone who seeks to build big dreams for themselves and their families.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
Effective leadership. During my time on the school board, the districts graduation rate has grown from 50% to 71%, we have reduced the size of central office, increased pay for teachers and raised millions of dollars to provide more wrap-around services for students in need. Moreover, I led the negotiation between the school district and the city that resulted in almost $100 million in new revenue for our students and will keep the Beltline on track. While my opponent will point the amount of legislation he has passed, his 25 year political career has helped to make Atlanta one of the most inequitable cities in the country.
Moreover, Councilman Bond has received the largest ethics fine in the history of the state of Georgia—$45,000 for over 300 violations.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Atlanta is a city of dreamers. We have always been a city that is unafraid to take on big challenges and dream big dreams. From the building the world’s busiest airport, landing the 96’ Olympics, dealing with crumbling sewer systems and massive pension debt, we have a history of solving big problems. In the end, our greatest strength is our collective ability to dream bigger than the eyes can see.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Equity and affordability or lack thereof. Atlanta has the largest wage gap in the country, ranks near the top in child poverty and almost dead last in economic mobility. This type of inequity is not only wrong, it’s unsustainable, bad for our economy and jeopardizes our long term growth.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
· The city must create a seamless partnership with the school district that includes an investment in universal early education.
· Create and preserve Atlanta’s affordable housing stock
· Incentivize city vendors to pay their employees a living wage
· Mandate community benefit agreements for development deal that use tax payer dollars
· Invest in workforce development with a specific focus on the arts, entertainment, tech and service industries
· Expand the portfolio of transportation options
· Work to eliminate food deserts
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
· Creating a seamless partnership with our school system, including providing universal early education for Atlanta’s students.
· Reducing traffic congestion by increasing transit options
· Keeping Atlantans safe, affordable and ensuring equity throughout the city
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The Beltline is a wonderful project that has failed on its promise of affordability housing. We must hold the Beltline accountable for building its share of affordable housing so that it can truly be a project that brings people together rather than displaces long-time residents.
8) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Streetcar? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The street car should be placed under the jurisdiction of MARTA.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
Invest in providing more transportation option including MARTA expansion, bike lanes, creating a more walkable city, completing all projects under the renew Atlanta bond. Additionally, the city should create a department of transportation to coordinate and align the various transportation projects all with an eye towards easing congestion.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
In order to expand affordable housing, the city should;
· Develop a city-wide affordable housing strategy
· Hold the Beltline accountable for reaching its affordable housing requirements
· Expand the anti-displacement program recently launched in English Ave. and Vine City
· Eliminate zoning policies that require a certain number of parking spots accompany new development with the caveat that those savings be passed along to potential residents
· Look to repurpose vacant property into affordable housing units. A recent strategy was recently adopted by APS
· Urgently deploy the funds from the second housing bond to help seniors offset the cost of renovations and rising property values
· Reform zoning requirements to expand non-traditional forms of housing i.e. tiny housing
· Expand “inclusionary zoning” policies throughout the city, prioritizing those areas ripe for development
· Invest in the expansion of transit oriented development (TOD)
· Partner with the Land Bank, AHA, other agencies to purchase land dedicated to the development of long-term affordability through community land trusts.
· Consider defining area median income by those who live within the city limits as opposed the higher regional definition used now
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?