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 Atlanta City Council, District 11, because we need meaningful economic development in District 11, to BRING BACK THE PRIDE to the prestigious professional communities in District 11. We have lost our strong community identity. Strong civic pride is an important step in enhancing the quality of life in the older established neighborhoods in this district. We must create and maintain lively and attractive streets and buildings that will stimulate investment along Campbellton Road, Cascade Road, and the Greenbriar Shopping area. Meaningful economic development is the fundamental reason for seeking this office. We have been marginalized through misplaced data that has prevented any meaningful development to occur. Change the data; change the direction of the District. I believe if we build it, they will come.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I am qualified for the position of Councilmember, District 11, because I am a leader with a history of leadership, timeless experience, a foot soldier from the past marching into the future, a servant-leader, and a breast cancer survivor since 2002. I am a former NPU Chair, former Vice-Chair of the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board (APAB), Creator of the APAB Institute, in conjunction with the University of Georgia Fanning Leadership Center. Creator of the Atlanta Commission on Women, in association with The Honorable Mable Thomas and C.T. Martin. Creator of the Atlanta -Cotonou Sister City Program and Founding Chair of the Committee. Convention Co-Chair with the late Lou Zakas, and Chair of the Sister Cities Commission, a Mayoral appointment. We successfully hosted hundreds of international people in Atlanta (pre-Olympic) for the first and only International Sister Cities Convention. Former Manager for the Temporary Protective Order Program, Atlanta Municipal Court. Former Manager for the installation of the Enhanced 911 System, City Hall East, Atlanta Citywide Radio System (ACRS), in conjunction with TRW Integrated Engineering Division. I co-created the behavioral objectives and implemented the Train-the Trainer Program. I am an Adjunct Professor at Clark Atlanta University and at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. I am the first African American to work in the Public Relations Department, Delta Air Lines, Inc. I retired from the Local Airport Training Department. I have a plethora of awards, too numerous to mention, including the highest award from the City, the Phoenix Award. I am Trustee-Emeritus, Big Bethel A.M.E. Church. I am a mother of one daughter, Rev. Alvelyn Sanders, an accomplished media professional, instructor, and clergy. My daughter and I produced the award winning, PBSATL showing of the movie, Foot Soldiers Class of 1964. I have the experience and the passion to serve.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Atlanta’s greatest strength is its motto, A City Too Busy to Hate.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Atlanta’s biggest challenge is maintaining the decorum to keep that motto alive. This is especially challenging with the climate of racial divide in other cities, the general mistrust that is the new opium for racial divide, and the prevailing and continuing theme of shoot first, ask questions later of unarmed Black men in other cities. Maintaining a sense of community, regardless of race, culture, and creed, is a challenge in today’s climate. We cannot afford to have disruptions in a City built on racial harmony and accord because we are the home of Dr. Martin Luther King. We must maintain our legacy. We must work together to maintain a sense of harmony for the sake of the legacy and for those of us who marched and were foot soldiers to ensure racial equity in Atlanta (www.footsoldiers1964.com).
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Community outreach and connecting our neighborhoods will help ensure racial harmony in Atlanta. Separate but not equal remains a divide in this city. Everything North is progressive. Everything South is recessive, blighted, and not promoted. All of our neighborhoods should be of equal value. We have to stop fighting the civil war in Atlanta. Not as egregious as what happen in Charlottesville, VA but a hidden war, nevertheless. The southside of the city is the closest to the economic engine that continues to propel the growth and economic strengths associated with Atlanta and the region, and that is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Most southside residents live less than ten-fifteen minutes away from the airport, none to very little traffic and non-highway driving. In spite of the large middle class black population of dedicated professionals, resplendent with beautiful homes and manicured lawns, there is no meaningful economic development on a large scale that would bring tourists dollars south, luxury condos south, and upscale restaurants and shopping south. I want to fix this. How? A more improved MARTA system that connects work, play, live for shorter commutes. More housing, restaurants, amusements connected on improved rail lines. Mini fuel-efficient buses that connect specific senior commuters to specific shopping districts within the community. Targeted economic development to the southside that will encourage developers to build upscale communities with available affordable housing. All of which will bring tourist dollars to the southside and help grow the economy south and add balance to the overall look of the City. Tourist need to explore all 131 acres of this great city, not just a few miles.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
I would like to focus on Tourism on the South end of Atlanta, District 11, because there is a tremendous opportunity to revitalize the district through tourism. We are the home of the Arts and we need to promote not only the extensive private collections of art in District 11, but the many historical avenues that have been overlooked as possible tourist attractions to the District.
A second focus is crime which is a prevailing issue in many large cities. Unfortunately, most of the crime has found its home on the south side of Atlanta. Regrettably, there is a concentration of blight, poverty, joblessness in the middle of this African American community of well-heeled professionals. We recognize when the blight, poverty and joblessness get lumped into one major statistic, all pointing south, the entire District struggles and growth is slow. Why? Race is still an issue when it comes to the perception of failure. Unfortunately, the less attractive statistics are promoted and growth does not happen on the south side. I will encourage developers and upscale restaurants and shopping to review another set of statistics and that is the hidden wealth nestled between secret conclaves of trees, manicured lawns, streams and lakes. In changing the approach, you change the economics. I would also join with Atlanta Public Schools because we need to provide an extensive wealth building engine of collaborative partners in business, faith, and sports to divert juveniles from criminal activities to wealth building activities engaging the mind, body and soul in a wholistic approach to juvenile behavior issues.
My third focus is traffic. Thankfully, my vision for Atlanta is already the vision of commercial real estate for development. Yes, TODS. Transit-oriented development. Developing properties owned by MARTA for living, working, and playing spaces. What a brilliant economic development tool to provide walkable urban spaces. More walking promotes health; more walking promotes less driving; less congestion; and more walking promotes cleaner air; less pollution. Other traffic solutions involve smart technology to improve traffic flow in real time depending on traffic conditions, including one-way traffic signals during rush hour. Not to mention, basic repaving and restriping to enhance driver safety. On a regional level, I would love to work with the State and encourage the building of a fast rail system that travels around 285 and one that connects the shippers of Savannah with the Airport in Atlanta. Hopefully the City of Atlanta Department of Transportation will take over, plan and implement the needs of the City’s transportation projects over the next five years, to include congestion mitigation, special events traffic plans, and alternative travel modes.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The Beltline was a good idea that got out of hand. Connecting communities through parks and trails sounded like an awesome idea for civic and racial unity, community outreach and neighbors helping neighbors. It turned, however, into the displacement of the very people who built this city, gentrification became a four-letter word and a wall of distrust was erected without any real discussion with the people who lived on the beltline. Meetings were held but not at the level where there was real community engagement. The idea remains super but the implementation needs a lot of tweaking/revitalizing at this point. It’s called, re-write!
8) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Streetcar? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
It is a wonderful tourist attraction. Promote it to tourists at the Visitor’s Bureau.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
See answer number 6.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
In District 11, most of the apartments are already Affordable Housing.
Councilman Bond helped to enact Affordable Housing Impact Statements which will center around the numerical impact in terms of the numbers of units estimated to be added or subtracted at different income levels. We should make a concerted effort through legislation, community input, and basic moral principles, to not displace existing residents in place of gentrification. There are good effects of gentrification but they have been overshadowed based on the displacement of existing residents. We have to legislate affordable housing as a mandate for protecting lower income citizens who also want to live, work, and play in the City. All available housing funds, private sector incentives, and tax incentives should be the foundation of any affordable housing debate.
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Once elected, I plan to conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner.