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?
When I think about my “why,” I think of my upbringing on the West Side of Atlanta. As a fourth-generation Atlantan with a track record of servant leadership, practical local government experience, civic leadership, and relationships to get it done!
My vision for the city of Atlanta is for us to have thriving neighborhoods, flexible to the quality of life needs that exist, with top-notch service delivery and a rich culture that neighborhoods can be proud of. This vision can be realized by the way we strengthen our neighborhoods based on their needs, be smart about our growth and land use, and work together with the many different stakeholders of our city.
I want to strengthen the infrastructure and participation of our NPU’s, where citizens can get involved and serve—bringing more neighborhoods, and people within them, to the decision making table. I want to facilitate stronger relationships between our neighborhoods, our faith based institutions, our schools and learning centers, big business, small business, our nonprofit community, and other governmental entities, in order to help guide community priorities on an ongoing basis.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
My qualifications to serve as a councilman extends through my diverse experiences as a leader in municipal government, Atlanta’s civic community, and areas of service that I have participated in over the years through many organizations. As a public administrator, receiving my M.P.A. from the University of Kansas (U.S. News & World Report, #1 School for City Management and Urban Policy), I have had the opportunity to serve within six municipalities in three states, leading multi-million dollar enterprise operations in two of them—making decisions that impact citizens every day. This direct experience with +30 elected officials, city and county executives, industry and community leaders, has afforded me the insight to help navigate through difficult policy and issues impacting our community. My additional professional experience in marketing, fundraising, and community engagement have helped me build a professional acumen and local network that yields a successful skillset in getting work done with people. Civically, I have served in leadership capacities working in partnership with other community stakeholders to navigate through issues related to developing our youth, education, homelessness, and workforce development. Serving as the vice-chair for a charter school, chair of a local workforce development collaborative through Atlanta Public Schools, and other roles in the community have allowed me to stay connected to the work that needs to be done. My qualifications also extend to other proactive capacities and opportunities such as being a member of the alumni base and/or participant in the United Way V.I.P. Program, Outstanding Atlanta, LEAD Atlanta, New Leaders Council, ARC Education Task Force, ARC Millennial Advisory Panel and the Metro Chamber ATLeaders committee.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
As reported, the city of Atlanta is in one of the best financial conditions it has been in, compared to recent years. Our bond rating is very competitive, and we have reserves in excess of +$175 million. While we do have adopted policies that speak to the amount of reserves we should have available based on our annual budget, from my experience as a practitioner, we should always be mindful of policies that allow us to plan for the worst financial conditions. The city council has the opportunity to take a more proactive approach during the fiscal year planning process, and I plan to be very involved and present in the budget conversations that we have for annual expenditures. Furthermore, if further thresholds of legislation need to be drafted considering our fiduciary responsibility, I will not shy away from sponsoring legislation.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
I believe that one of Atlanta’s biggest challenges is the way we engage our neighborhoods. The most valuable assets of our city is the makeup and uniqueness of our many different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are primarily residential, while others have a more mixed-use feel. My vision for the city of Atlanta is for us to have thriving neighborhoods, flexible to the quality of life needs that exist, with top-notch service delivery and a rich culture that neighborhoods can be proud of. This vision can be realized by the way we strengthen our neighborhoods based on their needs, be smart about our growth and land use, and work together with the many different stakeholders of our city.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
We must take a different approach to building relationships with each other considering our challenges of the present and future. As a city councilman, I will stand at the intersection of these many different activities, conversations, and efforts, engaging the community in a different way. Our new approach to community engagement will be open, transparent, and responsive to all areas of our district. I want to actively engage our constituents, using my Great 8 Priorities as a way to keep people involved and as a dashboard for success; Partnerships, Service Delivery, Mobility, Quality of Life, Youth Development, Building Communities, Innovation, and Arts & Culture.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
Three of our greatest issues as a city are our problems involving transparency, relationship building, and constituent empowerment.
In regards to transparency, constituents should have confidence in knowing that their elected officials are dealing fairly and in an ethical manner. If elected, I will operate in an honorable manner to ensure that my colleagues and constituents do not lose faith in our governing system. I am also committed to the flow of information from my office to our district 3 stakeholders, and look forward to the innovative ways we will make this happen.
Furthermore, we as a city must do a better job in relationship building to guarantee that all stakeholders are present and equally represented in making decisions for the city. Often times, we overlook the detrimental effects of policy on the community, because we are solely focused on the benefits on the city. By insisting that all stakeholders are present at the table, everyone’s voice will be heard in the city’s progression.
Lastly, empowering the constituents is a must to ensure a vibrant and growing city. Voter participation has been low recently, because people do not feel that their government works for them. Confidence is low, because the news constantly reports stories of unethical campaign reporting or procurement issues. If elected and with an open-door policy, I will see to it that the citizens of District 3 know that they are being represented from the building they can call their own.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
The BeltLine, with the onboarding of the Westside Trail, will have a lot of activity associated with the city and particularly District 3. Plans for affordable housing must reflect the neighborhoods that the BeltLine will affect. My plan is to fight for the percentage initially agreed upon, and discuss proactive ways to included inclusive housing options. The BeltLine will be a staple in our city that all constituents should be afforded the opportunity to visit or live by. We must also invest in assets and land to have site control for future projects that yield more affordable housing and community resources.
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 a complicated history, but with the necessary conversations being had with the key stakeholders, the Streetcar can be a benefit to the public transit system in our city. If elected, my plan is to work with MARTA, Central Atlanta Progress, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., and others to see that we make the Streetcar an advantage to our public transportation system. I look forward to talking through plans for its expansion and further impact on tourism and connectivity in communitie
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
As a District 3 resident that consistently bikes, operates a motor vehicle, utilizes ride-sharing applications, and uses public transportation, I understand that we can enhance how we get to where we need to go–and where we want to go. I want to bring more technology and best practices to the table in the way we consistently move around our neighborhoods, the district, and the city. Considering resources for a more enhanced system, the recent public referendums put the city in a place to allocate more dollars, but we need to be progressive on how we utilize these dollars. Enhanced ways to get people out of their cars while increasing sustainability efforts will be one of my priorities, and Mobility is a topic highlighted in my Great 8 Priorities of the campaign.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
In a collaborative effort with the city planning department, the Atlanta Housing Authority, Invest Atlanta, and the many other public and private stakeholders with expertise in providing affordable housing, I will ensure that these organizations are working in collaboration for district 3 concerns. We must get more proactive on matters related to displacement, lack of housing options, and the mix of new residents and legacy residents. As a councilman, my plan to foster partnerships that lead to not only a more robust plan, but the resources to get more housing options completed in the district.
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
As a city councilman, I promise to uphold the integrity of the office. We are the leaders of our city and should lead by example- no matter what role we serve in. As a councilmember, I plan to be transparent with heads of departments about the expectations I have as a representative of my district. This transparency in action includes frequent reports, questions, or updates on the work that is getting done throughout our city—knowing that it takes resources to get this work done. As an elected official, I will ask the right questions, at the right time, serving as an advocate for an open-book policy of the city’s budget, overlooking where money is spent and how resources are being used.