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 believe that — between the election of a new mayor, new city council president and majority-new city council – this city is about to experience a huge shift in the city’s governing team that provides a unique opportunity to discuss and develop solutions for long-standing challenges like equity, economic mobility, and affordability.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I was born and raised in Atlanta. I’m a proud graduate of Grady High and former teacher at Carver High in Southeast Atlanta. I’ve spent the last four years on the Atlanta Board of Education working to turn around a school system fractured by a cheating scandal and widespread dysfunction. I have a proven track record of producing results. As Budget Chair, we cut waste, raised teacher pay, and pushed more dollars into the classroom, all without raising property taxes. And during my tenure on the Board, graduation rates have increased from 58% to 71% and are still climbing.
3) What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Our residents, our neighborhoods, our tree canopy, our business and philanthropic worlds, and our community advocates and activists.
4) What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Having the largest income gap of any major city in the United States, and the fact that a child born into poverty here has a lower chance of moving out of it than any other city in America.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
Work to improve the relationship between the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools so the two can work with others to provide universal Early Childhood Education in this city. A quality public school option and an educated workforce is essential to attracting businesses. And that starts at Birth.
Work to ensure our public transit options are running when and where we need them to ensure residents can get to jobs that pay a living wage.
Focus on economic development opportunities on the City’s Southside. For far too long, too much of Atlanta has not enjoyed the growth and development seen on the City’s North and East sides. This must change.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
Housing affordability, eliminating food deserts, and partnering with Atlanta Public Schools on initiatives around Early Childhood Education and Workforce Development.
7) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
I think the Beltline is an incredible idea, and it’s proven itself to be an incredible attraction and economic development tool.
8) What is your opinion of the Atlanta Streetcar? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
I appreciate the intention behind it, and I think it’s an interesting (though unbelievably expensive) idea. I also appreciate MARTA taking control of operations. I think we need to figure out how it fits into the existing and future transit network – and if there are ideas (like the Tech Trolley) that would help us expand the idea without incurring which as much of a capital expense on the front end.
9) What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
For starters, the Council should approve legislation proposed by Councilman Andre Dickens to create a City of Atlanta Department of Transportation that would help plan and implement all the city’s various transportation projects.
Thanks to the Renew Atlanta bonds, the city’s TSPLOST, and the MARTA half-penny, we will have considerable resources in the years ahead to continue developing a diverse menu of transportation options: Expanding MARTA rail and bus service, improving infrastructure around trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks. We have to improve traffic light synchronization, use advances in technology to our advantage, and continue chipping away at our infrastructure backlog.
10) What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
Work with the Atlanta Housing Authority, which owns a considerable amount of empty land across the city, to continue redeveloping their properties with mixed-income housing for those at all levels of the economic spectrum Partner with nonprofit developments to convert suitable surplus city properties/buildings into affordable housing units (Much like APS is doing with its empty buildings through a task force created last December).
Consider ending minimum parking requirements for new construction (which can add significantly to the cost of housing) Revise long-standing zoning requirements that limit the quantity and type of housing choices, which limits supply.
Expand programs through Invest Atlanta where residents receive assistance in making down-payments on new homes
Expand the use of land banks and community land trusts
Create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Target vacant and abandoned homes and code enforcement violators to revitalize existing housing stock
Continue requiring construction projects with any public funding to set aside a certain percentage of affordable units (and giving incentives to the developer with strategies like up-zoning).
Consider determining and using the “Area Median Income” for the City of Atlanta itself rather than relying on the one determined for the metro area.
11) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes I do. And in an effort to be transparent and accessible, I hope your readers won’t ever hesitate to reach out. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org my cell is 404.408.0980.