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 have a love for the City of Atlanta, and want to help Atlanta become the International City we were meant to be when we hosted the 1996 Olympics. My vision and main issue I am motivated to work on is to eliminate the exclusive environment of Atlanta by bridging the gap of the two cities known as the “Haves and Haves Not”. Economic Development should exist all over Atlanta from Downtown, Vine City, English Avenue, and around Metropolitan Avenue as happening in Midtown and Buckhead. I do not want to see one neighborhood left out, or fall behind when it comes to economic development, and progressive movement. I want to usher in projects for every part of Atlanta economically so all its citizens can prosper, and see their communities thrive. For District 2, I would like to have a 24 Hour Entertainment District. Atlanta can become the next ‘city that doesn’t sleep.’ The expansion of the nighttime economy will create jobs for the local here, and curb many problems that currently affecting District 2. I firmly believe when you lose your Downtown, you lose your City. Without a thriving downtown, the city suffers. Right now downtown (which is only a portion of District 2) is a mix of an upcoming university/business landscape, but is also plagued with homelessness and dilapidated buildings. If we continue not to focus on the economic development of Downtown Atlanta, it will most likely be known as a “Ghost City” another Detroit. Now when you leave a concert, ball game, or work you can continue to enjoy Downtown Atlanta with the 24-hour Entertainment District you will have several options, and the gain of the revenue will stay in the Downtown not leave.
2. What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I am the only candidate whom have worked for, and lived in the District 2. My qualifications include the experience of working in the Congressional 5th District Office under the leadership of Congressman John Lewis as a Special Assistant, Atlanta Council District 2 as Chief of Staff under Councilperson Debi M. Starnes, Legislative Aide for Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan District 39, and a Contractor to the Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson of the City of Atlanta. I have the ability to ensure timely resolution of constituent issues, reviewing proposed changes in laws, policies, and practices to identify potential public relations issues and possible impact on the City of Atlanta. I have assisted with the development and analysis of proposed state legislation and its impact on the communities they affect. I am an individual who possess the ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships with legislative advocacy groups on a local, state and national level. I am a product Morris Brown College obtaining BA in Political Science, Master of Cosmetology gaining my training from Atlanta Technical College, and MBA Beulah Heights University. I believe in Atlanta and its educational system, and encourage my friends and neighbors to invest as well.
3. What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?
Atlanta greatest strength is the simple fact it is a melting pot. People love all the wonderful opportunities Atlanta has to offer be it employment, entertainment, and location.
4. What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
5. How would you address what you feel is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?
I have a long term Plan to Combat Gentrification, and it is as follows:
The steps to become an opponent to gentrification are many. First a neighborhood must be organized. We must start developing Workshops and Town Hall meetings in the affected neighborhoods to educate Constituents on what is happening to their community. Each Council Member must have an appointed chair in each neighborhood that will hold monthly meetings to address their concerns of gentrification. The Council Member should appoint chairs ranging from 25 to 35 years of age. The key is to get the involvement of the BUPPIE[i] networking group to sustain growth back into the community.
The chairs must be able to identify their particular vulnerabilities concerning gentrification in their perspective neighborhoods. The main factors that promote great risk to each district stems from the fact that it is a predominantly older black community, next the great amount of displacement of the elderly/disabled, vacant buildings, also those with the most limited incomes who are facing eviction, lastly when the ethnic companies and service organizations can no longer afford rent in the neighborhood. There are four major categories of action that can help to stabilize a gentrifying neighborhood. The first stage is redevelopment of public and nonprofit structures. The second stage affordable housing made readily, the third stage stabilize the rent (rent control), and the fourth stage would be property tax control, in the form of as a Tax Allocation District or Empowerment Zone. Together, they form the basis for an anti-displacement strategy. Whether communities are working to rehab and fill vacant buildings in abandoned city hubs or to improve community infrastructure in fully populated low-income neighborhoods, a clear housing affordability plan should always be in place first.
First Stage involves some significant public or nonprofit redevelopment investment and/or private newcomers buying and rehabbing vacant units. In the next stage, the neighborhood’s low housing costs and other features become known and housing costs rise. Displacement begins as landlords take advantage of rising market values and evict long-time residents in order to rent or sell to the more well-to-do. Gradually, newcomers are more probable to be homeowners, and the rising property values cause down payment requirements to increase. With new residents come commercial services that serve higher income levels now lower income residents cannot participate in spending. As rehabilitation develops more obvious, prices escalate and displacement arises in power. New residents have lesser acceptance for current social service facilities that serve homeless populations or other low-income requests; as well as industrial and other uses they view as unwelcome. Original residents are moved along with their businesses, commercial initiatives, churches and ethnic traditions.
Gentrification/displacement is felt most severely in historic communities of color. While community activists have worked diligently to entice new venture to their capital-starved communities, they acknowledge that only just have they begun to exercise the implements or power to essentially mediate and readdress development projects that may bring destruction to the community.
A valuation will usually involve community mapping efforts that identify renter-to-homeowner rates, vacancy and abandonment taxes, affordability keys (rent or mortgage as percentage of household income) and spatial analyses of race and poverty. The valuation must be tailored to the particular state of affairs. Stabilize current renters. This can contain evaluating dislocation rates, constructing emergency monies for rental assistance, eliminating discriminatory obstacles that renters face or crafting rent stabilization policies such as eviction controls and rent increase programs.
Regulate Land for Community Development. Land use, tax and zoning policies all shape reasonable developments; a housing affordability plan cannot prosper without taking them into account. Communities must evaluate zoning and public land indications and navigate them in the direction of their goals. This will consist of supporting inclusionary zoning ordinances, mixed-use and transit-oriented development and density requirements, all of which can boost affordability and mixed-income areas.
Form Income and Assets Establishment. While stabilizing housing affordability and guaranteeing appropriate features are vital modules of neighborhood planning, income and asset creation are critical to ensuring resident welfare as the neighborhood economy develops. Providing needed resident services—child care, transportation, a basic retail sector and access to health care is a necessity for success. Securing public investment to local-hire and living-wage requirements or otherwise connecting land use decisions to local asset foundations can considerably lessen adverse dislocation burdens by taking some of the benefits of the new investment to current residents.
Cultivate Financing Strategies. Practical financing strategies can provide neighborhood-detailed ways to fund the other three types of action. They are normally most active in communities that anticipate gentrification burdens prior to redevelopment, since communities previously suffering displacement face increased real estate prices and existing capital will not go as far. Opportunities for backing are ample, and can be directed at nonprofits, private developers, or even landlords. They consist of investments from labor union pension funds and regional business associations, exactions and fees on commercial developments, tax increment financing and eminent domain, bank investments under the Community Reinvestment Act, Community Credit Unions and tax abatements, credits and deferments.
Lastly, I advise the focus should mainly be on the elderly in your district. Once your district creates an outreach program that meets monthly to advise each resident over 55 years informing them of services that are available to help combat gentrification. This program will assist one if they cannot pay property taxes, counsel the elderly on pre-need services by neighborhood funeral homes, assistance of medical bills/medications, and all around estate planning so their homes would not be lost for any of the above needs. The Council Member can combine the Mentorship Program (previous draft copy) and this plan to stop Gentrification so the community will work together as a whole, the youth combined with the buppies, and the elderly working together to make your district a more sustainable vital community within the City of Atlanta.
1. [i] A young urban black professional; a black yuppie.
6. What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
The three main issues I would like to address in the Homeless Population of Downtown, Drug Trafficking on Boulevard, the Five Points Station, and Little Five Points areas, and the car break-ins focusing on Poncey-Highland, Inman Park, and Candler Park.
I have begun meeting with local churches pastors/priests in the vicinity of Peachtree/Pine Shelter introducing myself as a Candidate for Atlanta City Council District 2, and asking if they have a plan of action for the shelter closure. My goal is to give them a name to outreach to for any assistance/aide before I am elected so each church may understand my platform, and know they can count on me to work with them now and in the future.
Once taking office, my first objective is to hire a Staff Assistant who only, and main purpose is to work with the Homeless Population in the Downtown area. The Staff Assistant will do outreach with the neighboring churches, shelters, substance abuse facilities, and community leaders this will now be a team effort with all mentioned. We will bridge the gap from the local, state, and federal level to better give assistance to our homeless population. District 2 will establish its own Homeless Taskforce, and also address all the Counties, and municipalities & hospitals in Georgia on how to direct their homeless instead of just dropping them off in downtown Atlanta. My goal is the help the homeless individual obtain employment and a home, and beacon this transition into classes to eliminate homelessness to occur again if this is a substance abuse issue, gambling, mental, financial, or fleet from law provide guidelines so they can continue to have help available to them.
The second issue in District 2 is the “In your face drug dealings” which includes the Old Fourth Neighborhood, Downtown Atlanta near the Five Points MARTA Station Central Park, and Little Five Points. I plan to have a Drug Enforcement Taskforce set up to have daily sweeps of these neighborhoods. I see the youths are out in Old Fourth Ward in white t-shirts selling drugs daily, and after they are arrested I would like to offer them the option to enter my “Youth Initiative Program” and as well as the youths that have become addicted to illegal drugs to enter the program, and after completion have their records expunged. My Youth Initiative Programs is as follows:
The goal of the Youth Initiative Program for the City of Atlanta District 2 is to help shape the prospects of the youth. Teens who are in a troubled environment and circumstances, may need extra help acquiring skill sets that will make them competitive in today’s market place. Throughout my years, in various positions in life, I have worked with teens and mentored students. I noticed that most of these students before being mentored, did not possess the life skills necessary to remain competitive as they transitioned into adulthood. I want to change that. I want to place myself into their surroundings, gain knowledge of their lifestyle, and prepare them with the correct mindset to thrive while transitioning into adulthood. Ultimately instilling in them a sense of pride and accomplishment which can only motivate them to be successful residents. Creating a culture of “Oneness” or community by giving back to the students/youth. After being elected as Councilperson for District 2 City of Atlanta, I would like to deploy a program capable of creating scholars, or at the very least young adults empowered with knowledge which demystifies everyday life in the working world, as they come of age.
The District 2 Youth Initiative Program, will benefit at risk youth between the ages of 14-18. I will introduce a program geared toward the youth of Fulton County who may qualify for or already benefit from the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). We as a community must stop the “throwaway syndrome” once a child reaches the age of 18. If a child reaches 18 and does not receive proper guidance on self-governance, this 18-year-old in the eyes of the law is an adult, but mentally they are still a child. The District 2 Youth Initiative Program will allow kids the opportunity to become viable adults through internships within the City of Atlanta throughout the different departments. We will also offer various training classes to equip our students with a knowledge base that preps them for today’s job market. This mentorship program invites students to a 4-year commitment. The youth involved enter the program receiving a paid internship of minimum wage. The goals of the program are:
1. Teach students how to manage their money, e.g. maintain a bank account, and pay bills.
2. Make them more health conscience of their food purchases and preparation.
3. Teach them about credit and how to maintain a healthy credit score.
4. Show them all of the requirements for purchasing and managing a home.
5. Teach them the “ins and outs” of purchasing a vehicle e.g. insurance, car care, tags.
6. Continued education in the form of technical classes, e.g. Microsoft Office, Web Development, and Computer Networking.
7. Bi weekly forums to discuss their progress and their challenges to ensure that each student gets the attention they need to nurture their success.
Each tier of requirements will have a partnership with institutions within City of Atlanta/Fulton County. After completion of this mentorship, a youth will possess the tools needed to become a productive adult. The projected time line to start up District 2‘s Youth Initiative Program will begin upon my inauguration as Atlanta City Councilmember. I believe your success as a Councilmember can only be based on the people that you assisted while in office, and the fulfillment you brought to their lives. I want to be able to change the outlook of the youth at risk, and promoting this community based organization is the key to their new healthy environment. Throughout the years I have thrown myself into community service, neighborhood groups, and nonprofit organizations. I wish to give back to my community in the areas that have demonstrated a true need.
My future goals are to take this community program to the adjacent counties, then nationally. The time line for shifting my mentoring program to adjacent counties such as, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Clayton ranges from 10 to 15 years. Moving my Youth Initiative to a national level starting with neighboring states such as South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi may take at least 20 years. My goal is to use Fulton County as a model. Then enact a progressive move to other counties, and states. The youth are the most valuable asset that the community can invest in. By cultivating and gifting at risk teens with the aforementioned skill sets, we can shape the future of the nation to include scholars and entrepreneurs that the world may have otherwise never known.
The third issue I would like to address would be the car break-ins in the Inman Park, Candler Park, and Little Five Points areas. These car break-ins stem from drug offenders/addicts, and I would establish Mini Precincts in these areas, cameras on street poles, and extensive patrolling of the areas by the Atlanta Police Department. After an individual is arrested, I would like them to enter in a program to help with any addictions they may have, and to help them successful re-entry back into society.
7. What is your opinion of the Atlanta Beltline? Is there anything about the project that you think should be handled differently?
I fought for the Atlanta Beltline and convinced my neighbors to see the value / purpose while I was Chief of Staff for Councilperson Debi M. Starnes of District 2. The first failure: every District should be able to participate in the Beltline not just District 2, and the second is no Affordable Housing it should definitely be on the Beltline as it was first constructed to have.
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 was another project I fought alongside with Councilperson Debi M. Starnes as her Chief of Staff to help my neighbors see the benefit of having the streetcar. Now, the City of Atlanta has made several failures such as not meeting Federal Government guidelines, and losing that funding, not sticking to the plan out neighborhoods the streetcar was to reach, and lastly the Atlanta Streetcar needs to be managed by MARTA, and have connectivity all through the Governmental areas of Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead as it was designed to meet back in the planning stages during conceptual work sessions.
9. What should the city of Atlanta do to reduce traffic congestion in the city?
As your city grows, your city’s traffic will become heavy, and Atlanta has to keep up with the times by offer alternatives to daily commuters. We must work on our roads concerning infrastructure repairs. Atlanta must engage in carpooling efforts, MARTA, creating more bicycle lanes, and repairs our sidewalks. Once elected as District 2 Councilmember, I propose we change the Blue Loop for large conventions, games, and concerts. The Blue Loop concept was created in 2000 by the Atlanta Police Department. It now needs to be updated.
The concept calls for turning off street lights after events. That act can result in attendees of events feeling unsafe. We want each visitor visiting Downtown Atlanta to have a pleasant and safe experience. Keeping the street lights on also makes it easier for visitors to find the nearest highway.
Also, one way streets that were changed back during the Olympics of 1996, should be changed back to two way streets immediately. The change back to two way streets will eliminate a majority of the grid lock in the morning and afternoon by commuters.
Traffic Grid repairs of streets, highways, and bridges should be on a time table for maintenance. We should also have reviews of civil engineering issues of gas/water pressure problems throughout Downtown Atlanta. Manholes should not explode up from the streets this is a dangerous problem that should not be ignored or addressed only when it occurs.
The Department of Transportation should come to Neighborhood and NPU meetings to inform the community on alternate ways to commute to and from home and work. After the recent collapse of I-85, and streets caving in, these information sessions are deeply needed. Let’s be honest, most neighbors only know one way to get home. Atlanta is truly a melting pot, and many of our current residents are not originally from Atlanta. The Department of Transportation needs to be more proactive to the cause and effect of this dilemma. The information session will truly be welcomed by the neighbors.
10. What should the city do to increase affordable housing options for its residents?
I will implement a legislation to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing by requiring, and giving incentives to developers who institute affordable housing in their dwellings. I would invite Invest Atlanta to start attending the Town Hall meetings that I will have within the District, and hopefully other council members will also start to hold Town Hall meetings within their prospective districts to educate their constituents. This practice will also be giving to anyone company who wants to do business within the City of Atlanta be it residential or commercial. Lastly, I will constitute education of the pitfalls of Gentrification as I have previously stated.
11. If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes! I would have established mandatory ethical training, and servant leadership classes for credit for any employee of the City of Atlanta. These classes will be required for advancement within the City of Atlanta, and given yearly for follow up studies. As an elected council person, I would also do away with the stamina of being a “whistleblower” too many employees have been penalized and ridicule by being honest employees and that will stop. And again, it will be established a term limit on Chiefs and Heads of Departments.