City Council District 5
In your opinion, what are the three greatest issues (problems or opportunities) facing Atlanta?
Opportunities: Improved transportation systems. Atlanta boasts the world’s business airport, and is the home to several fortune 100 corporations, and the nationally touted Atlanta Beltline, and the Atlanta Streetcar, we are poised to be a transportation giant in the southeast. We must work in a coordinated and strategic way to leverage and exploit our natural transportation assets, including MARTA, to improve our overall transportation systems.
Atlanta is also poised to become the Hollywood of the South. With the establishment of the FILM OFFICE, we are taking responsible steps to ensure that the community interests are protected, while we also encourage members of the entertainment industry to select Atlanta as the location for this film and entertainment projects.
Innovation. Georgia Tech, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State, Atlanta Area Tech, SCAD, Atlanta Metropolitan College, and three nationally recognized seminaries (International Theological Seminary, Carver Bible College, and Beulah Heights University). Atlanta should exploit the collective economic and human capital benefit of having these institutions of higher learning in our city. More specifically, having these colleges and schools in our city makes Atlanta a hub for attracting future employees and entrepreneurs. These institutions are not only employment centers, but they also attract employers. The quality of life enhancements which can be derived from this high concentration of educational instutions has not been fully tapped, and presents a great opportunity for Atlanta to leverage the benefits of both attracting and expanding our young, talented and energetic citizen base.
Describe briefly your qualifications for holding this office.
I have served for 3 consecutive terms as a member of the Atlanta City Council. In that capacity, I have served as the Chair of the City Utilities Committee, President Pro Tempore of the City Council, and have been a working member of every committee of the City Council. Academically, I have earned a B.A. degree in Psychology (Georgia Southwestern University); a Master’s degree in Public Administration (Georgia State University); and, a Juris Doctorate degree (University of Georgia).
What events or experiences caused you to decide to run for this office?
As a three term incumbent, I am intimately aware of the critical issues facing our city. During my tenure on the City Council, we have experienced the challenge of funding the water/sewer consent decrees, acts of God including the 2007 tornado and the floods of Vine City and Peoplestown; the economic recession of 2008 and beyond. As a city we responsibily and aggressively tackled each problem and in the course of doing so, learned more about our strengths (we are fiscally responsible) and our weaknesses (we have become better at emergency response – from snows to floods). I want to build on the lessons learned to assist in strengthen Atlanta. We are working to become a more sustainable city, a greener city, a safer city, more transit oriented, and a place where companies and people want to live and to thrive. In Council District 5, we have recently faced severe public safety challenges. The communities within District 5 deserve to have an experienced and dedicated public servant to assist them in obtaining sustained public safety resources from the city. Similarly, these constituents deserve a public servant who knows and understands our local government, and has built over a decade of professional relationships and experiences which will further our collective goals relative to zoning, infrastructure improvements, safety, and the delivery of basic city services.
Please identify up to five organizations or individuals who are actively supporting your candidacy.
1) I have received the endorsement of the Atlanta Progressive Newspaper.
2) Former Mayor Shirley Franklin
3) Interim CEO of DeKalb County, Lee May
4) Chair of the DeKalb County House Delegation, Rep. Howard Mosby
5) Pastor Olen Blash, Living Waters Bible Church
What vote have you taken in the last four years that you are most proud of and what vote have you taken that you would reconsider?
The vote that I would reconsider is my vote opposing the legislation to place Sunday alcohol sales on a city-wide referendum. I am not opposed to Sunday alcohol sales. However, I voted against the legislation because the legislation was introduced prior to my having a chance to talk to restaurant and business owners about the impact Sunday alcohol sales will have on their businesses. My preference would have been to allow for greater public feedback on the proposal, and to allow for sufficient time to educate the business and general public about this proposal.
The vote I am most proud of if the vote in support of the list of transportation projects for the proposed TIA.
On difficult votes, how would you manage collaborating with your colleagues on citywide issues versus representing your own constituents?
If a difficult issue has citywide implications, I would first determine, as a baseline consideration, the impact on district 5 constituents. I would then look beyond the impact on my council district, and consider the implications of the proposed legislation on the entire city. In my 12 years in office, I have found that unless there is direct and immediate impact on the constituents of District 5, I have been given broad latitude to fully assess the situation and to thereafter vote my conscious. A most recent example was my vote on the proposal to build a new Falcon’s Stadium. To determine my position, I consulted with fellow colleagues, members of the Mayor’s staff, and reviewed the supporting documents we received from the Falcons organization, the City’s Finance Department, etc. Ultimately, I voted in favor of this proposal because of the citywide economic benefit the new stadium will provide to our city. If a future difficult citywide issue arises, I will follow this same course of action.
What is your vision for the city of Atlanta and what can we do to maintain our competitive edge?
I don’t’ have a fancy dream for our great city. My vision is simple. I want Atlanta to be a safe, economically thriving, and inviting area for our citizens and visitors. Over the past 10 years, I have seen significant improvement in both our public safety strategies, and our commitment to keeping our city safe. For example, the Atlanta Police Foundation has been a vital resource in supporting and increasing our ability to expand our video integration capacity, and in creating incentitives for officers in live intown. In addition, we recently met our longstanding goal of having a 2000 member force of sworn officers. Chief Turner and his command staff have demonstrated their commitment of the implementation of crime fighting innovation, such as CPTET, Community Oriented Policing, and placing Code Enforcement under APD.
In the area of economic vitality, we are also improving. From the film industry, to the green jobs, farmer’s market, and food truck movement, to smart growth and encouraging citizens to buy local, Atlanta has proven itself to be a fast learning and a willing partner in innovative iniatives. Through our economic development partner, Invest Atlanta, we are constantly looking for ways to both meet the needs of our local employers and service providers, but we also work hard to find ways to balance our economic growth with the established visions and plans of our neighborhoods.
Recently, a constituent suggested that we market Atlanta as a City of trees. While this moniker has already been taken by a sister city, I believe that constituent’s idea was a good one. One of the things which makes Atlanta inviting is our tree canopy. We will enhance our ability to be an inviting city by increasing our focus on reducing our carbon footprint, and encouraging community gardening and urban farming initiatives.
In your opinion, what are the three greatest infrastructure problems facing Atlanta over the next four years? Please rank them in terms of importance and urgency.
1. We must develop a financing strategy for replacing and installing sidewalks across the city.
2. The second most important infrastructure problem facing Atlanta is the backlog of repairs needed for our bridges and viaducts.
3. The third most important infrastructure problem facing our city is the need to maintain our equipment and vehicle fleet, include police vehicles. We need to have sufficient and well maintained equipment so that we can meet the service delivery needs and expectations of our citizens, as well as expand our take-home vehicle program for our police officers.
How would you pay for these improvements?
I am hopeful that the citizens of Atlanta will approve a bond referendum to pay for infrastructure items 1 and 2 above. In addition, as the co-chair of the City Utilites sidewalk taskforce, we are looking at best practices around the country to determine innovative ways to fund sidewalk projects. Thus far, we are looking a new and lower cost ways to install sidewalks, and creating self-taxing infrastructure improvement districts.
Regarding the our vehicle fleet and overall equipment needs, these item could be funded through establishing budget priorities and setting aside funds to incrementally address these needs.