The Atlanta City Council makes the laws that govern the city. It is responsible for the development of policies which serve as operational standards for the administration of city government.
In 2014 and 2015, the Brookings Institution named Atlanta as the city with the highest income inequality in America. Yet, Since 2012 almost 100% of everything built in the city is considered luxury development. We must expand the Inclusionary Zoning ordinance passed earlier this year to include people making less than $40,000, and require it for any developer taking incentives from the city. We can also commit to issuing the Housing Opportunity Bond each year to provide an ongoing source of funding for affordable housing. Ensuring that all people can afford to live in our city and take part in its continued success helps to diminish the income gap, deconcentrate poverty, and reduce traffic congestion.
Blight & Code Enforcement
There are thousands of abandoned homes and buildings in Atlanta. Our Code Enforcement department needs more researchers to effectively address this issue. I support the ideas put forth in this Change.org petition, asking for the budget that Code Enforcement receives to be much larger than the $2 million that was set aside in last year’s budget.
We should also focus on absentee commercial and residential developers that buy and sit on lots until the time is right to flip and make a profit. The current Code Enforcement process is targeting seniors and low-income people who have to choose between keeping their lights on or fixing a broken gutter. I will explore a blight tax similar to Cobb County’s proposed “Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program”.
Crime & Public Safety
The Atlanta Police Department has increased its force to 2,000 officers by hiring an additional 800 police officers over the last several years. While I know we need a strong police presence to deter crime, we must be cautious about over policing our communities. We should set a standard that preventing violent crime should be our first priority. That said, I will support efforts to stop the loss of talented officers to other cities and counties in the region. That means supporting more competitive salaries, first-rate equipment, and opportunities for advancement.
I also believe it is unacceptable that in the civil rights capital of the world, we are losing a generation of young people of color to arrests for possession of marijuana. In 2016, 93 percent of Atlanta’s marijuana possession arrests were African-Americans. It has become the entry point to the revolving door of the prison pipeline that ruins not only one life, but entire generations of families.
I support changing the way we police around marijuana. When we lock up a low-level repeat offenders it makes everyone less safe, because we’re taking our eyes off what really matters.
I am excited about expanding the new Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion program. I also support working with Fulton and DeKalb Counties to create programs to reduce recidivism. I commit to working with the county and state to reform our juvenile system to keep repeat, violent offenders off the streets.
Did you know there are several upcoming major transformational initiatives for Atlanta’s southside? Examples include the Westside Atlanta Beltline Trail, an update to the Greenbriar Towncenter Initiative, redevelopment of Ft. McPherson, and the Aerotropolis revisioning effort to complement a $6 billion airport expansion. Other projects in the city include the controversial redevelopments of Underground Atlanta, Turner Field, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and potentially the Atlanta Civic Center.
Infrastructure investments like the TSPLOST, Renew Atlanta Bond, and a renewed MOST along with state and city incentives are making Atlanta more attractive. As we welcome this development, I want to make sure that our residents are positioned to take part in the success that is coming. We have to make sure that we are investing in jobs training to fill the gaps for growing industries like tech, film, and clean energy. We should also make it easier for locally-owned, small businesses to find capital and get started.
When my daughter starts kindergarten, I want to know that she has access to opportunities to expand her knowledge outside of the classroom, and that she has knowledgeable teachers inside the classroom.
One of the biggest issues facing us is that Atlanta Public Schools approved a plan to close and merge several schools, which is putting pressure on classroom sizes. This is one problem, since research shows that a good teacher is a lifeline to career success and lifelong fulfillment for students.
Another issue is that third grade is the crucial year when students make the leap from learning to read to reading to learn. Too many of our kids are not reading well enough by then, making it much harder for them to succeed.
Finally, we have to acknowledge that there are challenges in the home that impact student success in the classroom. As long as these problems persist, charter schools will become more popular as parents will want to send their kids to the best schools.
- Help turn over remaining school deeds to improve our relationship with Atlanta Public Schools, and give APS more funding to build better facilities
- Establish a Board of Early Childhood Development to pursue public-private partnerships for a minimum of $20 million in yearly funding for early childhood development initiatives in the city. Read more at Unite for Kids website >>
- Build a partnership between the unions, APS, and the city to provide more teacher training
- Establish career-training programs for teens and young adults working with AWDA, APS, and the Unions
- Increasing funding for Parks & Rec and work with the YMCA to supplement after school & summer programs especially pre-k programs
- Work with APS & the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library to expand literacy programs
- Connect APS with the city’s resilience planning, city design, and 100% clean energy initiatives for cleaner, safer, and healthier school buildings
As the Assistant Director of the Georgia Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization, I have been promoting a 100% clean energy future. With coal and nuclear declining as affordable sources of energy, and oil predicted to reach peak demand in the next few decades, the clean energy economy is coming and it is important that we are positioned to take advantage of its growth. A clean energy economy will bring reduced energy costs, saving the city and its residents on power bills. It will also create thousands of high-quality, high-paying jobs which we need to attract to our city. We will have cleaner air through reduced emissions from power plants, meaning lower asthma rates and improved public health.
Mayor Reed has taken significant steps to position the city of Atlanta as a leader in the movement for a just climate future. In addition to participating in and making a strong stand on the Paris Climate Agreement, he has also attracted investment in the form of 100 Resilient Cities. This work will allow our city to continue thriving after major shocks, whether caused by climate or social stresses. Councilman Kwanza Hall also led the effort to commit the city to a 100% clean energy future by 2035. I’m very excited to see the plans produced by this effort, and as a council person, will make sure that the necessary departments are adequately funded and supported to achieve their goals.
Ethics & Transparency
The scandal at city hall earlier this year has led to a revelation that many Atlantans do not trust city’s leaders to do the right thing. We feel left out and unheard. To rebuild trust with the public, I believe that nothing will be more impactful than to focus on improved customer service and efficiency in service delivery to neighborhoods. People must be able to see their government working for them. We should be more transparent with how we choose contracts and where our dollars are spent. I will:
- Mandate that all city finances, including council member spending and contracts online, are made available in a way that is organized and easily searchable
- Overhaul the bidding process for city contracts, expanding the emergency contract measures enacted earlier this year in response to the unfolding scandal to apply to all contacts
- Implement new ethics and procedure training for City employees
- Rather than establishing an external oversight committee of procurement practices, I propose examining the current ethics board to determine ways in which it can be more effective in general and with procurement, and restructure as necessary
- Explore workflow improvements, process enhancements, and maybe some code improvements that might help improve service delivery
Litter, Trash & Dumping
Dumping and littering is an issue that many communities and neighborhoods in SW Atlanta face. In addition to not having an adequate amount of public trash cans available for citizens to throw garbage away, we also have plenty of areas that are tucked away and make prime spots for illegal dumping. Greatly increasing the number of trash cans and cameras will assist in reducing litter and helping to beautify communities.
Another way to get ahead of this is to improve our recycling culture. The city is very much still designed for people to consume and toss things with very little thought. The first step we should take is to make sure residents are clearly informed about what goes in the recycling bins. Recycling at home is just the beginning. We have to place more recycling bins around the city with clear signage. If there is a trash can present, there should also be a recycling bin present. Businesses should also be mandated to recycle, and we should offer incentives to increase the volume of waste recycled and lower the volume of waste sent to landfills.
First, I would like to applaud the steps the city has taken to achieve a more walkable city. The next mayor and round of council people will take office with major steps to accomplishing safer streets already done. The MARTA expansion will increase transit service and development near transit. The Renew Atlanta bond and the TSPLOST both include a number of projects that will add sidewalks and bike lanes to key corridors throughout the city. These projects are planned and funded over the next five years. Our bikeshare program is also expanding.
Still, it is my priority to improve the condition of the roads in southwest Atlanta. Too often, our roads are left in disrepair from wear and tear or after public works projects. Efforts to repair the roads in our neighborhoods take much longer, and are often poorly done and incomplete. To fix this, I will support:
- Creating a city Department of Transportation to consolidate an array of roadway, transit, and infrastructural responsibilities. This should improve speed and delivery of transportation projects, including bike lanes and sidewalks.
- Adopt the Street Design Policy drafted by the Department of Planning
- Make housing more affordable by eliminating the minimum number of car parking spaces required for housing developments
- In addition to the above, I support the platform put forth by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.