Question: As mayor, what immediate actions will you take to ensure that city operations are sound and sustainable and provide an open, transparent relationship between the city government and taxpayers?

Peter Brownlowe

I will sit down with my Chief Financial Officer and staff to come up with a short- and long-term strategic plan that rules out any possibility of a tax increase for my entire term in office. This action will consist of prioritizing and identifying those issues that are on and off the table as they relate to funding our yearly budget.

This plan will be voted on with input from the public and made transparent and available to our entire staff and to the public on our website.

As Mayor I’m responsible for making sure that water is delivered, trash is picked up and that I keep families safe and none of these three services will be cut or compromised in any way, this I can promise.

I’m not a politician and I don’t play politics.

Mary Norwood

I am running to make the city work again. Atlantans deserve a city government that keeps them safe, accounts for every dime, and shows the leadership to grow our economy and enhance our quality of life.

Fighting crime is my highest priority. I will boost the police force, rebuild 911 to speed responses, retain experienced officers, and institute real community policing.

I will end City Hall’s accounting shell games and restore financial accountability so that we never again have the mismanagement that led to furloughs of public safety workers.

Transparent finances open to public inspection and subject to independent outside investigation is the only way to guarantee safety.

I will require everyone who works for the city to deliver the services you expect, on budget, on time, and courteously.

We will promote a corporate culture at City Hall that encourages business to invest and neighborhoods to thrive.

Note: Lisa Borders, Kyle Keyser and Kasim Reed failed to respond to the emailed question from the Buckhead Reporter.

Jesse Spikes

The predominant issue facing Atlanta’s future is the fiscal crisis. Atlanta needs a Mayor who will change the game, not just weather the storm. As Mayor, I will build an administration filled with business and finance professionals; the best minds available for every position, with a mission built upon total honesty, candor and transparency. Our city government will be populated by leaders selected for their integrity, independence and competency, not their political connections

I will get the city’s financial house in order and restore its bond rating, first, by hiring a competent, committed, independent, cost conscious, achievement-oriented, performance-measured CPA as CFO. I will use similar standards to select the heads of all city departments. Second, I will implement the recommendations from the audits already conducted of the city’s various departments for more efficient cost-effective operations. Third, I will direct the City Auditor to conduct a top-to-bottom review of each department and conduct quarterly audits of the City’s Financial records to avoid any surprise budget shortfalls, resource misallocations or mismanagement.

Contested City Council seats for Buckhead voters

Question: As a new member of City Council, what actions would you seek to ensure the city is financially sound and sustainable in order to provide increased public safety and city services for taxpayers?

City Council, District 8

Yolanda Adrean

As a CPA, experienced business woman and neighborhood leader, I will bring hands-on knowledge to work for fiscal constraint, transparent budgets, timely financial reporting, and long-term planning. Cash-flow analysis must be examined on a monthly basis to measure use of tax dollars and anticipate shortfalls. The budget must be built from the bottom-up with analysis and prioritization of results that matter to citizens.

I will work with the new Mayor to ensure that the new CFO strengthens the finance department with the skill set required to adopt recommendations made to the city by Deloitte and others.

To fund public safety, neighborhood quality of life enhancements and provide reserves, we must vigorously pursue collections of fines and penalties, consider sale or lease of idle properties and assets, and reduce future pension obligations by investigating alternative retirement plans for new hires.

City Council At-Large Post 1

Michael Julian Bond

The revenue structure for the city should be restructured and expanded by attracting more diverse streams of income. In today’s global economy, cities must create diverse tax bases to achieve stability and growth.

We must hire more police and make benefits more competitive. Atlanta can achieve this by utilizing the Public Safety Improvement Fund, a law I introduced and passed. This legislation authorizes the collection of revenues to be deposited in an off-budget account for the purpose of capital expenditures of the public safety departments. This fund would allow the city’s current public safety budget, which is nearly 50 percent of our total annual budget to be available for more competitive salaries and pensions.

Dwanda Farmer

As a new member of council, I will do several things to ensure the city is financially sound and sustainable: 1) I will seek to move the city to zero-based budgeting and multi-year forecasting, and set priorities for future spending while immediately making appropriate cuts to eliminate wasteful spending everywhere possible. 2) I will seek to ensure city staff has the competencies to deliver city services efficiently and I will seek to remove duplication of staff and consultant support wherever possible to “right size” government. 3) I will seek a process audit and help direct a process improvement/re-engineering strategy to redeploy public safety resources to their best and highest use; insure the city collects/pays all outstanding taxes, fees and other payments due without fail while providing services equitably throughout the city.

City Council At-Large Post 2

Amir Farokhi

To ensure that our city is financially sound and can provide increased public safety and better city services I will: 1) request an audit of every department to identify and eliminate inefficiencies; 2) demand that the city collect monies due to it (e.g., outstanding water bills, parking tickets, business license fees) and sell the city jail; 3) call for stronger performance standards and accountability in each department; and 4) work to reduce pension obligations. With the monies freed up from taking these steps, we can increase police visibility, properly equip and staff our fire department, and institute a 311 call center to improve customer service and 911 response times. By focusing on efficiency, we can dedicate the necessary resources to keep Atlanta safe while fostering an attractive environment for new businesses, tourists, and homeowners.

Weslee Knapp

Upon receiving the transition report from each department head, I will review the reports to ascertain what the council and new mayor can accomplish with the existing budget.

City departments must cover next year’s increased costs without additional funding. To reduce overhead and concentrate scarce resources, I propose to consolidate several smaller departments. The city’s vehicle fleet must be reviewed. City contracts should be examined. Employee cell phones cost can be reduced using a stipend of a set amount determined by past usage. A series of responsible public-private partnerships and advertising opportunities could generate hundreds of millions in revenue.

Improve our delivery of services by becoming technologically efficient. (Example: procurement division implementing RFPs with fee attached paid online. Expand police reserve foundation to incorporate retired police officers to volunteer 10-20 hours a month to retain their peace-officer status.

Aaron Watson

Atlanta’s ability to provide core services effectively will depend on controlling taxes, while developing accurate, transparent and responsible budgets. With training as a CPA and a record of successful financial reform with the Atlanta Public School System, I will bring valuable insight to this challenge.

The city should identify redundant assets and combine or eliminate redundant services. For example, selling the city jail to the county would free up millions in operating expenses. Better collaborating with the school system over assets like recreation centers could provide more comprehensive services to young people and seniors and save money.

The city must reform its pension programs. We spend 20 percent of the operating budget funding the City’s three major pension programs. I have successfully helped negotiate pension reform before as President of the school board.

City Council At-Large Post 3

H. Lamar Willis

Begin with zero-base budgeting for all departments. This will force departments to substantiate the need for funds requested, and it allows policy-makers to ensure that citizen needs are being addressed. Commit to fully funding things that are directly called for in the charter, specifically, public safety. This should be the case when taxes are increased under the guise to do the same. Where financial feasible, privatization should be considered. For example, I introduced legislation to sell or lease the city’s jail to either Fulton County or some other entity. The closing of the city jail would save the city $38 million per year.

The financial stability of the City of Atlanta is intimately intertwined with the recovery of the U.S. economy. This is the case because of the city’s heavy dependency on sales-tax revenue. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the city’s revenue is generated through sales taxes, license fees and permits; all of which follow the economy (the city’s revenue has decreased by more than $100 million per year during the current economic crisis). Therefore, to address the financial issues of the city, we must look at a two stage approach, one long term and the other short term.

Shelitha Robertson, Rick Coleman, Adam Brackman, and Christopher Vaughn failed to respond to the emailed question.

President of City Council

Question: As President of City Council, what actions would you seek to ensure the city is financially sound and sustainable in order to provide increased public safety and city services for taxpayers?

Ceasar Mitchell

The current fiscal crisis has also forced us to revisit our budgeting priorities, address head-on our looming pension crisis and make necessary reforms. Trying times require innovation and leadership. As City Council President, I will take the following six steps to ensure the city is financially sound and sustainable in order to provide increased public safety and city services for taxpayers:

1. Institute zero-based budgeting and annual budget growth caps.

2. Commission a revenue optimization study to identify non-property tax sources of revenue for city operations.

3. Explore privatization and managed competition of key city services.

4. Aggressively pursue joint purchasing agreements with Fulton County, Atlanta Public Schools and regional municipalities.

5. Reorganize the City Council president’s staff to include fulltime budget staff.

6. Increase accessibility to and citizen input in the budgeting process.

Clair Muller

The fiscal 2010 budget anticipates an increase of 220 police from the furlough staffing level, including 50 officers funded by the COPS program. While there is risk in the city’s 5-year projections, it appears that Atlanta can maintain that level of service over 5 years and build reserves without additional tax increases.

I believe, however, that we must improve the effectiveness of safety services with better strategies in deployment, increasing citizen support (e.g. Neighborhood Watch) and outsourcing certain tasks.

That same logic applies to other city services. We will look to add other revenue sources, but the best opportunity to increase services lies in cost savings from eliminating waste and utilizing outsourcing, where it is economic.

The Council President needs to take a long view of Atlanta’s economic recovery and to support the improvement of city services in a manner that will neither push us back into financial turmoil nor lead to serial tax increases.