Candidate for Atlanta mayor
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What immediate actions will you take as mayor to curb the violent crime occurring in the City of Atlanta?
I will focus policy solutions on the problem and not simply a feel-good response. Much of the discussion and blame has been misplaced and misdirected (largely by our elected officials). The knee-jerk reaction to date has been to blame the police. THE APD ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR ANY OF THE SPIKE IN CRIME! While the APD is understaffed and overworked, simply adding police alone won’t alleviate the increase in crime.
The solution to stemming violence in Atlanta is to actually have criminals serve jail time. Violent criminals need to be in jail – not endangering our communities on the streets.
Specific solutions that I plan to implement to reduce crime:
• Re-open the Atlanta city jail. Fulton county has repeatedly cited overcrowding and COVID as the reason for releasing violent and dangerous criminals into our community. Let’s take this excuse away.
• End the use of signature bonds / joke bond for violent and repeat offenders. Releasing these criminals puts everyone in harms way.
• Provide more support for the Fulton County DA. We have a new DA, Fani Willis, and she does deserve support from the city. She recently asked for additional funding to help reduce the case backlog in her office. The city of Atlanta should provide all the support she asks for, and more.
• Provide better transparency with judicial records and decisions. There is clearly a lack of consistency when it comes to sentencing.
• Identify and close venues that are magnets for criminals and crime. A disproportionate number of business (typically bars and nightclubs) account for the majority of 911 calls and crime. The City should work with the business owners to implement solutions to reduce crime. Businesses that fail to work with the City or fail to reduce crime should be closed.
Will you make affordable housing a priority of your administration and continue the commitment made by Mayor Bottoms to invest $1 billion in the effort by 2026?
Atlanta, like many cities in the country, has not been building enough new housing to meet the demand for housing overall. This is especially acute in Atlanta, which has been growing and is getting new residents week after week. Housing in Atlanta is getting more expensive due to simple supply and demand – demand for housing is outstripping the supply available and is driving prices higher (both rent and housing prices).
As mayor, the biggest impact we can have to stimulate housing development is by focusing on policy and regulations that exist. I will work with developers to find out what makes Atlanta a great place to build and what improvements we can implement to make it more attractive to build. We can make Atlanta the most attractive place in the metro area for developers to build. My focus will be on current existing and established commercial corridors and proximity to MARTA stations. We have available land (vacant and underutilized) land in these corridors and we need to prioritize getting this land developed.
Increased development will help stabilize housing prices and reduce pressure on gentrification and displacement in neighborhoods. Further, both developers and individuals will have more housing options available.
Will transit on the Atlanta BeltLine corridor be a top priority and what will your administration do to fast-track it?
I have worked as a transportation consultant and I am very familiar with the sector. In addition, I am a very ardent supporter of public transit. Atlanta (the metro area) is in desperate need of a public transit expansion, which hasn’t been done in more than 20 years. However, the Beltline rail is not what we need, especially at this time. The Metro area and MARTA need to be focused on delivering heavy rail to the northern suburbs. The Beltline rail group only serves as a distraction to doing this and soaks up resources that could otherwise be advancing our more pressing transit needs. Further, the group serves as the posterchild for anti-transit groups and initiatives, who are easily able to paint the transit priorities as misguided and as pet projects for certain neighborhoods. Streetcar on the Beltline is very costly and won’t reduce traffic on other corridors.
That being said, there is streetcar development in the More MARTA program and I will honor what was planned and sold as part of the More MARTA. I will deliver the projects in the More MARTA program as these projects pre-date my tenure as Mayor and the revenue and funding stream is in place and dedicated to the program.
Will your administration recommit to combatting climate change and what are some steps you will take to get businesses and residents onboard?
Sustainability is key to continue to make Atlanta an attractive destination for residents and businesses alike. There’s no reason that Atlanta can’t serve as a model for a “green city”. With this, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we can look at successful initiatives in other cities and implement these programs and policies here.
Further, given the large amount operations under the umbrella of City Hall, we can implement sustainability measures in house. An example is seeking to upgrade (over time) the cities vehicle fleet to a more green and efficient fleet. The city can also advance sustainability at the airport, through its oversight of this asset.
However, we need to recognize that one of the hurdles related to sustainability is that the metro area and much of the city is still very car dependent. Without multiple transportation options for residents and workers, this impacts how aggressive we can be with sustainability. My vision for the regions public transit future has been discussed in other answers. Expanding regionwide public transit is one of the best ways we can significantly improve the sustainability of the city.
Lastly, sustainability needs to be a long-term goal and continuing effort in the city. Over the coming decades, Atlanta is poised to become a destination for climate change refugees from other cities. We need to prepare now for this future.
How will your administration address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
I will focus on two key elements related to COVID-19. First, on the health side, we have to keep our citizens safe, healthy, and alive. While the metro area has a higher vaccination rate than the rest of the state, we need to continue to find, identify, and encourage the unvaccinated to get the vaccine. We need to be vocal about encouraging vaccinations and continue to do so until we reach an acceptable overall vaccination rate.
Second, we need to follow the guidance of experts, not politicians. This applies to gatherings, venue/business capacities, and masks. I don’t pretend to be an expert and I certainly like being healthy and alive. I want as many of my fellow citizens in the city to be alive, healthy, and ready to go back to work and/or school when all of this is over. The easiest way to do this is to remove the political posturing and follow the guidance of experts. I plan to do my part as Mayor and not get dragged into the political posturing related to COVID. I will leave the health advice in the hands of the experts.