Mark Hammad

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.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.