Sharon Gay

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?

All Atlantans should feel safe in their homes, at work, and in their neighborhoods. The rise in violence we have experienced in the past year is unacceptable, and reducing crime will be my highest priority as mayor.  We need to rebuild trust between the community and law enforcement and make sure that those who commit crimes no longer pose a threat to our citizens. By working together, we can ensure that Atlanta is a safe and welcoming city for all.

I have a four-point plan for improving public safety conditions in the city. Despite the spike in crime we are currently seeing, the city has experienced a significant reduction in crime overall over the last thirty years. Our goal should be to address the current spike in crime while at the same time implementing policies that will return us to the path of long-term crime reduction.

  1. Ensure that public safety resources are prepared and deployed in a way that addresses the immediate drivers of crime

Strengthen our police recruitment strategies to ensure that we are hiring qualified, diverse and committed officers. Improve our retention efforts by demonstrating to our officers that they are supported and can thrive as a City of Atlanta police officers.  Ensure that the Police Department is fully supported, properly staffed and highly trained. Focus our policing resources on crime and not on issues for which health and social work professionals are better equipped to deal.

  1. Work with our neighborhoods to identify specific public safety issues and address them with interventions specifically tailored to their needs.  

Expand community policing efforts to build trust between the police and our neighborhoods.  Develop neighborhood-specific public safety improvement plans with tailored interventions and metrics for success. Make better use of “smarter policing” techniques where we go after the specific causes of specific types of incidents. Make better use of technology to monitor crime “hot spots”.  We know that we have clubs and restaurants that are either unlicensed or disobeying the terms of their licenses. These establishments are magnets for crime and violence, much of which is committed by non-Atlantans. If they cannot eliminate the threat to public safety they pose, they need to be shut down. 

  1. Ensure that when we arrest people for serious crimes that they stay off the streets.

Work with the county to ensure that their courts and detention operations are aligned with the needs of the city. Reduce recidivism by working with our partners on diversionary and reintegration programs that permanently shift offenders from the criminal justice system.

  1. Address the fundamental conditions in our most distressed neighborhoods to develop specific anti-crime strategies that both address the immediate causes of crime in their neighborhoods but also ensures that the children growing up in these neighborhoods are on a path to happy, healthy and prosperous lives.

Criminals are not born; they are created as a consequence of distressed conditions we find in too many of our neighborhoods. We need to transform those conditions so that every child in our city grows up in a healthy, thriving place.

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?

Affordable housing has been a priority of mine for over 15 years.  I have served in advocacy roles – e.g., Board Chair of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and co-chair of the ULI Affordable Housing Task Force, which produced a comprehensive report that provided the framework for House ATL.   I have worked with governments, for profit and nonprofit developers, and housing authorities to use zoning changes and economic incentives to develop thousands of units of affordable housing.  While funding is important, money is a tool, not a strategy.   The Mayor’s office must play an active role in coordinating with our affordable housing partners to identify needs and goals, maximize targeted use of economic incentives, preserve existing affordable units wherever possible, activate vacant land on corridors, and remove roadblocks to affordable housing development such as poor management of grants and permitting.  The 400 acres controlled by Atlanta Housing must be used to produce deeply affordable housing.  We also need an economic development plan to help increase incomes and thoughtful, place-based public infrastructure investments in our neighborhoods.

Will transit on the Atlanta BeltLine corridor be a top priority and what will your administration do to fast-track it?

I support mobility. We need a transportation system that employs multiple modes, including transit, bike lanes, and sidewalks, to reduce vehicle dependency and give our residents better access to jobs, housing, and services.  I spent a decade advocating for passenger and commuter rail and chaired an interagency task force intended to speed up the process.  We were not successful – partly because the political winds shifted –  but I learned from that experience the importance of building a successful business case to demonstrate how construction and operating costs would be funded and how the proposed improvements enhance the entire transportation system.  That is what I would work with MARTA to figure out. With passage of new sales taxes for transit and the prospect of additional federal funds, now is the time to move deliberately and swiftly to maximize the benefit to our transportation network.  The More MARTA program includes various segments of BeltLine transit.  My administration would be an active, engaged partner with MARTA and seek to improve coordination and project delivery so that we can implement change more quickly.   

Will your administration recommit to combatting climate change and what are some steps you will take to get businesses and residents onboard?

Our American way of life is now threatened more than ever by the consequences of climate change:  endless fires, hurricanes, tornados, rising sea levels, dropping reservoir and aquifer levels, increased heat related health effects, loss of habitat, crop failure, long-cycle droughts, and greater risk than ever to our food production systems.  Moving forward will take a massive level of cooperation at all levels of government, business, NGOs, neighborhood organizations and individuals pulling together to turn this growing crisis around. 

To do our part as a major US City and contributor to global climate change, it will be the policy of my administration to:

  • Support the Paris Climate and future international climate action protocols at the national and international level.
  • Support the Biden Administration’s April 2021 goal setting for a 50-52% reduction from 2005 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions).
  • Convene experts on the subject of climate change and its potential remedies.
  • Promote “Solarize Atlanta” programs that make solar energy more affordable to low-income families and support solar-ready home and business construction. 
  • Ensure proper training of City Building Code and Plan review staff so that new buildings meet the minimum 2020 Georgia Energy Code required by state law while seeking to promote incentives for builders and commercial developers to adopt more stringent measures. 
  • Support rapid adoption of carbon neutrality by 2030 in city government operations.
  • Support rapid and ongoing conversion of surplus right-of-way into buffered bike and scooter lanes in adherence with the Vision Zero plan adopted by ADOT.
  • Adopt new policies that ensure that every part of the city has safe pedestrian access to all schools, parks, neighborhood retail areas and support the City of Atlanta taking back responsibility to maintain all sidewalks in our right of ways.
  • Convene our business leaders and regional governments in mutually beneficial discussions that result in rapid adoption of new perspectives and policies that favor transit and reduce driving in our City.

How will your administration address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

We need to be prepared for the fact that this pandemic is not going away anytime soon. I will follow the guidance of our public health professionals regarding appropriate health and safety measures and actively use the platform of the Mayor to model and encourage recommended precautions. I will support efforts to seek continued Federal and State to address on-going COVID-related impacts on education, housing, and food access. I will re-open City Hall in a safe but accessibleI will re-open City Hall and a safe but accessible manner as other local governments have done. Our citizens have been closed off from their government for too long.  I will also be focused on improving the resiliency of our most vulnerable neighborhoods, which this pandemic has once again illustrated are uniquely vulnerable to these types of disruptions.

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.