Liliana Bakhtairi

Candidate for Atlanta City Council District 5

Website: www.lilianaforatlanta.com

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What immediate actions can city council take to aid in curbing the violent crime occurring in Atlanta?

Step one, we must meet our staffing minimums. As our next City Councilmember I will make sure we hit our staffing targets across the board, including our firefighters, officers, and 911 operators. But simply having more personnel will not solve our crime problem. We need to invest in police alternatives. As our next councilmember, I will work with organizations like PAD and other partners to expand and diversify our public safety operations into a fully formed Public Safety Department, including a 24/7 mental health and poverty response team with specialized training. By diverting non-violent individuals out of the criminal justice system, and allocating armed responders primarily to incidences of violence, we can unburden our police force and also help our neighbors feel safer.

Will you make affordable housing a priority of your term on the council, and what actions need to be taking to insure meeting the goal of 20,000 affordable homes by 2026?

Affordable housing is one of my top priorities as our next councilmember. Local organizations like Neighbors for More Neighbors, as well as our City Planning Department, have done a great job identifying how many units need to be built in each of our growing neighborhoods citywide. As our next councilmember I will work with our neighbors to identify where to build density, what type of density to zone for, and how to implement it in a timely fashion for each neighborhood. I will support building more density along transit corridors and will advocate for increasing diverse housing options to provide for our missing middle housing.

Will transit on the Atlanta BeltLine corridor be a top priority and how will you work to fast-track it?

We need to hold MARTA accountable to Beltline rail promises. I am proud to say I was endorsed by Ryan Gravel, and I speak with him regularly about policy we can push at the City to make sure we push the full vision of the Beltline forward. As our next councilmember, I will make sure these plans are shovel-ready so that we can more easily secure federal infrastructure dollars. Time is money, so we must identify more revenue streams, and distribute current funding streams more efficiently. As our next councilmember, I will ensure that we apply for more grants and bring philanthropic partners to the table so that we can push our timeline up to completion by 2035.

What can the council do prioritize combatting climate change? 

Our two biggest challenges in the climate resilience fight are going to be flooding and the urban heat island effect. One thing I will advocate for is creating conservation zones to preserve forest land and greenspace, especially mature tree canopy. Preserving these key parcels will help to not only retain stormwater, but also to combat the urban heat island effect. We also have to invest in green infrastructure, like bioswales and rain gardens, to increase permeable surfaces that can better handle heavy rainfall. But there are also less obvious areas to prioritize, which is why I would start with vulnerability assessments, so that we have an accurate understanding of which environmental and human resources we need to prioritize and data to back it up. And finally, in order to sustain as a city, we will need more sustainable housing and reinforced infrastructure that can carry the burden of our increased population as well as our own climate challenges.

What are three issues specifically affecting your district that you plan to address while on council?

Three issues I will focus on specifically as our next councilmember for District 5 are pushing the DeKalb Avenue street updates forward with no further delays, creating new support mechanisms for our many diverse small businesses and streamlining their permitting processes, and proactive measures to counteract flooding including new green infrastructure and retrofitting our plumbing system.

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.