As Chief of Staff to District 10 Councilmember C. T. Martin for nineteen years and as the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services for eight years, I have built strong and trusting relationships with residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and community-based organizations in District 10, as well as throughout the City. Working in both the executive and legislative branches of city government, I have a broad and thorough knowledge of all city policies, including budgetary, tax, and planning. As head of a citywide office, I drafted eight annual operating budgets, managed a staff of 15, and oversaw the delivery of human and social services in every part of the City. I have collaborated and problem-solved with residents, elected officials, business leaders, community activists and department heads on vexing issues that have had citywide impact. Getting things done quickly, correctly, and effectively are hallmarks of my work. And I care deeply about the betterment of District 10’s – and all of Atlanta’s – citizens. For me, this is about public service. It is not a job or a career. This is service to the community, pure and simple. It is about listening and hearing the concerns of homeowners, renters, small business owners, seniors, youth, parents, and others. Then using the skills and experience I have gained in my almost 30 years working for the City to make life better for District 10 residents.
The City’s financial position is strong. To maintain it the following issues must be on the Council’s priority list:
Asset Inventory - Continual updating of the listing and condition of all our capital assets so we can determine the best and most prudent way to maintain them or dispose of them in a way that benefits taxpayers.
Long-Range Planning for Pension and Other Post-Employment Benefit Costs - We need to continue to analyze and determine how to meet the future costs of employee pensions and other benefit obligations. It is vital to keep our promises to city employees and to manage tax dollars efficiently.
Budget Reserve - We need to maintain, if not increase, our reserves to protect against a need to reduce City services or increase revenues due to emergency expenses, such as weather-related events, or to pay for ongoing operational needs such as replacing outdated or aging equipment (e.g. garbage trucks, fire trucks, street sweepers, etc.).
Citizens must feel we are protecting their hard-earned tax dollars. There really is nothing more important than citizens feeling that they can trust their elected officials and the departments that manage city services. I support accountability measures to ensure the spending of city funds is legal and ethical. I will support policies and legislation that does this. I also support increasing the budget of the independent auditor to allow for more audits of city departments and processes, including City Council. I also support a strong and independent Ethics Board.
By creating the Office of Immigrant Affairs and launching the Welcoming Atlanta initiative, Mayor Reed has established Atlanta as a place that successfully integrates legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens, immigrants, and refugees into the daily fabric of our City. As a member of Council, I will support the Office of Immigrant Affairs and champion its efforts. This includes programs promoting naturalization for those who are eligible, which is a powerful way that Atlanta can harness the full economic contribution of immigrants and promote local economic development.
Under Mayor Reed's leadership and with strong Council support, the City has put environmental stewardship at the forefront of its policy initiatives. This includes establishing the Office of Resilience and sustainability initiatives such as the Better Buildings Challenge, which has seen significant reductions in water and energy usage and carbon emissions among commercial and residential multi-tenant buildings. As a City Councilmember, I will support policies that promote recycling, composting, urban gardens, water conservation, and increased parks and greenspace, among others.
My experience includes a 30-year career with The Home Depot Inc. as well as extensive public- private partnerships with community based and non-profit programs. My wife and I also operate a small real estate company focused on multi-family properties. While at The Home Depot I hired and provided career development for hundreds of residents of my community. As the founder of The Launch Pad Foundation, our team provides transitional housing, educational assistance, job and life skills training for homeless individuals. I’m a member of the MLK Jr Drive Merchants Association, which provides business development assistance for businesses on the corridor. This blend of experience helps me identify potential partnerships that can produce results in key areas of need for our city. My motivation to serve comes from a desire to see progress in my community and in the City of Atlanta as a whole. There is a need for true public servanthood, transparency and high ethical standards. These are values I learned to embrace long ago and they have served me well in my private and professional life.
One of the most critical budgetary issues deals with the water supply and sewer system. Water rates are extremely high, the system is aged and under a consent decree for upgrades. The current revenue for the watershed department is approximately $600 million per year with $180 million coming from the Municipal Option Sales Tax. There are two years left on the tax and if it isn’t extended there would be dramatic budgetary shortfall or an excessive increase in water rates. Addressing this issue will require developing ways to harness storm water more effectively in conjunction with raising revenue from growth based projects that come online. New large and small-scale projects should be required to contribute via an assessment to improving the water and sewer systems.
City Hall is currently under a federal investigation for corruption in its procurement department. This is not the first scandal but a reoccurring situation that to points to the existence of a cultural problem. When corruption investigations happen and end with guilty verdicts, ethics and transparency need to be addressed at the basic level. In my opinion City Hall cannot be trusted to police itself in this area. I believe an independent agency should be utilized to scrutinize the vendor selection and contract awards processes. Vendor/Lobbyist gifts or perks should not be allowed. It is an imperative that the public trust in City leadership be restored. In addition, I support all contracts awarded be made available online for citizens to review.
I support naturalized citizens and those with legal permanent resident status being embraced by local and state government. I grew up in the central valley region of California and worked the agricultural fields with many of these hard-working people. They go to great lengths to obtain permanent resident status and even more to become naturalized citizens. Local and state governments must do a better job communicating with these groups in our communities to let them know that they have our support. They have taken the required steps to obtain legal status, so we should be acknowledging their contributions to our economies and making it clear that they are significant and welcomed in our communities. Some of the students in my literacy program have English as their second language. Trying to get their parents to assist them with reading at home is difficult when the parents don’t speak English. I will support partnering with the Atlanta School Board to provide English language classes at City recreation centers for parents of school aged children. Removing the language barrier from the household will open opportunities for these families
Reducing carbon emissions is important for every city. Atlanta has taken steps in the right direction by creating electric vehicle charging stations and developing a cycling program. Again, growing up in California exposed me to the concepts of cycling, bike lanes and walkability of city streets long ago. Continuing the development and equity of the transit system will provide the most impactful reduction of carbon emissions and must be our priority. We cannot afford to waste time and transit money on projects like the Street Car system when we need equitable transit development across the city. Equity is key because the current level of communication and transparency around MARTA’s plans for development are not equal. Expansion into the Emory University area is handled very differently than the plans for the South and West corridors. We must work together to bring sustainable transit solutions to the table for our entire city.
When I look into the eyes of hungry children who are living in poverty in the City of Atlanta, I throw off my hat as educator and become that of a public servant. Almost 80% of the children in Atlanta Public Schools are living in poverty. There are over 3,000 children homeless, and 8 -10 thousand homeless men and women in our city. As Board Chair of a non-profit organization that provides permanent housing for single men, single women, veterans, and those that are disabled; I know that if elected I can impact change. I would initiate policy that would create more affordable housing for low-income families and redevelop blighted and damaged homes to provide permanent housing for the homeless.
The biggest budget issue facing the City of Atlanta is Affordable Housing. Although there is proposed legislation for a $25 million Housing Opportunity Bond, it will hardly enough to support both the homeless population and the numerous families in dire need of supportive housing. I would propose a much larger budget, ensuring that Atlanta citizens have access to high-quality and affordable workforce housing across our City which will be a priority, when elected.
The City must restore integrity, eliminate conflicts of interest, and rebuild trust with its citizens and businesses. City leaders should consider commissioning an internal audit of procurement procedures by an independent firm and implementing new ethics and procedure training for City employees who handle sensitive financial matters. An external oversight committee of procurement practices would be appropriate and build public trust.
Atlanta has earned a strong reputation as a welcoming city to all, which must be protected. As an elected official, I will ensure that policies would not harm the business climate of foreign born entrepreneurs and their families by building a network of collaboration and active community involvement to maintain civil protection.
City leaders must continue to promote policies that reduce consumption and increase efficiency. The Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge and the Atlanta Commercial Energy Efficiency Ordinance have proven to be effective strategies. We must continue our sustainable growth through “green infrastructure” wherever possible in public and private development in our effort to support cleaner air.