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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Atlanta City Council Member, Post 2 At Large

The councilmember proposes bills, holds votes, and passes laws to help govern the city.
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    Cory Ruth Partner, Management Consulting

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    Matt Westmoreland Program Director, Horizons Atlanta

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    Bret R. Williams Lawyer

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Biographical Information

What experience do you bring to the job to set policy for your city and what is your motivation to serve?

What, in your opinion, is the biggest budget issue facing your city and how, if elected would you propose to address it?

How should your city address the issues of lobbyist gifts, ethical behavior, and transparency in government?

Legal Permanent Residents and naturalized citizens contribute over a billion dollars in state and local taxes each year. How will you help ensure your city is a welcoming place for foreign born entrepreneurs and their families?

Cities across the country are embracing aggressive goals to reduce carbon pollution. What do you believe your municipality should do to support cleaner air?

Campaign Phone (404) 563-6249
I have over two decades of professional experience leading critical multi-million dollar projects for large global firms. I have international management and budget experience in Europe, North America and the Middle East. I am the former director of programs in Governor Nathan Deal’s Office of Workforce Development. My motivation is service. I ran a homeless shelter when I was 19 years old, worked with former Atlanta Hawk, Rev. John Battle and Grammy award winning singer Regina Belle to run a food drive that provided a hot meal to 2000 people a week; worked with Rev. Gerald Durley in Southwest Atlanta for many years feeding the hungry (provided 100 families a week with a week supply of food), AIDS testing, addressing homeless depression; hosting community forums, etc. and currently working extensively in the Adamsville community with the Oasis Church. My motivation is to serve my city.

Atlanta has an unsustainable revenue model induced by a population size less than 25% of the overall population of the metropolitan. We are a city the size of Memphis supporting a metro area the size of Chicago. This puts tremendous pressure on infrastructure, natural resources, budget and city services. The revenue challenge exasperates the more traditional issues that face all large cities such as crime, transportation and housing. To address the City’s revenue sustainability problem, Atlanta must aggressively pursue federal funding opportunities, increasing the share of our budget that comes from the state (the avg large city receives 15% of its budget from its state, Atlanta receives 3%) and finally, address a high rate of poverty that exceeds 20% among city residents - only by transitioning a significant % of residents from poverty to gainful employment (Pre-K, Workforce Dev.) and home ownership (Affordable Housing) will we solve for this sustainability challenge.
Our city has a lot of ground to make up to overcome the image of scandal and corruption. Transparency and governance are the key to ethical government. I support ethics training for elected officials and government employees. I support a current state assessment of the city to identify areas of improvement. And I support disclosing all expenditures and visits from lobbyist.
Atlanta is the city that is too busy to hate! We are uniquely positioned to welcome foreign born entrepreneurs and their families. By leveraging our international airport, concentration of colleges, universities and fortune 500 companies; and by support all faith communities we will ensure that our city is a welcoming place.
The largest contributor to carbon pollution in any city are automobiles. Having cleaner automobiles on the road and less automobiles overall will generate the largest reduction in carbon emissions. This is why I support the rapid expansion of light rail, the completion of the Beltline and pedestrian based development over commuter based development.
Campaign Phone (404) 408-0980
I am the District 3 Representative on the Atlanta Board of Education, where I’ve served as Chair of our Budget Commission and Legislative Liaison to the Georgia General Assembly. As Budget Chair, I've worked incredibly closely with the superintendent and her finance team to help craft budgets for our enterprise that total roughly $1 billion a year. In that position, I have worked to cut waste, raise teacher pay, allocate dollars based on student need and push a higher percentage of the budget into the classroom-- all without raising property taxes. As Legislative Liaison, I've been responsible for building relationships and working with both Democrats and Republicans under the Gold Dome.

In my role as Board Member, I've also participated in a rewrite of the school system's strategic plan, in the selection of a new operating model that emphasized discretion, flexibility, and autonomy, and in the creation of a Turnaround Strategy for our chronically struggling schools.

These efforts are seeing results: The graduation rate has increased 19 percentage-points since I took office, SAT/ACT scores have improved every year, and we have expanded Early Childhood Education offerings and workforce development initiatives within the system.

I'm motivated to run for the open Post 2 At-Large seat on City Council to because I want to help build a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse Atlanta for all who call this incredible city home.
Above all, I believe it is important for the city to maintain the strong financial foundation that the current administration and council have developed over the last four years. And while It's hard to pick a single issue, I believe these four are critical:

1. This city must fund fully-staffed, competitively paid, appropriately resourced, well-trained, and community-focused police and fire departments. I believe we can do this with existing resources allocated to these departments and additional dollars through savings in other areas of the general fund budget.

2. The city must work to ensure the dollars from the 2015 Renew Atlanta bonds, the 2016 T-SPLOST, and the 2016 MARTA Referendum are being spent effectively and efficiently.

3. The city must build a $250 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund by 2021-- most likely through a bond sale.

4. Atlanta must make a commitment to expanding access to quality Early Childhood Education offerings from Birth to PreK. This undertaking would be a serious financial commitment-- and it is a conversation the City must have with the school system, state officials, and representatives from the region's philanthropic, business, and non-profit communities.
I would be open to banning all gifts and campaign contributions from those doing business or attempting to do business with city government. I think elected (and appointed) officials have a responsibility to hold themselves (and each other) to the highest ethical standards.

I also believe government has a responsible to be transparent about the decisions it’s making and the way it’s spending taxpayer dollars. During my tenure on the Board of Education, we’ve taken several steps to improve transparency within Atlanta Public Schools. We have a third-party firm conduct an independent audit of the school system each year. We created the position of the Ombudsman to serve as an independent voice in resolving disputes. We created three advisory committees composed of parents and stakeholders from each cluster across the school system. And we always post all documents for our meetings online, and always discuss major issues a full month before taking action on them to provide ample time to gather community input.

Our General Fund Budget is also published online in incredible detail-- significantly more than the current City budget. I believe residents of this city deserve to know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent, and will work to develop a way for them to see that moving forward.

These are just some of the ways the city can address these issues.
Many of us know what a vital role Legal Permanent Residents and naturalized citizens play in our communities, in our city, and in the state.

In January, my colleagues and I on the Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution reinforcing our commitment that Atlanta Public Schools would be a welcoming place for all of our students, families, staff, and stakeholders-- regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, legal status, disability, etc.

I am grateful that both Mayor Reed and the current City Council have made it abundantly clear through various public statements that they value the role immigrants play in the cultural and economic fabric of our City and want to ensure Atlanta remains a welcoming place for foreign-born entrepreneurs and their families. I look forward to continuing that outreach in the years ahead.
Transportation emissions are one of the largest causes of air pollution in Atlanta, contributing nearly a third of citywide emissions. To solve this issue, we need to improve public transit and limit emissions from vehicles. The City Council recently passed a 100% renewable electricity standard, but it doesn’t include transportation. I think we need to follow the lead of other cities from Portland to Paris and to strive for a 100% renewable goal for transportation by 2050.

This issue has implications beyond the environment. Transportation cost account for almost a third of the household budget for the average Atlanta family. We have to use the resources coming from the 2015 Renew Atlanta bonds, the 2016 T-SPLOST and the 2016 MARTA Referendum to expand transit access and connectivity, especially for low-income households who have limited accessibility.

The problem is also broader than just the City of Atlanta. We also need to encourage our neighbors in Cobb and Gwinnett to get more aggressive with improving and expanding public transit-- including a joint effort to advocate for state funding for public transit, as none currently exists.

Beyond transportation, the City needs to continue its efforts to curb carbon emissions through the important work of our Office of Sustainability.
Campaign Phone (678) 332-8556
I worked almost two decades fighting wholesale drug distribution as a former federal prosecutor in New York and Georgia, traveled across the country enforcing voting rights at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and protected the environment and farmworkers as an attorney in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These deep work experiences have prepared me to set policy for this city, especially in the areas of crime, equity, and the environment. Additionally, I served on the Board of Trustees for the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and helped reshape the direction of the oldest Black Presbyterian Seminary in the country. I have always been motivated by a desire to make the present better and prepare for the future. With a wife and two small children, this desire is even more pressing.
The biggest budget issue facing Atlanta is home affordability for its citizens. Without intervention, Atlanta risks becoming a “gold coast” comprised of rich ghettoes. Lot prices, availability, and the cost of building materials all contribute to drastic inventory shortages and rapidly rising costs and prices. Atlanta needs a mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance and a homestead exemption offset for any property tax increase.
First, Atlanta should pass an ordinance requiring lobbyists to register. Further, regarding this registration, gifts from lobbyists should be banned outright. Second, the sanctions contained within the Atlanta City Code of Ethics should be vigorously enforced. More violations should be subject to prosecution, as opposed to administrative sanction. Third, any information that can be shared should be shared, and any information that can be public should be public – period!
Atlanta aspires to be a premier, international city. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is our Statue of Liberty. It is the busiest airport in the country and a symbol that Atlanta is at the intersection of commerce and welcomes all. As discussed in my article “Acutely Color Conscious” at, we Atlantans can lead the way as a city into a better future for all who live here by focusing on the content of each person’s character. This applies whether you claim as your place of origin Buckhead, Bankhead, or one of the many countries connecting to the terminals of Hartsfield-Jackson.
As a former legal advisor in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I am deeply concerned about carbon pollution. Currently, we have too many cars carrying too few people. Moreover, neighborhoods and citizens throughout the city feel the impact of congestion daily, as heavy traffic often flows through residential streets not intended for such use and exhaust. Cleaner air begins with the expansion of public transportation. For example, the BeltLine should be completed as quickly as possible, with a path for motorized vehicles. This will knit the city together more closely, spur private development because of the infrastructure investment, and revitalize parts of the city suffering from lack of investment. Further, judicious use of the TSPLOST for automobile-based transportation projects that reward carpooling and shorten commutes will improve the ability of workers and others to travel around the metropolitan area more efficiently and with less pollution. Finally, the expansion of MARTA and building of new infill rail stations within the city (connected to BeltLine transportation options), along with new (alternatively fueled) buses, will aid in supplying additional options for Atlanta residents for less-polluting transportation. logo


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