As City Council President my top two priorities are affordable housing and transportation.
Affordable Housing - As Council President, I will work with the mayor to hold entities like the Beltline to their initial promises, with currently underway and future developments to increase both the number and length of affordable units at various levels of Average Median Income and, for current homeowners, I support tax exemptions such as a senior tax exemption to help ease the burden of increased assessments. Last, I believe the city should explore expanding items like the Land Bank and Community Land Trusts so that the public owns the land rather than private developers. The will allow the city to keep prices affordable.
Transportation – As City Council President, I will appoint Transportation Committee chairs who will work to ensure the additional taxes voters approved last year (TSPLOST-.4% and MARTA-.5%) are used as promised and enhance east-west connectivity.
The City Council President only votes in the case of a tie. With 15 members of Council, this is a rare occurrence. Therefore, for the President to be effective, they must be consensus builders both with the council and, given our form of government, with the mayor’s office. To improve the day-to-day operation of Council my approach will be:
1. Work with the mayor and the Council to develop a Unified Vision for Atlanta. If the Mayor’s Office and the Council state on the same page, it will create a spirit of good faith that will carry the government through tough times and will ensure that every part of the city receives what it needs
2. Appoint committee chairs who are committed to fulfilling the vision outlined in the document
3. Be an advocate for individual Council Districts with the Mayor’s Office and the State on key issues for the Districts
As City Council President, rebuilding trust with the public, our business community, and current/future contractors will be a top priority for me when elected to office. Specifically I would advocate for implementing regular, no less than annual, criminal AND financial background checks on those in positions to influence the process to identify those who are most vulnerable to being compromised. I will also advocate for transparency with communications between applicants and the relevant City personnel.
The biggest budget issue facing our city is sustaining the city’s current financial standing. I believe the City needs even more flexibility from the County and State to make decisions on taxation, especially property tax assessments.
I have served the City of Atlanta for over 20 years and am known as the Dean of the Council. I earned this respect from my colleagues due to my longevity and ability, even as district councilmember, to impact legislation. I have extensive leadership training through the Outward Bound Executive Leadership Program as well as leadership training at various universities. With the new mayor and numerous new council members, I offer a steady hand and experience necessary to build consensus and keep the city moving forward.
As our next City Council President, I have two main priorities: build on Atlanta's success and extend our economic and job growth, while also addressing the major issues that we are currently missing the mark on.
As a known reformer and someone who created Mattie's Call, a police alert system to help us find lost seniors, I'm excited to introduce more innovative and cost saving ideas to make every Atlanta neighborhood safer. I’d fight for smaller police zones and to move more officers into our neighborhoods, improving community relationships and decreasing response times. I’m proud to be endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, PACE and neighborhood leaders as the most qualified candidate in the race.
We also need to increase our number of affordable housing units and expand public transit options so more families can get where they need to go. I would adjust our AMI, open up our land bank, and demand more of our developers to help put housing back within reach of more middle class families in Atlanta. To fight gentrification, I’m proud to have voted to roll back Atlanta’s mileage rate 7 of the last 7 years. I’ll keep fighting to protect ALL Atlanta families.
As our next City Council President I plan to do a major reshuffling of priorities. We will prioritize neighborhood participation on legislation, working harder to make every neighborhood safer until every Atlantan feels safe in their home, and we will do more to fight against gentrification. I will work hard to make sure the millions of dollars already voted on by Atlanta families gets to the areas it’s most needed to expand out public transit. I will work with our Councilmembers and our neighborhoods to dramatically increase the number of affordable housing units, and I will do all of this while bringing some much needed transparency and accountability to the process.
This is something I'm already doing. I passed the biggest piece of ethics legislation during Shirley Franklin's administration, mandating City Council members and staff take ethics training. I passed the only transparency legislation during the Reed administration, moving us closer to full financial and legislative transparency online. I'm the only City Council President candidate to print the rules regarding the placement of yard signs on the yard signs themselves to discourage the annoying, illegal sign wars that happen every election year, and I'm the only candidate endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the Professional Association of City Employees as the candidate most likely to end the corruption at City Hall.
We are very lucky that our most expensive projects have been funded by Atlanta voters, and now the hard work of expanding public transit and repairing and modernizing our infrastructure begins. There will be legislative battles over how best to use the allocated funds - but the more interesting challenge will be tackling the huge need fore a dramatic increase in affordable housing units - now - and doing so without already allocated revenue streams.
I've been a well-know reformer and common-sense, independent voice on Council for 19 years. I've worked ferociously to protect and defend the families and small business owners of NW Atlanta and have made our neighborhoods safer, paid for and helped install crime watch cameras, authored and passed Mattie's Call, a police alert system that helps find lost seniors, and fought gentrification by rolling back Atlanta property taxes 7 of the last 7 years. But there is still more to be done. As our next City Council person I will use my extensive knowledge of the legislative process, committee realities and burdensome budget guidelines to continue to tackle public safety and increase affordable housing units and expand public transit.
While we are making investments with funds from the Renew Atlanta bond and the TSPLOST, over half billion dollars in backlogged infrastructure needs remain. We also see signs of our aging water infrastructure through water line leaks, main breaks, and sinkholes. Left unaddressed, these will hamper our ability to attract, grow, and retain businesses, residents and visitors. In my two terms on council, I have applied tough fiscal oversight to free up as many dollars as we can for these needs. As Council President, I will work with colleagues to closely manage these voter-approved dollars so they are deployed efficiently and with full transparency and accountability. I will also work to maximize annual budget dollars for maintenance and repair of these assets so we don’t fall further behind.
We must continue working on solutions to our traffic as our population and those that work in and visit Atlanta grow. Failure to alleviate congestion or expand options to get around will limit our growth. Atlanta’s updated transportation plan, due this year, will provide much guidance on where to focus. To promote transit and public transportation options, I will lead my colleagues in active engagement in the MARTA expansion plans funded by November’s referendum. I will staunchly advocate further building out bike facilities, trails, and paths across the city. By leveraging Council’s appointment to the Atlanta Regional Commission, I will engage our regional partners on this topic.
This is where my Georgia Tech industrial engineering will be useful.
One of my top priorities as Council President will be ensuring we come better prepared and more fully informed to our meetings. By working alongside committee chairs to identify and anticipate legislation, transactions, and issues, we can request information well in advance of deliberation and arrange, as needed, work sessions or retreats to bring in outside experts and stakeholders to share their thoughts. I will also explore restructuring meetings, beginning with simply starting on time, or conducting ceremonial activities (proclamations) separately. Finally, I will mentor the new council members to get them up to speed on procedural, financial, and other operational matters to minimize any slowdown.
For city operations, I will work both with committee chairs and through my capacity as Council President to focus on municipal service delivery metrics, including 311 call data, to identify operational deficiencies. These metrics not only help drive each committee’s work with its department(s) of purview in developing strategies for improvement, but also provides a quantitatively based way to measure impact and track progress. Finally, I will continue my work as a council member championing the use of technology and innovation to increase efficiency, no matter how mundane a process might seem or or outlandish an application might first appear.
First and foremost, I will lead by example, continuing my track record of having no ethics violations, fines, or investigations. I will also encourage my colleagues on council to do as I have in publishing all of my council transactions online (I remain the only Council President candidate that has done so) so Atlantans can see directly how responsibly I have deployed your tax dollars.
I will immediately push for meaningful procurement reform by "daylighting" (1) the development of Requests for Proposals (RFP) so they can’t be written to favor a particular contractor, (2) reporting of conflicts of interest, and (3) the appeals process so that decisions on challenges to awards do not rest in only a few hands. I will also push limits on (1) the ability to continually amend existing contracts and increase funding without a competitive bid and (2) instances where RFPs can be cancelled to give losing bidders another chance. Finally, I will continue to advocate for additional resources to strengthen the city’s independent Ethics Office so it can do more education, training, and investigations.
Employee salaries and benefits comprise upwards of two-thirds of our annual budget, yet the city has not in recent years thoroughly analyzed our organizational structure to identify opportunities to increase efficiency in staffing. Financial resources are then tied up that could be better deployed to create meaningful compensation packages for improved employee recruitment, retention, morale, and performance. Further, instances remain where positions are funded but remain vacant, and those dollars are then spent on more costly overtime or outside contract arrangements or, in some cases, on other budget line items. If we don’t get this right, we’ll continue chasing our budget and won’t have resources to invest in any solutions we devise.
Earlier this year I successfully sponsored legislation to expand tools for the administration to use to “right size” our departments. I have also championed an ongoing span of control study being conducted by Human Resources to identify opportunities for restructuring, and have been a vocal proponent of eliminating funded vacant positions during our annual budgeting process, resulting in millions of dollars being saved. As Council President, I will appoint a Chair of the Finance Executive Committee that shares these priorities and work with him/her to push these initiatives forward.
In addition to two successful terms on city council, I am the best candidate for Atlanta City Council President because (1) my educational training (Georgia Tech/Wharton/Harvard) and work experience in the private (former small business owner), public (City Council), non-profit (Jerusalem House), and higher education (Emory University) sectors uniquely enables me to inject a broad, practical, metrics-driven perspective to the government process; and (2) the collaborative, consensus-building approach that I have utilized throughout my two terms on City Council (versus being divisive and combative, or letting politics-as-usual lead the day) is precisely what is needed to change the tenor of how we do business at City Hall going forward.
Atlanta will experience an unprecedent turnover in elected officials next year (new mayor, at least seven new council members). Strong, effective Council leadership will be more important than ever to quickly establish high operational standards for Council deliberation, analysis, and policy development. More importantly, we have the chance to reset the tenor of city government – both internally and with stakeholders like Atlanta Public Schools. I am uniquely qualified to bring that leadership to City Council. After all, the challenges we face are significant and complex, and we can’t afford to wait too long for everyone to get up to speed.