To guide Atlanta to the next level as one of the greatest cities to work and live in America, we need leaders who are innovative problems solvers, who have an attitude of service to the people of Atlanta, who are not beholden to interest groups or seeking personal gain, who are responsive and effective communicators, and who have an optimism and vision for what a great city Atlanta is and what a greater city it can become. I have the experience, skill set, and temperament to be an effective policy maker, problem solver, and leader on the Atlanta City Council. With half of the Council coming on as newly elected officials, my background as an entrepreneur, lawyer, advocate, and mother will serve the City well. I believe our focus should be two-fold. Looking to improve neighborhoods, which in turn, will help improve the city as a whole. And two, working to improve citywide problems which, in turn, will improve each neighborhood. I believe with this approach, greater things are ahead for our great city.
Transportation is a key area that impacts both neighborhoods and the larger city. The city will not be able to accommodate anticipated growth without a negative impact on our quality of life unless we expand transportation options. Our highways are packed, and this often results in overflow to our intown streets. We need a better mix of public transit options and streetscape designs that make commuting more efficient, walking and biking safer, reduce cut-through traffic, and make school zones safer for our children.
Moreover, the lack of an extensive public transportation system has played a role in the economic disparities in our city. We need to expand public transportation to connect residents to job centers. The citizens of Atlanta have put their trust in the City and MARTA with the MARTA SPLOST, TSPLOST, and Renew Atlanta funding, and we must prioritize these projects to bring economic growth and prosperity, be transparent about decision making, and be good stewards of this funding.
With the procurement scandal looming over Atlanta, restoring trust in our elected officials and City workers is essential, both to ensuring citizens that we are good stewards of the city and in retaining and attracting business. Restoring trust will require self-examination to determine where the system has allowed dishonesty and favoritism, and the implementation of additional checks and balances. In addition, after identifying and addressing any weaknesses, the City needs to go above and beyond in making its finances, employment, and procurement processes as transparent as possible. Steps I would take toward these goals include: fully cooperating with any and all investigations, having the City Attorney and auditor provide a review of all improprieties for the past 5 years (what happened, why, and what remediation has been done), commissioning an audit of procurement procedures, mandating ethics training for City employees dealing with procurement, contracting, and other sensitive matters, then moving forward, making the City’s finances and service delivery data searchable on line so citizens can hold us accountable.
Invest Atlanta, the City’s economic development arm, does a great job in supporting large corporations. The City, however, needs to be more supportive of Atlanta’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur myself, I know the hurdles that small business owners and entrepreneurs face dealing with a bureaucratic system of zoning approvals and business license paperwork. We need to take a second look at whether the city's business license occupation tax, which is based on gross receipts rather than profits, is punitive to startup companies. Memphis is a good example of what we could do. Its Smartstartmem program helps entrepreneurs start their business in a day. Its Memmobile pilot program supported small business in turning trucks into shops- essentially taking the idea of food trucks to retail and services. We should look to these kinds of innovative programs to grow and support out small businesses. In addition, the City should open up its data sets across the board from crime to finances to the 311 city services and allow technologists to develop and innovate around data. Finally, continuing to address the issues that make cities livable, such as parks and greenspace, arts, transit and housing are key to attracting and retaining entrepreneurs.
Atlanta has taken some important steps toward a more sustainable city. The Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge and the Atlanta Commercial Energy Efficiency Ordinance have been effective policies for reducing consumption and increase efficiency. We need to continue looking for ways to encourage “green infrastructure” in public and private development.
While we are making progress on the building front, we have not done as much in tackling vehicle emissions, which is one of the largest causes of air pollution in Atlanta, contributing 31% of citywide emissions. Vehicle emissions are a contributing factor to health issues, such as asthma. We need to take a multi-pronged approach to addressing this issue, particularly as the population of Atlanta grows. This includes a strong push towards public transportation (with green vehicles), as well as making a transition for City vehicle fleets to move to electric as that technology becomes available. The City should encourage the General Assembly to take steps to promote electric vehicle use, including removing the expensive electric vehicle registration fee.
I am a third generation Atlantan, have led the boards of Jerusalem House, Actor's Express Theater, Hambidge, Georgia CCIM and Georgia SIOR. In order to run for Council, I recently resigned as a Director from Invest Atlanta where I chaired the Housing Committee and a member of Finance, Tax Allocation Districts and Business Development committees. I have served my immediate community as Traffic Chair with Morningside Lenox Park Association. My deep commitment to service along with 30 years of commercial real estate expertise provides me with the strongest skillsets of any candidate running for this seat.
Transportation. We must finalize a comprehensive traffic plan using the best engineers and experts, with balanced inclusion of pedestrian, bike, rail and automobile options. It must also plan for autonomous vehicles and technology so we stay ahead of change. Expeditious completion of the Beltline including internal light rail "spokes" is also key to providing comprehensive transit that MARTA does not offer today. Providing greater transportation options that are clean, safe and affordable will push the city to greater equality and success.
We must institute mechanisms to find inappropriate and often illegal expenditures and behavior. In my first year, I support a thorough forensic third party audit so we have accurate complete information to understand all the challenges. We must also have an Ethics Board that is non-partisan and composed of citizens not connected in any way to city contracts, vendors or elected officials. They must be given the power to swiftly punish and remove anyone violating the public's trust. Lobbyist gifts should be strictly reported and available on public domain easily viewed by anyone seeking information. Restrictions on gift value should also be re-analyzed with stricter limits and any loopholes closed.
We must be the city that welcomes all. We are the birthplace of Civil Rights and that fight is not over. The current national debate and climate must not affect how we provide a safe and welcoming home to legal residents and naturalized citizens. We must work hard to provide resources, relationships and skillsets that make them a valued member of our city. The benefits for doing so are tremendous while not doing it would be morally detrimental.
I am a huge believer in Atlanta living up the the Paris Accord where possible. The Better Buildings Challenge and other environmental initiatives should be aggressively supported. Atlanta has the opportunity to continue its leadership in this critical area and the next administration must make that a reality.