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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Atlanta City Council Member, District 2

The councilmember proposes bills, holds votes, and passes laws to help govern the city.
CHOOSE TWO CANDIDATES FROM BELOW TO COMPARE
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    Amir Farokhi Consultant; Fmr Attorney and Non-Profit Exec.

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    Stephon Ferguson Associate Minister

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    Zelda Jackson Consultant

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    Nick Mulkey Civil Servant

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    Lauren Welsh Small Business Owner

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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) 290-3347
Professionally, my experience both as an attorney and public policy non-profit founder (GeorgiaForward) has given me the skillset necessary for legislative drafting and navigating an array of pressing policy issues (from economic development to education), even among disparate parties, whether government, private sector, higher ed., or civil society. Moreover, I have served as COO of a $32 million national non-profit and, as a result, have a strong understanding of running a business responsibly and transparently. Civically, I have served on the boards of transportation (Atlanta Bicycle Coalition), education (Drew Charter School), and public safety (Atlanta Fire Foundation) organizations, giving me deep understanding of pressing policy challenges.

I am motivated to serve to help raise the bar for policies that serve the people of District 2 well. Policies that are inclusive, that build transit and walkable neighborhoods, that fix infrastructure, and make streets safer.
The City is in a strong financial position. The biggest budget issues are (1) protecting and growing the surplus; (2) allocating resources to improve infrastructure like sidewalks and streets; and (3) increasing police and fire salary and benefits to recruit and retain the best. These conversations require less budget emphasis on big, shiny projects and greater investment in the basics improve quality of life.
The trust deficit with City Hall is significant and there are a range of areas we need to explore, from outside auditors to stiffer penalties for ethical violations to third-party oversight and review of our contracting and procurement practices. With respect to procurement, I support:

1. Banning bids from contractors who have been disqualified or barred in another jurisdiction 2. Conducting regular cross-checks of City employees and bidder employees to ensure there is no overlap or self-interest 3. Independent third-party approval of procurement decisions in emergency scenarios 4. Strengthening conflict of interest provisions to require disclosure of assets, previous employment & paid positions outside the public service for procurement employees 5. Make all bids, bidder background, and decision criteria publicly available in an easy-to-use online portal 6. Engage the Sunlight Foundation to revamp our procurement policy. 7. Restricting contact between bidders and city employees
1. Ensure that Atlanta remains an active participant in the Welcoming Cities Initiative. 2. Work with the non-profit sector to provide English classes at City Hall. 3. Ensure city services and city website can be navigated in multiple languages as needed by our immigrant population. 4. Reach out to the places where immigrants live, work, and play to inform them of City policies and resources and collect input on City policies. 5. Provide small business assistance to immigrant small business owners. 6. Ensure all immigrants received a “Welcome to Atlanta” package at formal welcome events with information on the City, important resources, and opportunities to learn more about the City. 7. Work with public safety officials to ensure strong understanding of and empathy with immigrant communities.
1. Aggressively promote multi-family, affordable transit-oriented development around existing MARTA stations. 2. Lobby the State to eliminate annual vehicle registration fees for electric vehicles 3. Work with the private sector to increase the number of car charge points in the City.

In the quest to reduce energy consumption in buildings and reuce greenhouse gas emissions produced by transportation the City should focus on:

1. Commercial and Industrial Buildings (through retro-commissioning existing buildings, green/cool roofs; energy audits; tax incentives for energy efficient upgrades and new construction; water capture from large roofs, requiring new city buildings to be Silver LEED Certified, etc.) 2. Transportation (promote AFV rebates for vehicles, reducing parking requirements; transit oriented development; more transit; parking tax, etc.) 3. Renewable energy: incentivize solar use in commercial & residential buildings & install renewable energy systems in City buildings.
Mailing Address P.O. Box
Atlanta, GA 30308
Campaign Phone (910) 988-0433
My experience and leadership in serving this nation as a Sergeant in the US Army, my work as an associate minister at Atlanta’s Historic Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, my proven ability to bring people together past barriers of politics, race, religion, gender, and social-economic status, and my commitment in various capacities to serving the citizens of this city and district, will all prove helpful while serving as councilman for Atlanta’s District 02. In 2006, I successfully completed the League of Women Voter's Civics 101 Course of Study and was certified as a Public Activist.

HOUSING: More than half of Atlanta’s homeless population live in District 02. It has the largest slate of section eight housing in the Southeast United States. It is one of the most gentrified cities in the nation. There is a dire need for more affordable housing and to put a stop to seniors and long-time citizens being squeezed out of their homes because of rising taxes.
There are several budget issues facing our city and I understand the importance of having a sensible and balanced budget for the future of District 02. Our district’s future is brighter than ever due to growing incoming revenue from Renew Atlanta and the T-SPLOST MARTA initiative, which will be instrumental to raising the equity of Atlanta’s transportation and infrastructure. I will follow the previous council’s lead in boosting the economy with smart and sensible financial initiatives, and will protect Atlanta’s stellar credit ratings by promoting further efforts to make Atlanta’s financial affairs even more responsible, effective, and sound. Promote city relations with local businesses and job leaders to create a more hospitable and efficient economic environment. Expand and improve our pool of workers, both skilled and unskilled. A strong and educated workforce is vitally important for any city that desires to achieve long term success. Invest in educating our children is the best way to create future jobs
I support full transparency in government - Timely and stringent audits of all emergency procurement, audits of all contracts thoroughly to ensure the city is paying for its services appropriately and is not being overcharged - Implementation of a Pay/See policy that would allow the public to view recipients and details of any payments the city makes, as well as an establishment of a public record that anyone can use to view city contracts and partnerships - Provide easy-to-use online system as the best way for citizens to be able to see all city financial activities, and allowing residents to become much more informed regarding city affairs. Ensure equipment that the city owns will be logged and accounted for in a database, protecting the city’s assets and increasing the efficiency of the people’s tax dollars.
I will ensure that the city of Atlanta will not hinder or damage the civil protections and rights of its people with ineffectual and harmful policies. As a former member of the Ethics Commission, I will see to it that Atlanta maintains its reputation as a city for all, one that welcomes those of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and socioeconomic standings. Our quality of life depends on each other.
I believe we are headed in the right direction. We can do a better job in educating our community on what they can do as residents to reduce carbon pollution. What can we do? Provide better transportation options – Continue to enact legislation that promotes sustainability - Work with energy providers to create shared renewable energy arrangements, which will allow customers to partake in the renewable revolution. Expand recreational centers with sidewalks, parks, and transit systems to lower our carbon footprint on our great city. Together, we can leave behind a better world for our children so that they too may enjoy the beauty of the natural world around us.
Campaign Phone (404) 692-7941
My qualifications includes the experience of working in the Congressional 5th District Office under the leadership of Congressman John Lewis as a Special Assistant, Atlanta Council District 2 as Chief of Staff under Councilperson Debi M. Starnes, Legislative Aide for Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan District 39, and a Contractor to the Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson of the City of Atlanta. I have the ability to ensure timely resolution of constituent issues, reviewing proposed changes in laws, policies, and practices to identify potential public relations issues and possible impact on the City of Atlanta. I have assisted with the development and analysis of proposed state legislation and its impact on the communities they affect. I am an individual who possess the ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships with legislative advocacy groups on a local, state and national level. My motivation to serve came from my servant leadership heart.
The biggest budget issue facing the City of Atlanta is a loss of revenue within its Downtown Atlanta. I would like to have a 24 Hour Entertainment District. Atlanta can become the next ‘city that doesn’t sleep.’ The expansion of the nighttime economy will create jobs for the local here, and curb many problems that currently affecting District 2. I firmly believe when you lose your Downtown, you lose your City. Without a thriving downtown, the city suffers. Right now downtown (which is only a portion of District 2) is a mix of an upcoming university/business landscape, but is also plagued with homelessness and dilapidated buildings. If we continue not to focus on the economic development of Downtown Atlanta, it will most likely be known as a “Ghost City” another Detroit. Now when you leave a concert, ball game, or work you can continue to enjoy Downtown Atlanta with the 24 hour Entertainment District you will have several options, and the gain of the revenue will stay in Downtown.
The City of Atlanta should offer Ethics Training and Guidelines to every employee. The training should be quarterly, and required to any employee who desires promotion within the City of Atlanta. I would also established mandatory servant leadership classes for credit for any employee of the City of Atlanta. These classes will be required for advancement within the City of Atlanta as well, and given yearly for follow up studies. As an elected council person, I would also do away with the stamina of being a “whistleblower” too many employees have been penalized and ridicule by being honest employees and that will stop. Lastly, I will established a term limits on Chiefs, Commissioners, and Heads of Departments. Cross training will also be offered for all employees, and forensic audits in every department to eliminate any fraudulent behaviors.
The United States is a melting pot, and every state and city should be operating their governments as such. It is simply illegal, and unconstitutional to be not acting accordingly. As the elected Council person to District 2, I with uphold the law and invite all legal permanent residents, and naturalized citizens in my district to informational sessions on what programs are available for them to participate in within the City of Atlanta through Town Hall meetings for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
The City of Atlanta should first work with each department within City Hall to establish what would be the turnaround time frame of requiring the motor pool to have energy efficient vehicles from now on. Then after determining the budgetary requirements, and leasing agreements we can show our citizens how we are saving monies by having a better green print on society/the environment. Eventually the City of Atlanta can work with the state of Georgia to establish laws for automobile & industrial companies to reduce carbon pollution by giving incentives to companies and our citizens.
Campaign Phone (404) 956-8072
I have worked in economic development my entire career. Specifically, I have worked for the city’s economic development agency and assisted in the development and implementation of programs that have helped business owners, built neighborhood amenities, and provided affordable housing. During this time I have had the opportunity to see how we approach problems as a city, what we do well, and what we can improve on. Additionally, I have served on the board of community groups such as Sweet Auburn, and helped in recruit investment to the community, lobby the city for resources, and community outreach. Involvement with groups such as this as well as my work at Invest Atlanta have given me the ability to understand economic/community development from both the community viewpoint, as well as the city’s. Finally, I am running because I believe that the City of Atlanta is at a critical moment in its history where we can decide if this city becomes a model of economic vibrancy, inclusivity, and prosperity, or if the city goes the way of other metros around the country and becomes a playground for the rich. I want to ensure we take the path of the former and I believe I have the perspective and innovative thinking to get us there.
Our biggest budget issue currently is our inability to fund proper upkeep, beautification and expansion of our infrastructure on a routine basis. At the very base level, we have to take care of our sidewalks, roads, and bridges. I plan to address this by implementing a social impact fee that would be levied on developers to provide funding to address issues such as homelessness and infrastructure upkeep.
As a city we must be as transparent and ethical as possible. To me this involves doing three things, 1. Centralizing information onto a website that would give residents an “open window” to what is going on city contract procurement, lobbyist gifts, and ethics violations. Additionally, the city must be proactive in its dissemination of information and its efforts to educate the public on the inner workings of government. We must go out into the community on a routine basis (not just before a critical vote or large project), to ensure that the public is as informed as possible.
I plan to work with the consuls and embassies around the metro area to draft a strategic plan that would be used to ensure that immigrants are welcomed, engaged, and given the resources they need to succeed in a coordinated and institutional manner. Additionally, I would explore opportunities with the office of community affairs to continuously support cultural exchange between the city and our international community.
I believe that we should create environmental districts throughout the city that would require buildings to implement green features such as green roofs, green walls, and solar energy. By doing this we codify our commitment to protecting the environment. Secondly, I would advocate for stronger protections of our tree canopy. Our tree canopy makes us unique and cleans our air. As we become denser, we risk losing this feature and increasing pollution. Finally, I would advocate for policies that would dissuade car usage and encourage mass transit usage. Such policies include the removal of parking minimums currently required in development, restricting the creation of new standalone parking decks and structures, expanding MARTA. In addition to these policies, I would like to explore how we could find ways to work with the State to encourage the use of toll revenue to fund mass transit.
Campaign Phone (404) 285-8987
Atlanta is at a critical point where we must make investments in smart development, transportation, safety, affordable housing, creative environments, and more. I’ve spent 20 years working on the ground in neighborhoods, both personally and professionally. I've served on the Candler Park Neighborhood board as NPU rep. I’m a founding board member of Candler Park Conservancy and I’ve led our neighborhood through our first Master Plan, actively seeking diverse perspectives, particularly from those who don’t traditionally attend meetings. I’m a member of the Moreland Corridor Task Force - neighborhood, small business, ARC, and GDOT representatives - bringing improvements to a major travel corridor in our District. I have insight into the planning and engagement approaches but have also learned how disconnected folks feel from the process. I’m experienced in consensus-building and collaboration. I believe understanding the unique needs of each party can turn into a “win” for all involved.
Getting the most out of our transportation tax dollars is the most important budget issue we are currently facing . I support creating a Department of Transportation for strategic and comprehensive thinking about how we move around the city and to make sure the significant investments in transportation from the Renew Atlanta Bond, the MARTA tax, and the TSPLOST tax are spent equitably across the city. The key way to solve Atlanta’s traffic challenges is to create options that give residents the ability to get out of their cars. That means investing in sidewalks, buses, light rail, streetcars, heavy rail, and bicycle infrastructure. In addition, I support creating a comprehensive parking management system that works for both local businesses and residents to manage and share parking in particular district while also serving as a dedicated funding source for sidewalks.
The citizens of Atlanta should expect the highest level possible of openness and transparency from our city government. My experience working in the nonprofit sector has required a high level of auditing and reporting since we work with public funds. City Council representatives are public servants working with public funds – every dollar and investment should be accounted for. I support using a cloud-based financial and performance management tool such as OpenGov.com to not only share every expenditure, but to also work as a measurement of progress and success. We need to strengthen the capacity of our auditors to make sure we are working as efficiently and effectively as possible, and we must share those learnings and investments online in a way that is clear. This could help us streamline our budget process, gain greater insights for future planning, and more effectively communicate impact with our citizens and businesses. This is how we truly test our own resiliency as a city.
The city of Atlanta can and should be “the beloved community” Dr. King envisioned. That means being an open, inclusive, and welcoming city to all and making sure we understand and embrace diverse voices, backgrounds, cultures, and interests. We are a growing city that is struggling to revitalize our communities to meet the needs of the hard-working families and small-business owners of Atlanta. The City is on the right path with its program Welcoming Atlanta, and organizations like New American Pathways continue to strengthen the message about the value that immigrants and refugees play in our city. We must increase our investments in these efforts and support those who are actively seeking citizenship. In addition, the city should expand its Citizenship Corners program in partnership with Atlanta-Fulton Public Library and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This program offers resources to those who want to apply for citizenship and currently serves 13 out of 35 libraries.
When Washington fails, cities must – and will – step up to protect the quality of life for our future. I fully support the commitment the city has made to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2035, and I believe our Office of Sustainability has a very strong team that can help us achieve this goal. A key way to reduce carbon pollution is to reduce car trips. That means we as a city need to find ways to allow our residents to live a local life so they don’t have to travel long distances for what they need. We can do that by investing in community-based development that is focused on everyday experiences of getting to work, to a doctor’s appointment, and to the grocery store. I am also fully committed to expanding our transit options that can encourage us to reduce car trips. I support creating parking benefit districts to serve as a dedicated revenue source for our sidewalks as well as the expansion of the bike share program to bring option to people that may otherwise not have access.

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