The Atlanta Daily World team reached out to each of the qualifying Atlanta Mayoral Candidates to give them the final word on the upcoming election on November 7th. After polling our readers for issues of most pressing concern, we sent each candidate four questions that we believe will give our audience more insight into how an administration under their leadership would approach these matters – matters relating to gentrification, black business development, government transparency and affordable housing taking precedence. Six of the field’s candidates submitted responses: Peter Aman, Ceasar Mitchell, John Eaves, Kwanza Hall and Cathy Woolard. At press time, we did not receive responses from candidates Rohit Ammanamanchi, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Vincent Fort, Laban King, Mary Norwood, Michael Sterling and Glenn Wrightson. Sterling and King have both suspended their campaigns for Mayor, however, both names will remain on the November 7 ballot.

After carefully considering each candidate’s responses coupled with the substantive contributions that each candidate brought to the campaign stumps over the last year, and their life-long service to the city, Atlanta Daily World has decided to endorse Ceasar Mitchell for Mayor of Atlanta.

However, it is important to us that we give our readership an opportunity to determine which candidate best meets their needs through the lens of their positions on various issues.

PETER AMAN

BIO:  For almost 20 years, Peter has worked tirelessly to make Atlanta a stronger, better city for all its residents. Deeply committed to public service, he has an unparalleled depth of experience inside and outside City Hall and has served as a trusted adviser to two mayoral administrations.

His partnership with Mayor Shirley Franklin to develop a turn-around plan for the city helped save taxpayers millions of dollars due to increased operational efficiencies. In 2010, he took a leave of absence from being a partner at Bain and Company to join the administration of Mayor Kasim Reed as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the City of Atlanta.

As COO, Peter oversaw all city operating departments, including the police and fire departments as well as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He helped build a better-trained and larger police department with the latest technology, improved fire response times, guided the city to a financially-sound operating position and focused on improving neighborhoods, from parks to recreation centers.

Peter’s passion for Atlanta comes from his desire to make a better Atlanta for his family. He and his wife Lisa have been married for 21 years, have three teenage children and are active in the community. Peter’s service on Boards of Directors has included the Atlanta Police Foundation, The West Side Future Fund, Partners for HOME, the Atlanta Continuum of Care for the Homeless, the Woodruff Arts Center, The Atlanta Committee for Progress, The Galloway School, and The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.Lisa has served on the boards of The Galloway School, the Carl E Sanders YMCA, Atlanta’s American Jewish Committee, and Sisters by Choice, a breast cancer awareness organization. As a religiously mixed family — Peter is Presbyterian and Lisa and the children are Jewish — they value service to others, inclusion and diversity at home and in the community.

Peter’s knowledge about the public and private sectors, his commitment to family and community, and his enthusiasm and love for the City of Atlanta make him the right leader, right now to be Mayor of the City of Atlanta.

1. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Over the years, Atlanta’s policies with regard to its engagement of black-owned businesses have cultivated fertile business conditions. In addition to programs like WEI, what are some specific ideas you have to make sure that MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth?

PETER AMAN: Dating back to Mayor Jackson, our diversity-based programs have set a standard for inclusion in contracting and business. We are a national leader in terms of our stated goals, and as mayor, I will make sure that this continues to be the case. That said, the original intent was to help provide an on-ramp so that minorities of all kinds could start out with city contracts at places like the airport and elsewhere, but ultimately use that experience to segue into greater private sector participation. That second link in the chain has not come to fruition.

A lot of that comes down to political will, plain and simple. We need a mayor who is committed to these programs and will ensure that we are fulfilling participation requirements laid out in city code. We must also be mindful that the companies participating are constantly growing. If all our diversity programs do is simply cycle the same firms through the system, then it is not achieving its goal. We should be continuously growing and graduating companies.

That’s why we must make it easier to do business with Atlanta city government. I have a few ideas on how. One, when bids are tied and all things are equal, I want to introduce a lottery system into procurement code so that the process is objective and there is less room for preexisting relationships to affect the awarding of contracts. Second, we have to expedite the permitting process. And third, I want to work cross-jurisdictionally with the counties and other city agencies so that, where possible, regulations are simpler and uniform. This way, when small businesses pay legal fees and bond requirements to help comply with city code, that same investment has them ready to compete for business all over the region.

2. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: What is the formula for designing communities to accommodate efficient transit, affordable housing and commercial development without displacement and historical erosion?

AMAN: The formula is listening, coupled with intentionality and vision. Along with concerns around poverty and a lack of opportunity, this conversation around balancing growth with inclusion is the single most important challenge we face as a city. Right now, we are growing by leaps and bounds. And that is a good thing. But it isn’t when you do it at the cost of our neighborhoods, it isn’t when we kick out of Atlanta the very people who helped build Atlanta.

The formula will ultimately be filtered through once-in-a-generation opportunities. The city has $14 billion in recently passed tax referenda dollars available to the next mayor. That’s enough to completely overhaul the way we get in and around town, to schools, parks, jobs, and much more. And we are getting ready to re-zone the entire city. That means we get to re-define where and how we grow. We will collaborate with our communities and ask how they want the shape and look of their neighborhood to change. It means that we can get Atlanta’s city bird – the construction crane – to fly south of I-20; and when it does, it will be to augment those communities, not displace them.

Further, solutions cannot be discussed in siloes. It’s going to take a broad coalition. Invest Atlanta should be talking to MARTA about how to get housing near transit. MARTA should be talking to APS about how to get transit near schools. And so on. Then, at a certain point, we strike a bargain. We mark clear deliverables and deadlines. And then we stop talking and act.

That’s why I know that I am the one to lead on this issue. I have a been leader in both the philanthropic and private sectors. I have helped run the city as its Chief Operating Officer. I have managed thousands of employees and consulted with multinational companies. I know what it takes to be an honest broker and consensus builder. I know what it takes to spend money on large projects quickly and effectively. If we are going to tackle the challenges of gentrification and displacement, it’s going to take competence and consciousness. That’s what we are going to need to advance Atlanta together. I am that candidate.

3. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Atlanta constantly falls short on surveys about government transparency in comparison to other large municipalities. Considering the latest scandal out of the procurement department in City Hall, how will you ensure that that scandal represents the last of the pay-for-play dynamic in City government?

AMAN: Each new revelation of corruption from City Hall is worse than the last, and further stains the city’s name. Moreover, the behavior of my opponents seems questionable, from using taxpayerfunded staff to work on their campaigns to taking tens of thousands of dollars from city vendors.

Clearly, we need a fresh start. As a first-time candidate, I bring something completely different than the lineup of career politicians on this issue. In fact, I have a record of the exact opposite. As chief operating officer for the city of Atlanta, I had many employees at the city’s watershed department investigated and fired for far lesser violations of city code. In my time in the private sector, I overhauled my company’s ethics program, re-writing guidelines for the ethical behavior of our multinational firm.

As mayor, I will overhaul the way we announce contracts so that taxpayers can follow the money from start to finish as bids come in. Not only will you know which company won the contract, you’ll also know who owns the company. Additionally, we’ll use a lottery system to break ties in the procurement process in a way that is fair. I’ll introduce more stringent audits, make financial records easier to locate online, and increase the amount of information that is available.

Ultimately, it all comes back to culture. I will work with City Council on all of the above to uproot what is illegal and unethical. It’s the day-to-day, and leading from the top-down, that digs even deeper into what’s legal but not ethical. For instance, Ms. Norwood didn’t break an existing law with her actions by using her city staff to help her campaign for mayor. But the fact that she felt it looked bad enough that she should try and conceal the identities of her employees speaks volumes. It shows that she knows she was operating in a grey area and was alright with that. That kind of behavior will not stand when I am mayor. Right is right. Wrong is wrong.

Ethics starts from the top. As mayor, I will personally train all city employees on ethics and the level of service we will provide the public. We will also institute a “see something, say something” program to protect whistleblowers. Without the public’s trust, nothing else works. Two more key initiatives we will pursue: financial management classes for all employees and a safe space for those in financial distress to seek support and all director-level employees will be required to release their tax returns.

4. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: How will you address homelessness in Atlanta in a sustainable way?

AMAN: I was the founding board chair of Partners for H.O.M.E., a non-profit that helps coordinate the city’s shelters and seeks out grants from the federal government. I am deeply passionate about this issue and have been in the trenches for some time now and I would be thrilled as mayor to have a larger platform from which I could make an even larger impact. This is a major issue for our city, particularly among key groups like LGBTQIA+ youth and veterans that we have to get more proactive about.

I believe that housing must come first. We need to provide an environment where we can stabilize our homeless population, and not just for one night. Once settled, we can assess needs – where it be job training, rehabilitation programs, mental health services or any of a number of things that help with re-entry or achieving best outcomes. We will do this in small facilities that are better equipped to handle 50 or 75 individuals at a time, and take a narrower approach as needed. For instance, host homes, where families provide temporary support for at-risk youth can be highly effective. We also have to be more compassionate.

As mayor, I will address homelessness with the long view in mind, so we can help individuals and families find the support they need to achieve their goals and dreams. First, let’s provide hope. Next, we can provide a solid foundation to stand on and rebuild their lives.

Website: peteraman.com

Email: peter@peteraman.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/peteramanatl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peteramanatl/

JOHN EAVES

BIO: John H. Eaves, Ph.D., Chairman of the Fulton County Commission–now serving his third four-year term in office–leads the most populous and dynamic county in Georgia, with 1.1 million residents and 14 municipalities including the City of Atlanta. Eaves was re-elected as Fulton County Chairman in 2014 with 63 percent of the vote, a testament to his county-wide popularity and support.

As the county’s Chairman, he has led Fulton County to pass the regions boldest transportation plan, transformed the criminal justice system, presided over the resurrection of Grady Memorial Hospital, improved conditions at the Fulton County Jail which lifted a decade of federal supervision, lowered its business and property taxes, and piloted initiatives to eliminate HIV/AIDS in metro Atlanta. He is running for Mayor to continue fighting for what’s important to you and your families every day.

Eaves is a 1984 graduate of Morehouse College. He earned a Master’s Degree from Yale University, and obtained a doctorate from the University of South Carolina. John taught at Kennesaw State University and was an Assistant Dean at Davidson College in North Carolina. His academic honors include the American Marshall Memorial Fellowship and two Fulbright scholarships.

John resides in Atlanta and is the devoted father of his two children, Isaac and Keturah.

1. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Over the years, Atlanta’s policies with regard to its engagement of black-owned businesses have cultivated fertile business conditions. In addition to programs like WEI, what are some specific ideas you have to make sure that MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth?

JOHN EAVES: Under my leadership the last ten years, Fulton County has led the way in pushing for open access to ALL businesses and entrepreneurs. I will take the same effort and energy I have used at the County to City Hall. Who Pays? Who Benefits? This is what we must ask each time we hand out a City contract. I will ensure a level playing field and that ALL businesses have the equal chance to participate FULLY, not just as an “in name only” subcontractor helping a major contractor comply with having a minority sub on his/her bid proposal.

2. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: What is the formula for designing communities to accommodate efficient transit, affordable housing and commercial development without displacement and historical erosion?

EAVES: There are several equations in the formula that will work. First, Atlanta’s prosperity risks pricing-out many who want to own a home in the city. We must work hard to attract investment but remain vigilant against forcing out the city’s middle-class and underemployed citizens through gentrification. As Atlanta’s next mayor you can count on me to build a city in which firefighters, police officers, teachers and others can afford to live. I began this by pushing through a 2017 PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT FREEZE in June, freezing assessments at 2016 levels to provide relief to thousands of homeowners. And, we are working to provide more creative homestead exemptions to guard against people being forced out of their homes as neighborhoods change their value and demographic characteristics.

We must insist is that we get affordable housing out of major development deals (residential developments). Under the John Eaves Administration at City Hall, affordable housing will be a top priority—it will be more than just small set-asides while developers rake in big bucks using public money to finance their construction projects. We will redouble this effort with our development authority, Invest Atlanta, which now only requires developers who use public money to set aside about 15 percent of their units as affordable housing. Further, I will insist that the Atlanta Beltline development live up to its promises to produce affordable housing.

3. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Atlanta constantly falls short on surveys about government transparency in comparison to other large municipalities. Considering the latest scandal out of the procurement department in City Hall, how will you ensure that that scandal represents the last of the pay-for-play dynamic in City government?  

EAVES: By insisting we do what I did in Fulton County. While Chairman for the past 10 years we have had ZERO corruption because we had a zero-tolerance policy.

This election is about integrity and leadership experience. City Hall needs an overhaul! We are now seeing candidates return funds from donors under the scope of the Federal FBI Probe of Public Corruption. Others, on the council in the State Senate, or who was running the city sat silent and let city hall become a web of corruption. These same people will not release THEIR tax returns, I did. What are they hiding? Voters have the right to know BEFORE they vote.  One way I plan to clean up this mess is part of my DAY ONE strategy.

On Day ONE, I will do three key things: 1) launch an analysis of the City’s financial condition to provide real data on the next best steps to achieve our overall goals and how to fund them; 2) Empanel a Mayor’s Commission on E.T.H.I.C.S. (Ethics, Transparency, Honesty in City Services) to begin a complete review of policies and procedures to end the taint of corruption on City Hall which will include EVERY department or division in the City Government; and 3) Launch a 100-day “Listening Tour” of neighborhoods to learn about the benefits and challenges each of our diverse neighborhoods face. By doing this, we would put in place a neighborhood-mobilization plan that would entail a comprehensive approach to bringing all neighborhoods to quality standards—to include access to better transportation; retail shops and grocery stores; affordable housing and quality schools.

4. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: How will you address homelessness in Atlanta in a sustainable way?

EAVES: I already have a track record on this issue and I am quite proud of that. In addition to being the ONLY candidate for mayor to spend a night in a homeless shelter, I put Fulton County to work making real, substantive changes to improve the lot our homeless population. My research has revealed that each day about 4,000 homeless people are scattered throughout the city. At least 800 go unsheltered; living under bridges; wrapped in blankets, tucked in corners or in abandoned buildings. As Chairman of Fulton County, I have been the leader in this effort and have been working to get our City leaders to join with me in providing real relief. It’s easy to close Peachtree and Pine to make business interests happy, but what happens to the people you kick out on the street? Further, it is immoral for us to sit idly by and do nothing to help the homeless—many of whom are mentally and physically ill. A great number are veterans who fought and served our country. What’s more, many of them are also defenseless children in need of care now.

Just before stepping down as County Chairman to run for mayor, I pushed through a plan to use County-owned facilities to help provide not just a roof, but some real help: medical, mental health and social services once they arrive. Earlier this year, I charged our top managers and department heads to begin working with our partners throughout the county, to begin immediately putting in place mechanisms to help eradicate homelessness in metro Atlanta and Fulton County and there has been quick and substantial movement. We completed an initial Agreement with the City of Atlanta to lease county facilities to house the homeless, including Jefferson Place. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a “War on Poverty” years ago; and in that same vein, I want us to launch a “War on Homelessness” in Atlanta and Fulton County. The next mayor needs to be the “General” leading this war, and I plan to win this war before my tenure as mayor concludes.

Website: http://www.eavesforatlanta.com

Email: info@eavesforatlanta.com

Twitter: @johneaves

Facebook: @johnheaves

KWANZA HALL

BIO: Kwanza Hall’s public service trajectory started at a very young age.

Kwanza was born and raised in Atlanta.  He was the first son of Leon and Evelyn “Cookie” Hall, a young couple already committed and fully involved in public service and civil rights advocacy.

The family’s dedication to public service made a lasting mark on Kwanza from a young age. A natural leader, he founded the group “Black Teens for Advancement” while still a student at Benjamin E. Mays High School.  That youthful but serious initiative enlisted a number of Kwanza’s classmates who worked together to stop youth violence in their neighborhoods.

After high school, his drive to help his community led Kwanza to seek higher education to better prepare himself for service.  He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he learned valuable skills that ever since have helped him analyze and address problems from an “outside the box” perspective.

Kwanza returned to Atlanta with skills that would fit his commitment to make Atlanta a better and fairer city for all.  Soon after he was elected to the Atlanta Public Schools Board, District 1, where he served effectively for three years.  In 2004, he was elected to the City Council, District 2, where for twelve years he served faithfully and successfully a diverse group of neighborhoods including Atlantic Station, Castleberry Hill, Downtown, Home Park, Inman Park, the Marietta Artery, Sweet Auburn, Martin Luther King Historic District, Midtown, Poncey-Highland, and the Old Fourth Ward.

Through his ongoing work and leadership on the City Council, Kwanza has passed legislation that increased public safety, affordable housing and accessible transportation. He has been a strong advocate for environmental responsibility, and he has worked to unite diverse groups, bring jobs to the community and increase Atlanta’s visibility outside of Georgia.

Kwanza and his wife Natalie are raising their two sons in Atlanta. They continually inspire him to strive for progress and make our city more livable, safer and more just. Kwanza and his family live in the Martin Luther King Jr. historic neighborhood within the Old Fourth Ward.

1. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Over the years, Atlanta’s policies with regard to its engagement of black-owned businesses have cultivated fertile business conditions. In addition to programs like WEI, what are some specific ideas you have to make sure that MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth?

KWANZA HALL: The competitiveness of cities of the future, like Atlanta, will be predicated on our ability to align our priorities at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and Invest Atlanta with our partners at the State of Georgia, Metro Atlanta Chamber and academic institutions to ensure that we are developing workers whose skill sets are portable and empower them to add value in the ever-evolving innovation economy. We need to strengthen the cradle to career pipeline in traditional building trades and vocations as well as FinTech, Health IT, Clean Energy, Logistics, Music and Film. Economic mobility for low and mid-skill workers will not depend on having a 4-year college degree.

As I have done on the Council, I will continue to support our MBE/WBE/SBE policies and programs.  One additional initiative will be to develop procurement-appropriate policies that would make City contracts available to more small and start-up firms.

 2. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: What is the formula for designing communities to accommodate efficient transit, affordable housing and commercial development without displacement and historical erosion?

HALL: As many of our intown neighborhoods are experiencing renovation and renewal (not a bad thing), it is reassuring that we already have a series of ordinances and processes, including the various zoning boards and the City’s own planning process that includes significant neighborhood and NPU participation. All that helps us manage the process and protect our neighborhoods from inappropriate development plans.

The consequent rise in property values and the interest of developers and, in some instances, speculators, in acquiring properties in up and coming neighborhoods is a concern.

The City must explore all avenues to protect long term residents and property owners across Atlanta, but particularly so in all the increasingly attractive neighborhoods.  Among other initiatives, we must have a program to educate and assist property owners to deal with tempting purchase offers for their homes. Additionally, we must explore the possibility of freezing property-specific taxes in some areas for long-term resident owners.

I will always be open to creative ideas that will encourage the renovation and rejuvenation of existing neighborhoods while protecting their character and securing the rights of local property owners.

The loss of affordable housing is especially acute along the Beltline where property values continue to rise. Because Georgia does not allow rent control or inclusionary zoning, we need to focus our solutions on the supply side of the market. In 2005, we lost 32 affordable apartments to a fire in Bedford Pine. I led the effort to bring City Lights, an affordable senior housing development with 87 units to reality, and I’m excited that we’ll be adding 96 more units for families in the next year. We need to do that all over the city and focus our efforts where we control the land cost and can tell developers exactly what we expect, rather than the other way around.

3. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Atlanta constantly falls short on surveys about government transparency in comparison to other large municipalities. Considering the latest scandal out of the procurement department in City Hall, how will you ensure that that scandal represents the last of the pay-for-play dynamic in City government?  

HALL: My role will be to establish the highest standards of ethical conduct and transparent management practices from the Mayor’s Office, to all top managers and down to the rank and file employees. We all are involved in delivering the services that our citizens need and deserve and we are doing that with their money. Honesty and transparency will be hallmarks of my administration and wrongdoers will find themselves at the receiving end of swift justice.

4. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: How will you address homelessness in Atlanta in a sustainable way?

HALL: Affordable housing, job creation/training, and the goal of making homelessness brief, rare and non-recurring go hand-in-hand. I am optimistic about the transition away from Peachtree-Pine. I don’t believe that a single non-profit organization that doesn’t have the support of the Mayor, the business community, the philanthropic community is in a position to own this problem as they have been. Addressing the suite of issues including mental illness, substance abuse, lack of job opportunities, transportation cannot be put on one organization.

I think a shelter of the size of Peachtree-Pine is an antiquated business model and what is needed is to provide the total suite of wrap-around services that people need to get back on their feet. I believe that shelters of 50 or so beds can more effectively give people a chance to transition out of homelessness. We’ve never been in a better position to do better for those most in need in our community that we have with the recent passage of the $25 million Homeless Opportunity Bond that is being matched with another $25 million of private funds.

Website: http://www.kwanzahall.com

Email: kwanza@kwanzahall.com

Twitter: @kwanzahall

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kwanzahall/

CEASAR MITCHELL

BIO: Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, has served the Atlanta community for over 16 years.  After a 2001 election to Council Post 1, a citywide council seat and serving two terms; Mitchell launched forward, running for Council President, winning both the 2009 and 2013 elections.

Through the years Mitchell has been a visionary leader and public servant, whose unwavering dedication to creating a better Atlanta is reflected in his commitment to initiatives targeting child safety, community policing, economic development, education and more. During his career Mitchell championed key legislation facilitating economic revitalization in underdeveloped areas by authoring measures to create 4 Tax Allocation Districts and supporting legislation for community input in the Atlanta Beltline Project.

While a member of Council, Mitchell chaired the Public Safety Committee, overseeing more than 50 percent of the General Fund budget; the Community Development and Human Resources Committee, which oversees the economic development activities; and the City Utilities Committee. He is also a past member of the Budget Commission, which authorizes the City’s annual revenue anticipation levels.

Professionally, Mitchell is an attorney with the global law firm of DLA Piper, LLP, specializing in commercial real estate, project finance and public sector transactions.

 Outside of his role as Council President, he is actively involved in a number of civic, legal, and community organizations. He is a gubernatorial appointee to the Georgia Commission for Service and Volunteerism, a member of the Board of Visitors for Emory University, and on the Board of Directors for Points of Light. Ceasar

also serves as a chair on the National League of Cities’ National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic. The son of an Atlanta Police Officer and Atlanta Public Schools teacher, Mitchell grew up in the Southwest Atlanta community. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a Juris Doctor from University of Georgia School of Law. Mitchell resides in the historic West End Neighborhood with his wife, Atlanta Public Schools teacher, Dr. Tiffany Mitchell, along with their two young daughters and newborn son.

1. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Over the years, Atlanta’s policies with regard to its engagement of black-owned businesses have cultivated fertile business conditions. In addition to programs like WEI, what are some specific ideas you have to make sure that MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth?

CEASAR MITCHELL: The City of Atlanta is built on a legacy of economic inclusion. Her civil discourse has resulted in a thriving business community and unprecedented growth, which has long been the envy of other major cities. And for good reason. The pioneering programs established by Mayor Maynard Jackson four decades ago continue to provide the litmus test for diversity and inclusion across the nation.

Throughout my 16 years as a public servant, I have consistently been a proponent of inclusionary practices.  For the past six years as President of Atlanta City Council, I have devoted time and resources to host the annual “Back to Business” program, which connects minority and women-owned companies to business opportunities in the public and private sectors. This year, the 3-day event attracted more than 2,000 minority and women-owned businesses and approx. 200 corporations and agencies. As Mayor, I will expand this program to amplify its reach. I believe the need for inclusionary programs like Back to Business clearly still exists. We deserve a seat at the table.

To ensure MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth, we also have to take a hard look at the status quo to determine not only what can be done differently to promote diversity, but also “WHY.” First, we’ve got to engage the right people in solving the problem and expose decision makers to a broad pipeline of talent. Then we must ensure equitable access to resources (time, talent, and money) that allow MBEs to effectively compete.  And finally, we must encourage accountability and incentivize change. Although the recession is no longer dominating headlines, I believe it was one of the most significant events to impact working class African Americans over the past decade.  The negative residual effects are still being felt.  In particular, Black businesses and entrepreneurs who only recently were able to gain access to capital continue to tread water. This once thriving subset of business-owners are increasingly being left behind.

There is still a place for strong inclusionary programs in Atlanta. By gaining a better understanding of the root cause, we can preserve the legacy set in motion by Maynard Jackson — and truly unlock the doors of opportunity for all.

2. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: What is the formula for designing communities to accommodate efficient transit, affordable housing and commercial development without displacement and historical erosion?

MITCHELL: As Council President, I initiated various programs and authored legislation to address each of these issues, with an eye toward people first. When I am mayor, I will double down on this commitment through a series of actionable – and integrated – policies that improve the overall quality of life for ALL Atlantans, no matter where you live. My plan includes the following:

Transit

Taxpayers recently voted to approve funding for much-needed transit projects. As mayor, I will ensure prudent use of those funds and ensure greenlighted projects offer true connectivity and mobility in every neighborhood.

  • Working closely with MARTA to expand rails within the city and out to the suburbs; add transit options to the Beltline and Streetcar.
  • Establishing stronger partnerships with the city’s business partners to alleviate traffic congestion by implementing best practices such as timed-lights during peak traffic hours in addition to encouraging flex work schedules, where businesses create a strong culture for telecommuters.
  • Leveraging the reach and resources of the Atlanta Regional Commission, and biking and pedestrian organizations (e.g. Atlanta Bicycle Coalition) to encourage increased bike participation and expansion of the city’s Bike Share Program.
  • Finally, instituting a parking tax can create an ongoing revenue source to maintain projects in the future.  It can be also used to maintain roads, bridges, and sidewalks.  I do not believe the burden of maintaining neighborhood sidewalks should fall upon property owners. It’s a small, yet impactful way the city can offer value and improve safety citywide.

Affordable Housing

The issue of affordable housing disproportionately affects our seniors and working families. As a real estate attorney, I will bring my knowledge of this sector to the office and implement actionable ideas that help real people.  In fact, it is one of the top issues during my time as Council President. As mayor, it will remain a priority. Specifically, I will:

  • Launch my “Blight to Light” initiative, which will transform more than 5,000 of the city’s most dilapidated, vacant and abandoned homes into affordable housing options for low to middle-income families, educators, recent college graduates, and first responders.
  • Establish affordable housing requirements citywide. Specifically, my administration will revise the city’s affordable housing policy to require residential developers to set aside 20% of their units as affordable instead of the current threshold of 10%.
  • Create a Housing Trust Fund that can be used to provide down payment assistance to low-income individuals and working families.
  • Ensure Invest Atlanta funds the senior home repairs program through the Office of Housing. I believe homeowners should be educated on how to appropriately address housing issues, so the initiative will also offer distressed-homeowner workshops to assist and arm those experiencing hardship with helpful information.

Development without Displacement

I am a long-time resident of the Historic West End and have witnessed the swift transformation of neighborhoods, including my own. Because of Atlanta’s overall attractiveness as a place to thrive and raise a family, our overall growth has been unprecedented. As a result, many black neighborhoods have been affected by gentrification. I am practicing real estate and finance attorney, so I understand the value of Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) and the economic support they provide to our communities all across Atlanta.  In fact, during my time on City Council I created four of the city’s ten TADs to spur revitalization in underdeveloped communities, specifically the Campbelton Road corridor and the Eastside TAD. I also re-negotiated the Philips Arena deal to acquire $5M community benefits package for residents in the Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and other predominately black areas affected by the departure of Turner Field/Braves Stadium.

To curb displacement, as mayor I will champion policies that can offer immediate relief to Atlantans such as:

  • Offering longtime homeowner occupancy credits for residents who have lived in their homes for 10 years or longer.
  • Creating Displacement Free Zones to place annual property tax caps in underserved communities that are susceptible to gentrification as a means to prevent residents and small businesses from being priced out of their homes/space as their neighborhoods become more attractive to developers and investors.
  • Placing 5% caps on the amounts tax assessments can increase from year-to-year by created Inclusionary Zonings.

Everyone wants quality restaurants, retail/shopping and entertainment options near their home. With a balanced approach, the negative effects of gentrification can be managed and credible developers can be incentivized to invest in communities that have long been underserved.

3. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Atlanta constantly falls short on surveys about government transparency in comparison to other large municipalities. Considering the latest scandal out of the procurement department in City Hall, how will you ensure that that scandal represents the last of the pay-for-play dynamic in City government?

MITCHELL: The guilty plea of the former Chief Procurement Officer for bribery and raid on the PRAD Group in the ongoing federal investigation into City Hall is very distressing and serious.  This is one of the biggest corruption scandals in our city’s history with no end in sight.  In order to prevent a crisis in our government, the City Council must take the lead on strengthening the procurement process to restore trust and transparency.

Immediately after the story broke, I was the first and only council member to call for a moratorium on all non-emergency city contracts that do not expire until next year, especially the multi-year, billion-dollar airport concessions contracts that do not expire until well over a year from now, long after this Administration and this City Council leave office. The rush to address on non-essential future business in light of the current investigation is a distraction from completing important unfinished business. It also creates a greater risk for costly mistakes taxpayers can ill-afford.

Additionally, I implored my colleagues on Council to take the following actions:

  1. The Council and Administration need to conduct a full-scale independent audit of the procurement process and act with urgency on its findings.
  2. The Council and Administration must pass legislation to require all procurements and contracts be placed online for the public to view.

While the city’s procurement process is not within my purview as Council President, I am committed to doing my part to begin a new chapter in City Hall. As Mayor, I will strengthen our ethics code, ensure the full independence of the ethics board and bring greater transparency to City Hall.  And I will lead by example. I will also appoint a compliance czar independent of the council and administration who will root out abuse and corruption in all quarters of city government.  In my administration, there will be no room for inappropriate conduct.

4. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: How will you address homelessness in Atlanta in a sustainable way?

MITCHELL: The issue of homelessness has been a thorn in Atlanta’s side for far too long, which means we must respond differently if we want to affect change. I think we can find a more effective way to reduce homelessness than building smaller homeless facilities in residential areas or near schools. I believe shelters should be near social services and transit so that an integrated and holistic approach can be implemented.

My wife, an Atlanta Public Schools teacher, has opened my eyes to the reality of homelessness among our children.  As mayor, I will place an emphasis on our children first by turning to best-practices that have yielded results in cities with a homeless challenge similar to Atlanta.  My plan to reduce homelessness includes the following:

  • Implement a “Housing First” Program. This is an innovative policy approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness as the first step in the process. Once housing is secure, individuals can then receive wraparound services and pursue personal goals for a better quality of life. For children, starting with a stable home environment can help improve performance at school.
  • Build strong partnerships with organizations like CHRIS180 and Lost-N-Found to execute a comprehensive plan. The city cannot address this issue alone. We should tap into the expertise and assistance of groups such as the Hollywood Youth Partnership to service our homeless youth. This would include providing necessary wraparound services such as mental health counseling, skills training, and providing safe housing. This is a key priority for reducing homelessness among LGBT youth, who suffer disproportionately from having no place to live.

Website: ceasarformayor.com

Email: info@ceasarmitchell.com

Twitter: @CeasarforMayor

Facebook: Ceasar for Mayor

CATHY WOOLARD

BIO: Cathy Woolard was the first openly gay elected official in Georgia when she joined the Atlanta City Council in 1997. While there she chaired the Transportation Committee, establishing herself as a proponent of better mobility in the region. Later, as President of the Atlanta City Council, Cathy championed the Atlanta BeltLine, a project transforming abandoned rail-corridors circling the city into mixed-use recreational trails. She founded the “Dirty Dozen,” a pilot program to fix the worst code violations in the city to improve neglected neighborhoods. She also made sustainability a priority, and her Energy Conservation Program cut emissions while saving the city more than $800,000 in its first year. As a City Council member for District 6, she increased funding for sidewalks and, as Chair of the Transportation Committee, she oversaw the expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which had just become the busiest airport in the world.

 Cathy also personally led the Atlanta City Council to pass what is still the only comprehensive civil rights bill in the state of Georgia, protecting all Atlanta residents and visitors from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

 Cathy’s dad was a career Air Force Officer, and while at least seven generations of her family have lived in Atlanta, Cathy grew up on bases all over the world. She was educated in public schools, graduated from the University of Georgia, and settled with her family here in Atlanta.

Cathy has devoted her life to sustainability, social justice, and eliminating poverty. She was a Peace Corps volunteer and has advocated on behalf of organizations like CARE, League of Conservation Voters, and Human Rights Campaign as a non-profit executive and small business owner. Cathy and her wife Karen Geney have been together for 29 years. They live in the Glenwood Park neighborhood in southeast Atlanta.

1. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Over the years, Atlanta’s policies with regard to its engagement of black-owned businesses have cultivated fertile business conditions. In addition to programs like WEI, what are some specific ideas you have to make sure that MBEs remain key stakeholders in conversations about Atlanta’s growth?

CATHY WOOLARD: Atlanta is stronger when it supports each and every one of its communities. That’s the spirit I represented as city council president and in my private business, and when I’m mayor, that’s the spirit that will emanate from City Hall. A critical part of supporting every community is supporting minority-owned businesses. Minority-owned businesses are a vital part of the region’s economic engine. Were it not for the grit, ingenuity, and fearlessness of Atlanta’s MBEs, the city would not be where it is today. Under my leadership, that won’t be forgotten.

First I’d measure the performance of our WEI and MBE programs to make sure we’re hitting aggressive targets for minority inclusion in city contracts and investments. I’d report regularly on our progress in hitting those goals and make sure investments yield returns. I’d make it easier to do business with City Hall by simplifying requests for proposals and defining opportunities for startups to participate in contracts, and I’d include a callback clause in contracts with large vendors that promise jobs and partnerships so we can have an avenue for redress if they don’t meet their goals.

2. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: What is the formula for designing communities to accommodate efficient transit, affordable housing and commercial development without displacement and historical erosion?

WOOLARD: Atlanta needs a transportation system that can keep up with the breathtaking pace of our growth. I say go big or go home.

I’ll start by building five new transit lines simultaneously so we can get serious about transit-oriented development and give people real options for mobility without cars.  For the first time, we’ll be able to reduce expensive parking infrastructure and build a range of housing options for people at all income levels and ages in every quadrant of the city.  And more residents will be able to avoid the expense of owning cars for basic transportation needs.

We’ve spent years debating the definition of “affordability” and very little time and money actually building housing for anyone who needs help now to avoid being displaced or becoming homeless. We must not let development happen without careful oversight and guidance, and we must take control of our city’s future.

When I’m elected, I’ll appoint a housing commissioner and implement a strategic action plan to meet specific and measureable production targets for affordable housing at various income levels that can be tracked and adjusted as market dynamics change. I will make solving housing affordability for people at the highest risk of displacement my first priority. As we build more housing, I’ll make sure residents living in homes with escalating prices have first choice to live in units marked for long-term affordability in their existing neighborhoods and school districts. The commissioner will also be in charge of identifying and protecting historic sites and neighborhoods. Atlanta’s history is an asset to the region and the nation, and as mayor, I’ll defend it.

3. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: Atlanta constantly falls short on surveys about government transparency in comparison to other large municipalities. Considering the latest scandal out of the procurement department in City Hall, how will you ensure that that scandal represents the last of the pay-for-play dynamic in City government?

WOOLARD: I’ve served in office before. I understand there are official ethics guidelines, but I also understand there are certain things you do because they’re right. I’ve always told my staff: “If you can see the line, you’re standing too close.” I’ve worked hard to be a transparent candidate, and anyone that’s followed my campaign can vouch for that. I file my paperwork on time, making sure it’s detailed and accurate, and I behave in a way that demonstrates I hold myself to the highest ethical standards.

With that in mind, I think the best solution to improving ethics across the city is strengthening and clarifying our rules, documenting everything in complete detail, and adopting a “trust but verify” mindset. Appointees in my administration will be chosen based on their merits, nothing else. That will begin the process of shifting the culture around City Hall from being one of hidden agendas to one of forthrightness and accountability. I’ll take steps to protect the Atlanta Ethics Board from budget cuts, so that no part of my administration can operate without supervision, and I’ll rebuild our Procurements and Payments Department to eliminate “pay to play” behavior.

4. ATLANTA DAILY WORLD: How will you address homelessness in Atlanta in a sustainable way?

WOOLARD: Providing safe, stable, long-term housing is the first step to improving the life for the homeless. When people on the margins have reliable housing, it’s easier to deliver the support services that will keep them afloat.

Families with children that can’t secure housing need help first. Children in unstable housing situations experience difficulties that can span a lifetime. My primary objective will be to make sure we look out for those families and get them into stable housing as quickly possible. Young people who are aging out of foster care, as well as LGBTQ youth who’ve been kicked out of their family homes, need and deserve our support. They not only need stable housing, but they need spaces with support services that can help them get back on their feet. I’ll also work to make sure veterans and anyone else experiencing homelessness can improve their well-being.

As I stated earlier, I’ll appoint a housing commissioner, and part of their mission will be to enact solutions that will alleviate homelessness. I’ll partner with Fulton and DeKalb Counties to ensure that we are developing care management services for people in need, especially those with substance abuse problems and mental illnesses. And we’ll work to ensure that there is ready access to transit so that people struggling to survive have a way to get jobs, healthcare, and homes.

Website: http://www.cathyforatlanta.com

Email: info@cathyforatlanta.com

Twitter: @CathyWoolard

Facebook: Cathy Woolard for Atlanta Mayor

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