Atlanta City Council - District 3
The Center for Civic Innovation sent each of the qualified candidates for the District 3 Special Election a job description and questionnaire. Below are Byron’s responses.
QUALIFIED TO GOVERN
Q: What do you think is the most important role of the City Council?
A: The most important role of the city council is to be an advocate for those that elected us and to be the leaders of the City. An individual council member must be the champion of our district needs and the defender of the District. A council member must be a servant leader. Finally, we must look at the cities goals, major projects and the infrastructure improvements ranging from community growth to land use to finances and ensure that our District residents are treated fairly by the policies.
Q: Please describe, in sufficient detail, one professional accomplishment or contribution of which you are most proud. These examples should illustrate skills and capabilities you think apply to governing the City of Atlanta.
A: The professional accomplishment that I would like to reference is the creation of the Vine City Park. As head of the Vine City Civic Association I led the efforts of my community in the creation of the park. We first had to agree on the location of the park. There was a lot of community engagement on the front end. Next, we had to convince the City of Atlanta to add other neighborhood park to the system at a time that greenspace was not popular. We built partnerships with the Blank Foundation, Park Pride, Waterfall Foundation and Invest Atlanta to help fund the project. Park Pride lead the Community Visioning Sessions and a plan of action was developed. Overall, we raised $2.5 million for this project. Collaboration, community engagement, building of budgets and leadership are all skills that should be applied to governing the City of Atlanta.
Q: Please list or describe no more than 3 current and past activities you participated in as a private citizen (not an elected official) in which you have acquired skills and perspectives that will make you a stronger mayor. Include your role in the activity and the year(s) in which you were involved.
• 2004 - Vine City Weed and Seed designation - Weed and Seed was a federally funded Department of Justice Grant. Its intention was to “weed out the criminal element and plant new seeds of hope”. The major part of the plan was for the community to develop a five-year plan to improve our community that included law enforcement, education partners, elected official and the business community.
• 2006 - Started the Vine City Green Team - This was a for-profit company that was designed to fund the non-profit Civic Association. We received a contract from the City of Atlanta to maintain the Vine City Grounds, which is now Mimms Cook Park. We hired 3 adults, 3 to 4 youths and 1 community owned business to implement this program.
• 2007 - Partnered with Hands on Atlanta to host Service Juris, a project that included senior citizens homes being renovated, Wills prepared, estate planning information, mortgage fraud and predatory leading information.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: I am forged in the fire of Hotlanta and covered in the blood of a City too busy to hate…I am Atlanta
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: From Sherman’s touch to Dr. King’s Eternal Flame, e pluribus unum …and still we rise!!!
DEMONSTRATES PEOPLE-CENTERED APPROACHES
Q: There are several major development projects happening or planned in and around District 3. What is the role of community input in public- and private-sector development and when should it take place?
A: The role of community in the public private partnership is 50% of the partnership. If a public private partnership is initiated, the community should be engaged on the front in. The community should be the drivers of the development of their community. Do the partnership answer the questions of what is needed and wanted in the community? Often the wants and needs of the public is not aligned with the those of the private sector. This is when your elected official should engage and help to form a consensus.
Q: The NPU system was envisioned as a place for communities to engage with development in their neighborhoods. How would your administration support the existing NPU system or seek to change it?
A: I am a product of the NPU system. I served as the Vice Chair and Chair of NPU-L. I would support the NPU because it is a direct recommendation body to the leaders of the City. If there is a change to take place it would be to reflect the By-laws of several NPU that requires applicants to attend the effected NPU to get a recommendation before that attend the NPU. Several of our NPU’ s has this process in place, but the City ordinance don’t support this process. NPUs are forced to send forward a “no recommendation” because the effected neighborhood didn’t have a chance to offer a recommendation to the NPU.
PROACTIVE & RELENTLESS RELATIONSHIP-BUILDER
Q: Give an example of a time when you had to collaborate with many people and/or organizations, especially those who may not hold the same views as you do.
A: The creation of the Hollis Innovation Academy. Everyone was eager to reopen a close school in the Vine City Community. How the school should operate? What should be the grade level in the school? Who should be the Principal and several other questions had to be answered? After several engagement session, surveys and the gathering of national best practices, APS opened the school. In one years’, time the school showed a 18% increase in it test scores.
Q: Think of one major Atlanta issue impacting the district you seek to serve and that needs to be tackled with a collaborative approach, how would you build relationships across the city and region with other governments, private enterprises, or organizations to effect change in our city?
A: The strategy to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing consists of a partnership which leverages real estate owned by the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Public School System, the Atlanta BeltLine and the Atlanta Housing Authority in partnership with the private sector. The path to building new housing stock that is affordable for a working family must involve the public sector providing land at no cost (or a reduced cost) in exchange for the private sector taking the capital risk of building new housing which is affordable based upon HUD criteria. We must also leverage the resources of the Atlanta Housing Authority, along with the City, to retrofit old and dilapidated housing. We must actively enforce the City’s ordinances concerning a ten percent requirement for affordable housing in instances where public incentives are being used as a contribution to new projects.
STRONG INTEREST IN TRANSPARENCY
Q: What level of openness and transparency should the citizens of Atlanta expect from city government under your leadership?
A: Citizens should expect a high level of openness and transparency during my tenure on Council. I will lead by example by ensuring that my staff and I post our taxes online. I would also support the current efforts of Council in its creation of additional oversight measures.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government, particularly in your office.
A: The cornerstone of ethics is disclosure and sunlight. If elected, I will provide copies of my personal income tax returns on an annual basis. I will also require that every member of my staff provide copies of their income tax returns in addition to the disclosure documents already required by the Atlanta Municipal Code. Further, I will recommend that a standing council committee be established to review all contracts awarded in excess of $1 million dollars. Finally, I believe that we should require council review and oversight of any change orders or change of scopes of service which exceed five percent of the contract amount.