Job Application: Atlanta City Council - District 3
QUALIFIED TO GOVERN
Q: What do you think is the most important role of the City Council?
A: To position the city to provide great, sustainable services and infrastructure to its constituents and stakeholders, in an environment that respects people, values culture, and proactively thinks about the future through policy and resource provision. When done effectively it has the ability to set the tone for progress across the city, and region, measuring what success looks like across communities. In challenging times its role is to be the anchor for necessary decisions of local governance.
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: When laying the groundwork for my career in public service, I had the opportunity to attend a premier institution charged with creating local government leaders. Receiving my Master of Public Administration, graduating with honors, from the U.S. News & World Report No. 1 School in the country for City Management and Urban Policy is an accomplishment I am proud of. As an APS graduate and first-generation college graduate, this was a very personal accomplishment for my family, and my MPA experience laid the foundation for me to excel as a practitioner in government, understanding the impact and commitment required to fully serve communities. Through this accomplishment my experience guided me through working day-to-day as a leader in local government, becoming a municipal department leader for the first time at 27. As a potential councilman, my experience in senior-level administration and community-based work, afford me with a unique perspective on solutions to challenging issues.
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.
A: Humbly, I have served in many roles connecting to community-based work in our city. Three of these roles include; the Founder of the Atlanta Speaks Initiative (2011 to Present), recruiting and organizing over 900 various professionals to provide career exposure within classrooms to thousands of APS Students; Board Member of the APS CTAE District-Wide Advisory Board (2010 to Present), serving as the immediate past Chairman, working with industry partners to enhance the efforts of the college and career pathways division focused on workforce development; and, serving as the Vice Chair for a South Fulton Charter School (2015 to Present), providing oversight to the goals and success of students in a high school setting. My qualifications extend to other capacities including current and alumni connections to the United Way VIP Program, Outstanding Atlanta, LEAD Atlanta, New Leaders Council, ARC Education Task Force, ARC Millennial Advisory Panel and the Metro Chamber ATLeaders committee.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: As a fourth-generation westsider, it means you still have enough gratitude to traditions, and people, to represent for them and your family.
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: Atlanta: The City of Influence and Hospitality
DEMONSTRATES PEOPLE-CENTERED APPROACHES
Q: The City of Atlanta currently owns several hundred surplus properties that could be redeveloped. In deciding what to do with these properties, what is the role of community input and when should it take place?
A: My goal as a councilman is to have active, ongoing relationships with constituents, fueled by the flow of information. I strongly believe that input on any issue, especially land use and plans for properties, should be ongoing. This will be done by our proactive distribution of information, our 100% presence at neighborhood meetings, and inclusive dialogue that keeps people at the decision making table. For district 3 city-owned properties, I want to have a comprehensive plan for not just the city’s parcel, but for the surrounding development as well. The ideas and plans for what neighbors want, and don’t want, will have to be an ongoing community engagement effort. Community input should be valued heavily in decisions that are made, and I plan to engage neighbors through the traditional meeting opportunities (NHA Meetings, NPUs, etc.), in addition to using constant surveys, online platforms for engagement, and additional forums, before, during, and after decisions are made.
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 will have 100% presence of either myself, or my city council office at each of the NPU meetings in district 3. Additionally, I would like to take the decisions made at the NPU meetings and disperse them out, or develop a platform, for those that were not able to attend the meetings. I will do the same for those issues of concerns that may come up at NPU meetings, but may not be fully addressed by the NPU, or city department present. I will also work towards a specific training and development budget for current and interested NPU leaders. These opportunities will extend to residents that want to become more familiar with how their NPU works, but may not be able to fully understand the NPU’s role while attending the meetings. Lastly, I will develop strategies and channels of information to get more community stakeholders to the NPU meetings to address low participation.
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: While working for a smaller municipality, we found ourselves in a tough fiscal year planning process where a budget shortfall dominated the conversations. In reviewing budget cuts, I had to work with all of the municipal departments and staff on where resources would be cut to produce a balanced budget. During these conversations we had to recommend an adjustment to the short, mid, and long-term operating budget that would close public safety facilities. This was very controversial and stakeholders, community members, and some elected officials were very vocal about the recommendation. It was a time where working through the facts with several organizations, with some assurance that service levels would not place the city in a compromising position, proved that right-sizing government can be tough, but beneficial to sustainability. The recommendation is still in place to this day, and helped the municipality overcome some chronic challenges it faced in previous fiscal years.
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: Housing and affordability concerns are a key priority for what we will have to be more proactive on in our district--where active displacement has occurred for years in some areas. There has been some positive impact on housing in some areas in the district, while others have some tough housing challenges ahead in district 3. I would like to see more affordable options for current residents, and more anti-displacement efforts driven by the city and county. While I have some existing relationships within the public, non-profit, and private sector to assist with this work, I’d like to develop a specific plan that leaders can rally around. A plan that enables me to take existing relationships, while building new ones, to come up with specific goals and roles, that each stakeholder can play. From the city perspective, my role is to be a champion for diverse funding mechanisms, while keeping the projects in motion, accountable to the short, mid and long-term solution.
STRONG INTEREST IN TRANSPARENCY
Q: What level of openness and transparency should the citizens of Atlanta expect from city government under your leadership?
A: The citizens should expect a councilman that is going to adopt policies and procedures that keep citizens informed, updated, and confident that all the information they need, will be available to them. We will do this through our actions and way of conducting the public’s business on behalf of district 3. For those instances where the city council needs to take leadership on transparency, I will be a voice on the city council to promote actions and efforts to this effect. I understand that public confidence is low related to this topic, so my task will be to individually, and collectively, regain and improve public trust at city hall.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government, particularly in your office.
A: I believe that elected officials by policy, should provide quarterly reports on budgetary spending to communicate to their constituents. I also believe that in city budgets, the city council members should provide information on their detailed budgets--rather than the information being “rolled up” into one line item. Our office will be 100% present at all NHA and NPU meetings, and through our presence, make the office available, when citizens are committing their time and energy to advance communities. Additionally, our office will be extremely mobile, fostering a connection with constituents between meetings to build relationships, and stay in constant two-way communication with residents and stakeholders.