Job Application: Mayor of Atlanta
QUALIFIED TO GOVERN
Q: What do you think is the most important role of the mayor?
A: The mayor must be THE LEADER of the city and all its people. The mayor cannot be a bully; he must be firm, yet compassionate. I will lead a city that is compassionate and prosperous; with a government that is trustworthy, values community, promotes safety, and operates efficiently and effectively.
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: Becoming the Regional Director for the Peace Corps was an accomplishment of which I remain most proud. In that role, and my time with the Peace Corps, I traveled to dozens of countries and learned how our differences are not our weaknesses--but our strengths. As we build Atlanta into a 21st Century City, I will take those unification skills to bridge gaps and different communities into “one Atlanta” working together so that we truly can prosper and leave no one behind along the journey.
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: German Marshall Fund; 2001 to present; American Fellow (Alumnus): The GMF strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. The skills I acquired in research & analysis, plus establishing lifelong international relationships will help grow Atlanta economically, socially and culturally. The Temple; 2016 to present; Social Justice Action Committee: I am a longtime member of this Synagogue. My volunteering with the Social Action Committee has already come in handy; it gave me spiritual guidance to establish the Fulton County Inter-Faith Council. Morehouse College; Class of 1984; Alumnus: As a “Morehouse Man” since 1984, I’ve spent much of my time ensuring the training of young men never be diminished. As an alum, I remain active in supporting the College and students. In doing so, I recently helped establish the first Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) center at Morehouse to fight HIV and AIDS.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: An ATLANTAN is one who believes in freedom; economic, environmental and social justice; prosperity; faithfulness; has compassion and cares.
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: “Atlanta Cares: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” This would tie our city to its greatest moniker of our past: “too busy to hate,” and connect us to today and our future in that same spirit!
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: The COMMUNITY should have a say in every step of decision making--because the properties BELONG TO THEM. Now, depending on the types of properties, I would put a laser focus on establishing more affordable housing stock. 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. As Fulton County Chairman, 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 as mayor, I will work even harder to provide more creative homestead exemptions to guard against people being forced out of their homes as neighborhoods’ values change and their demographic characteristics.
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: The NPU system has provided great service to the city. But it is time to look at updating it and rooting out inconsistencies to make sure the feedback provided represents the entire community. We should look at incorporating modern technology to get greater participation. We need developers and residents to work on the front-end to ensure developments are a win for everyone. Georgia Tech researchers revealed: “engagement needs of the city during urban renewal when the NPUs were created have shifted. Now land development is on the backburner and vacant housing, crime, and redevelopment are at the forefront of citizen’s concerns.” Understanding this, as mayor, I will launch a 100-day “Listening Tour” of neighborhoods to learn the benefits and challenges each of our diverse neighborhoods face. Then, we’ll implement a neighborhood-mobilization plan bringing all neighborhoods to quality standards—to include access to better transportation; retail; affordable housing and quality schools.
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: With a humble heart, I can proudly say that John Eaves is the only collaborator in the race for mayor. Upon taking office as Chairman of Fulton County 10 years ago, the county was divided: divided by race, political I.D., geography, (North vs South). After working with 15 cities with a diverse population of one million residents, Fulton is now more unified than ever before. I established the Fulton County Mayors Council to bring together leaders of different races, creeds, parties and demographics. It was hard work but I refused to give up. The result? Working together Fulton County is SAFER, HEALTHIER, SMARTER, AND STRONGER ECONOMICALLY. The coalition I led saw us invest a half-billion dollars in Grady Hospital; $276 million renovating and building new libraries in every neighborhood: rich, poor, black and white; surplus budgets with excess of $100 million in reserves annually; and we passed the boldest transportation plan ($655 million T-SPLOST) in the history of the Atlanta Region
Q: Using an example of one major Atlanta issue you would tackle 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: As noted in the previous answer, we have done much by working together. But if there is one issue that we must set apart above others for future collaboration it is TRANSPORTATION. As mayor, I will use the same collaborating skill set I brought to Fulton County as Chairman to achieve the successes listed above. I believe we must communicate with each other: local, state and federal agencies, I have done it and will continue to. The City won’t grow if people spend all their time stuck in traffic. We cannot prosper unless we can move people and goods throughout the city efficiently and effectively. The first order of business is to eliminate gridlock and improve our transportation system. The Eaves Administration will invest in roads and bridges; add bicycle lanes and sidewalks; and of course, support MARTA’s continued expansion both inside the city and throughout the Atlanta Region. We will not wait until the next overpass collapses to act. “A stitch in time saves nine”—and saves lives.
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 same openness I gave them as Chairman of Fulton County the past ten years. Fulton has become the role model nationwide. We were recently named the best county in the nation for transparency and ethics in government, by the National Association of Counties (NACo). There has been ZERO corruption or scandal in Fulton County. The city I lead will have a culture at which everyone knows we value the public trust and one where we will work every day to ensure we maintain it. The tone is set at the top, and in the spirit of transparency, as mayor, I will annually disclose all sources of income and release my tax returns. I will urge all elected officials to do the same.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government.
A: As mayor on Day ONE, I will 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. We will put in place best practices of openness and root out any scent of impropriety. Further, we will post city financial records and contacts on a portal to allow public access in a simple, clear way. I will create regular opportunities for residents to bring their issues to staff and me.