Job Application: Atlanta City Council - District 1
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 represent the interests of the citizens of Atlanta with strong, ethical and transparent governance, thereby ensuring the health, welfare, comfort and safety of all citizens. The City Council must address a range of legislative and functional activities including policy development, advocacy, representation and strategic planning.
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:My most proud professional and personal accomplishment has been having one of my quotes selected for display in the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Several years ago, I appeared on CNN to speak about my alma mater Spelman College and during that interview, I was able to vocalize the gift Spelman College has been in my life and those words were chosen to celebrate the great attributes of historically black colleges and universities in the museums HBCU display. Many of my capabilities and strengths, including my strong educational background, my analytical and writing skills and my ability to communicate effectively were developed while a student at Spelman College. I believe all of these skills, along with a dedication and passion for community service are required to govern effectively as a member of the City Council.
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: In 2013-2014, I was appointed by Mayor Reed to serve on the License Review Board for the City of Atlanta. As a Board Member, I was tasked with reviewing, approving or denying special events permits, alcohol licenses and renewals and more. I learned to interpret and apply city code, recommend adverse action when needed and work with City Officials, the Atlanta Police Department and other interested parties to resolve matters of conflict. In 2013, I served on the Marketing Advisory Board for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. As a volunteer member of the Advisory Board, we were tasked with increasing membership by establishing key media partnerships, developing branding and marketing opportunities with targeted influencers and communicating the Center's message to a diverse community in Atlanta. All of our efforts were focused on serving the mission of the Center and its dedication to the fundamental rights of all human beings and helped make me a better servant leader.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: It means you love Atlanta, the people, the food and you wouldn't want to live anywhere else. You want the best for your city in every way.
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: Atlanta...Where People Matter Most
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: In deciding what to do with surplus properties owned by the City of Atlanta, I believe is vitally important to hear the input of communities as we continue to be challenged by the lack of affordable housing in the City. Community input can take place in a variety of ways. Currently, community input happens through open public comment at City Council meetings, neighborhood association meetings and NPU monthly meetings. Often times, these meeting are not heavily attended. I would like to see an opportunity for all residents to have the opportunity to provide community input online, 24 hours a day during specified open comment periods.
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 believe the NPU system is vitally important and provides an opportunity for much needed community input. Unfortunately, the NPU system needs to be updated, strengthened and more fully supported by the City Council. Often times at NPU meetings, there are no elected officials present to give updates on development, timelines, votes or general information from City Hall. There is no way for residents that are unable to attend the NPU meeting to follow the meeting online or participate via Skype technology. I believe we can do better to make NPU meetings available online. I would also like to re-examine the strength and usefulness of the NPU vote. Many times neighbors will gather, vote and become frustrated with the power or lack of power of their recommendation and wonder if it has any real effect on decisions being made at City Hall.
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: As a former attorney, radio personality and television commentator, I have extensive experience working with diverse groups of people, collaborating with organizations and working toward resolution with people of differing views. As the organizer and host of numerous town hall style meetings, I was most challenged in recent years when planning conversations about police brutality and racial profiling, always trying to present a balance of viewpoints from the victim perspective as well as law enforcement. I found it very important to do a tremendous amount of listening, always being respectful of each person's viewpoint and experiences. Collaboration is key to being an effective leader. The only way to work toward solutions that benefit all people, is to be open to differing opinions and have the desire to find workable solutions that incorporate the interests and needs of all parties involved.
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: When I think about how I can best serve not only my District 1 neighbors, but our great city, affordable housing appears to be one of our greatest challenges. Post the Great Recession, Atlanta is building again and District 1 is clearly represented in this growth; however, as I see the many construction crews arriving early and staying late in various neighborhoods to build luxury homes, high- end apartments and modern renovations, I see affordable housing disappearing. I understand that affordable housing for families and seniors is vital, and District 1, like other intown neighborhoods, lacks quality, safe, affordable housing options. As a city leader, I would urge my peers to consider the examples of similar cities that successfully balance the affordable and market rate housing options for citizens. I would seek the expertise of the Urban Land Institute and develop partnerships with nonprofit affordable housing developers.
STRONG INTEREST IN TRANSPARENCY
Q: What level of openness and transparency should the citizens of Atlanta expect from city government under your leadership?
A: Accountability, transparency, and openness are standards of good government that enhance public trust. We must always commit to act from this standard. As a City Council member, I would first recommend an annual code of conduct review and commitment from city employees. I would also call for a review of current operations—from hiring policy, performance management and evaluations to compensation/benefits. I would expect the outcome of these audits to trigger actions to remove unethical practices from city government, acknowledge the honest and fair practices; and rebuild the public’s trust.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government, particularly in your office.
A: I absolutely believe that the City of Atlanta’s procurement process needs to be reviewed and refreshed to become more transparent, professional and to reflect today’s business technology advances. The procurement operations need to be revised to follow best practices as used in other cities. I would support changes that remove the onerous requirements and bring in simplified and digital practices that would encourage competitive bidding, pricing and quality products and services. A streamlined approach to procuring services will be in the best interest of taxpayers. Furthermore, considering the recent developments related to alleged bribery in the City’s procurement process, ethics and transparency should be a focal point of the 2017 municipal elections. The City must restore integrity, eliminate conflicts of interest and rebuild trust with its citizens and businesses.