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 chief executive of the city, setting the vision and working with City Council, the public, and other stakeholders to ensure Atlanta remains a beacon – regionally, nationally, and globally. He or she must bring the private, public, and civic sectors together with the neighborhoods to get things done. I have a track record of visionary leadership and execution. I have the requisite skill set to find the win-wins. That’s how we advance Atlanta – together.
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: At the start of my time as COO in 2010, Atlanta faced a number of operational and financial challenges. One of the largest was a significant gap between revenue and expenses for that year and the next, at a minimum, along with services still hobbled by the recession. Through careful work listening to stakeholders and setting clear priorities and goals – such as youth development and public safety – we were able to make a series of quick important changes. We determined we could save funds in certain departments and areas by reworking management layers, improving efficiency, and by better holding managers accountable. By saving in some areas we were able to invest in other areas; we re-opened fire stations that were closed on a rotating basis (brownouts), we re-opened the pools for the summer, and we improved 9-1-1 response times.
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 2014, I was a founding board chair of a non-profit working to make homelessness “rare and brief.” As mayor, I’ll further support permanent supportive housing. Then we can stabilize situations and most effectively implement job, rehab, and re-entry programs. In 2003, I helped found the Atlanta Police Foundation. We found ways to help our officers receive more training and address resource scarcity, including re-establishing the mounted patrol. And we were able to invest heavily in education scholarships for employees and started programs to help make living in the city more affordable for officers. As a founding board member of the Westside Future Fund, in 2015, I led the discussion to fight against displacement and proposed, in our very first meeting, the idea of a fund to pay increasing property taxes of residents so they could stay in their homes. These experiences have affirmed my belief that we must do more to address those suffering, those in need.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: To be an ATLien means you are always evolving while staying true to what makes this city great.
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: Believe in the A. My campaign slogan has been “Believe in the A,” because when we believe in this city, and in each other, no one else can hold a candle to Atlanta. “Believe in the A” is about the hope that built this city, the ties that bind us, and the future we will achieve, together.
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: I have been a management consultant for the past 25 years, working with complex companies and organizations and advising them through significant challenges and opportunities. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned the best way to effect long-lasting change is to do it collaboratively. Collaborative leadership has always been my approach – in the private sector, as the city’s COO, as a non-profit board chair, and as a father and husband. It’s also how I will lead as mayor. As mayor, I am inclined to form a task force whose job it is to present the city’s best options with regards to development. If after assessing the situation, it is clear the task force is the appropriate tool, I commit to include stakeholders from the community.
This is the case whether we are talking about this issue, or revitalizing neighborhoods, or expanding parks, or anything else. I want the best ideas to out, whether they come from me or not, and whether I get the credit or not.
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, as originally designed by Mayor Maynard Jackson, is not what it used to be. Over time, for a number of reasons, it has lost its clout. I am committed to re-invigorating this invaluable mouthpiece for our communities. To give one example, there should be more than one way to take part. If we use technology to post more information about the meetings online, it gives local residents who are not in attendance the chance to still keep up with events that so directly affect them. Additionally, the NPUs need more staff support from city hall; I will make that happen. More broadly, I want the mayor’s office to be intentional about engagement so that people feel consulted and not just informed of the major decisions going on around them. If elected, I will make sure that you and your community have a voice.
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 the city’s Chief Operating Officer in 2010–2011, I helped set the mayor’s priorities as we worked to rebuild the city following the Great Recession. This included addressing the city’s unfunded pension liability and creating fiscally responsible annual budgets. Obviously, everyone has a stake in where and how we spend city dollars. But the group I interacted with most immediately with City Council and the employee unions. I was on the side that had to take everyone’s position into account. I had to work with dueling personalities and differing interests, and come out on the other side with compromises. My opponents have only been on the other side. They have been a part of the budget process, but not the side that is ultimately held to the greatest account. My possession of that invaluable experience is worth remembering on election day. Pension reform passed Council unanimously and had the support of all the major employee unions.
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: I plan to be the “Education Mayor,” and I’m willing to stake my second term on whether I can help deliver results and remove the siloes holding us back. My focus is on three areas: Early childhood, K-12, and work readiness. As mayor, I will put us on a track to build a means-tested, high-quality program for every child in the city under the age of four. In the Atlanta I envision, every child shows up to Kindergarten with the same chance to succeed. The city will lead the way, but we need others to help build the classrooms and collaborative financing to fully realize that dream. I will dedicate staff to APS, and I will regularly meet with the Superintendent. If we act as a team, we can leverage city resources to help improve our schools. Finally, I want to see job training programs like Westside Works and Families First multiplied by as much as ten times. The model is there. We just need to scale it. But we can’t get there without foundations, non-profits, and others stepping up.
STRONG INTEREST IN TRANSPARENCY
Q: What level of openness and transparency should the citizens of Atlanta expect from city government under your leadership?
A: People can expect me to do what I have always done: Hold myself and the people around me to the highest ethical standards. It’s the bedrock of my platform. You deserve a government you can trust, a city you can believe in. These aren’t sound bites. I’ve walked the walk on this issue. As COO, I became aware of individuals violating the procurement code. I had it investigated, terminated people, gave the whistleblower their job back, and issued a statement condemning their actions. It’s unfortunate to relieve someone of their job, but not when they’re breaking the rules. It sent a clear signal to their peers about right and wrong, and a signal to the public about how Atlanta would conduct itself. Prior to that, in my time at Bain and Co., I spent seven years re-building my firm’s global ethics policy and received the company’s highest award for doing so. As mayor, I will initiate a series of reforms to ensure citizens can see who is really getting their tax dollars.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government.
A: It starts from the top. I will personally train all city employees on updated ethics procedures. I will expect employees who see something going wrong to report it. I will use smartphones, open-door policies, and third-party surveys to give people the chance to speak out. Second is making it easier and fairer to do business with the city. We will continue our EBO and DBE programs and do more to make sure people are winning on merit, not relationships. We will look at a lottery-based system to decide tied bids. I will partner with counties and other agencies to standardize procedures and make things simpler everywhere. We must prioritize transparency. All emergency procurements will face stringent audits. City payments and city contracts will be open to the public and searchable online. We will also explore recording bid-related meetings between vendors and city officials. You deserve an ethical, transparent, and responsive City Hall you can brag to your friends and family about.