CL last month asked Atlanta City Council candidates to fill out a questionnaire related to the 2013 municipal election. We asked each individual about his or her opinions regarding public safety, the Falcons stadium, the Atlanta Beltline, homelessness, ethics, and other key issues. Many responded and some didn't. We've compiled all the answers we received to give readers a deeper look at the candidates' views. Note: These responses are unedited and directly what respondents sent our way.
Name: Carla Smith
Occupation: Atlanta City Council Member, District 1
Neighborhood: Woodland Hills
Hometown: Moved to Atlanta from Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally from Texas
Name: Robert Welsh
Occupation: Budget Manager for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
Name: Bill Powell
Occupation: Federal Grants Consultant
Neighborhood: Ormewood Park
Hometown: Tuskegee, AL
What is the most pressing issue facing your district? If elected (or re-elected), how would you try and address it?
Smith: Neighborhood stabilization is an issue that needs to be addressed in a holistic fashion. We have a lot of housing stock that has been abandoned due to the housing bust. Prior to that we were growing fairly well; but now we are dealing with abandonment and the need for affordable housing as well.
This is not an issue unique to District 1 or even just Atlanta. Stabilizing our communities with affordable housing is a national issue. In collaboration with Mayor Reed, we have utilized the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding which provided emergency assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop abandoned or foreclosed properties. We have restored and sold over 20 homes in District 1 with these funds.
There is still more to do. As our economy continues to recover and more funding becomes available, demolition of unsightly abandoned structures can be done. These structures can be a haven for criminals to hide.
As a member of the Atlanta City Council, I will to work with my neighborhoods to ensure we are keeping our communities looking good and desirable. I am very proud of the work I have done with Keep Atlanta Beautiful and our city's Department of Public Works. Together we have sponsored and hosted many community clean-ups. I will also maintain my annual tire round ups and encourage people to report dumping when they see it.
Welsh: It's hard to pick one issue, but creating economic opportunity and jobs across my district and south Atlanta has always been a true passion. To bring those opportunities, we need to improve our neighborhoods. I will work with City Council, Mayor, business, non-profits, and other governmental entities to create a social impact bond to improve at risk neighborhoods throughout the district and the city. I will also work with to bring the right developments to places where it would be welcomed. Most pressing in District 1 is our longstanding "food desert." We need a grocery store, and not just one, but grocery stores seeded throughout the district. Folks need access to fresh produce and meats. We also need to be mindful of location and the potential impact it may have on residents living there, of course. Growth needs to be smart with good outcomes for all residents. I will work tirelessly to bring the businesses, jobs and training opportunities to south Atlanta. 20% poverty in a district that includes some of the most desirable homes in the city is not acceptable. Not doing anything about it is deplorable. Grant Park or Thomasville Heights, we are all connected.
Powell: There two major issues in District 1: neglect of community redevelopment opportunities and increase in crime. Community neglect demonstrates a parallel pattern with increase in crime. Both resulting from conditions of economic strife and neither are easy subjects to tackle. I am particularly interested in an innovative community redevelopment program underway in another major US city that has shown an outstanding return of once blighted communities. I am eager to discuss the program's details with the Council to determine if the same approach would be applicable for Atlanta.
Mayor Kasim Reed has claimed that the crime rate in Atlanta is the lowest it's been in 50 years. But in many parts of the city, the perception of crime remains up. How would you address public safety in your district? What actions would you take as a councilmember to improve conditions?
Smith: Crime is an issue that affects all of us and threatens our city's prosperity. No matter what the numbers reveal, people will feel unsafe if they are victimized. That said it is vital that we continue to fund our police department and arm them with the tools they need to fight crime. That's why I voted to have our police force to add more than 800 officers in the last four years. This is now the largest police force we've had in our city's history. Additionally, I will promote the APD See Something Say Something and Clean Car campaigns to help eliminate crimes of opportunity and encourage reporting crime.
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