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What I personally "feel" will have no bearing on any future vote. As an experienced City Planner working with major development projects, I will require that proposed development projects do three things: (1) create jobs, (2) generate local revenue, and (3) adhere to all statutes and requirements of the identified funding source and proper zoning requirements for the proposed project. The latter item includes a thorough review of the environmental impacts to the neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed development.
Last year, metro Atlanta voters rejected the T-SPLOST, which would have raised billions of dollars in funding for large-scale transportation projects throughout the region and smaller projects inside the city limits. Mobility remains an issue in Atlanta. What ideas do you have for improving transportation?
Smith: The failure of last year's T-SPLOST was personally very upsetting to me, but I was hopeful to see that it passed in the city of Atlanta. That tells me that our citizens recognize that our traffic woes must be addressed. I would support an effort to bring this back to the ballot on a possibly scaled down version for residents of Fulton, Dekalb and the city of Atlanta. We already have a vetted project list that could solve many of the traffic concerns. I believe that if we offered it up for a vote again, it would pass.
Additionally, I support any efforts to remove the 50/50 handcuffs permanently for MARTA. Our city's transit agency needs the autonomy to decide how to operate and maintain the system. Residents and visitors alike rely heavily on MARTA and we need to continue to invest in it.
Welsh: I believe that a well thought through public-private partnership can be part of the solution. The Atlanta Beltline is a wonderful example of how an infrastructural vision can be jointly achieved through a public/private partnership. A number of inner city housing developments here and elsewhere have achieved likewise. The days when huge developments are imposed on neighborhoods without their consent needs to end. These developments, while good for business in the short term, must take into account a longer vision for the area where they develop so all may enjoy. Again, the Beltline is a wonderful example of this, which is why I strongly support it's implementation. It unifies the city in ways superhighways never will. It builds ridership for MARTA and supports bike and pedestrian-friendly pathways, all of which I believe in. It is also friendly to development which brings a welcome stream of fresh energy, money and jobs into our city. Due to lawsuits and the failure of the T-SPLOST, we need to do everything we can to support and expedite construction of the Beltline. To that end, I would support reviving a modified T-SPLOST at some point in the future. I would also look seriously at any proposal that rewarded users of mass transportation and discouraged the use of single driver vehicles.
Powell: T-SPLOST was a brilliant tax proposition with one major flaw. It should have omitted suburban communities. The proposed referendum placed before the voters included all transportation projects taken from the Atlanta Regional Commission's (ARC) adopted Federal Transportation Improvement Program (FTIP). However, the FTIP document implies that everyone within the metropolitan region think alike. This is a complete fallacy and major obstacle with regional planning efforts in general. It's a challenging task not only in Atlanta, but for several metropolitan areas around the country.
I have little interest in what goes on outside 285. Likewise, I am sure there are those in suburbia that feel the same way about the City. These distinctions were made most clear during my tenure as Principal Planner with ARC. There were serious disagreements between counties over available project funding.
The urban counties may have wanted a much need street improvement or bridge project while suburban counties upset at the lack of trees for a highway median project. Both are valid concerns, yet terribly polarizing for one metropolitan area required to establish a priority set of projects.
I am hopeful that T-SPLOST II will segment communities with similar objectives, and not throw everyone into the same pot.
Homelessness in Atlanta remains a pressing problem. However, the city's charter limits what it can do to fight the issue. What realistic options does the city have when it comes to tackling homelessness?
Smith: We are already making great strides in partnership with homeless agencies like Atlanta Mission and others. Even thought it's not in our charter, we must continue to find ways to get people off the streets and into housing and stable jobs. That's why I support the city's Unsheltered No More initiative. Through this effort, we have housed more than 700 homeless individuals. I have great hope that the city will see much success with this initiative.
We must also forge a stronger partnership with Fulton County and find collaborative, innovative solutions for our homeless population.
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