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: Alex Wan
Occupation: Director of Development, Emory University
Neighborhood: Morningside – Lenox Park
Name: Mike Boyle
Occupation: Activist, Boot ParkAtlanta
Neighborhood: Virginia Highland
Name: Tracey Austin
Occupation: Mother & Business Owner
Hometown: Hempstead, New York
What is the most pressing issue facing your district? If elected (or re-elected), how would you try and address it?
Wan: Anyone traveling around our city can clearly see that our infrastructure (roads, bridges, sidewalks, etc.) is in disrepair and in need of significant investment. Streets are marked with potholes, sidewalks are in pieces, and numerous bridges are on the Georgia Department of Transportation's list of dangerous structures. The backlog of infrastructure needs is estimated at approximately $1 billion, due largely to the city's inability to invest the requisite $50-$100 million per year annually on maintenance because of Atlanta's limited, but improving financial condition. This is clearly not sustainable and, if left unaddressed, negatively impacts our district's quality of life and will ultimately hamper our city's ability to grow and attract businesses, residents and visitors.
During the four years I have served on City Council, I have focused on maximizing the efficient deployment of our resources – namely tax dollars – to delivering quality city services. This has necessary partly due to declining property values and revenues, but also because we have had to focus our limited resources on the most critical and core city services. While this certainly includes investing in our infrastructure, it was not until this year that we were finally able to free up a modest amount of in our operating budget to apply toward these needs. That said, rather than continuing to chip away at the backlog with a few million here or there, a better solution may be a bond issuance to bring a more impactful, onetime investment in the magnitude of hundreds of millions of dollars. Fortunately, our improved fiscal condition has increased our creditworthiness (evidenced by our upgraded bond ratings) and, therefore, borrowing capacity. As a result, we are once again in a position to explore the option of taking on debt, albeit responsibly. The key will be selecting those projects that have the most impact and/or address the most critical needs.
Boyle: Terminating the failed ParkAtlanta contract and installing a more reasonable parking enforcement program in its place are my twin goals. This unfriendly group has harmed a lot of the intangibles of our neighborhoods—privacy, sanctuary, peace of mind, and has hurt local businesses. The public has expressed consistent and strong displeasure, yet this city council, including my incumbent opponent, has failed to put forth a termination proposal. My new program would derive from the desires and requirements as expressed by the neighborhoods and their NPU's, and a best practice study of parking systems in similar cities. I am confident that once we eliminate ParkAtlanta, it won't be difficult to find something better.
Austin: Our safety and efforts toward sustainability.
I am going to work with business owners and residents to put forth a collective effort in making District 6 a model district for Safety & Sustainability. We must update our infrastructure in a sustainable way – traffic solutions, green development, smart grid infrastructure, and water management – this will improve the quality of life for our families and as a result, our children. Also, efforts toward safety must be improved; we want to create a district which offers safe neighborhoods that are walkable and bikable. Our children need safe environments to play in and our parents need to feel supported by our city in their efforts to protect their families from environmental or physical harm.
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?
Wan: While the crime rate may be significantly lower than when I joined Atlanta City Council four years ago, the perception of crime is still up. In fact, I too was a victim of crime when my house was broken into in August 2012, so I am particularly sensitive to this issue. My strategy to address public safety is twofold. First, I will continue to create financial capacity in our general fund through fiscal responsibility to be able to fund additional officers as well as more technology and equipment for the police force. Second, I will work to continue expanding our community partnerships with Atlanta Police through neighborhood watch and alert systems. A testament to how effective these networks can be, it was through the contributions from our community listserv that the perpetrator that robbed me and several of my neighbors was caught and successfully sentenced.
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