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The Video Integration Center with its surveillance camera system has given our police force important information in apprehending perpetrators. If re-elected, I will advocate for cameras in all areas that are traveled by our citizens, including our neighborhood commercial districts all over the city.
In addition to our police, we must make sure that our first responders have the tools that they need to protect the health and safety of our citizens. Public Safety is paramount for our city to thrive and continue to attract new businesses and residents.
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?
Watson: As a citywide policy maker, I view public safety from both a micro and macro lens as it includes cooperation from county, state and federal authorities. Presently, we are only four police officers short of our goal of having 2,000 officers on the force – a first for Atlanta. As a result of the current Council and administration making public safety priority number one, over the past four years, violent crime has been reduced by 17 percent.
In addressing the perception of crime, we must use the data appropriately to address concerns and educate the public on those areas most affected. While police presence is key, citizen involvement in creating a safer Atlanta is no less so. Other concerns that impact perception include blight and even broader issues such as drug and human trafficking. The micro issue of code enforcement of abandoned homes and vacant lots impacts the broader perception of public safety.
Additionally, providing our young people with a learning environment that meets their needs and safe after-school options are also micro issues with a wider impact. Enhancing and supporting our community policing program and the Centers of Hope will continue to have a significant impact.
Furthermore, it is no secret the county court system has served as revolving door for repeat offenders who show complete disregard for society. It is imperative that the City and County aggressively tackle this issue.
Ultimately, we will continue to confront the perception of crime through collaboration – with Atlanta citizens, APS, Fulton County, and state and federal organizations.
Norwood: See above answer.
If you're an incumbent and you voted for the proposed Falcons stadium, why did you do so? If you're a challenger, how would you have voted and why?
Watson: In March when I joined the majority of the Atlanta City Council to send the new stadium financing to the next level of approval, I voted to support a project that will bring tourism and construction jobs to the City while preserving our financial stability and the quality of the neighborhoods that surround the project. Prior to casting my vote, I met with community leaders and read numerous emails from constituents.
The Council's amendments, which I helped develop, guarantee that the City will not be responsible for cost or operating overruns by ensuring no public dollars from the General Fund will be used on this project. The stadium neighborhoods will also benefit from a broadly interpreted amendment that includes a draft community benefits agreement that clearly shows the Council has heard the public's concerns.
Council action extended the hotel motel tax (HMT) by 30 years. I consistently raised questions regarding the HMT revenue stream. Current state law mandates that 39.3 percent of the HMT be used for debt service and operation and maintenance of a stadium. The public contribution towards construction of the proposed new stadium will be $200 million in the form of a revenue bond secured by the HMT. Additionally, an undetermined amount -- referred to as the "Waterfall" -- is comprised of the funds remaining after bond repayments. Among other things, the Waterfall will go to reserves, operations and maintenance of the new stadium. I hope that the City, State and community stakeholders will work together to allow a portion of the Waterfall to be used for ongoing community needs over the life of the new stadium -- especially if the proceeds exceed initial projections. I am referring to this potential excess as the "Windfall" -- which is the difference between the actual revenue generated over the life of the HMT and the payments for the reserves, operation and maintenance costs.
While I raised questions about the amount of HMT revenue stream, especially the value of the Waterfall portion, I decided to vote for the financing based on: (1) the General Fund protections added by Council, (2) the requirements for the negotiation of a community benefits agreement before distribution of any proceeds from the HMT backed bonds, and (3) my support for our region's largest and growing employment sector, tourism.
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