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What is a city issue in Atlanta that, in your opinion, very few people have paid attention to? Could you — and would you — address it?
Watson: Much like pension reform was the signature fiscal matter facing the City in this first term, addressing our $1.4 billion unfunded additional post-employment benefits (OPEB) liability will be a priority next term. The liability is not currently shown on the books. We will pull together an expert panel to advise how best to manage the costs and the Council and the Administration – with employee input – will ultimately select the option that best meets our objective.
Norwood: One of my greatest concerns is the appearance of commercial corridors in our city with their stretches of abandoned strip malls, absentee landlords, and trash everywhere. Our citizens deserve better. All over our city, citizens are maintaining their property, while the nearby structures are allowed to deteriorate and negatively impact the community. Both Code Enforcement and Public Works have a role to play in addressing this issue, and I will work with my colleagues and these departments to make real progress on this.
Southeast Atlanta residents recently raised concerns about a big-box retail center along the Atlanta Beltline. As the Beltline continues along in its development, what steps would you take to make sure its vision — specifically, the one residents laid out in planning meetings — is fulfilled?
Watson: The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the most important developments in our City's history. It is a fundamental innovation just as the airport was under Mayor Hartsfield – and we want to get it right the first time.
As I have previously with BeltLine projects, I will continue to encourage developers and the associated community to work together to find solutions that work for all and positively impact the overall purpose of this transformative development. This includes encouraging affordable housing, senior housing, safe connectivity to public transit, and additional green space.
Norwood: The presence of a big-box retail giant is totally incongruous with the very spirit in which the Beltline was conceived. In my mind, the Beltline is sacred ground and I have proudly supported it since its inception. How can we not be thrilled and want to maintain a vibrant, sustainable, living, connective presence?
From the beginning, I have advocated for appropriately-scaled density, so that connectivity "across the tracks" and into the neighborhoods will be preserved. In the interim, while I have not been a member of the City Council, much progress has been made regarding the Beltline. However, there are areas where the zoning was not updated, causing the current problem of big-box development near Glenwood. If re-elected to City Council, I will immediately put together a Task Force to review our Land Use and Zoning code to make sure that our laws match our intentions to redevelop Atlanta in an ecologically-friendly, sustainable manner. The Beltline will be at the top of my list.
What's your favorite part of the district you want to represent? What's your least favorite part that you hope to change?
Watson: As a reminder, I serve in an at-large capacity and certainly cannot select a favorite part of the City; our districts offer distinct amenities and experiences. What I most enjoy about the City at large is the diversity of our neighborhoods, the opportunities provided by transformational projects such as the Atlanta Streetcar and the Atlanta BeltLine and our promising bicycling infrastructure.
The opportunities these projects provide allow us to address collectively and collaboratively our pockets of economic despair through aggressive code enforcement, community-oriented projects, and creative place-making.
Norwood: Atlanta has many neighborhoods with distinct flavors, complexities, and personalities, and during my previous years on the council and during my mayoral campaign, I was in almost all of them...in every part of the city.
Senseless crime against my constituents and friends is what worries me the most. I worry that one more break-in, one more robbery, one more shooting and the neighborhood will become disillusioned, disenfranchised, and disappear from the radar. If elected, I would like to continue my campaign for more cops on the beat, a faster response time for 911 calls, and the establishment of stronger neighborhood policing and the installation of cameras.
How would you feel about Atlanta's current ethics and transparency practices? What, if anything, would you do to improve the current rules? If nothing, why?
Watson: The City has extensive open records and open meetings laws that we adhere to by mandate. Additionally, Council members file annual disclosure reports with the City and the State. I believe that more can be done to share data within our various City departments.
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