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: H. Lamar Willis
Neighborhood: SW Atlanta
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Name: Andre Dickens, Candidate for Atlanta City Coucil, Post 3 At-Large
Occupation: Administrator, Georgia Institute of Technology
Neighborhood: West Atlanta, Underwood Hills
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
What is the most pressing issue facing your district? If elected (or re-elected), how would you try and address it?
Willis: The most pressing facing our city is improving our educational system. While education does not fall directly under the purview of the city, our school system has an enormous effect on our local economy, public safety, and overall quality of life. In the next term, it is important that the city strengthen its relationship with Atlanta Public Schools and partner with APS on programs that keep our children mentally and physically active in a productive way.
We have already taken steps by re-opening all of our recreational facilities, but we need to find ways to attract more children to them and expand our programming. The city can also assist our school system by connecting local schools with the business community and exposing our youth to different professions and industries.
Dickens: The first issue is Safer Neighborhoods, which I believe everyone deserves. Although we've seen a reduction in crime over the past few years, I think we still have room for improvement. Many people don't "feel" safe and most of us either know someone, like me, who's been the victim of crime and/or have experienced it first hand. (*My home was burglarized and one of my campaign staffers was recently mugged in Midtown.)
I believe the challenge with creating safer neighborhoods is that the solution must be integrative and scalable over time. Collectively, we can achieve public safety goals through a combination of 1) increased police presence, which is a crime deterrent and helps build community trust,) 2) removing blight and vacant properties that are a haven for crime, 3) initiating programs for youth to decrease petty crimes and lastly, 4) improving our school system by instituting best practices that have proven to be effective in cities facing similar challenges.
Job Creation and Retention also continues to be a major focus for our city as we work our way out of the recession. As the City of Atlanta continues to strive to be the preferred place to start and own a business, we must take care of our existing businesses as well as our local entrepreneurs by ensuring advocacy for and access to the myriad of local, state and federal programs available to small business owners. By increasing the job opportunities at all levels, we can continue to lift the individuals who are more experienced, while also filling positions for less-skilled workers. In addition to creating jobs, making sure that there is equitable access to these new opportunities is also important. Workplace equality is not only good for business; it's good for Atlanta. I will also advocate for programs to help our unskilled workers acquire a pathway out of perpetual poverty by equipping them with training and knowledge. If we invest in the future and help people by giving them the tools to break prior trends, I believe our entire community will benefit. Rising tides lift all boats.
Looking long-term, job creation/retention also means ensuring Atlanta's children have access to a world-class education. If we have a strong school system, I believe employers will be more apt to bringing good paying jobs to the market. As a father, I want more for my children than I had for myself.
The third, but certainly not least, issue is higher Ethics in Government. My opponent has proven to have numerous ethical challenges. It is time for us to no longer tolerate unethical behavior – in any form. Some may argue that there are no absolutes, but to me, as a public servant the bottom line is about acknowledging right from wrong – even in so called, gray areas. You are either trustworthy or not. Ethics requires knowing difference between what you "can do" by virtue of position, and what is "right to do" then acting appropriately.
As stewards of the public's trust, I believe the onus is on elected officials to avoid conflicts of interest and comply with all ethics codes and regulations. I strongly support upholding the code of ethics that was strengthened in 2002 by Mayor Shirley Franklin. There are certainly many honest public servants in Atlanta and if elected, I plan to be one of them.
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