Q&A with Mayoral Candidate, Glenn Thomas
(APN) ATLANTA — In continuing Atlanta Progressive News’ series with candidates for Mayor of the City of Atlanta, APN received the following answers to our candidate interview questions from Glenn Thomas.
APN has previously published interviews with Kasim Reed, Mary Norwood, and Lisa Borders, as well as former candidate Ceasar Mitchell, in the race for Mayor. Stay tuned for our interview with Jesse Spikes, another mayoral candidate.
Notably, Thomas has been the only candidate so far who has been willing to criticize the Atlanta Housing Authority’s mass displacement of public housing residents.
HOW CAN WE INCREASE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN ATLANTA?
I believe in order to effectively increase the number of affordable housing units in Atlanta, the city must: 1. Continue building upon mortgage assistance programs, 2. Work with the Atlanta Housing Authority to integrate all communities with an equitable percentage of affordable housing units and 3. Invest in mixed used developments that have at (minimum a 20% affordable mix) and make them a priority in development policy decisions.
A main fact is that Atlanta neighborhoods are segregated not only by income levels but also ethnicity. And in today’s world, Atlanta should be a model for inclusiveness. I do not believe that the word affordable equates to housing only on the south side or west side of Atlanta. If Atlanta does not adopt the platform of developing the entire city, we will lose the charm of “the city too busy to hate.”
I also believe in affordable, livable housing. I will ensure that the city’s investment in housing will create houses, apartments and living units that are built to support the modern day family (ex., mass transportation access, green living units, and affordable utilities).
How do you define affordable housing?
I believe affordability in today’s market is relative; but for the purpose of the overall discussion, I define affordable as the ability to pay for housing while having remaining dollars to pay for the other critical necessities of a household.
DO YOU THINK CRIME IN ATLANTA IS A PROBLEM AND HOW WOULD YOU TACKLE THE ISSUE?
I believe crime is 90% of what we hear and 10% of what we see (for many of us, not all of us). YES, crime is a problem in Atlanta. Regardless, if my percentages are in-verse, the end result is crime affects us 100% of the time no matter if it is through perception or reality. Atlanta needs and deserves new leadership in its ranks. Atlanta also deserves a plan of action. I will only select a Chief of Police that has a plan of action to rebuild, retain, and restore our police force to its rightful distinction. I will only select a Chief of Police who will bring a plan of action that is community-based, tactical, and sustainable in order to best fight crime proactively.
WOULD YOU CONTINUE MAYOR FRANKLIN’S TEN YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS OR TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE ISSUE?
I will adopt a slightly different approach (see below).
Would you reinstate a funding recommendation for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, which Mayor Franklin rescinded?
No, I will not reinstate a funding recommendation for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for fiscal year 2011; however, I will recommend that the city of Atlanta dedicate funding and staff in an effort to work with mental health non-profits, food-banks, clothing companies, real estate owned properties – banks, churches, civic organizations, and many more stakeholders, in an effort to bring about results through a transition process for homeless population back into society. I believe homelessness is a larger issue than we (government) are willing to admit. I want to lead by providing substantive solutions for those in the homeless population who have the desire to transition back into society. But also, I believe we must assist and help those in the homeless population who suffer from mental illness, battery, war ailments, and other socio-mental diseases and debilitation.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE SURE THE ATLANTA BUDGET DOES NOT FACE SO MANY SHORTFALLS?
Glenn Thomas I will: 1. Revamp the city’s purchasing and procurement code, 2. Eliminate the tens of millions of waste that the city spends on non-essential commodities and service contracts, 3. Conservatively project all revenue streams to reflect current and future market fluctuation, 4. Present a prioritized based budget to council that is built on first funding public safety, secondly health, and third public welfare, (essentially, I will follow the city charter) and 5. Identify and collect revenue streams that have either underperformed or not been collected effectively.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MANAGERIAL STYLE, A STRONG EXECUTIVE LIKE FRANKLIN OR A BALANCED WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CITY COUNCIL?
I will lead by example. My priorities will include: 1. Reach out to each councilperson to assess his/her goals and priorities, 2. Present these assessments to the city council body collectively, and 3. Integrate city council’s objectives with that of the Mayor’s office.
I will adopt a practice of working with council in a proactive fashion, to ensure that the city of Atlanta has all of its elected officials working for them, not just a few.
HOW WOULD YOU MAKE THE BUDGET PROCESS MORE TRANSPARENT TO THE PUBLIC AND THE CITY COUNCIL?
My administration will: 1. Present all budget data and reports (including drafts) on the city web-site LIVE and real-time, 2. Implement an interactive budget module on the city’s web-site that citizens can actually diagram their budget priorities during the course of the budget process, 3. Have evening budget hearings to allow for 9-5 employees an opportunity to voice their recommendations and concerns, and 4. Implement Mayor’s Community Budget Briefing, where I will travel to each NPU to outline and discuss the proposed budget and financial position of the city.
APN RAISED SEVERAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE ATLANTA HOUSING AUTHORITY’S MASS DEMOLITION OF PUBLIC HOUSING, INCLUDING ISSUES OF RESIDENT INPUT, THE AVAILABILITY AND LOCATION OF VOUCHER HOUSING, AND AHA’S CLAIMS ABOUT THE CONDITIONS OF ITS BUILDINGS. WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THE CONCERNS APN HAS RAISED ABOUT AHA’S POLICY? ALSO, WOULD YOU HAVE SIGNED OFF ON THE DEMOLITION APPLICATION THE WAY MAYOR FRANKLIN DID?
The displacement of Atlanta Housing Authority residents during and prior to the current administration was disgraceful to the city of Atlanta. In high density housing communities, crime is higher, education levels are lower, and un-employment rates are high. However, these socio-economic issues do not constitute the policies of AHA to displace low-income residents without fair and adequate replacement into city housing. No, I would not have signed off on the demolition with the AHA policy has it is crafted.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE BELTLINE?
Glenn Thomas I believe that the BeltLine is a great idea that a few stakeholders knew about in the beginning stages of the development, so only a few had input in the beginning stages. The city of Atlanta must reach out to all stakeholders and citizens to get involved in the development process.
However, I support the BeltLine. The idea of connecting communities, green-space, businesses and people is an amazing vision. I am excited to be a part of making this vision a reality that will benefit Atlanta for decades to come.
Is the BeltLine vision equitable for everyone?
No. However, because the vision may not be as equitable as many would like, that does not mean the BeltLine implementation will not ultimately be equitable. A project such as this, with so many moving parts, initially will have many questionable design elements. I believe that we can build on the positives and re-work the negatives of the BeltLine vision, so that we may have a successful implementation.
Do you have plans to ensure that future Tax Allocation District (TAD) bond proceeds are invested in the three other quadrants of the project? Some complain that the first TAD bond proceeds from fall 2008 went exclusively into the Northeast quadrant.
The complaints are real and in many cases true. I WILL make the executive decision to ensure that existing TAD bond proceeds are invested in their designated areas and that accountability standards are implemented to ensure equitable dispersion, fairness and transparency of all proceeds.
IS THERE ANYTHING MORE THE CITY CAN DO TO HELP MARTA?
Yes! 1. Be an active participant in helping elect leadership in 2009 and 2010 that will fight for MARTA riders, 2. Promote ridership through city employee programs, public school programs, green initiative programs, and state ridership programs, and 3. Partner with the Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta business community, community and civic organizations, and MARTA leaders to help pass new legislation to change the laws that govern the appropriations of MARTA funds.
DO YOU SUPPORT CASINO GAMING AT UNDERGROUND ATLANTA?
I believe that gaming, in a diverse economic climate can have a positive impact on local and regional revenue streams. Yet, gaming in many cities has hindered community growth and created public safety and educational downturns. I support, however, that the taxpayers of Atlanta vote on such an impactful business initiative, so that the Mayor and City Council can decide appropriately for the benefit of all Atlanta citizens.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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