Coyle, Wan Face off in District 6 Council Run-off

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(APN) ATLANTA — Liz Coyle and Alex Wan are facing off in a run-off election taking place in District 6. Early voting started yesterday, Wednesday, November 18, and election day will be held on December 01. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, run-offs are also occurring for Mayor, City Council President, and Council Post 2-at-large.

Prior to the General Election, APN sent a questionnaire to the then-six candidates running for the District 6 seat, which became open when Councilwoman Anne Fauver announced her plans to retire.

Liz Coyle responded to APN’s questionnaire at that time, although Wan did not. Later, Wan said he was busy with his full-time job as Development Director of Jerusalem House and unable to respond. [Editor’s note: APN’s Board of Directors endorsed Bahareh Azizi in the General; she came in fifth place.]

After the General Election, APN gave Wan another opportunity to respond to the questionnaire and this time he replied. Because Wan thus received additional time to work on his questionnaire, we invited Coyle to make any additions to her previous answers that she felt were appropriate.

“I do intend to continue working full-time at Jerusalem House if elected, and I am confident I will be able to fulfill my responsibilities to Jerusalem House and to the District 6 constituents,” Wan told APN. “As you know, serving on City Council is a part-time position; in fact, many Council members also maintain full-time jobs. I accepted the position at Jerusalem House with the understanding with our Executive Director and Board of Directors that I would be running for Council and that I would be balancing my Jerusalem House responsibilities with those of the Council if elected.”

However, if Wan was unable to respond to a questionnaire due to a busy period at work, it is unclear how Wan would be able to respond to a pressing community issue that may emerge during an equally busy period in the future.

Coyle said she is self-employed as a public relations consultant and that her work schedule is therefore very flexible.

One of the interesting things about this race is the question over whether District 6, with a large glbt population particularly in Midtown, will continue to have an openly homosexual representative on Council. Wan is homosexual; Coyle is heterosexual.

Former candidate Steve Brodie, who previously ran against Fauver in 2005 and almost won, came in fourth in this year’s General Election. Brodie, who is also homosexual, has endorsed Wan.

“I wholeheartedly support Alex, and appreciate the strong, inclusive campaign he is running,” says Brodie, who has served as a board member on NPU-E and the Midtown Neighbors’ Association. “I especially appreciate his knowledge of the district and the plans he has for balancing responsible development with the unique character of District 6 neighborhoods.”

One issue that was important to Brodie was related to the Beltline and a proposal to rezone a part of Midtown near 10th Street and Monroe from residential to commercial. Neighborhood Planning Units E and F both recently voted down the changes, which also included an 8-story condo on that corner. Brodie had opposed the rezoning and wanted to preserve the single-family home character of the neighborhood.

Wan opposed the rezoning changes according to a copy of a letter he sent to Fauver, obtained by APN.

“After attending community meetings regarding the Subarea 6 plans… I have great concerns about the proposed legislation scheduled to come before City Council in December,” Wan wrote. “I believe the legislation as written is flawed and that its passage would set up a dangerous precedent that would jeopardize the character of the neighborhoods that make District 6 so special.”

“Specifically, the proposed legislation includes changes to the CDP of 4 R-4 lots near the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive but does not include adequate, written objective criteria for these changes. Without it, it creates a potential legal loophole that could be used to rezone additional R-4 parcels outside the BeltLine boundaries all along Monroe Drive to mixed use as well (To this, significant assemblage has already begun with the parcels near 10th and Monroe),” Wan wrote.

Coyle said she did not take a public position prior to the recent votes, although she voted no as a member of NPU-F. Coyle said she wanted residents to make up their own minds without her influencing them.

Until recently, Coyle served as the community representative on the Beltline board, and still serves on the Beltline Network. In 2006, she led community opposition to a tower proposed by Wayne Mason at the same location.

Coyle said she opposes the rezoning, but that it only affects land currently not used for anything which sits behind the dog grooming shop next to Park Tavern. She added that she believes the community will eventually support the proposed condo–which is not covered by the R-4 rezoning–but that it may be fewer than eight stories in the end. She also supports the inclusion of affordable housing units at the condo.

Previously, the now-defunct Southern Voice Magazine reported that former School Board candidate Charlie Stadlander had criticized Coyle for allegedly trying to close down gay bars while she served as Chair of the License and Permits Committee for NPU-F.

One source who used to sit on the Liquor License Review Board said Coyle had been a “thorn in [their] side.”

However, Coyle told Atlanta Progressive News that the clubs she went after were heterosexual clubs on Cheshire Bridge Road, including Fever, the Master’s Club, 24K, and Platinum 21. She said issues that led to her opposition to those clubs allegedly included bartenders caught selling drugs, underage sales of alcohol, and shootings in parking lots. “It was failure to follow city codes or supervise,” she said.

Some have also criticized Coyle’s relationship to Peggy Denby, head of the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance. Denby and the MPSA have been controversial for trying to close the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, trying to close subsidized housing, and targeting transgender or transsexual pedestrians whom they suspect of being prostitutes.

Coyle admitted that Denby has hosted a fundraiser for her, but says that she has a wide range of supporters and that is does not mean she and Denby agree on everything.

Coyle also agreed, if elected, to take a tour of the Task Force shelter on Peachtree and Pine and to meet with the shelter’s director, Anita Beaty, to learn more about the shelter. Coyle said she is concerned about nearby residents’ complaints of crime and panhandling that they perceive to be associated with the shelter, but that she is open to hearing Beaty’s side of the story.

Below are reprinted Coyle and Wan’s questionnaire responses. Frankly, the candidates’ positions of most issues–from the Task Force, to public housing, to Councilwoman Felicia Moore’s resolution for Council oversight of the demolitions–are highly similar.

One important distinction is that Coyle’s definition of affordable housing is more inclusive of extremely low-income and very low-income households than Wan’s.

Wan notes that his definition of affordability comes from the Atlanta Development Authority, where he served in a number of leadership capacities including as Treasurer.

While the ADA does some important work in affordable housing, including a downpayment assistance program for first-time homebuyers that is currently available to new applicants, APN previously reported that the ADA opposed requiring units targeted for extremely low-income households (30% of Area Median Income or less) as part of the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund recommendations.

On the other hand, Wan’s answer regarding his willingness to oppose demolition of senior highrises was stronger than Coyle’s. Also, Wan seemed more supportive of extending bar and club hours back to 4am than Coyle did in her response.

SURVEY RESPONSES

1. What experience do you have in politics, community organizing, and/or progressive activism?

COYLE: “I have been a grassroots neighborhood advocate in District 6 for more than 10 years, working to improve local public schools and address issues of concern to the community. In 2005, I helped organize neighborhood opposition to proposed high rise towers next to Piedmont Park, which threatened the character of the existing neighborhood. In 2009, I helped organize citywide support for upholding the BeltLine vision of a light rail, trail and park system when it was threatened by a heavy, high speed rail proposal from GDOT and AMTRAK.”

WAN: “In 2004, I ran for the Georgia State House of Representatives District 57 seat and received nearly 40% of the votes against a popular two-term incumbent. My public service has continued with an appointment by the Atlanta City Council to the Board of the Atlanta Development Authority where I served as Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair and member of the Tax Allocation District (TAD) Policy and Review Committee.”

“Also in 2004, I was involved in the LGBT community’s efforts to defeat the anti-gay marriage referendum, both by lobbying and by recruiting volunteers to do the same at the state capitolduring the legislative phase, as well as canvassing and enlisting volunteers when it went onto the ballot.”

2. What would you do to increase affordable housing in Atlanta, particularly in District 6? What is your definition or concept of affordable housing?

COYLE: “I support mandatory inclusionary zoning and as City Councilperson, would work with the Administration to get this legislation passed, including working with the state legislature to remove any constitutional barriers. In the interim, I would make voluntary inclusionary zoning a priority for all new multi-family development in the City, including in District 6. Defining affordable housing based on Area Median Income (whether it is at 30% AMI, 80% AMI or somewhere in between) leaves out too many at the lowest income levels who truly need housing assistance. Sustainable communities provide mixed-income housing for all people, including the working poor. In addition, I believe Supportive Housing is needed in all areas of the City and support adoption of the Supportive Housing Ordinance before City Council that will help increase understanding and awareness of that need.”

WAN: “I support using inclusionary zoning to increase the affordable housing inventory in Atlanta. While on the Board of the Atlanta Development Authority and Urban Residential Finance Authority, I worked with both agencies efforts to include components of affordable housing in numerous projects in which we participated. Within District 6, our best opportunities going forward will come through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with Atlanta BeltLine project. As City Councilperson, I will work to ensure that the objectives of that fund are met.”

“The standard that was used at ADA and URFA to define affordable housing ranged from 50% to 80% of the area median income of individuals or families. I am comfortable with that metric.”

NOTE: APN previously interviewed Coyle regarding inclusionary zoning and she vowed to be a strong proponent, even in the face of legal opposition.

3. What is your position on the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless? Would you support restoring City funding (which Franklin cut) or recommending federal funding (which Franklin stood in the way of) for the shelter?

COYLE: “I support efforts of the Gateway Center to eliminate chronic homelessness in our community, including providing services to help homeless persons move out of dependency. I believe the Gateway Center better meets the needs of homeless individuals than the shelter at Peachtree and Pine operated by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and would not restore funding to it.”

WAN: “I currently work full-time for Jerusalem House, Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent supportive housing for homeless and low-income men, women, and children affected by HIV/AIDS. My experience working for this non-profit agency has given me a deeper understanding of the challenges facing helping this population. Our service model addresses providing not only shelter for these individuals and families, but also the supportive services to address any additional underlying factors that contributed to that person’s homelessness (substance abuse, personality disorders, domestic violence, etc.). Our goal is to enable our clients to become self-sufficient, independent and productive members of society once again. I support any agency or institution which follows this model. With that, I believe the Gateway Center to be a more effective means of assisting the chronically homeless than the Metro Task Force for the Homeless.”

4. What is your opinion of the Beltline? What would you do, if anything, to prevent further gentrification in Midtown and to prevent working-class people from being priced out of Midtown?

COYLE: “I support the vision of the BeltLine to connect Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods; revitalize communities; promote healthy growth and incentivize affordable housing as part of complete, mixed-income, mixed-use compact developments around the 22-mile light rail transit system. Through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the BeltLine TAD provides the largest source of funding for affordable housing ever available in the City. Through innovative strategies, including Community Land Trusts being leveraged by the BeltLine Partnership, people of all income levels will benefit from this transformative project.”

WAN: “I have been and continue to be an avid supporter of the Atlanta BeltLine, particularly of its vision of connecting neighborhoods through transit, trails, and parks and green space. I am proud to have served on the Board of the Atlanta Development Authority where the Atlanta BeltLine began. I supported the formation of the BeltLine Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and would work toensure that its objectives of including affordable housing in single and multifamily developments within the boundaries of the BeltLine TAD are met.”

5. APN raised several concerns about the AHA demolition of public housing, including apparent fraudulent claims by AHA about the condition of some of the buildings; lack of consultation with residents, City Council and the public; and the lack of availability of voucher leasing opportunities for displaced residents. What is your opinion about the demolitions? Do you have concerns and what is your response to the concerns raised by APN?

COYLE: “Generally, I support the Atlanta Housing Authority policy of replacing public housing projects that had become concentrations of poverty, crime and hopelessness with mixed-income communities. I believe it is more equitable and better for all when people of every income live, work and play in one complete community. All residents of Atlanta public housing facing demolition should be given vouchers to continue to meet their housing needs within the City. Also, it is important for residents to be given adequate information well in advance of demolition to make an informed housing choice.”

WAN: “I support the Atlanta Housing Authority’s efforts to replace public housing projects with mixed-income developments to reduce the concentration of crime and poverty previously in those areas. There are many examples of neighborhoods where people of every income level are living together and creating thriving communities. Clearly, adequate notice should be given to all residents that are to be affected by the demolitions, and appropriate housing options (including voucher leasing opportunities) should be made available to those displaced.”

6. In 2008, Felicia Moore (District 9) sought to have City Council oversight of the AHA demolitions when APN revealed the Mayor was signing off on the demolition applications to HUD without Council input. The Mayor argued it was her legal purview and she didn’t need Council; an Emory law professor and some Council members argued it wasn’t. Would you have supported Moore’s proposed ordinance to require Council approval of AHA demolitions?

COYLE: “I support City Council and the Administration working together on matters of importance to the City and communities. A healthy working relationship between the two branches is not something that can always be legislated.”

WAN: “If it could be determined that the Mayor’s actions were indeed outside the scope and authority of the office, I would support the ordinance. Clearly, we need to create a more cooperative environment and open communication between the Mayor’s office and City Council going forward, particularly on decisions made that impact residents of a representative’s district.”

7. AHA is likely to go after the Juniper and 10th senior highrise for demolition, as developers are surely salivating over that spot. (Numerous senior highrises also including one on Cheshire Bridge also faces possible demolition.) If the senior residents there did not want to move would you support them?

COYLE: “This is hypothetical and I would need more detailed information if AHA were to propose this. I know AHA has kept some senior housing and smaller housing projects (including one on Piedmont in Ansley) in place. In all cases, residents should be treated respectfully and should receive adequate information in a timely manner and should be given the opportunity for making the case if they want to stay in the existing building.”

WAN: “The projects that AHA has demolished to date have presented the negative impacts of neighborhoods and developments with high concentrations of poverty, namely crime. The properties housing seniors listed do not exhibit the same problems, and are, in fact, good examples of how affordable housing can work and be a positive part of a community. The need for housing inventory for the elderly continues to grow, and there does not appear to be a compelling reason to consider demolition. Consequently, I would support the residents to maintain these facilities.”

8. Would you support extending bar and club hours past 2:30am last call?

COYLE: “Generally, I support the 2:30am last call City ordinance. I would consider legislation to create a late night bar district if it could be managed from a public safety standpoint without negatively impacting the surrounding community.”

WAN: “I would support extending bar and club hours, provided there are provisions to properly address all increased public safety needs arising from the extended hours both in the establishments and in the surrounding neighborhoods. Options include additional safety patrol requirements, as well as adequate resources for code and license enforcement.”

9. What is your opinion of the panhandling ordinance that was passed in 2005?

COYLE: “I believe it is not fairly applied or enforced.”

WAN: “I support the panhandling ordinance, as its aim is to create a downtown environment where people will be more inclined to live, work, and visit. Recognizing that not all panhandlers are homeless, I do believe that continuing seeking finding resources and partnerships to address the homelessness issue will help alleviate some of this problem.”

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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