APN Chat with Joan Garner, Candidate for Fulton Commission District 6

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(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the 2010 elections, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Joan Garner, 58, a candidate for Fulton County Commission Distict 6, the seat being vacated by Nancy Boxill.

Thus far, APN has interviewed Gubernatorial candidate David Poythress; Secretary of State (SOS) candidate Angela Moore; School Superintendent candidates Beth Farokhi and Brian Westlake; and 4th Congressional District candidate Connie Stokes. APN has also interviewed SOS candidate Gail Buckner; article forthcoming shortly.

Garner has a track record of working with progressive community organizations and describes her mission in progressive terms; however, she declined to state a position on at least two important issues related to the Fulton Commission: funding for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and the privatization of Grady Hospital.

Garner served as Executive Director of the Southern Partners Fund from its inception in 1999 to 2006, and prior to that, served as Executive Director for the Fund for Southern Communities (FSC), from 1993 to 1997. Both are progressive philanthropy organizations.

She also co-authored a book called Why Robin Hood Was Right. The book was a second version of a book published in the early 1980’s by the founders of the Funding Exchange Network (FEN). FSC is the local affiliate of the national FEN.

“It was a guide for self-identified donors to give money to social justice causes. It really tells you how to make a plan, crystalize your vision… it gives examples of social justice groups, what social justice is,” Garner said. “How to bridge the gap between those who give and those who receive in discussion.”

Why was Robin Hood right? “The concept of making sure how government responds to the needs of people that are in need,” Garner replied. “People who are in situations where they need help, need to have access to that help.”

“I began my advocacy through the lgbt community,” Garner, who is openly homosexual, said. “I want to make sure that people who are disenfranchised have a voice and access to resources,” Garner said.

“For 20 years I have considered myself an advocate. I think there’s an opportunity with the seat being open, with my experience serving on boards within the governmental structure will allow me to continue,” being an advocate, Garner said.

“I was one of the founders of Southerners on New Ground, not just looking at homophobia but how it intersects with other issues in the community,” Garner said.

Garner also served on the Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board (BAHAB), which was tasked with gathering community input and recommending how the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund (BAHTF) dollars would be spent. Garner chaired the BAHAB subcommittee on historic preservation, she said.

As previously reported by APN, some of BAHAB’s original recommendations–including that 10% of units be targeted for those making 30% of the Area Median Income or below–were rejected by Beltline Inc. and the Atlanta Development Authority.

Garner said she supported a more robust affordable housing package than what was approved; however, she and other members had to resign from the Board before the recommendations were finalized because conflict of interest questions were raised about members of Community Housing Development Corporations (CHDOs) serving on BAHAB. Garner resigned along with others including Bruce Gunter of Progressive Redevelopment Inc. and Janis Ware of SUMMECH.

Garner said she had specifically supported more BAHTF money going to the CHDO’s because she believes their missions are to develop affordable housing rather than make a profit.

GRADY HOSPITAL

“I see Grady as a wonderful resource. I believe in public health and see it as an institution that specializes in certain areas,” Garner said.

Regarding the privatization, “I would have had to look at the details.” However, the Commission already voted at least twice regarding the privatization, so the details have already been made public.

In Fulton County, only Commissioners Emma Darnell (District 5) and Vice Chairman Bob Edwards (District 7) vocally opposed the privatization, while Chairman John Eaves and Commissioner Lynne Riley (District 3) championed it.

“I believe in partnerships and collaborations,” Garner said. “Given hard times, we need to look at where there might be partnerships. Look at what is the mission of the potential partner,” Garner said.

TASK FORCE FOR THE HOMELESS

When asked if Garner would support restoring funding for the Task Force, she replied: “I am in support of groups that go beyond providing a meal and services, that provide total development,” suggesting that Garner believed the Task Force does not do the latter.

Garner agreed if elected to take a tour of the Task Force and said she did not know the details about the shelter.

When pressed farther, Garner added, “I would have to look at the funding program and the facts around the case of the Task Force and the funding priorities of the County. The Task Force has been around forever. It has a reputation of good that it does. When I see people in situations, I want to know why, I want to see change.”

MITIGATING DISPLACEMENT DUE TO GENTRIFICATION

Garner said she is in tune with the issues related to gentrification and displacement in Fulton County. “I live in the MLK Community Historic Site. There was a strategic plan and vision, as the community was being revitalized, that residents who were native, who wanted to stay in that community, could do so.”

“The focus was making sure we built affordable housing,” Garner said. “And to keep residents in their homes. In one case, there was a senior who couldn’t keep up with her house. Someone bought the house, renovated it, and she was placed in a smaller house down the street.”

Garner said she supports “making sure there are rental apartments below the market rate available. Building on a block-by-block basis, mixed-income by education, income levels, racially, age-wise.”

MILTON COUNTY

Garner said she does not support North Fulton county seceding as some like Commissioner Riley have proposed. “I believe in one Fulton County. In times like this, in all times, we need to really be efficient about services we provide. Creating another government is not fiscally sound.”

OTHER FULTON COMMISSION CANDIDATES

Three other candidates have qualified to run for Boxill’s old seat, including Keisha Waites, an openly homosexual activist who previously challenged Atlanta Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) and has run for other seats; David Holder; and Sally Smith.

For the Chairman seat, as previously reported by APN, Eaves is facing a grassroots effort by Mary Norwood to gain access to the ballot as an independent. He is also facing a Republican challenger, Steve Broadbent.

Rob Pitts (District 2-at-large) has a Republican challenger, Lori Henry.

Riley has decided to run for State House. Only one candidate, a Republican, Liz Hausmann, has qualified for her old seat.

Other incumbents, including Darnell, Edwards, and Republican Tom Lowe (District 4) have no challengers.

(END/2010)

About the author:

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

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