APN Chat with Keisha Waites, Candidate for Fulton Commission District 6 (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the 2010 elections, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Keisha Waites, 37, 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) candidates Angela Moore, Gail Buckner, and Michael Mills [Mills interview coming soon]; School Superintendent candidates Beth Farokhi and Brian Westlake; and 4th Congressional District candidates Connie Stokes and Vernon Jones.
Waites has previously worked with several community organizations and has ran for office a few times before.
Whereas Garner, another candidate running for the District 6 seat 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–Waites was willing to state her positions.
Currently, Waites works as a contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as an Intergovernmental Affairs Officer, and was temporarily employed with the 2010 US Census. Previously, she worked for the Small Business Administration in the Commercial Loan Division.
Waites served on the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) in 2001, the Atlanta Commission on Women, the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, the Fulton County Democratic Party Executive Board, and the Georgia Equality People of Color Initiative.
Like Garner, Waites also is an openly homosexual candidate.
Most recently, Waites ran against City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) in 2009.
Waites ran against State Rep. Ralph Long and received 42% of the vote in 2008, she said. Waites received the endorsement of Georgia Equality that year, according to Georgia Voice magazine. This year, Georgia Equality is supporting Garner, and they appear to have made the endorsement prior to when qualifying ended. State Rep. Long is supporting Waites in her bid for Commission, he told APN.
Waites ran against John Eaves for the Democratic nomination for Fulton County Commission Chair in 2006, and got 42% of the vote, she said.
In 2004, Waites ran for the District 12 seat when it became open because then-Councilman Derrick Boazman ran for Council President. The Council President seat had opened up because then-President Cathy Woolard decided to run against for the 4th US Congressional seat in 2004. The Congressional seat had become open when former US Rep. Denise Majette (D-GA) ran for US Senate and lost. Former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Connie Stokes, Woolard, and others ran for 4th Congressional seat and McKinney won her seat back that year only to lose in again in 2006. In any event, Sheperd won that Special Election for Council District 12 and has served in the seat ever since; Borders won the Council President seat and served until 2009.
In 2002, Waites ran for the State Senate District 36 seat and came in fourth, according to Georgia Voice.
Waites also ran against Ceasar Mitchell for the City Council Post 1-at-large seat in 2001, where Dwanda Farmer and Paul Zucca were also candidates. The seat is currently held by Michael Julian Bond, while Mitchell is currently the City Council President.
Waites says she keeps running because she is committed to public service. “What, am I just supposed to give up?” she asked APN. “What does that say to every person who hasn’t gotten a job the first time they applied? What does that say to the people trying out for American Idol? What does that say to the athlete?”
“I am probably the least-funded candidate out there. 60 to 70 percent of the funds in my campaign are my dollars. I run because I believe I have a responsibility to the community as a taxpayer, as a property owner,” Waites said.
“I’m not pleased with the decisions I’ve seen in the last few years. I believe I have leadership qualities. My civic record will be an asset,” Waites said.
I did not support [the privatization of Grady Hospital]. I was born at Grady. I come from a single-parent home. I am uncomfortable with privatizating health care for hospitals that serve indigent, low-income individuals.
The whole point of privatizing is to make a profit. Remember when we did the deal with the water? I just think to privatize water is foolish. It’s like privatizing air. It’s too precious of a commodity. Well, Grady is too precious of a commodity. Grady should remain public.
Grady is one of the only regional hospitals that doesn’t get money from the state. Grady was never given the resources to succeed. We need to have relationships with the State. We need to work with our Republican friends and our Governor.
TASK FORCE FOR THE HOMELESS
Yes [I would support funding the Task Force] under these conditions. Measures must be put in place to ensure resources are being best utilized.
I’ve always been a support of the Task Force and Anita Beaty knows me well. I think it is our role as public officials to protect and serve the indigent.
I think the work Anita has done is phenomenal. The downtown location is a concern. How can we partner to best serve the organization?
Some measures are currently in place. Public housing has been closed and replaced with mixed-income communities. Senior high rises have been converted. I support mixed-use.
The City of Atlanta and Fulton County cannot be a city and county for the rich and wealthy. However, with the record number of foreclosures, it’s important to create opportunities for new homeowners.
I support capping taxes for seniors. I do not support freezing them for [other] homeowners.
We should support low-income families. Giving developers tax incentives to do mixed-income projects, but monitor them closely.
There should be tax incentives for teachers and police officers to buy foreclosed properties in distressed communities.
I do not support the division of Fulton County. Fulton County has a triple-A bond rating. A solid tax base. Why would you divide it up?
We can do things better. The north side feels underserved. How can we streamline services?
Let’s cut the fat. There are buildings we’re not using. There’s an old public healthcare building on Lakewood that’s boarded up. In North Fulton, there’s an old administrative building that’s not being used. I believe we need to sell these assets at fair market value.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Waites previously worked as an Economic Development Coordinator for the SBA. Although that is what she stated in the interview, she has asked for the title to be changed to reflect that she worked in the Commercial Loan Division.
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