Britt, Former Rep. Thomas Respond to APN HD56 Questionnaire
(APN) ATLANTA — In our coverage of State House races this year, Atlanta Progressive News recently sent questionnaires to nine candidates in four different races.
One of those races, House District 56, involves one former legislator, State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), and Ken Britt, who are both running for the seat formerly held by State Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta), who is not seeking reelection.
So far, APN has run articles regarding candidate responses to questionnaires for HD53, including Jason Esteves and Robert Patillo; HD 57, including State Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta); and HD 58, including State Reps. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) and Ralph Long (D-Atlanta).
[To date, only State Reps. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) and Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) have failed to respond.]
“Able” Mable Thomas was first elected to the State House in 1984, at the time the youngest member of the House. She first served from 1985 to 1992.
In 1992, Thomas ran against US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) for the first time and lost.
In 1997, she was elected to the City Council of Atlanta, Post 1-at-large seat. She served from 1998 to 2001.
In 2001, Thomas ran for City Council President, in a five-way race with Michael Julian Bond, Julia Emmons, Morris Finley, and Cathy Woolard. Bond and Woolard went into a Run-off, and Woolard prevailed.
In 2002, Thomas was reelected to the State House, where she served until 2008.
In 2008, Thomas challenged US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the Democratic Primary for the second time. In the Primary, Lewis won with 69 percent of the vote to Markel Hutchins’s 15.6 percent and Thomas’s 15.4 percent.
In 2010, Thomas ran again for her old State House seat, District 55, against State Rep. Taylor. However, Taylor won, 56 percent to 44 percent.
Over the last few years, Thomas has been involved with revitalization efforts in the English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods on Atlanta’s westside, as founder and director of the Greater Vine City Opportunities Program (GVCOP). One of GVCOP’s initiatives has been to convert the former English Avenue Elementary School into a community center.
Britt is an openly homosexual political operative and former Executive Director of the Alston & Bird law firm.
Britt served as Chairman of Alex Wan’s 2009 campaign for City Council District 6 and as Treasurer of Joan Garner’s 2010 campaign for Fulton County Commission District 6.
The following are Britt and Thomas’s responses to APN’s questionnaire:
(1) DO YOU SUPPORT OR OPPOSE NUCLEAR POWER?
BRITT: I support initiatives that would increase energy independence including alternative sources of electricity; however, nuclear power is one, which must be monitored carefully in an effort to respect environmental protections. Nuclear power is a beneficial alternative, yet many other safer and more experienced methods should be preferred. If a nuclear power plant is to be utilized for energy needs, we have a responsibility to monitor and secure these plants to ensure that they do not become a danger to those who live in the surrounding areas. In addition, the
development of nuclear power plants should not become an additional burden on taxpayers.
THOMAS: Oppose Nuclear Power due to safety concerns and environmental impact.
(2) BALLOT ACCESS MEANS MAKING IT EASIER FOR INDEPENDENT AND MINOR PARTY CANDIDATES TO GET ON THE BALLOT IN GEORGIA. THE CURRENT PETITIONING REQUIREMENTS ARE ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT FOR JURISDICTIONS (IE- COUNTY, STATE HOUSE DISTRICT, US HOUSE DISTRICT). WOULD YOU SUPPORT LOWERING THE PETITION REQUIREMENTS AND IF SO, TO WHAT LEVEL?
BRITT: Yes. I believe that elections should be open to any person who chooses to volunteer for public service so long as they meet minimal legitimacy requirements. In a Democracy, we should not withhold options from the voters and we must respect the voters to determine whom they believe will be best people to represent them. The current restrictions on ballot access are nothing more than a deterrent to keeping qualified candidates from seeking public office. Our objective should be to encourage more participation by citizens in the political process.
THOMAS: Yes, to open the process for alternative and innovative ideas in politics.
(3) DO YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER-VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING IN GEORGIA?
BRITT: Yes. Any reasonable and cost effective efforts to eliminate voter fraud should be implemented to ensure legitimacy in our elections. People will only have faith in their elected officials if they believe that the elections are conducted fairly. Too much election fraud occurs on a regular basis and a voter-verifiable paper audit trail would reduce this problem significantly, so long as we ensure that the technology, which is implemented, is field tested for reliability.
(4) WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS? SHOULD THE GEORGIA CONSTITUTION BE AMENDED TO ALLOW THE STATE TO OVERRIDE LOCALLY-ELECTED SCHOOL BOARDS’ DECISIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE CREATION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS? WHY OR WHY NOT?
BRITT: Georgia has many wonderful charter schools, which should be encouraged so long as they are accountable to a local Board of Education. The Constitution should never be amended to include language regarding education policy, as this is a governance role, which is best handled at the local level by Board of Education members who are elected from the communities for which they serve. Should a local Board refuse to allow the creation of a charter school and should the local community desire such an endeavor, the parents and voters may elect local Board of Education members who represent their views. The State should work to set standards for curriculum, non-discrimination policies, teacher certification, etc., yet should not impose a “one size fits all” policy to local issues such as charter school creation.
THOMAS: Yes. Support charter schools, but do not think the State of Georgia should have the power to override local school boards. This sets up a two tier or really a three tier system of public education. Already we have funding to private institutions to the tune of $50 Million. Public education, not fully funded and if the charter school ballot initiative passes it would add another obstacle to quality public education.
(5) WOULD YOU SUPPORT LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA?
BRITT: Yes. Conservative politicians have attempted to impose their value-driven ideological views regarding medical marijuana onto citizens throughout the state of Georgia under the guise of “protection.” Science tells us that medical marijuana is an effective treatment to help those suffering from debilitating diseases, such as cancer, to experience pain relief that they would otherwise be denied. It is important that the state regulate medical marijuana to ensure that it is being prescribed appropriately, yet there is simply not a sound policy argument which would support the denial of medical marijuana to a terminally ill person who should be given an opportunity to have access to a proven and significant technique of relief from their condition.
THOMAS: Yes, however, I need more details as to how this would really work.
(6) DO YOU SUPPORT ENDING THE CURRENT PRACTICE PERMITTING UNLIMITED GIFTS FROM LOBBYISTS TO STATE LEGISLATORS?
BRITT: Yes, I would support limiting lobbyist gifts to an amount, which is in line with other states, which already have limits on gifts from lobbyists to legislators. I served as a registered volunteer (full-time) Lobbyist during the 2011 legislative session. Our state is one of a handful of states, which does not limit the amount of gifts lobbyists are able to provide to legislators, creating an inequitable legislative process with legislative outcomes possibly going to the highest bidder.
THOMAS: Yes. For ethics and reform around lobbyists’ unlimited gifts.
(6b) HAVE YOU SIGNED THE COMMON CAUSE GIFT CAP PLEDGE? IF NOT, WHY NOT?
BRITT: Yes. I signed the pledge and sent an email announcement to my campaign supporters announcing my decision. The political process should be fair for all citizens, not simply those with deep pockets.
(7) DO YOU SUPPORT A MORE PROGRESSIVE TAX STRUCTURE? IF SO, WHAT SPECIFIC TAX REFORMS WOULD YOU PROPOSE?
BRITT: We must continue to take every available opportunity and action to improve our tax code in an effort to improve fairness and ensure that Georgians, especially wealthy individuals, are paying their fair share. Some specific examples of tax reform I would support are: Work to improve access to good paying and steady jobs for lower income citizens in an effort to improve quality of life, educational standards, and ultimately, increased generation of tax revenue; closing loopholes and eliminating deductions designed to benefit only wealthier taxpayers; cracking down on tax fraud and/or evasion; and, holding elected officials accountable for paying their personal taxes as a condition of remaining in office, as politicians cannot expect to pass laws requiring others to pay taxes while ignoring their own duty to do the same.
THOMAS: Tax off food and medicine.
(8) WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WOULD YOU DO TO SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN GEORGIA?
BRITT: of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation and a stable housing market is the key to a safe and vibrant community. Access to affordable housing means more than simply providing housing assistance to those who desperately need a place to live; it also involves working with struggling homeowners to keep them in their homes. A few of the specific housing initiatives I would undertake as a Legislator would be to:
– Increase regulations, which require banks and mortgage companies to work with homeowners who are underwater or struggling with their mortgage payment to take all available remedies to keep them in their homes.
– Examine and overhaul the state’s current subsidized housing efforts to streamline and organize the process into one, which is understandable and efficient.
– Work to provide seniors in need with property tax credits and other incentives to ensure that no senior citizen must leave their home due to their inability to keep up with rising property taxes and other associated increasing costs.
– Work to convert foreclosed and abandoned properties into affordable housing, offering homeowners who have been foreclosed upon the option of renting their home out of foreclosure.
– Provide state backed grants to low income homebuyers to assist with down payments, taxes, and other costs associated with purchasing a home.
THOMAS: Work to stop housing fraud and illegal foreclosures. Was part of a campaign to keep Atlantans in their homes and passed legislation in 2008 that increased the Homestead Exemption from $15,000 to $30,000 over a 3 year period. Now, Homestead Exemption is at $30,000 regardless of income.