Hall Draws Two Challengers in Atlanta District Two Race
(APN) ATLANTA — Two candidates, Jon Jones and Todd Robinson, have announced their plans to challenge Kwanza Hall for the District 2 seat on the City Council of Atlanta.
Kwanza Hall was elected in 2005 to the seat that was formerly held by Councilwoman Debi Starnes (District 2). In 2009, he faced no challenger.
On the APN Atlanta City Council Scorecard, Councilman Hall is the fifth most progressive Councilmember in the Council, with a score of 54.55 out of 100, following Natalyn Archibong (District 5) in first place, Felicia Moore (District 9) in second, Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) in third, and CT Martin (District 10) in fourth.
According to the Scorecard, which is based on Council voting records, Hall has missed a large number of controversial votes.
Jones, 26, is a pricing analyst for a staffing firm. He received a BA from Rutgers University and an MPA from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has lived in Atlanta since December 2010, so for a little more than two years.
Jones supports the concept of direct democracy, and wants for citizens to be able to provide their input on matters before the City Council using the Internet and text messaging.
Jones has built a website called the Atlanta Direct Democracy Interface, which is available online at: http://www.atl-ddi.com.
Jones tells Atlanta Progressive News the website is based on the general concept of Reddit.com.
“All the content is user submitted. It’s uploaded or downloaded based on people’s agreement or disagreement. We can make the same exact model,” Jones said.
Jones said, if elected, he will base all of his votes on comments received from District 2 voters submitted either via phone, text message, or online; and he will push for the City Council to adopt a direct democracy model for the whole City.
Jones said he has no specific issue with Councilman Hall, but wants to change the entire system of governance in Atlanta.
Robinson, 32, is an attorney with Knight Johnson LLC, practicing commercial and business litigation. Previously, he worked as a child abuse investigator for the Georgia Department of Child and Human Services.
Robinson graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens with a BA, and then earned a JD from Emory University School of Law.
Robinson tells Atlanta Progressive News that Peggy Denby, an activist for safety and security in Midtown, has encouraged him to run. While strong on safety issues, Denby has also been a staunch critic of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and the affordable housing communities in Midtown’s Bedford Pine neighborhood, and has supported efforts to get rid of prostitutes in Midtown and beyond.
Robinson serves on the board of the Midtown Neighbors Association, adding that he has served for less than one year.
Robinson said his main issue is public safety.
“I would like to see the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, an organization like that, to provide additional protection and community policing to other communities like downtown, like the Fourth Ward. It can get lawless down there at some point,” Robinson said.
“I would like to change the code with regards to pedestrian safety. Developers can close off entire sidewalks for months on end,” Robinson said.
When asked what his concerns were regarding Hall, he said, “Part of it stems from my conversations with residents in my community and residents in Midtown. They’ve sort of been dissatisfied with Kwanza’s representation.”
“They feel that Kwanza has just heavily focused on other parts of the district and not put enough attention on Midtown and other parts,” Robinson said, pointing to the fact that Hall organized a special campaign for Boulevard Avenue called the Year of Boulevard.
“I do represent the entire district, and try to be everywhere. It’s a diverse district and I love it. We’ve put a special effort on the Year of Boulevard. Other parts of the districts have… downtown has the Downtown Improvement District, and Midtown has the Midtown Improvement District. We took a special initiative to focus on that [Boulevard],” Hall said.
Hall’s previous district map, prior to the recent redistricting, included parts of Midtown including some of the condos, going as far north as North Avenue.
In Hall’s current district map, he now has Candler Park, which was previously part of District 6, as well as much of Midtown, going as far north as 17th Street in the northwest corner of the district. Hall essentially now splits Midtown with Councilman Alex Wan (District 6).
“I think it’s a good opportunity to give the residents of Candler Park a choice,” Robinson said.
“There’s Peachtree-Pine that’s been a been problem for Midtown residents. It’s my understanding that Kwanza hasn’t taken the lead on,” Robinson said, referring to the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
“That location is probably one of the main sources for crime and drug activity in the area,” Robinson said, although as APN has previously reported there is no evidence to support that claim, which Hall has also made.
“My understanding just from talking with residents, the Midtown community feels underrepresented in voicing their concerns about that problem,” Robinson said.
However, Hall has been a vocal critic of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
“We have worked very diligently to try to remove the current mode of operations. I don’t believe in the model there. Fifty percent of homeless people [in Atlanta] live in District 2. Whatever we do, we’re going to have this concentration and the service providers are here,” Hall said.
Hall said the only reason he has not been more vocal against the Task Force is because of the pending litigation.
“I can’t talk about it because of the lawsuit,” Hall said.
“I understand there are limits to the office. But I’ve heard from more people than one that Kwanza oftentimes will send someone out in his place, and a lot of residents feel they want to speak to their elected official and he’s inaccessible,” Robinson said.
“I would be attending the neighborhood associations for all the communities, not just one or two. I would make an effort to do that,” Robinson said.
“I show up not only at neighborhood meetings, but formal events and not formal events. There’s no way a person could be at every meeting. There’s overlap on when things happen,” Hall said.
So far, as APN has reported, announced challengers to incumbents for 2013 include:
District 1: Robert Welsh
District 2: Jon Jones, Todd Robinson
District 3: Rev. Darrien Fletcher
District 4: None to date.
District 5: Matt Rinker
District 6: None to date.
District 7: None to date.
District 8: None to date.
District 9: None to date.
District 10: None to date.
District 11: None to date.
District 12: None to date.
Post 1-at-large: None to date.
Post 2-at-large: None to date
Post 3-at-large: former State Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta), Shelitha Robertson