Austin, Wan (District 6) Compared on Atlanta Council Issues
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan (District 6)–who has been a staunch enemy of public comment; who demanded that Atlanta taxpayers pay for his legal representation for his perceived right to a secret vote [later losing a Supreme Court of Georgia ruling in a case brought by APN’s News Editor–the present writer]; who oversaw questionable funds accrual and spending for Atlanta’s Tax Allocations Districts as Treasurer of the Atlanta Development Authority; who championed a legally questionable zoning plan for Cheshire Bridge Road that would have broken promises against existing adult entertainment establishments; and who, among other things, pushed a harmful pension proposal that would have broken promises against current city workers, subjecting their pensions to the whims of the market, is facing two challengers in this November’s Municipal Elections.
Tracey Austin and Mike Boyle are challenging Mr. Wan.
APN reached out to Boyle in an email on September 15 asking to speak with Boyle by phone. Boyle responded on September 21, asking for written questions. This, however, was not APN’s preferred format for an introductory conversation with an unknown candidate.
Austin reached out to APN in a text message on October 04. After a lengthy conversation regarding Mr. Wan, APN asked Austin to review the APN Atlanta City Council Scorecard, to see where Wan stood on dozens of controversial votes compiled by APN, and to let APN know where she differed from Wan in her positions on any of the issues underlying those votes.
Wan’s score on the Scorecard is 41.86 out of 100, with credit for fourteen out of 35 items. He is the ninth progressive Councilmember out of fifteen.
According to information provided by Austin, she would have a projected score of 77.5 out of 100, with credit for 31 out of 40 items. With such a voting record, she would be the third most progressive Councilmember out of fifteen, following only Natalyn Archibong (District 5) and Felicia Moore (District 9). [Austin provided her position on nearly all items on the Scorecard, including a few dating back longer than Wan has been on the Council.]
Here is a comparison of positions taken by Wan and Austin from 2010 onward:
PUBLIC COMMENT LIMITS
In 2010, Wan voted to support the idea of public comment limits at each Council Committee meeting. Austin would have voted no, saying she understands the importance of public input, noting that she has made public comment at least once, in opposition to the previously-proposed prostitution banishment ordinance.
In 2011, Wan voted twice against granting more time at Full Council to a speaker advocating for funding for People TV. Austin would have voted yes.
In 2013, Wan voted twice for multi-Committee time limits. Austin would have voted no.
SECRET VOTE DISCLOSURE
In 2010, Wan refused to disclose to APN how he voted in the 2010 vote on multi-Committee speaking limits. Austin would have disclosed.
SALE OF CITY HALL EAST
In 2010, Wan voted to support the sale of City Hall East to Jamestown for only ten million dollars guaranteed to the City of Atlanta, even though the developer was poised to make two hundred million dollars off of the property. Austin would have opposed.
In 2010, Wan supported waiving affordable housing requirements for the redevelopment of City Hall East, despite the receipt of special TAD funds by the developer from the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Austin would have opposed.
In 2011, Wan supported the Yolanda Adrean (District 8) proposal to break promises to current City workers, shifting their entire pension plan from defined benefit to defined contribution, subjecting workers’ pensions to the whims of the market.
Austin says she does not know how she would have voted.
EXTENDING BAR HOURS TO 4AM
In 2011, Wan voted against a proposal to re-extend bar closing times to 4am. Austin would have supported the measure.
“Although I would like to see bar hours extended back to 4AM because I feel it will benefit the city and business owners through revenue, it is important to do this in a diplomatic and fair manner which considers the concerns of all city residents,” Austin wrote.
“I can hypothetically conclude that revenue for venue owners would increase with this effort and that revenue can be used to create a structure and process for ensuring safety is a high priority with this change… I would have caucused for specific language to be inserted in the bill that would create specific geographic locations in which this could occur. The locations would be determined by incidence of crime, or current safety plans and/or programs that are in place in those areas. For example, if an area such as Midtown which has adopted its own security program – Midtown Blue – is already active and incidence of crime is currently low, extending the hours so business owners can generate more revenue, from not just alcohol, but also Food and Beverage is good for business,” Austin wrote.
AIRPORT CONCESSIONS CONTRACTS
Wan supported the controversial airport concessions contracts in 2012. Austin also would have supported the contracts.
In 2012, Wan did not support an amendment to ban the use of the bullhook by circuses to torture elephants in Atlanta. Austin would have supported the ban.
FOGFUELS SOLE SOURCE CONTRACT
In 2012, Wan did not participate in the vote on the FogFuels sole source contract. Austin would have opposed.
Wan supported both versions of the 2012 legislation criminalizing certain categories for panhandling. The latter version allows a judge to sentence a panhandler up to 180 days in jail for a first offense for an aggressive panhandling, or for panhandling in certain locations: for example, near a MARTA station.
Austin would have also supported the first version by Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), which increased the penalties for a third offense of aggressive panhandling only, but not the second version by Mayor Kasim Reed.
“I am opposed [to the 2012 Reed version] only because it doesn’t include language that helps resolve the issues of homelessness and mental illness that cause the impoverished situations making it necessary to panhandle. However panhandling needs to be deterred as it is bad for business and tourism, while more programs and services to help those in need should be increased,” Austin wrote.
In 2013, Wan did not support the renewal of the Hotel Motel tax in order to subsidize a new Falcons stadium. Austin would have supported the new stadium, perhaps the only issue where she took a different position than Wan and APN’s editorial position.
CHESHIRE BRIDGE REZONING
In 2013, Wan championed a controversial plan to remove grandfathered-in adult entertainment establishments from two non-contiguous portions of Cheshire Bridge Road. Austin would not have supported the rezoning proposal.
INVEST ATLANTA SLUSH FUND
In 2013, Wan opposed a special budget amendment to appropriate funds for the Atlanta Development Authority [doing business as Invest Atlanta], even though it was not clear how the funds would be used. Austin would have also opposed the amendment.
THREE PERCENT PAY INCREASE
In 2013, Wan opposed a special budget amendment to provide a three percent across-the-board pay increase for City employees. Austin would have supported the amendment.
BEN HOWARD PROCLAMATION
Wan tends not to attend proclamations at Full Council Meetings, even when he is present at City Hall, unless he is presenting the proclamation. Wan failed to attend a proclamation for senior advocate Ben Howard. Austin would have spoken at the proclamation.