APN Interview with Felicia Moore, Council President Candidate
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) is running for City Council President in the upcoming November 2017 Municipal Election, where she is facing two competing candidates, Alex Wan (District 6) and CT Martin (District 10).
Moore has the highest score on the Atlanta Progressive News Atlanta City Council Scorecard of the three candidates: Moore, 78.7; Martin, 55.9; Wan, 47.1.
During her time on Council, Moore has become known as a stickler for Council process and someone who has asked questions about Council process to bring out important issues during substantive debates.
Atlanta Progressive News had the opportunity to conduct a sit-down interview with Moore to discuss issues related to the Council President position, which focuses first and foremost on the issue of Council process.
APN has reached out to both the Martin and Wan campaigns in an attempt to schedule similar interviews.
SHOULD THE RULE LIMITING APPLAUSE AT COUNCIL MEETINGS BE AMENDED? CURRENTLY, THE COUNCIL PRESIDENT HAS INCONSISTENTLY ENFORCED THIS RULE, WHILE APPLAUSE REMAINS ALLOWED DURING PROCLAMATIONS.
Moore did not say that applause should be allowed, but said she will get with the new Council–which will likely include at least seven new Councilmembers–to have a discussion about it.
“It needs to be consistently enforced,” she said.
“It’s appropriate for some part of the meeting, but not the other,” she said.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PROTESTERS?
“Protest is a part of the process. I’m not against protest,” Moore said.
“The main goal of the Council President is to facilitate the meeting. Protests should be acknowledged and will happen. Eventually, once you’ve protested you have to let the decision be made by the Council,” Moore said.
At a recent Public Safety/Legal Administration Committee, Chairman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) was very liberal with protesters, as reported by APN, allowing them to go over time; shout from the audience; and approach the microphone during the debate.
Moore said she met with the protesters to tell them that, had she been Chair of the Committee, she would have intervened at the point that they interrupted Councilmembers. “At some point I would’ve asked them to leave,” she said.
“They should afford some respect to Council people. I do believe in decorum.”
BUT Y’ALL WANT US TO HAVE DECORUM, WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN HAVE A QUORUM.
Moore agreed. “We’re there to do the business of the City, we should start the meeting at the appropriate time.”
Moore said that Councilmembers should be at their meetings “from start to end, that includes public comment.”
After APN raised concerns earlier this year, Moore, who currently chairs the Committee on Council, changed her practice of taking public comment at the meeting’s scheduled start time even if a quorum wasn’t present. Now she waits to hear public comment until the quorum assembles.
When asked what she could do as Council President about attendance issues: “These are adults. Citizens have to hold them accountable. You can make a point of it. You can stop the meeting,” when a quorum is lost.
“The Council President has subpoena power,” Moore noted, although she added she did not think she would ever have to use it.
“The Council President can take note of who comes to meetings,” in deciding who to appoint as Committee Chairs, Moore said.
ON THAT NOTE, WHAT OTHER FACTORS WOULD YOU CONSIDER AS CRITERIA FOR COMMITTEE CHAIR?
“People who have posted their Council expenditures online,” Moore said.
Earlier this year, the Council approved a watered-down version of legislation that Moore introduced regarding the posting of Councilmember expenditures online.
The legislation, in the form it passed, requires a Request for Qualifications, for companies that can help the City publish these expenditures online, to submit information to the City. Councilmembers could voluntarily post their expenditures online, she said.
When asked if she would consider a Councilmember’s support for public comment as a factor, Moore declined.
THE COMMITTEE BRIEFINGS ARE NOW OPEN. DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE VIDEOTAPED?
“Congratulations,” Moore said, noting that the Briefings were opened to the public following a series of articles in APN and a lawsuit filed by APN’s News Editor. The lawsuit was settled and the Council approved an ordinance drafted by APN’s News Editor in 2013 to voluntarily open the Briefings to the public.
During the Briefings debacle, Moore became the first Committee Chair to open a Briefing to the public.
The Briefings are open to the public, and publicly noticed in advance. However, if one does not attend the Briefing, there is no opportunity to hear what happens. Often Councilmembers make statements in Briefings that are not repeated in the public Committee meetings, APN can confirm.
As for the video: “I don’t see where it would be helpful. Briefings are just that. They rightfully should be open to the public,” Moore said, but did not support the idea of videotaping.
Moore added that videotaping the Briefings would require staff time.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PUBLIC COMMENT AT COMMITTEES? DO YOU STILL BELIEVE COMMITTEE CHAIR DISCRETION REGARDING PUBLIC COMMENT IS BEST? DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE AS TO WHETHER THERE SHOULD BE A TIME LIMIT, AND WHETHER PUBLIC COMMENT SHOULD BE ALLOWED PRIOR TO VOTES ON INDIVIDUAL ITEMS (RATHER THAN JUST AT THE BEGINNING OR END OF THE MEETING)?
“No one way is the best way. As Chair, I prefer the most flexibility. It’s better if Chairs have that flexibility.”
Regarding the public commenting in between items: “At some point we need to be able to move on. Some chairs may do it the way you love it.”
Moore started out not having a time limit as Chair of Committee on Council. Then, when Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) became Chair of COC, Norwood instituted a two minute time limit at the beginning and a three minute limit at the end.
Moore continued this rule when she again became Chair of COC, although after APN raised concerns earlier this year, she requested a new Committee debate on the matter, and the Committee voted to combine the two comment segments into one five minute segment.
SHOULD PUBLIC COMMENT BE ALLOWED AT WORK SESSIONS?
“Again, it’s a good question of the Committee. We need to be clear to the public. It should be a case by case basis, I don’t want a hard and fast rule. The Council needs to be able to meet with the administration,” without public comment, Moore said.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A BETTER COUNCIL PRESIDENT CANDIDATE THAN YOUR OPPONENTS?
“All three of us are different, our approaches will be different. If citizens want a Council President who consistently stands for ethics, transparency, accountability, one that’s not hesitant about making sure their voice is heard,” they should vote for her, she said.
“Consistently through three Administrations, I want to know what I’m voting on. We don’t elect dictators in this country – I’ve been concerned the checks and balances might not be consistent,” Moore said.
“The principles that guide me don’t just change in the wind,” she said.