APN Candidate Q&A: Jason Dozier, District 4, Atlanta City Council
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the 2017 Municipal Elections, this article presents the questionnaire responses of Jason Dozier, who is running for the District 4 seat on the Atlanta City Council.
Cleta Winslow–whose service on City Council has been plagued by one ethics scandal after another, in addition to a charge of Driving Under the Influence–currently represents District 4. Winslow also has one of the poorest attendance records on the Council.
Every four years, Winslow is challenged by an array of District 4 candidates, and manages to survive unscathed.
This year, Winslow faces several opponents, including Dozier, Winslow, MR Adassa, Christopher Brown, Nick Hess, Kimberly Parmer, Shawn Walton, Jonathan R. Whitfield, Sister DeBorah Williams, and Elizabeth Whitmore.
APN will be sending questionnaires out another round of questionnaires shortly.
Dozier has previously served as a spokesperson for the Turner Field Community Benefit Coalition.
In addition, he has served as Executive Director of the Young Democrats of Georgia, and Vice President for the Mechanicsville Civic Association.
Dozier’s responses to the APN Questionnaire were as follows:
What is your position on the following affordable housing proposals?
Surplus Property Affordable Housing ordinance 17-O-1643. Requiring that surplus city parcels that are suitable for use as housing be sold to nonprofit developers for $1 to develop affordable housing.
I support this legislation. From a labor and materials perspective, it costs as much to build a 2,000 square foot house in Buckhead as it does in Oakland City. But the land values are vastly different, which ultimately drives up of the cost of housing in in-demand neighborhoods. This legislation is a great way to stabilize land prices and increase affordable housing access to all residents.
Promoting the production and preservation of units at 0 to 30 percent AMI of the Area Median Income (AMI) across all City of Atlanta policies. This is the income bracket with the greatest and fasting growing unmet need, whereas the recent trend in City housing policies has been to produce affordable units at higher levels of AMI.
I fully support updating the AMI formulas to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
Inclusionary Zoning, including as proposed in the Beltline Overlay District by Dickens et al. Requiring that new multi-family buildings include a certain percentage of affordable units, while giving incentives to the developer in the form of upzoning.
I support adopting mandatory inclusionary zoning practices for transactions involving the sale or transfer of publicly-owned property and for developments which are financed using any public monies. I also support market-driven such as ending minimum parking requirements for new construction and removing traditional zoning requirements which would expand housing choices for all.
Adding form of housing payments (ie – Section 8 voucher) as a protected class to be protected from housing discrimination in the City of Atlanta – thus requiring that lessors cannot discriminate against an applicant solely because they have a Section 8 voucher.
I support protections for Section 8 voucher recipients. This has been effective in many parts of the country, and believe Atlanta should explore similar measures.
Creating a baseline inventory of Atlanta’s existing affordable housing stock.
I support the creation of a database which inventories Atlanta’s existing affordable housing stock. Better record-keeping across the board would result in better decision-making pertaining to housing policy.
Exploring property tax reforms, including seeking State Legislature to pass enabling laws: (1) to allow lower tax rates based on income; (2) to allow tax breaks for lessors who keep rental rates affordable; and/or (3) to allow tax breaks for nonprofit developers.
I am very supportive of this. It’s unfortunate that cities across Georgia have such limited options when it comes to implementing housing policy, and I believe that the state can play a major role in assisting our efforts to address housing affordability.
Offering grant assistance to property owners of aging multi-family apartment buildings, in return for securing promises to keep the units affordable.
All Atlanta residents deserve access to safe and clean housing. Routine upkeep and repair can be cost-prohibitive for many property owners, and I believe grant assistance would go a long way to ensure that low-income residents can live in affordable units with dignity.
Exploring the increased use of community land trusts;
I believe strongly that we should expand funding for land banks and community land trusts, which would stabilize land costs and promote economic diversity in neighborhoods by ensuring community stewardship of land.
Increased use of Tiny Houses and accessory dwellings, including appropriate zoning changes;
Updating our land use policies would allow for a diversity of uses which would meet the needs of families looking for housing options beyond large-scale multi-family and low-density single-family units. This market-oriented approach would enable developers to build additional units of housing in land-constrained communities. Ensuring a diversity of options and choices means that fewer residents are competing for the same limited housing stock, reducing the cost of housing for everyone.
Creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
I support creating an Affordable Housing Trust Fund in Atlanta. Many affordable housing opportunities could not exist without subsidies, and a dedicated source of public funding is necessary to preserve existing housing stock and make new housing opportunities available.
Use City of Atlanta median for purpose of determining Area Median Income, rather than Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta.
I support shifting the AMI formula to the City of Atlanta median versus the Census Bureau-designated Metropolitan Statistical Area. I’d also consider implementing policies that account for AMI thresholds at the neighborhood, NPU, and ZIP code levels, particularly as we seek to preserve existing affordable housing inventory.
DEMOCRACY AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Do you support using general fund revenue to create a public financing campaign system for Municipal Elections, much like the Democracy Voucher program in Seattle, Washington?
I support exploring measures like this and others which will ensure that our elected officials can’t be bought. I believe that parity reduces the power of incumbency, and this would go a long ways towards ensuring that goal.
Do you support limiting or prohibiting campaign contributions from individuals doing business with the City of Atlanta, or from individuals employed by entities doing business with the City of Atlanta?
The City of Atlanta should implement rules that align with state lobbying prohibitions. And if the city fails to prohibit contributions from individuals, I would also support further restrictions by prohibiting government contracts with companies that donate to elected officials.
If appointed Chair of a Council Committee, or if asked as a Committee Member to vote on a public comment policy pertaining to a Council Committee, would you be open to the idea of no time limit for public comments? If not, why not?
I think time limits are a reasonable way to ensure that meeting agendas can move forward. However, I think the city needs to do a better job at providing a space for citizens to provide comment, so I would support a framework that allows for the online submission of questions and comments (which generates a read receipt) so that comments and concerns aren’t ignored.
Relatedly, would you allow citizens to make public comment on individual items as they come up on the agenda, or should public comment be restricted to the beginning and/or end of the meeting?
As stated before, because I think formal agendas are a valuable tool in the administration of government, I’d seek to provide an alternative means for concerned citizens to provide input if they’re unable to speak during the allotted time.
Would you support a change to the City Charter allowing the public to comment at Work Sessions? Currently, there is only the right to comment at Full Council and Council Committee.
I’ve seen how public input can be stifled and derailed when Council convenes into work sessions. I support allowing the public to comment at these sessions.
Do you believe Committee Briefings should be videotaped?
Absolutely. Greater transparency and accountability something that our campaign has advocated for since day one, and I am committed to an open, honest, and responsive government that values citizen input and community engagement.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Do you support reforming City of Atlanta municipal code to eliminate the possibility of jail time for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis in the City of Atlanta (i.e. – decriminalization)?
Absolutely. The criminalization of marijuana possession has negatively impacted the lives of far too many young, black citizens. Racial profiling happens too often in this city, and making this offense ticketable would reduce some of the long-term effects of unnecessary arrests. I also believe that decriminalizing nonviolent offenses would help reduce instances of confrontational police-citizen interactions.
Do you support extending bar hours to 4 a.m.?
It is a difficult issue on which I can see both sides. Previous studies show a marked increase in DUIs and alcohol-related injuries for every hour later a bar is open. However, I don’t know of these studies have been updated to include the development of ride-sharing services (which have significantly impacted DUI rates in many locales).
I also understand that many bars don’t want these changes, as extended hours increase liability and insurances costs. And if their competitor remains open, then it compels them to remain open as well, which could ultimately hurt smaller businesses in bar districts
I recognize that designated entertainment districts aren’t as fraught, but changes like this still require input and debate from residents, businesses, and law enforcement officials.
Ultimately, I think it is important for government to listen to people, not the other way around, so as Councilperson I would advocate for additional impact studies which solicit feedback from businesses, residents, and first responders before any decision is made.
Do you support the increased use of solar panels and other renewable energy at City-owned buildings?
Yes, I support initiatives would create a cleaner, sustainable Atlanta. I seek to ensure that we have equitable, green, sustainable, and livable development throughout the city, particularly investments that emphasize the need for clean air and water and address flooding.
How should the City of Atlanta change its policies and practices to promote more recycling by residents and businesses?
I believe that children can be extremely strong advocates for these programs. The City should partner with Atlanta Public Schools and work with our students to serve as ambassadors in households across Atlanta. I also recognize that the contamination of recycling bins is a frequent issue across the city. The issuance of first-time contamination offenses should include easy-to-read instruction materials to help create more effective recycling use across the City.
Do you believe the City of Atlanta sales tax rate is too high, and would you support any portion of the sales tax rate not being renewed? If so, which portion and why?
The City of Atlanta’s sales tax rate is one of the highest in the country. Sales taxes are also regressive and place unnecessary burden on low income residents. I understand the need and importance of each tax as it pertains to maintaining and expanding our sewer, water, and transportation infrastructure, but I do not believe we should levy new sales taxes on our residents.
Which of the several public transportation projects that have been proposed do you think deserve the highest priority? Current proposals include several MARTA rail line extensions in several directions; the Beltline and various street car lines; and several other projects.
I believe in city-wide investment in pedestrian, cycling, and transit infrastructure is critical to ensuring our citizens can successfully and safely navigate Atlanta to access resources, amenities, and employment centers.
I generally support light rail expansion across the city, though I understand and agree with concerns about the Atlanta Streetcar. Light rail and streetcar technologies are similar and could be integrated with one another, but I believe that routes with dedicated rights-of-way should be prioritized the most. Last-mile connectivity is extremely limited for many of our residents, and these kinds of investments would be more impactful to our citizens. Light rail is also significantly cheaper than extensions of heavy rail.
However, an expansive light rail network could take years, even decades, to fully build out. Bus capacity should be expanded before rail projects are finalized in to determine route viability before tracks are laid.
In all, I believe that ensuring a diversity in transportation options will work in the best interests of all Atlantans
What is your plan to make Atlanta more safe for pedestrians and to provide Atlanta’s pedestrians with safe passage in the form of sidewalks?
As recently as 2014, metro Atlanta ranked #8 in the country in pedestrian danger. This is especially stark considering that nearly 40% of southwest Atlanta’s households have no vehicle whatsoever. I absolutely believe that we need to make our city safer for pedestrians and I plan to make this a priority. I support shifting the burden of sidewalk repair from private property owners onto the city. Funding sidewalks shouldn’t be viewed any differently than funding road repairs, especially since both are public rights of way.
Do you support restricting Council Office expenditures to staff and constituent outreach? Currently, some Council offices use their funds to run their offices, while others use some of their funds to allocate grants to pet projects in their district.
While I believe City Council office spending should be better regulated and monitored, I think a full restriction could negatively impact communities whose needs have been de-prioritized at City Hall. Crosswalks, speed humps, and stop signs can drastically improve the quality of life in a community. One way to curb abuse is to ensure that each council office is afforded a base amount to spend on administration and continuent services. This is certainly a discussion that’s worth having, and I believe there is a middle ground.
If elected, would you still be employed in any other outside full-time or part-time employment, aside from your salaried position at City Hall? If so, what will that outside employment be?
I am currently the Director of Programs Operations at a national, $7M a year non-profit organization. My employer is aware of the personal and professional sacrifices that come with election to Atlanta City Council, and if elected, I’d establish a transition plan that will reduce my full-time employment obligations and would allow commit as much attention as possible to my community. In effect, I would remain employed for a limited period until I am able to transition my duties to someone else. This would not be an overnight transition due to the scope of my current responsibilities, but it’d be an important and necessary one.
If elected, do you commit to sitting in your chair during the public comment portions of Full Council and Committee Meetings to actually listen to the public?
Absolutely. I believe in our democratic institutions, and public commentary is critical part of the community engagement process. As such, it should be taken seriously. Far too often, I’ve seen elected officials tell their constituents that they didn’t know about issues happening in their districts, even though these issues had been well-articulated during the public commentary portions of council meetings. I seek an accountable government at City Hall, and that begins with me.
Do you support linking Councilmember salary to meeting attendance, except in the case of a documented excuse?
I don’t support linking Councilmember salary to meeting attendance, but I support but I support the formal censure of those individuals who fail to uphold their public duties.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2017)