Smith, Archibong Draw Challengers in 2013 Atlanta Council Race


(APN) ATLANTA — Two more candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for seats on the Atlanta City Council: Robert Welsh has announced his plans to challenge Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1), and Matt Rinker has announced his plans to challenge Natalyn Archibong (District 5), in the November 2013 election.

Smith is a moderate Councilmember, with a current score of 41.94 on the APN Atlanta City Council Scorecard for 2013. Archibong is the most progressive Councilmember on the Council in terms of her voting record, with a current score of 92.


Smith had told numerous people a couple years ago that she wasn’t planning to run again in 2013, according to several sources, but, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Smith is planning to run for reelection this year.

Welsh, who announced his plans in a press release, told APN that he was planning to run for the seat regardless of whether Smith ran for reelection.

Welsh is a state budget official for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, where he manages the community health budget for the entire state; and he has formerly worked for the Georgia Senate Budget Office and Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

He also sits on several boards including 303 Community Coalition/ Dirty Truth Campaign, Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, First Church Community Development Corporation, and NeighborhoodNexus.

Welsh recently began appearing to make public presentations at meetings of the Full Council and Committees, and tells APN that he does not agree with the current proposal by Joyce Sheperd (District 12) and others to limit public comment at Council Committees, noting that he ran out of time to speak at a recent Community Development/Human Resources Cmte Meeting.

“I wouldn’t agree with that. I think there’s probably a more gentle way of letting folks know that their time is winding down. It’s really kind of a slap in the face. People take time off from work to come down. Three minutes is not long enough. I would vote no,” Welsh said.

Smith did not support limiting public comment when it was first proposed in 2010 and there is no reason to believe she will support the new proposal.

“I’ve been working on community issues in NPU-V for last six years. I noticed that we really need to have a focus on developing not only the built environment but human development. One of the things that motivated me were vacant properties in Peoplestown and most of the neighborhoods throughout District 1,” Welsh told APN.

In 2010, Welsh worked on a project with the Dirty Truth Campaign which organized a forum at the beginning of Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, asking them to deal with the issue of vacant, abandoned houses.

“We were trying to convince the Mayor, we presented 1,500 petition flyers asking the Mayor to start a vacant property commission,” he said.

“The only people with the ability to scoop up the properties were investors who had cash, that’s why we asked Reed to come up with a balanced approach,” he said.

“The city really needs to take an aggressive step to support neighborhood development corporations and move people into properties around schools in those areas,” he said.

Welsh added that he did not agree with the recent panhandling ordinance, which the Council approved unanimously [with Archibong absent].

When asked if Welsh was not satisfied with Smith’s leadership, “Essentially I’m definitely not satisfied. If you look at the data, the data speaks for itself. Unemployment in the district is above 25 percent for the district. Vacant properties are thirty percent. Poverty, certain areas have a seventy percent poverty level, the average, is close to 30-35 percent. That is unacceptable to any stretch of the imagination.”

“My statement is, she’s only representing part of the district,” he said.

“I think she has good constituent services, but I don’t think any Councilperson should be abdicating their responsibilities to their staff. They need to be out front leading the policy discussion,” he said.

“Not just whether you’re trash is getting picked up – that’s not something I expect a Councilperson to be completely enamored with,” he said.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back is when she didn’t come out in support of not closing any schools in her district, which she did not do, such as DH Stanton,” he said.

Welsh has a BA from Seton Hall and an MPA from Rutgers University.

When asked his strategy in the uphill battle of unseating an incumbent, he said, “Raise as much money as I can – that’s obviously gonna be key – there’s no two ways about that.”


Rinker, who is challenging Archibong, did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment. Project Q Atlanta has reported that Rinker, who is openly homosexual, seeks to bring a fresh voice to the Council and increase transparency, which he says the City is lacking.

Archibong has been one of the strongest supporters of transparency as well as public input on the Atlanta City Council.

Project Q raised an issue of Archibong’s 2011 vote against the referendum on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales in Atlanta. Archibong told the East Atlanta Patch that she voted no because she did not want to hurt the revenues of bars and restaurants in her district.

The 2011 vote was uncharacteristic for Archibong, who generally supports the personal liberties of people to consume alcohol. She was one of the only Councilmembers to oppose earlier bar closure hours in 2003, and one of the only ones to support re-extending them to 4am in 2011.

Rinker told Project Q that he also support re-extending bar hours to 4am.