Former State Rep. Long to Challenge Councilman Willis
(APN) ATLANTA — Former State Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta) will enter the Post 3-at-large race for the City Council of Atlanta, where he will challenge incumbent Lamar Willis, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Newcomer Andre Dickens, who has raised over 55,000 dollars and has the support of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, is also challenging Willis.
Shelitha Robertson, who almost defeated Willis in 2009, also filed paperwork to run, but has raised no money as of the latest disclosure period, and, according to a source familiar with the matter, is ninety percent sure that she is not running this year.
Rep. Long was first elected to the State House in 2008, in an election where he ran unopposed. Rep. Long was re-elected in 2010.
In 2009, Rep. Long was the only State Representative to come out in support of Mary Norwood for Mayor of Atlanta.
As part of the redistricting that occurred following the 2010 census, Rep. Long and State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) were redrawn into the same district. Bell defeated Long in the 2012 Democratic Primary.
During his time in the Legislature, Rep. Long was a staunch supporter of charter schools, something that led Atlanta Progressive News to endorse Rep. Bell in the 2012 Democratic Primary.
The issue of charter schools, however, is not one that would likely come before the City Council of Atlanta.
In December 2012, APN reported that Rep. Long was considering running for the Council District 12 seat currently held by Joyce Sheperd. Long denied that he was considering running for District 12 in at least one conversation with a reporter from the Atlanta Inquirer newspaper, but he later admitted to APN that it was true.
He had also been considering running for the Post 3-at-large seat for some time, and had apparently decided not to. However, he tells APN that he has since changed his mind, especially after reviewing Dickens’s positions on the issues, as reported in an APN interview published yesterday.
When asked why he has decided to run for City Council, he said, “I want to get down to a basic services role for the City Council: stop signs, code enforcement, community policing, making the city work.”
“I think those are things we’ve gotten away from while we’re trying to do big outlandish things;
meanwhile, the average person’s life has suffered because of lack of access to their City Councilperson and lack of attention to detail in neighborhoods,” he said.
“It’s just really hard to get constituent service,” he said.
When asked about why he is dissatisfied with Willis, Long said, “We can do better. I’m disappointed with the ethical issues, and I think if you’re gonna be a City Councilperson or elected official in this city, then you need to strive not to have ethical issues, especially in regards to your profession.”
Long said that Willis’s barrage of ethical issues–including the fact that he is now facing a disbarment recommendation that is before the Supreme Court of Georgia–is “flat out embarrassing for Atlanta.”
As for Dickens, Long said, “I don’t know him. He’s a very nice person. I think my experience would really benefit the city in the citywide position. The fact I know about budgets. I’ve campaigned in different neighborhoods with different incomes.”
“City politics and city government has been a way of life in my family since 1911,” Long said.
“My experience in the General Assembly will allow me to walk on the floor and work with my former colleagues to help amend the differences between the City and the State. I have a great relationship with my colleagues,” Long said.
Long’s former House district contained parts of City Council Districts 4, 11, and 12, but Long believes he has citywide appeal.
“I’ve been on the news enough representing issues that affect the entire city,” Long said, citing his role in criticising former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall.
Long criticized Dickens for failing to take a position on the controversial airport concessions contracts and procurement process. Dickens said he wanted to tread lightly on that issue and declined to comment, when asked by APN.
“I think the process should be opened up. I believe in total transparency, period. I don’t think it is as transparent as it needs to be. That leads to stagnant wealth. Competition makes the world go round,” Long said.
“In regards to the airport, there are enough opportunities for small businesses and for everyone to get a piece of it. The same olds, same olds are still in place. Saying that may hurt me in terms of raising money,” Long said.
“Maybe that’s why Andre Dickens wanted to tread lightly,” Long said.
“The little man has to have a shot too. In the current system, it’s like a monopoly, the same people have access to the contracts. That presents a problem,” Long said.
Long also said that unlike Dickens, he has a position on Alex Wan’s (District 6) failed proposal to remove grandfathered-in adult entertainment establishments from Cheshire Bridge Road.
“I think they’re legitimate businesses. You need to go in and talk to those businesses. Any time you try to strongarm businesses and shut em down, you’re liable to hurt yourself,” Long said.
“They’re a victim of stigmatism,” Long said, regarding adult entertainment establishments on Cheshire Bridge, noting there was not a crime problem associated with those businesses in that location.
“We’re just going to judge you and shut you down – I don’t think that’s right. A lot of people feed their families–believe it or not–stripping,” Long said.
Long said that he was very depressed and demoralized after losing his State House race in 2012.
“When you go out there and put your heart and soul into service… I was dealing with so much sorrow from losing, I had to find myself again,” Long said.
Long said that he is a strong supporter of public participation at City Council meetings.
“The Ron Shakirs and the Anne McKenzies and the Ben Howards, they make my world go round, they are like heros to me,” Long said.