Welsh, Smith (District 1) Compared on Atlanta Council Issues
(APN) ATLANTA — There are some significant differences between the voting record of Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1), and how challenger Robert Welsh would have voted on the issues.
Smith supported changing bar closing hours to make bars close earlier, at 3am, in 2003. In 2011, Smith opposed changing them to 4am.
Welsh said he is in support of changing bar hours to 4am. “Atlanta is an international city. Back in 2003, there were many incidents which precipitated a lot of the change. I would probably offer to extend the hours – I don’t see reason why we wouldn’t encourage people to stay out and have a good time as long as it’s safe
“I don’t think we should be making it a more conservative environment. There are issues with noise but I think we can deal with that,” Welsh said.
Smith supported two street vending ordinances in 2008 that gave a monopoly over street vending management and kiosks to General Growth Properties, a scheme later thrown out by Fulton County Superior Court.
Welsh declined to say how he would have voted, but said, “We need to find out what other cities doing, particularly New York, where it’s part of the culture and going on for a very, very long time,” Welsh said.
“I’m not in favor of just kicking vendors out of the city in the name of trying to clean things up – I don’t think that’s cleaning anything up. There are major issues downtown – street vending is at the bottom of the list for me,” Welsh said.
“They [vendors] want to make a living selling something. Let’s let them do that. We have a problem with jobs, let’s let people pursue their entrepreneurial dreams,” Welsh said.
Smith supported every piece of panhandling legislation, including the 2005 complete ban on panhandling in the so-called Tourist Triangle, later admitted to be unconstitutional by the City’s own law department; and both pieces in 2012, including the latter one that allowed a jail sentence of up to 180 days for a first offense of aggressive panhandling or panhandling in certain places, such as near a MARTA station.
Welsh declined to say how he would have voted, saying he needs to read the legislation first.
“Panhandling is an issue. The silo is a problem. We have a problem with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance issues. If you want to deal with the panhandling issue, you need to deal with the undergirding issue. They’ve fallen through the cracks of the mental health system. We need to be partnering with agencies and community institutions that are providing those services,” Welsh said.
“We’ve got to put a human face on this thing. I’ve seen the same brothers and sisters on the street for seven years that I’ve been working in downtown Atlanta… We need to deal with panhandling in way that’s gracious, compassionate,” Welsh said.
“We need to give folks services. The City does not have the capacity to do it by itself; then we need to have partnerships. You can’t just have a punitive reaction to this thing, that doesn’t seem right to me. Putting folks in jail who have mental illness, I have a problem with that,” Welsh said.
CITIZEN REVIEW BOARD SUBPOENA POWER
In 2010, Smith was the only Councilmember to oppose the Atlanta CRB having subpoena power. Welsh says he would have supported the measure.
CITY HALL EAST
In 2010, Smith support the sale of City Hall East. Welsh does not know how he would have voted.
ADREAN PENSION PLAN
In 2011, Smith supported the Yolanda Adrean pension plan, which would have broken promises against current city employees, shifting them to a complete defined contribution plan. Welsh does not know how he would have voted.
In 2012, Smith supported the recent controversial airport concessions contract. Welsh says he does not know he would have voted, but he would support pay-to-play reform and procurement reform.
In 2012, Smith voted against the Felicia Moore amendment to ban the use of the bullhook by circuses on elephants in Atlanta. Welsh says he “probably” would have supported the amendment.
“That’s a pretty serious problem. I’m not a biologist, but I tell you it does sound awfully draconian and cruel. I probably would have supported Ms. Moore on this initiative,” Welsh said.
CHESHIRE BRIDGE REZONING
Earlier this year, Smith supported a controversial proposal to get rid of adult entertainment establishments on Cheshire Bridge Road, even though they were grandfathered in as part of a 2005 rezoning of two noncontiguous segments of the road.
“I probably would not have voted with Alex Wan [sponsor of the bill]. That area’s been zoned that way for many years – people know that coming in. It seems to be treading on unconstitutional grounds. You would’ve ended up in some type of litigation. And folks have a choice of where they want to live… That’s crazy. You can’t reneg, you can’t do that,” Welsh said.
Earlier this year, Smith supported the new Falcons stadium.
“I’ve said publicly, it’s on my website, that I would not have voted to approve the funding for that. Fifty years worth of hotel-motel tax and 300-500 million dollars with no Community Benefits Agreement in place is a travesty,” Welsh said.
“The community played second fiddle. Stadium based development, if you speak to most economists, is really hit or miss [in terms of economic benefits]. I live close to Turner FIeld, but it ain’t happening,” Welsh said.
“I’m not a big sportsman, I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV or watching sports. Arthur Blank could afford to find the funding elsewhere. If folks do not want to live around the venue, it’s a failure,” Welsh said.
“Why would we subsidize a sport, when these folks are getting serious traumatic brain injuries and only got 70,000 dollars to cover their expenses – taxpayers are going to have to pay medical expenses,” Welsh said.
“These children know more about football then they know math. They don’t even understand the physics behind throwing a football,” Welsh said.