APN Interview with CT Martin, Candidate, Atlanta Council President
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the 2017 City of Atlanta Municipal Elections, Atlanta Progressive News had the opportunity to interview Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin (District 10), the longest serving Councilmember who is now running for Council President.
Previously, APN interviewed Felicia Moore (District 9) and Alex Wan (District 6), who are also both running for the Council President seat.
“I’ve had the opportunity to observe at least four Council Presidents and their style. My style is going to be fair, inclusive, and open,” Martin told Atlanta Progressive News.
“I believe the Council President’s reputation will go a long ways in how they facilitate and manage their role,” Martin said.
When asked what makes him different than the other two candidates, he said “my maturity, my willingness to negotiate.”
“Felicia [Moore] has this ‘My way or no way’ style and some immaturity there. There’s some maturity that’s got to come out. Some ego management,” Martin said.
“Alex [Wan] attempts to do things within the confinement of a process – he can be very tight and he can also be open,” Martin said.
“I believe there will be some changes with this group,” of incoming Councilmembers, Martin said. “I think it’s going to require a lot of negotiating skills.”
“I believe we have some strong personalities going to come on. It’s going to take a while to make the necessary adjustments to practice and style,” Martin said.
“There are probably about three or four people that are going to need some adjustments if they get elected. One is a radio personality, so they got seemingly strong opinions,” Martin said, apparently referring to Mo Ivory, who is challenging Councilwoman Carla Smith in District 1.
“The question is, can we sit them down and get them to understand… we’ve got to fit their ideas into the format for the Council,” Martin said.
Martin also acknowledged the work of Atlanta Progressive News in bringing additional transparency to the Atlanta City Council and its Committees.
“I think you’ve done some research and your heart is in the right place on the issue. Your presence is very much needed at City Hall,” Martin said.
THE PENSION DEBATE
Martin said he played a key role in the pension reform.
“The pension reform was a unique situation for all of us. A lot of people didn’t know the role I played in the pension piece,” Martin said.
“A lot of the earlier conversations about getting to the early mechanics – it became clear to me the problem with the pension discussion was it was new to everybody. People didn’t know how to get to the mechanics of it,” Martin said.
“I went to the Mayor [Kasim Reed] and asked, ‘Do you know how this works?’ The Mayor had hired a union-busting law firm. They were not going to let the information flow be progressive,” Martin said.
“I asked the Mayor, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘No,’” Martin recalled.
“I told the Mayor, you’ve got to understand, we’ve got to get everybody in the room. How do you negotiate something of this magnitude in a respectful way?” Martin said.
“We then moved to getting experts in the room on pension. We solicited ideas on how to make it work,” Martin said.
Councilwoman Moore also played a key role.
First: If not for the coalition that included Martin, Moore, Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Kwanza Hall (District 2), Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), and Joyce Sheperd (District 12), then the original pension plan [Yolanda Adrean plan] would have passed Council.
Moore had held meetings with union leaders and members to gain consensus on a counterproposal so that current workers could keep their defined benefits, while making a larger payroll contribution at the same time.
“It wasn’t Felicia,” Martin insisted. “That was part of the issue. The Mayor wasn’t going to back anything Felicia put on the table because of their little things. Yolanda [Adrean, District 8] and I were selected to form a team along with some of the union experts,” Martin said.
In response to APN’s questions about Council process, public input, and transparency, Martin stated as follows:
SHOULD THE RULE LIMITING APPLAUSE AT COUNCIL MEETINGS BE AMENDED?
“I would use it the way [Council President] Ceasar [Mitchell] uses it. If it’s an emotion and a passion, that’s there. You pick up on the fact that audiences understand that it starts with respect. After a while, the audience knows you, they know what you’re willing to take,” Martin said.
“We’ve always got some individuals in the audience that are going to try to take advantage of that. You’ve got to facilitate and manage that,” Martin said.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PROTESTERS?
“I support protesters within limit. Okay, you’ve made your point. How long is it going to take? Beyond reason? Reason has to be the guideline,” Martin said.
“I think Ceasar has done really well. His posture seemed to be not to react – they [protesters] were throwing pity parties at him about the situation with his sister-in-law [Suzanne Mitchell] getting involved with the situation around the stadium [former Turner Field],” Mitchell said.
WHAT FACTORS WOULD YOU CONSIDER AS CRITERIA FOR COMMITTEE CHAIR?
“I am hoping that they will do their research and read the policies and procedures and make whatever adjustments that are necessary,” Martin said.
“I hope they understand how to work with people, how to abide by rules and to have some flexibility,” Martin said.
“Their basic philosophy about dealing with people–most importantly–respect. Understanding that it’s a lawful body. That we have business to take care of,” Martin said.
THE COMMITTEE BRIEFINGS ARE NOW OPEN. DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE VIDEOTAPED?
“It’s fine with me. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s going to take resources and time – but something that’s necessary. If you’ve got a certain issue that’s flowing a certain way, videotaping might be appropriate,” Martin said.
Wan also supported videotaping the seven Committees’ bi-weekly Briefings. Moore did not.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PUBLIC COMMENT AT COMMITTEES AND WHETHER THERE SHOULD BE A TIME LIMIT? DO YOU STILL BELIEVE COMMITTEE CHAIR DISCRETION REGARDING PUBLIC COMMENT IS BEST?
C.T. Martin had originally taken a strong position against time limits in Committee, but began setting time limits after he said he was forced to do so by what he described as the “antics” of activist Ron Shakir.
“That was for that individual,” Martin said.
When APN pointed out that the time limit applies to every speaker in his Committee, he said that he could use discretion as Cmte Chair to allow a speaker to go over time.
“We have to factor in, how far are you willing to let them go in their antics? If they’re persisting in education for the public–that’s one thing–if they’re just doing a lot of drama, that’s another thing. That comes with your reputation as a Council President, how much you will allow them to disrespect the process, to disrespect you?” Martin said.
“You’ve got Councilpeople sitting there who can get antsy or concerned that you’re not in control. Control is important, but excessive control is not necessary,” Martin said.
Martin said he supports the Cmte Chair having discretion over time limits.
SHOULD THE CHARTER BE AMENDED TO ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENT AT WORK SESSIONS?
“Yes. Here, again, within reason,” Martin said.
Wan also supported requiring that public comment be allowed in Work Sessions. Moore did not.
IN COMMITTEE, SHOULD PUBLIC COMMENT BE ALLOWED ON INDIVIDUAL ITEMS, NOT JUST AT THE BEGINNING OR END OF THE MEETING?
“I think it should be allowed,” Martin said.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2017)