11 Questions for Atlanta’s Mayoral Candidates

Glenn Wrightson

Glenn Wrightson
Glenn Wrightson

Photograph courtesy of Glenn Wrightson

1. According to Invest Atlanta’s housing strategy, tens of thousands of Atlantans, particularly those living on low incomes, spend more than one-third of their income on housing. How will you use the powers of your office to help people stay in their homes and people living on lower incomes afford to live in the city?

Step one: Reduce excess expenditures of the city government so as to lessen the tax burden when and wherever possible

Step two: Work to lower water and sewer rates, since large capital expenditures have been moved into the future

Step three: Work to remove the new 911 call center surcharge on the solid waste bills

Step four: Work to terminate nonproducing employees and noneffective positions

Step five: Work to give raises to city employees

Step six: Work to allow city police to drive patrol cars home two times a week if they live in the city

Step seven: Work to rework property assessment formula and mechanics to limit increases in property assessments

Step eight: Others—as prudent

2. Atlanta is dotted with memorials to the Confederacy, ranging from street names to statues. Should they be kept, removed, or modified?
[I want to] keep existing memorials and add complimentary ones to broaden the range of acknowledgements and to properly recognize various elements of historical events that do not erase history but expand the narrative of past events shaping our society.

3. Many mayors have struggled with reducing homelessness in the city. Mayor Kasim Reed called for the creation of smaller facilities with services to help this population. Will you continue such a plan or do you have an alternative?
Small facilities are favorable to large concentrated accommodations. I would add that the homeless be allowed to sort recycled goods in a centralized location and be paid a wage out of the sale of recycled materials. Also I recommend the city invest and open a tire-shredding facility where the homeless may work, with the goal of producing asphalt for road surfacing and with the profit shared with the workers.

4. Atlanta voters approved a sales tax that will raise approximately $2.5 billion for new transit in the city. How should that money be spent?
Partition the funds into today’s projects and tomorrow’s build-outs. Priority No. 1 ahead of all other expenditures is to build at least one mile of mass-transit rail line per year. [We need to] have that be a mutually accepted goal. Next [would be to create] a centralized traffic signal control center, then a bus trolley on major roadways. We need to prepare and build charging stations for more electric automobiles and trucks and build transit around BeltLine and connect that to MARTA.

5. The city’s zoning code hasn’t been updated in decades. City officials are planning a multi-year rewrite. What changes would you like to see in the city’s zoning and where?
Restrict building new parking spaces, [create] high-density developments to be multi-aged facilities where seniors can participate in day care and those younger can look in on and provide some care to the elderly. High-density [should] be allowed only within proximity of public transit, beyond bus routes.

6. Say a recession occurs during your term. What’s the first program you cut? Or do you raise revenues, and how? Or do you pull money from the city’s reserves to keep government operating at the same level?
For starters I want to trim the budget of the mayor’s office. The current budget of the mayor’s office is over $30,000,000 per year—that is too much for local government. I would eliminate city government positions paying in excess of $100,000 per year—there is no reason to have a city government employee making three or four times what a garbage collector makes. I would also spend the money wisely to begin with. I would not need reserves in excess of $170,000,000. I would raise taxes if necessary to provide basic services.

7. Candidates say they want to improve education in the city. But Atlanta Public Schools is a separate entity and the city has no direct control over school policy. So how do you improve public education in the city?
[My first priority would be to] stop partnering to build $1,600,000,000 football stadiums. Stop spending money that is not necessary to provide core services, plus some for arts and community projects.

8. Atlanta’s arts scene is growing, particularly the independent arts scene, but funding remains an issue. Mayor Kasim Reed during the 2017 legislative session proposed a fractional sales tax to raise cash for the arts but the effort failed. Would you lobby for a similar initiative?
Candidate did not answer this question.

9. Simple question: How many police officers does Atlanta have, how many does it need, and how will your pay for them?
Atlanta has about 1,900 currently, some more experienced than others, and needs about 1,800. Yet we need to implement an administrative arm, where an administration office “takes reports” and allows the law enforcement to enforce the law. [We should] pay for officers out of the city’s budget, as usual.

10. The city has discussed deprioritizing marijuana, making the penalty of possession similar to a traffic ticket. If the topic is still up for debate when you take office, what will you do? [Note: Atlanta City Council passed this legislation in October—after this survey was submitted to the candidates.]
I’ll back] decriminalizing marijuana.

11. Neighborhoods that have traditionally been home to black residents and black-owned businesses have watched property values and rents rise thanks to new public investments like the BeltLine and a renewed interest in city life. Displacement is a key concern. How can the mayor prevent not just people losing their homes, but people losing their communities?
It’s] maybe an impossible task, and, in a free market society, not one of the city government’s responsibilities. At a minimum the city must stop giving developers tax breaks where people and homes might be displaced.

Wrightson also noted additionally that he is opposed to casinos.