How is your campaign going with voters?
So far it has been very positive. Very strong. I think it’s been very reaffirming because over the last four years I feel like I’ve worked very hard for the district. I’ve been very engaged and very present. I’m one of the council-members who go to neighborhood association meeting myself. I don’t send representatives from my office. I want to hear. I want to know first hand what people are talking about in the community. I think that’s been paying off with this particular campaign because folks know me and I know them. We’ve worked on issues together. We’ve succeeded in some and we’ve failed in others, but all in all it’s been a real partnership. I think the voters and the constituents appreciate that. It’s not like I’m all of the sudden showing up right before [the] election and then they have to get to know me again. So, I feel positive.
Who are you counting on as your support base?
You know it’s interesting. I think the way I answer that question is just the people who have been very involved in the community — in the neighborhoods — like in the neighborhood associations or the people who have stepped forward on different issues and contacted our office that we work for. I think it’s a little different from four years ago when you’re hoping that your neighborhood will be your base or if the LGBT community would be my base. But this time I feel like the base is broadened and it’s just anyone that I’ve worked with over the last four years. It’s playing out that way which is really nice.
What’s motivating you to run for a second term?
I think there are two things really. No I would say three. I’ll cheat a little bit. The first is just a continuation of what I ran on in 2009 and the big theme that year was fiscal responsibility and accountability. Four years ago the city was in really bad financial condition. We had just raised property taxes–the city was broke essentially. But there’s been a core of us on council that have been real financial watchdogs and real sticklers for making sure we are spending taxpayer dollars the way we should be–as efficiently as possible. We’re in much better financial condition today. The problem is that kind of as we forward as the revenues start bouncing back… it’s easy to be tight when money is tight, but we also need to be tight when money starts flowing in. That’s kind of to me part two of what I want to get sent back out there to do for the next four years.
The second issue is infrastructure. I think that’s one of the things that I hear about more than anything in our office– potholes, streets, sidewalks. We’ve got some very dangerous bridges in the city right now that desperately need attention. The city has just not had any money to do it. But we’re finally in a position where there’s talk about a $250 to $300 million bond next year to address this. So that is going to be the second part of my focus going into the next four years. And there’s that big bond issue and part of that will be some discretionary district funds which we’re hoping to address some of the district specific projects folks have been asking for.
And finally the last issue is just quality of life issues still. As the economy starts turning around there’s going to be more and more development activity and interest. I opened with the whole delicate balance of the components that make a community. I think we’ve really got to continue focusing on really supporting projects that help us continue achieving that balance. Helping some of the struggling areas in the district. Two that come to mind are the Virginia-Highland commercial corridor as well as the Cheshire Bridge corridor. Hopefully we can get some activity there. Kind of on the backside of that is preventing bad developments from coming in. We’ve had some experience already with that over the last couple of years, but I suspect we’re going to start seeing even more of that. So, kind of that three pronged approach.
How have you helped the City of Atlanta’s fiscal health during your first term?
I’m going to spit out some numbers to you. In 2009 our cash reserves were $7 million. That’s pretty scary. Today they’re up over $130 million. Let me put that in context for you. Today we are delivering at least the same level of city services and in many cases more city services than we were in 2009. Yet, our annual budget is $100 million smaller than it was in 2009. We are doing the same, if not more, with $100 million less. We have not raised property taxes and we’ve had balanced budgets every year. So that’s pretty significant. LIke I said there’s a core group of us on council–that’s what we’ve been driving at. For every dollar we spend… do we need to be spending it? Is there a better place we should be spending it? Are there services that we really shouldn’t be doing or expenses that we could cut? So, I would say that’s a pretty remarkable report card.
Would you consider yourself fiscally conservative with the city’s budget?
Oh, yeah, definitely. Like I said, I’ve earned the reputation of being one of the financial watchdogs on council. I am a fiscal conservative. I think we should not be wasting tax dollars. We should be investing them the best way possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think government shouldn’t be doing all sorts of things. I just think government should be doing it effectively and efficiently. Be smart about how we spend our money.
Regarding your third reason for running for re-election–the quality of life issues. Did those same conservative principles lead to the situation that happened at Cheshire Bridge?
No. Not at all. I’m actually socially very liberal. I’m fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. Cheshire Bridge is an interesting conversation because I think one of the things I should have communicated better during all of that… Number one this was a plan that had been set in motion in 1999. This wasn’t the Alex Wan plan. This was a community plan between the neighborhood and the businesses that started, gosh, almost 15 years ago. So I was essentially–not recreating it–but trying to move the ball down the field just a little bit further. From where the whole process started to where it ended, the strategy I was trying to take was to protect as many interests as possible. That included multiple conversations with groups. I sat down with BJ Roosters, Heretic, and Jungle owners at least two if not three times during that whole process just to talk through all of that. To assure them that this is how I saw everything playing out. At the end of the day it was a very focused attempt. It failed. I’m done with that. Now my focus is, and I think you kind of heard it when I was saying, there are a lot positive things we can be doing on Cheshire Bridge to help that corridor. Finishing the sidewalks, trying to find economic development incentives for projects and that’s the approach I’m taking now. Hopefully the timing will be right with the economy turning around that we all kind of meet and get on the same page and make that corridor what it can be. There was a lot of talk about Alex Wan’s personal values and Alex Wan’s mission of getting rid of certain things or attacking or going after gay businesses. That really was not the case. It played out the way it played out and now it’s a new day. We have new strategies and things I think will help everybody on the corridor.
Do you support marriage equality?
Do you support ENDA legislation for Georgia?
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