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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Doug Williams

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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Doug Williams

Doug Williams

Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain.  There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.

Decaturish provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Doug Williams. The answers have not been edited. 

1)      Why are you running for this office?

I am running for the Atlanta city council district 5 seat because it is the greatest opportunity to do the most good for the most people.  I have been working in my community to bring people together for positive change for most of the past 20 years, and know this role has the most potential to help our district receive better services, and help our neighbors accomplish positive change over any role in government.

2)      What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?

Simply put, I have more experience getting things done for our community than the rest of the field combined. In giving over 10,000 hours of my life to our people, I have worked with city, county, state, and federal partners to bring a million dollars worth of significant positive change and tangible community benefits to my neighbors since 2005. From working as a neighborhood President, NPU officer, founder and leader of a not-for-profit farmers market and urban farm, and serving on the DeKalb animal services advisory board, I have a proven track record as an effective advocate and leader for the people of our district. While the job on paper looks like a legislative role in a strong executive form of government, it is the role of advocate and champion for the community that makes the council rep role most valuable to constituents.

3)      If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?

Safety, Shelter, and Services for our community.  Safety)  As City Council Member, I will work to repair the relationship between our community, police, and city hall. We can rebuild that relationship by bringing the community groups and law enforcement together in partnership and humanizing our relationship with each other. We can have professionalism and accountability to restore trust and honor to law enforcement, and I will work to build that relationship and build a safer Atlanta. Shelter) As representative, I’ll work to make sure Atlanta has affordable housing for everyone, regardless of income. Currently over half of our residents cannot afford housing within 30% of their income. We can be a city where our people can afford to live, with affordable housing, and a protected tree canopy for all. Services for ALL) Asour community advocate I will make sure we care for those who have been left behind by careless development, particularly our seniors, youth, and the disabled. We can give tax breaks for seniors and help them with sidewalk repairs, create job training opportunities and a greater role in our community for our youth, and provide more resources for those with physical and mental disabilities. We can be a city that works for EVERYONE if we care to plan.

4)      In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing Kirkwood and East Lake?

The most immediate concerns are public safety and affordable housing. Most neighbors are more likely to complain about affordable housing options, as we are crowding out all but the wealthiest residents from our community. Our Seniors are having trouble keeping up with property taxes, and our long-term families are finding they can no longer afford to stay in their community.  Safety is becoming more of a concern as we are seeing increases in property crimes. While we have relatively lower crime than the rest of the city, we have unique challenges as most of our district is in DeKalb County. We need to increase partnership between our communities and APD.

5)      What is your current opinion of the Atlanta Police Department and are there any changes you would advocate for if you are elected?

We must repair the relationship between APD and the community. APD must get better at community partnership and accountability. The recent events with the training center and the prison farm site are not helping community relations.  The community feels that the APF will do what they want, and disregarded the opportunity to work out a solution. Too many of our citizens don’t trust our police. Too many of those in law enforcement don’t feel that they have the support of City Hall and the community, which creates a more dangerous situation for everyone. We need to partner with the Unions to create more accountability, partner with the APF to increase the number of police living in the city by providing subsidies, and we need the city to provide consistency in direction for our officers. For example, Tasers were considered deadly force when used on AUC students during protests, leading to the firing of officers by Maror Lance-Bottoms. Two weeks later the maror said tasers were non-lethal when wielded by Rashard Brooks. The city and Police Foundation switched their positions based on political expediency, and officers were left without guidance as to the difference between proper action, and firable offense.

6)      Violent crime has increased in the city of Atlanta. What should the police department be doing to get crime under control and how do you balance that against calls to reform police departments around the nation?

We increase accountability and professional standards while reducing crime if we increase community partnership and support to create a better relationship with law enforcement so that our officers are appreciated members of the community, not just respected authority. We need sufficient numbers for community policing and need them focused on local communities. We need to provide assistance for officers to live in all our communities so they are viewed as human beings and community partners, rather than an occupying force of people from outside the community.  Most of our crime is done by very few people, and by knowing the community, they will know who is a problem and who is not. We also need to increase funding for Police Alternative Diversion and wrap-around mental health and addiction support. Recent increases in murder have been largely centered around club districts and gang activity related to selling drugs to the only nightclub scene open on the East Coast during the pandemic. The state is not doing Atlanta any favors by insisting that these businesses stay open, but we have to figure out how to manage difficult situations. Domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, revealing our shortage of support for survivors of abuse. We need to allocate additional resources for gang violence and domestic violence to get crime back down.

7)      Racial justice and diversity have been points of conversation over the last year. What will you do to promote racial justice and diversity in the city of Atlanta?

These need to be addressed with an eye towards economic and social justice. For example, Reynoldstown has maintained diversity among the wealthy, even as the majority of long-term residents cannot afford property values that have doubled. We need support and protections for legacy residents, such as tax breaks for residents who have owned their property for 30 years, and housing assistance for long-term residents who are unable to keep up their homes or have been unable to own in the first place.

8)      What do you think of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps do you think the city should take to help reduce the spread of the virus?

The city should sue the state to enforce a mask mandate, and ban indoor gatherings when our city or county positivity rate is above 5%, following CDC guidance. We should also provide support to waive/reduce taxes for businesses that have had to close or have seen reductions in business over 20% due to the pandemic and have support available, if needed, for small landlords during the rent moratorium so that they can meet their debt payments. In our campaign, we have stopped canvassing to reduce the chance of becoming a vector for the spread of the Delta variant. We all need to make sacrifices for the common good if we are to defeat this virus.

9)      Affordable housing continues to be a challenge for people moving to Atlanta. If elected, what steps would you take to promote affordable housing?

We have quite a lot to do here. 1) support the MRMU zoning changes to allow for private development in higher density, with stronger requirements for affordable housing. We can build housing between 60%-100% of AMI if we reduce land costs by allowing more dwellings to be built on each lot. We must require at least 20% (or 1 in 4, if only working with 4 units) of these houses to be built at least 80% or less of AMI. 2) Limit tax breaks for developers to only those properties that provide for housing below 60% of AMI, with aggressive tax breaks rewarding those who build at more affordable levels. 3) We need to make it easier for homeowners to become smaller-scale landlords. E.G.  to convert existing homes into multi-family homes, with incentives for small-scale landlords to provide affordable housing with tax breaks on the rest of the property. (e.g. a triplex with 1 unit below AMI could receive a break relative to the amount below AMI offered. 80% AMI could be a 20% property tax discount, 60%AMI  could be a 40% break, 30% AMI could be a 70% break on the entire property.)  4) The market is unlikely to provide affordable housing solutions without requirements for inclusion on large developments (20+ units for example). 5) We absolutely need to increase city staffing for approving new construction permits and inspections.

10)   Do you think Atlanta has done enough to promote safety for cyclists and pedestrians and, if not, what changes would you like to make? 

No, we need safe sidewalks for all, and bikeable transit routes throughout the city. We should pay for this with a 1cent per gallon gas tax to be devoted to sidewalks, bike lanes, and road repairs and upgrades, such as setting the concrete seam for curbs 3 feet from the curb line so as not to make a seam for bikes to ride on.   We can start by building out a network of essential sidewalks and bike routes, and fill in the gaps for sidewalks based on the needs for schools and the disabled.

11)   If elected, how would you work with Atlanta’s School Board to prepare for future growth in the city of Atlanta?

Council does not run the schools, but we can create safer infrastructure support around the schools with safer walkways, bike lanes, and roadway infrastructure around our schools. We can create complementary systems with our community centers to ensure that every child has access to a safe space after school until 6:30 pm.

12)   What is your opinion of Atlanta’s current mayor and who will you be supporting in the upcoming mayoral election?

Our current Mayor has handled public safety poorly with mixed messages and a lack of support for law enforcement. We need accountability from APD, but they need consistency and respect. Making a show of firing officers in violation of contractual requirements for review is disrespectful. Changing the position on tasers as deadly force over a manner of weeks for political expediency helped contribute to an environment of distrust that has left us short-staffed with low morale. We need a new mayor who can have the trust of the community and the force, to be honest, act with integrity, and build a transparent accountable city government. Of the choices we have, Council President Moore is my leading choice currently.

13)   What in your view could be done to make the city make city of Atlanta’s government more transparent and responsive to the people it serves? 

We need open records for all contracts, as well as deliberations. We need civil and criminal penalties for self-dealing and violations of city charter. We need public funding for all city elected positions, so we no longer have the best government money can buy.

14)   What do you think is Atlanta’s greatest strength?  

Her people, who are willing to come together to find a way to make things work in a broken system. Hands-On Atlanta, Park Pride, Neighbor in Need, and various community initiatives show we want a city that works and we are willing to work for it. We need to harness that energy to create a city government worthy of its people.

15)   What do you think is Atlanta’s biggest challenge?

Persistent consistent multi-generational corruption has created a well-earned sense of cynicism among its people. In the past few decades, we’ve seen a mayor go to jail, multiple council members and city employees get caught up in corruption and on the Dekalb side, we’ve seen a County CEO go to jail multiple Commissioners and County Employees caught up in corruption or frankly if you haven’t killed your opponent you’re not the worst we’ve seen. The Atlanta government seems built to suck the Hope out of its people by convincing them that government can’t work so that we don’t hold it accountable.

16)   How would you address what you believe to be Atlanta’s biggest challenge?

We must go to publicly private-funded elections to remove the capacity of the wealthy to buy off the politicians they want. We need to partner with a common cause and other good government not-for-profits to create systems for accountability and transparency that carry great penalties on those who would abuse the public trust.

17)   What is your opinion of MARTA and if elected what will you do to promote transit in the city of Atlanta?

Marta is a reflection of our political systems that silo self-interest and work for their own game at the expense of the public good. we need to have reformed on who is allowed to be a member of the MARTA board.  Public Funding of Elections can help remove the incentives I was placing well-connected donors on the board. Frankly the city needs to come up with a plan to initiate funding and plans and goals for increased mass transit. If we fund it they will run it. We should start immediately with light rail for the Beltline.

18)   If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in the city of Atlanta?

My main business  goal within District 5 will be supporting and promoting an effective small business community. One of the great things about this area is the number of independent small businesses. If you want to go out to eat you don’t go to a big box chain you go to a locally run fantastic restaurant. It is our independent businesses that make us unique and give us our identity. Our development plans should carve out and support space for such businesses.

19)   If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

My entire Community career has been built on convincing people that we can make government work for all of us by bringing people together to effect positive change and by being radically transparent about my intentions and goals. I want to engage the entire District in a two-year process of redoing our community development plan with as much public engagement as possible to tie us to a commonly developed plan that our people have had a part in and that will serve the interests of the majority of our citizens. As I mentioned, I would like to see us partner with Common Cause and other good government organizations to create a system of transparency and accountability. I’ve already started work on a community performance review that will be an online way for citizens to rank the performance of the city. This would provide metrics to measure the performance of city services and goals for improvement. Maynard Jackson had some good ideas for bottom-up management with the NPU process but modern technology has provided a way of conducting surveys that can allow us to take this all the way down to the citizen level fairly easily. If the Cub Scouts can incentivize people with coupon books for discounts at locally owned businesses why not the city incentivizing participation and Civic reviews of City Behavior?

More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election: 

All elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com.  

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.

To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.

Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16. 

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.

—  Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form. Use black or blue ink only.

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted by fax, 404-298-4038, or email, [email protected]

Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.

If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received by Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.

Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.

Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations: 

– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)

– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)

– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)

– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)

– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)

– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)

– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)

– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

For the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding early voting times and locations, visit Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com or call 404-298-4020.  

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