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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Katie Kissel

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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Katie Kissel

Katie Kissel
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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 Katie Kissel. The answers have not been edited. 

1)      Why are you running for this office?

I love Atlanta. I want to see her become the city on a hill we all know that she is capable of.  I am running for Atlanta City Council because I believe that we need a relevant, progressive, pragmatic, proven, and honest leader to move us forward, and that is who I am.

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

Kirkwood is the largest neighborhood in the district and as president of Kirkwood Neighbors Organization I have proven my ability to lead our community.  As a mother who has worked her entire life to provide for her family and can no longer afford to buy in her own neighborhood, I am the only candidate that truly understands what this district needs to survive and thrive in the coming years as we face an affordable and available housing crisis.  As a community advocate and activist, I am the only candidate who has the understanding and ability to lead this district towards a truly progressive agenda.  Finally, as a candidate that does not rely on my family name, political connections, or corporate interest groups, I am the only candidate that is able to successfully run a grassroots campaign based on the work I have done prior to running for any office.

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

1 – Creating affordable housing by updating zoning laws, incentivizing below market rate options, and providing tax breaks to our lower income legacy residents.

2 – Improving infrastructure and accessibility by investing in our roads, sidewalks and rapid transit systems.

3 – Combatting income inequality with better, more responsive economic policies and more efficient and transparent processes in our city systems.

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

Kirkwood and East Lake are on the front edge of an affordable housing crisis where are legacy residents are being pushed out of their home due to rising property taxes and predatory buying practices.

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

I believe that our police serve as a stop gap for the lack of services and resources we provide to our community.  If we are able to provide people with the resources needed to survive and thrive, our need for a present and active police force significantly decreases.  I have positive relationships with several commanding officers in the Atlanta Police Department, and I have worked with these public servants closely on many occasions.  I value their work and their dedication to this city, but my goal is to create a city where they are not relied upon as heavily.

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?

Violent crime has increased across our country because people are vulnerable and do not have the tools in their emotional toolbox to handle disputes without violence.  Not to mention that it is easier to obtain a gun than it is a high school education.  The biggest thing that police can do to help tackle this issue, is to be held accountable for the pain and suffering they have caused and work to reduce harm in their future interactions.  We must offer better training, more rigorous mental health evaluations, and ensure the public that even if you are an officer of the law the rules still apply.  By doing these things, we can instill the public’s trust in policing, which will make our communities safer.

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?

I center racial justice in all aspects of my life. As a legal observe for the ACLU I have had a front row seat to the uprising that has taken place over the past year.  I have advocated for civil rights by supporting Black owned business, founding Atlanta’s chapter of Integrated Schools Organization, and supporting legacy residents through Kirkwood Neighbors Organization’s Adopt-A-Senior and Kirkwood Cares programs.  The work I have done up to this point will seamlessly carry over to my term as the next District 5 Atlanta City Council representative.

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?

Up until this point I feel our city has done the bare minimum to get this pandemic under control within our limits.  I understand that our state government has made it more difficult to be proactive, but we need to do more. We should introduce legislation that would withhold event permits unless vaccination and mask requirements are established and partner with our public school system to more efficiently expand our community contact tracing efforts. As the Black Mecca of the South we should consciously address vaccine hesitancy among our Black populations who have been historically brutalized by the medical profession.  Acknowledging that their fears and concerns are valid, while encouraging them to protect their health is something that takes time, money, and an active community effort.

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

1 – Work to eliminate exclusionary zoning ordinances.

2 – Freeze property taxes for legacy low-income residents.

3 – Incentivize below market rate housing through inclusionary zoning proposals.

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.  As the only candidate that uses a bike as her primary mode of transportation, I can say first hand that Atlanta could do so much more.  Providing protected bike infrastructure that links key locations throughout the city encourages increased ridership.  It is truly a matter of “if you build it, they will come”.  We also need to see a complete overhaul of how this city handles our sidewalk infrastructure.  Currently individual property owners are fiscally responsible for their sidewalk.  This has created a piecemeal sidewalk system that works for no one.  Instead, we should handle our sidewalks the same way we handle our roads where citizens pay into a general fund and the building out and repairing of sidewalks are handled by Atlanta Department of Transportation.

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

As a parent who sends her children to Atlanta Public Schools, I understand the importance of City Council and the school board working together to accomplish a common goal.  I would work with our local District 3 school board representative as well as the school board as a whole to increase communication and come up with creative solutions to further our collective goals.  The future of our city depends on us finally building the bridge between city council and board of education.

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

I voted for our current Mayor in the runoff election between her and Mary Norwood.  I do not regret that decision although I had hoped for more.  In this upcoming election, I was deciding between Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore on who would get my vote.  I was leaning towards Andre, but his latest vote on Atlanta’s police training facility has really disappointed me. I am now undecided.

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

We have to open up the books.  Our budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year is 623 pages of bologna.  If we provide citizens with true line-item data to critique we will be able to use the collective power of the populous to be more efficient and reinstall trust in our city’s government.

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

Everyone in Atlanta has a hustle or twenty.  It is the melting pot of the South and the diversity of people and culture make us a city lush with resources.

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

Although we are a city that is lush with resources, we can’t seem to figure out how to use those resources to serve the Beloved Community.  We must prioritize legacy residents and those who sacrificed to build Atlanta.  If the Atlanta Dream does not work for everyone it isn’t the Atlanta Dream.

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

Equitable distribution of resources will come once we pull back the curtain on how our money is spent and how our government operates.  Starting on day one I will walk through each department of our government to grasp a deeper understanding and share that information with our citizens in real time.

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

We need the city appointed board of MARTA to be actual transit users.  On day one I would lobby for a change in leadership.

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

I will support our Atlanta businesses by addressing the ineffective and inefficient processes that provide unfair advantages to the wealthy and well connected.   We must make financial investments to upgrade our system and fully staff our departments.

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?

Of course, everyone is going to promise to do this.  No one tells people that they are a liar and a cheat.  A promise of transparency can only be believed when you look at someone’s track record.  I have never shied away from who I am and who I am not.  I have been honest and answered hard questions even when it has not been in my own political best interest to do so.  I will continue to do this for the rest of my life regardless of what office I hold.

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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