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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Sam Bacote

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Candidate Q&A – Atlanta City Council District 5 candidate Sam Bacote

Sam Bacote
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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 Sam Bacote. The answers have not been edited. 

1)      Why are you running for this office?

Not an island unto itself, District 5 makes Atlanta a great international city with its rich history of diversity. It is truly a special place. I am running for City Council to ensure we maximize the power of our resources so all District 5 residents experience equity, social mobility and thrive.

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

I wouldn’t necessarily consider any candidate ‘better’ than another, but I do bring considerable civic and leadership experience to the role that is different than the others.

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

Three of my top priorities facing the City of Atlanta are crime reduction, expanding reach and supply of affordable housing, and addressing income inequalities.

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

As dynamic, vibrant parts of District 5, Kirkwood and East Lake will continue to attract new capital and people. Important issues will be how do we balance that growth to protect neighborhood cultures and make room for more people.

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

Notwithstanding scrutiny and justifiable criticism police departments across the country have especially faced in the last year, I have a favorable opinion of the Atlanta Police Department. Our officers have tough public safety jobs to perform, and I believe most respect the rights of each citizen of Atlanta. To combat crime and instill public confidence, our officers will need appropriate tools, advanced training – especially de-escalation to eliminate deadly encounters – and the right officer force level to help rebuild community trust and respect. A few accountabilities I would advocate for as an elected official are making public the data on police activities, disaggregated by race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and other demographics, and making public substantiated police misconduct records.

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?

I believe a large degree (perhaps as much as half) of the violent crime stems from street gang activities. In Chester, PA, the police department runs a Neighborhood Safer program. Violent crime dropped significantly when gang members were offered carrots like rental assistance, free technical school programs and mental health services. The Atlanta Police Department should be interacting and deploying similar tactics with local gang members and holding summits with the same. As it did in Chester, PA, I think this type of engagement would answer calls of the reformers.

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 will commit to the following to promote racial justice and diversity:

– Passionately commit to support it

– Educate myself and advocate for the awareness of others

– Champion crucial conversations

– Personally engage in peaceful protest when warranted

– Connect with others who champion racial justice

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 has a critical role in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. It can help establish appropriate vaccine policies and help ensure appropriate PPE support is available for local businesses and their workers. It has municipal assets and services that could be repurposed to help ensure broader access to health care. It can help identify and create partnerships with private benefactors to help reduce spread of the virus. Right now, the city needs to bring together the right people to help determine what should be done to get back on track. It should convene a permanent health and wellness task force consisting of volunteers with deep and broad medical and scientific expertise. It would collaborate with other established organizations to help proactively manage health crises including the spread of COVID-19. With task force direction, the city can also ensure that proactive crisis management plans are in place that consider these potential disasters.

The city should also partner with state and federal government resources to plan and set the resource base to mobilize at a moment’s notice in the event more virus spread can’t be contained.

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

I will commit to the following steps to promote affordable housing:

– Ensure that the City of Atlanta is assessing housing needs for the future

– Champion good policy like inclusionary zoning and make it more incentive based for new affordable housing

– Reduce bureaucracy that increase costs and stifle development

– Support use of city owned land to provide affordable housing

– Work with others on the Council to promote investment in resources linked to pro-housing land use

– Collaborate with other organizations like the Atlanta Land Trust, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and Atlanta Housing Authority that offer down payment assistance programs

One organization that I have tremendous experience with is the Metro Atlanta Land Bank Authority. The power vested in the LBA should be expanded and funded in a more deliberate way. Ultimately, the person that controls the land controls what happens on that land.

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, if we are to truly live up to our aspirational goal of being an international city, welcoming all forms of mobility, we need to change our commitment level and press hard with funding for implementing the Mayor’s Vision Zero Plan. The benefits of Complete Streets are expected by many longtime and even recent groups of people who call Atlanta home. In the late 1990s, I was hit by a truck while cycling from the Stone Mountain PATH to a public street. I next became a Director on the PATH Foundation and believe projects to bring safer streets to Atlanta would prevent countless accidents like mine from happening and reduce the numbers of injuries and fatalities. Of course, the pandemic has caused us to reassess our priorities and resources to prepare for a different world, but I don’t think safer streets should be any less of a priority than before and I don’t believe our citizenry would expect us to back off pursuing making our streets safer for driver, cyclists and pedestrians.

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

I would promote strong collaboration between both planning departments (City and School Board). As one example related to growth, to adequately plan for configurations of school board assets and resources, their planning department needs to understand and incorporate land use and zoning by the city. To the fullest extent possible, both planning departments need to share their assumptions, collaborate and plan cohesively so that growth can be appropriately accommodated.

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

My general philosophy is to talk issues, not personalities; about the future and not the past. Our current Mayor is not on the ballot, and I appreciate her continued service to the city until next January. I will be supporting our next mayor elected by a majority of voters.

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

One major part of transparency is strategic city management, or how city leadership conveys information. I will emphasize:

–          311 Software

–          Social Media

–          Open Forums

–          Updated Websites

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

Competitive costs of doing business – real estate, transportation hub and operating expenses.

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

A need to improve equality and social mobility.  It’s documented that Atlanta has one of the most extreme gaps between the “haves” and “have nots” in the country.

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

My ultimate vision is that we can have a community where everyone benefits (especially those marginalized) from prosperity through access to education, healthcare, housing and a supportive, livable income. Over the next four years, I want help from all corners in reviving our local economy (post pandemic) while addressing interlocking crises of racial injustice, public health, and economic inequity with a plan to create dignified jobs for unemployed workers and support a better life for others who remain vulnerable in this pivotal moment. It is through sustainable and appreciable job creation that we can further develop an underbelly of support that helps reduce crime, helps more vulnerable Atlantans afford housing in the city and helps close the income inequality gap.

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

MARTA should but does not represent a truly regional, comprehensive transit system that facilitates “easy” connections to jobs and resources across the metro-area. With little change in more than 30 years, significant investment is required (and hopefully coming with MORE MARTA) if transit is to reach deep into the metro area’s wealthiest white suburbs while improving how it serves historically Black neighborhoods of our city. Therefore, to promote transit, we need to first address transit equity.

I will promote transit through MARTA by leveraging three fundamental equity principles to guide transportation justice efforts in our city:

– Work to avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionally high and adverse health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, that can be caused by transit operations on communities of color and low-income populations

– Work to ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process

– Work to prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by communities of color and low-income populations

I am committed to supporting high-quality service to our overall community and particularly communities of color. I will encourage the use of transit equity and environmental justice considerations in MARTA decisions about:

– transit service to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color

– placement of bus stops and shelters

– allocation of new low-floor buses

– service for non-English speaking populations

– services for students

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

Champion racial equity, help create favorable conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship, engage in public policy development that supports business growth

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?

Yes, I will conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner. I will:

– Provide and promote leadership based on good management principles and ethical behavior

– Employ a sensitivity to areas where the potential for corruption exists

– Pursue a personal commitment to the good of the community

– Champion control with checks and balances to ensure good 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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