Alex Wan (incumbent)
Website: www.alexwanforatlanta.com

Occupation: Director of Development, Emory University
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Total budget for your campaign: $100,000
• As of Sept. 30, Wan has raised $217,170.50 and has $86,550.04 cash on hand, according to the Georgia Ethics Commission.

Endorsements to date: Georgia Equality; Georgia Log Cabin Republicans; Georgia Stonewall Democrats; the Victory Fund; Atlanta Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 134 (Fire Union); International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), Local 623 (Police Union); Atlanta Board of Realtors; Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors; and The Buckhead Coalition.

“I was also honored to receive the highest rating of ‘Excellent’ from the Committee for a Better Atlanta, being one of the four highest scorers across all races citywide. My score of 93 was the highest in the field of District 6 candidates. One of my District 6 opponents received a ‘Not Qualified’ rating and the other did not participate,” Wan said.

[According to the CBA, Austin scored a 68 and ranked “not qualified” while Boyle did not participate.]

As the incumbent, why should LGBT people continue to support you being in office?
I have demonstrated in the four years that I have served on the Atlanta City Council that I can deliver on matters that are important to the LGBT community. Whether it is convincing my colleagues on Council to take a position of support for marriage equality or for the federal bill to unite LGBT American-foreign couples, whether it is strengthening our city’s non-discrimination clauses to make sure that gender identity is explicitly included everywhere, or whether it is simply making sure that as the only openly gay member of the City Council that I participate in every Atlanta Pride, the recent Creating Change conference in Atlanta, college student pride alliance rallies, or local demonstrations against Westboro Baptist Church, the LGBT community can continue to count on me.  LGBT people know that I will always be invested and will play an active role in our community’s issues, because their outcomes impact me directly.

Of course, I am proud to be an openly gay man in Atlanta, but that alone is not reason enough to expect LGBT community support. LGBT voters should support my candidacy because I am the most qualified candidate for this position.  The unique combination of my deep roots in Atlanta, my experience having run a small business for over 20 years, my broad, long-time community involvement, and my track record of building consensus and getting things done will enable me to continue being an engaged and effective representative for District 6.

Atlanta needs strong leadership with the education and business acumen to successfully deal with the many complex challenges we face. The combination of my Industrial Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and an MBA in Finance from Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania) foster a sound, rational approach to problem solving and a thorough understanding of finances and budgets. And my active involvement in the Atlanta community provides me with familiarity about a broad range of issues, from the neighborhood level (Morningside-Lenox Park Association) to broader city-wide matters (Atlanta Development Authority, now Invest Atlanta, Board of Directors), as well as addressing issues associated with diversity (Asian American Heritage Foundation), civil rights (Human Rights Campaign), the socio-economically disadvantaged (For the Kid in All of Us), and health/homelessness (Jerusalem House).

LGBT voters also should support me because of my ongoing commitment to the LGBT community, demonstrated by my active involvement in our community since the early 1990’s, when I came out.   I have worked closely with such organizations as Georgia Equality and the Human Rights Campaign, and my professional resume includes serving in a full-time position with an HIV/AIDS service organization, Jerusalem House.  Additionally, I founded a non-profit group, For the Kid in All of Us, to bring together the LGBT community to collect toys and school supplies for Georgia’s children in need, showing the greater Atlanta area that members of the LGBT community are willing to address a problem that affects the city at large.

I also hope that I have earned the vote of LGBT residents in District 6 because I have been and will continue to be a strong, vocal, and positive advocate for LGBT issues.  As early as 2004, I was actively engaged in the fight against SR 595 (the marriage amendment referendum) at the Georgia Assembly, vigorously lobbying against the passage of the bill, and in the streets canvassing against passage at the ballot that November.  Another facet of that advocacy work is simply being a positive, respected and respectful representative of our community, recognizing that is one of the most powerful ways we can change hearts and minds in the broader population towards LGBT people. 

Finally, I am the only candidate that brings this breadth of perspective – public, private, philanthropic and academic – to my role as a City Council member, which is helpful in building the coalitions and collaborations needed to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie before the LGBT community and other constituents in and beyond District 6.

Do you believe District 6 is the “gay seat” and should stay that way?
I do not believe that District 6 Atlanta City Council is necessarily a “gay seat.” It is notable that ever since Cathy Woolard’s election to this seat in 1997, an openly gay person has represented District 6 on the Council. However, this speaks more to the individual strength of each of those candidates, and also to a wonderfully progressive district that embraces its diversity. In other words, we have seen the people of District 6 elect the best person for the job, regardless of sexual orientation. I am proud and humbled to have continued this tradition. I like to think of District 6 as the seat that sends to Council extremely well-qualified folks who just happen to be LGBT.

What are the two most important challenges all residents in your city face in the next two years? What do you propose as solutions to these challenges?

The two most important challenges I see for City of Atlanta residents over the next two years is (1) addressing our neglected infrastructure and (2) being prepared to take full advantage of the recovering economy.

Anyone who travels around our city can clearly see that our infrastructure (roads, bridges, sidewalks, etc.) is crumbling around us. Streets are marked with potholes, sidewalks are in pieces, and numerous bridges are on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s list of dangerous structures. This is largely the result of years of neglect. The estimated $1.5 billion backlog of projects is the result of our inability to invest the $50-$100 million per year that we should be spending on maintenance due to the City’s poor financial condition. This is clearly not sustainable and, if left unaddressed, will ultimately hamper our ability to grow and attract businesses, residents and visitors.

During the four years I have served on City Council, I have focused on maximizing the efficient deployment of our resources – namely tax dollars – to delivering quality city services. This has been partly out of necessity due to the declining property values, but also because we have had to focus our limited resources to the most critical and core services. While this certainly includes investing in our infrastructure, it wasn’t until this year that we were finally able to free up some capital in our current operating budget to apply towards these needs.  That said, rather than continuing to chip away at the backlog with a few million here or there, the better solution will be a bond issuance that could bring forward investment of a magnitude more of the hundreds of millions of dollars. Fortunately, because of our improved fiscal condition and, hence, borrowing capacity, we are once again in a position to be able to contemplate that option.  The key will be to carefully select those projects that will have the most impact or address the most critical needs.

The second challenge is a bit more nuanced. The City of Atlanta has weathered the worst economic crisis of our lifetime extremely well. While our FY2014 revenues have steadily declined to $100 million less than they were in FY2009, we have during that same time increased our cash reserves from $7 million to over $130 million, increased our police force to 2000 officers, maintained or even increased city service delivery all while not raising property taxes. This has been accomplished by keeping tight reins on our fiscal spending and increasing our operational efficiencies.

Now that the economy is turning around, and with it the tax base, the City will finally have extra resources to invest in initiatives and new or expanded services. The challenge will be to remain just as fiscally responsible as we have been the last four years and not slip back into the old habits of inefficiency in the absence of the financial pressures that were there before. We will need to evaluate each option with a critical eye, understanding what our expected return is from the investment and challenging whether there might be a better or more effective option. It will all lie in how we set our priorities and making sure we have critical dialog in our evaluation.

Among the priorities I have are economic development and work force readiness. I hope that we will seek investment opportunities – be it in projects or programs – that accelerate the recovery and continue to create jobs and wealth that then spur on additional expansion. I also think that it is critical that we find programs that have demonstrated results with regard to preparing our work force so that when those jobs come, they are ready to fill the open positions. Finally, I believe we must continue to strengthen our challenged communities and provide appropriate housing and employment so that as the tide rises, all Atlanta residents are able to benefit.

As a member of the Atlanta City Council, I look forward to continuing my work on these and other issues, and to building the coalitions needed both within City government and with others in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to find workable solutions.

What issues have LGBT residents raised with you?

I am an active member of Atlanta’s LGBT community, and, my friends, being aware of my broad civic involvement, are not shy about sharing with me their thoughts and concerns for our city. Many express the same overall concerns that everyone worries about — rising property taxes, efficient delivery of city services, public safety, and some even with the public school system.

Topics raised specific to the LGBT community include marriage equality, fair treatment of members of the LGBT community by the Atlanta Police, employment non-discrimination, funding for HIV/AIDS service organizations and programs, hate crimes, adoption rights, bar/club hours, and the adult businesses on Cheshire Bridge Road.

Given that LGBT residents make up nearly 11 percent of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District (encompassing Atlanta), and the fact that there are roughly 180,000 LGBT residents in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area, please explain how you would work with the Atlanta mayor in order to ensure this diversity is reflected in the leadership roles of your municipality’s non-elected workforce.

Atlanta has a thriving and growing LGBT community, and I strongly believe our City’s diversity – one of our greatest strengths – should be reflected in the City’s non-elected workforce.  I am particularly sensitive to such representation because I am a member of two minority groups – LGBT and Asian-Americans.

I have a good, positive relationship with Mayor Kasim Reed. I was particularly pleased to see his public support for marriage equality shortly after the Atlanta City Council passed its resolution last December as well as his continued support of LGBT members among Atlanta city employees. Together with the administration’s Office of Constituent Services, we have reconstituted the City’s Human Relations Commission, and I have also been in discussions with the Human Resources Commissioner to launch an LGBT employee alliance group. I will continue to leverage the relationships I have built throughout the administration to identify available leadership opportunities within the City’s organizational structure.  A coordinated effort would be made to place qualified and diverse people in those positions either from within City employee ranks or externally.

While considering promoting LGBT employees from within, it becomes even more important that we strictly maintain the City’s non-discrimination policy to ensure that they have every opportunity for advancement.  I will continue to make sure that all workplace discrimination charges filed by LGBT employees are investigated thoroughly and accurately and the appropriate actions taken.

When looking outside the City government for candidates, I will seek partnership opportunities with various LGBT organizations to identify and recruit qualified individuals.  I hope to see the City be a participant in even more events and activities (job fairs, Pride Market, etc.) to outreach actively to the community to connect potential applicants with these openings.  And, of course, I will make myself and my staff available to members of the LGBT community for assistance and guidance with the recruitment process.

If re-elected, in what ways would you serve an advocate for the LGBT community through interactions with other governmental bodies, such as the state legislature, the U.S. Congress, and the federal government, particularly on issues sensitive to the LGBT population, including marriage equality, military service, accurate counting in the U.S. Census, and health-care?

I have been building relationships with members of the Georgia Assembly since 2004, when I was actively engaged in the fight against SR 595 and was in contact with many elected officials at the State level – with House and Senate representatives from my district and from others – that still remain today. My role as Atlanta City Council member has afforded me the opportunity to meet even more legislators and state-wide elected officials, and I have not been shy about taking advantage of those chances to advocate for issues important to me, the City of Atlanta and the LGBT community. I have also had the privilege of deepening my relationship and friendship with US Congressman John Lewis during my term, and I have also met other LGBT elected officials in all levels of government throughout the country through my activities with the Victory Fund.

As an LGBT elected official, I accept fully my responsibility to be an active advocate for our community’s causes, with whatever level of government that most directly impacts that particular issue.  Holding public office also comes with the understanding that I must work hand-in-hand with community advocacy groups such as Georgia Equality to seek and engage elected officials at all levels in dialog wherever possible. Further, I am always prepared to serve as a positive, public spokesperson for our community whenever opportunities to do so arise.

Above all, I will always strive to be a respected and responsible Councilperson, an educated and informed public servant, and a resource for my colleagues, constituents and community.

If re-elected, in what ways would you advocate support for people living with HIV/AIDS?

In 2009, I took a full time position as Director of Development at Jerusalem House, Inc., Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent, supportive housing for men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS. Over the three years that I was in that role, I had the chance to learn a great deal more about the challenges people living with HIV/AIDS face. Southern states have long lagged the rest of the country with regard to the resources allocated to fighting the disease, and consequently we lead the nation disproportionately in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, deaths, and new infections. A key to changing these trends is making more money available.

While I might no longer work for an AIDS service organization, I remain fully committed advocating for support for PLWHA. As a City Council person, I have lobbied to protect — if not increase — funding for AIDS service organizations (ASOs) and programs for PLWHA at the city and state and national levels for medication, education, prevention, care, housing, and other critical services. I have also worked with the City’s Grants department and my colleagues on Council to take a close look at how our human services grant dollars are deployed, attempting to focus on those organizations that are having the highest impact on the PLWHA community. If we are faced with limited dollars, we need to utilize them the most effective way possible.

I also hope to seek ways to facilitate city and state ASO groups to identify collaboration opportunities, bringing together agencies, organizations, businesses, and individuals that could be strategic partners in the fight and increasing the collective voice of the community in the advocacy effort. And finally, I will continue working to increase awareness of the epidemic in our city and our state and find ways to continue outreach and education about the disease in the communities being most impacted.

If re-elected, in what ways would you advocate for increased support, housing and services for transgender individuals?

While working on the Atlanta Steering Committee for the Human Rights Campaign I got to work in the trenches with members of the transgender community, which gave me an appreciation of the challenges their community faces.  Often forgotten in the fight for equality, it is critical that these members of our community have a strong advocate for the services and resources they need. 

I will work to ensure transgendered individuals cannot be excluded from any City support service or program – including housing – based on their transgender status.  I will also see that they too are protected and defended fully by the City’s non-discrimination provisions. Now that the Human Relations Commission has been reorganized and relaunched, I will follow their efforts closely and provide whatever support they need to do their job.

And it will be important to me to continue participating in meetings and other events held in the transgender community to show support, to create a channel of communication, and to foster an environment of inclusion with the other LGBT organizations in Atlanta.

Would you appoint openly-LGBT individuals to local boards and commissions? If you have served or are currently serving in elected office and have made such appointments, please list the name and position.

I remain committed to appointing openly-LGBT individuals to local boards and commissions.  I myself was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Development Authority (now Invest Atlanta) in 2010, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity the Atlanta City Council afforded me then through serving on that body.

In my first term as Council member, I appointed Charlie Frew to the Human Resources Commission. My approach with all appointments has been to identify all upcoming opportunities and then actively seek qualified LGBT individuals in our community to serve in those positions.  For this commission, Charlie Frew’s background and experience made him a perfect fit, and the appointment was approved unanimously by Council. (In case you do not know Charlie, he is a long-time community member, supporter, activist and business person. He is currently Executive Director of Jerusalem House and serves on the Board of Directors of both the Human Rights Campaign and the National AIDS Housing Coalition. Previously, in a long and distinguished corporate career with then BellSouth’s diversity department, Charlie was a frequent go-to person when the LGBT community was seeking involvement with local businesses.)

I will also continue to work with community leaders to identify and mentor younger members of our community who demonstrate leadership and service potential to prepare them for future opportunities. This includes encouraging all LGBT individuals to get involved at all levels of city service– including neighborhood associations, NPUs, etc.

Do you support a policy of dealing with transgender sex workers that include supporting organizations working with the population to provide housing, substance abuse treatment, job training and assistance, and HIV prevention? Specifically, how would you deal with the “banishment” law proposed?

Absolutely. I would support any and all programs designed to help sex workers – transgendered or not – that seek assistance to become self-sufficient. Through my work at Jerusalem House, I saw first-hand and value the benefit of providing support services that seek to address all issues that a person might struggle with on his/her path to independence.

I fully support the Atlanta City Council’s decision earlier this year to drop the proposed ordinance that would have banished convicted prostitutes from areas in the City.

 

Tracey Austin

www.votetraceyaustin.com
Occupation: Mother and business owner, employed by AG Hunter; Mabra Austin Sports
Party affiliation: Democrat
Total campaign budget: $100,000.
• As of Sept. 30, Austin raised $4,401 and had $2,919.80 cash on hand, according to Georgia Ethics Commission.
Endorsements to date: N/A

What is your involvement with the LGBT community?

My involvement with the community from an advocacy perspective has not yet occurred and I look forward to working with the LGBT community to promote human and civil rights issues. I am particularly passionate about the protections of our LGBT youth ensuring that schools are including the safety of LGBT youth in the conversation and policies of school safety. I also want to ensure that our LGBT Youth have access to assistance and services when the coping with bullying, rejection, and/or discrimination becomes emotionally challenging. I also want schools and public libraries to be required to include books within the curriculum and library system that teach about all types of families including same-sex families.

Socially, and lifestyle wise (my business services and dining selections) and my involvement with the LGBT community is the same as it is with the straight community. Outside of choosing a partner, I do not distinguish.

Why should LGBT people vote for you?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters should support my candidacy because I will defend the human and civil rights of all Atlantans including and especially those experiencing the most discrimination and those most vulnerable to having their rights violated.

Given that LGBT residents make up nearly 11 percent of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District (encompassing Atlanta) and the fact there are roughly 180,000 LGBT people in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area, how would you work with the Atlanta mayor to ensure diversity is reflected in the leadership roles of Atlanta’s non-elected workforce?
I will propose a special appointed position of an “Administrator for Equal Opportunities and Rights” assigned by the mayor and council. The ordinance should encourage the formation of an LGBT Employees & Allies Network within the city government led by the administrator. This administrator should be a member of the proposed LGBT Employees and Allies Network. It will be recommended that the network maintain an employee pool of LGBT qualified personnel for referral when positions become available.

Do you support a policy of dealing with transgender sex workers that include supporting organizations working with the population to provide housing, substance abuse treatment, job training and assistance, and HIV prevention?
Yes. This a particularly vulnerable group. I spoke out against the proposed banishment ordinance earlier this year as I recognize the needs of sex workers from a social assistance perspective. I want to pay particular attention to the needs of these individuals that may be under the age of 19 — youth and children.

What are the top two most important challenges Atlanta residents face in the next two years and what do you propose as solutions?

The need for Improved Customer Service and Delivery: Atlanta’s size will continue to expand rapidly – both in population and business growth. It is projected that the city will see 2.3 million residents and 1.7 million jobs (Atlanta Chamber of Commerce). It is important that the capability of the city government also expands in proportion to this growth. Many in my district are not satisfied with how the city is currently performing in this area. Atlanta must match its increase in revenue with its ability to provide quality services to residents. For example, the City must provide (1) prompt and thorough response to – constituent calls; written correspondences; and requests for service, and (2) Professional and courteous treatment of constituent calls; written correspondences; and requests for service, and (2) Professional and courteous treatment of constituents

• Solution: In proportion to the city’s growth, the city council must ensure that it appropriately allocates resources to expand various Government Department’s capability and to improve customer service; prioritizing with the lowest performing departments first

• Solution: Create a customer service satisfaction survey to be optionally completed after each call  or visit

• Solution: Create an process of accountability that includes the replacement or training of department heads (when a department is consistently underperforming) or employees (when employee performance rating is consistently low)

— Transportation: Atlanta must begin to match the quality and scope of transportation services to the city’s growth. According to the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, over the last 10 years, metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion has grown from the 15th to the 4th worst in the country, making it the region’s top challenge to attracting and retaining companies and the high-quality jobs that come with them.

• Solution: Continue to identify creative and innovative sources of funding such as public-private partnerships to fund transportation projects. By doing so, projects can be completed, fully funded, and brought to completion faster.

• Solution: Continue high-accountability and transparency in transportation spending.

• Solution: Create an ongoing method of collecting data – customer feedback, and traffic analysis –
locations/times of the day; and accidents; so the city can target the areas with the worst traffic problems and prioritize accordingly

• Solution: Through proper legislation, sustainable approaches should be encouraged by the council to address transportation such as creating incentives to purchase energy efficient and smaller vehicles; increasing the number of charging stations throughout the city. Encourage walking and biking over driving; and encourage the use of public transportation

Have you been contacted by any LGBT residents? What issues have they raised or discussed with you?
I have not been contacted directly but I have reached out to the community on my own to help identify the needs of the community. I find that equality is a priority issue – benefits in the workplace, marriage, and healthcare. I look forward to working closely with this community to find out more specifically the priority needs and recommendation on how local law can assist in improving the quality of life for the LGBT community in Atlanta.

If elected, in what ways would you serve an advocate for the LGBT community through interactions with other governmental bodies, such as the state legislature, the U.S. Congress, and the federal government, particularly on issues sensitive to the LGBT population, including marriage equality, military service, accurate counting in the U.S. Census, and healthcare?
Community and Civic Advocacy is where I got my start and I plan to continue my efforts to influence all levels of government. I have pre-existing relationships at the federal level and will leverage those relationships to voice the needs of my constituents. As an elected official, my first responsibility is to my duties as a council member, however, I see it as part of my civic responsibility to continue to utilize this position to positively influence other legislators at the state and federal levels as well.

On Marriage Equality: I will be a voice and advocate for the promotion of marriage equality within our state

On Military Service: I will be a voice and advocate for zero tolerance on any discriminatory actions within the military. I will also advocate for Veteran benefits for gay couples.

On US Census: There needs to be a box to check to account for each member of the LGBT population in order best serve the needs of the community. I will be a voice and advocate for this issue.

On Health Care: Equal opportunity and access to healthcare for LGBT families, children and individuals is needed. I will serve as a voice and advocate for this issue. I will prioritize the documented health disparities affecting LGBT children and youth.

If elected, in what ways would you advocate support for people living with HIV/AIDS?
Having my bachelor’s in Health Sciences, issues related to health have always been and continue to be important to me. Also, having both a family member and a close friend both die of HIV/AIDS, I am faimliar with some of the challenges facing those who are living with this illness. My cousin after being released from the hospital and still ailing, was too sick to fight New York City for the benefits that he was entitiled to while suffering with HIV/AIDS. He died before the services were ever delivered despite the timeline of service delivery being upon discharge from the hospital.

I will work with organizations that have expertise on the issue to best identify the needs of the Atlantans living with HIV/AIDS and with the input of the experts propose services, legislation or both that strengthens the health and quality of life of those living with the disease. Assessing the cities strength in providing treatment, medicine and other needed services will be conducted and reported.

If elected, in what ways would you advocate for increased support, housing and services for transgender individuals?
I will work with organizations that have expertise on the issue to best identify the needs of transgender individuals and with the input of the experts propose services, legislation to meet those needs when effective, feasible and sound solutions are identified with proper funding to support them.

Would you appoint openly-LGBT individuals to local boards and commissions?
I will utilize the referrals from the proposed LGBT Employees & Allies Network (referenced above) to make selections and assignments on boards and commissions to competitive and qualified candidates.


Mike Boyle

www.mikeforatlanta.com
Occupation: Business professional. Also stay at home dad to a 9-month-old daughter Rinna, and a neighborhood activist trying to boot PARKAatlanta. [PARKatlanta is the controversial private company hired by the city to enforce parking. Mayor Kasim Reed has said if he is re-elected he will not renew the city’s contract with PARKatlanta when it expires in 2016. Reed faces no serious competition.]
Endorsements to date: N/A
Party Affiliation: Independent
Total budget: We raised about $10,000 in the first month of the campaign, continue to successfully raise money as our message is heard, and expect to raise enough to be competitive on Nov. 5.
• As of Sept. 30, he has raised $9,050 and has $7,317 cash on hand, according to Georgia Ethics Commission.

In a recent conversation, you said you didn’t think Alex Wan was doing his job as good as he could be. Can you be more specific?
 
So, in a situation where our city government has a tremendous number of ways it could improve, Alex’s approach has been too passive and hands off. It seems that he views himself as “reporting to” the Mayor as opposed to being an elected representative of his constituents. The former acts like an employee and takes orders, and the latter pushes back when warranted, fights occasionally, and exercises independent judgment.  And I’ll give you a few examples. 

On ParkAtlanta, despite widespread public displeasure, Alex has failed for four years to put together an early termination proposal. He and other city council members have followed the lead of the Mayor who is not interested in early termination.  And the public has paid the price.  This is not a commercial agreement we are seeing but something else more akin to legalization of coercion and control of neighborhood life.

Second, going back to the aftermath of Atlanta Eagle raid in 2009, at the time Alex was a newly elected, openly gay official who would have been the perfect person to step in, mediate, and effect damage control.  As we recall, the most basic rights of Eagle staff and patrons were obliterated that night in a story that made international news and the Atlanta Police made very serious errors.  But Alex did not step in and the situation escalated into a litigious one that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and created a rift between the LGBT community and Atlanta Police. 

A third example is the lawsuit for government transparency (Cardinale v. City of Atlanta) prompted by a secret vote by Alex and other council members in 2010. Again, Alex had the opportunity to reveal the vote before this situation escalated but chose not to, most likely in deference to the city law department, in what was an obvious loser of a case. The Georgia Supreme Court eventually ruled, not surprisingly, that public officials cannot hold secret votes in regards to matters that affect the public. This questionable judgment again cost taxpayers and raised concerns over what could motivate someone to try to govern in secret. The proposal, had it passed, would have restricted community speech by limiting public comment time at standing committee hearings.  This is serious stuff we’re talking about.     

What is your involvement with or within the LGBT community?

I supported Bradley Manning throughout his ordeal, both financially and otherwise, and especially sounded off during his pre-trial confinement which violated a number of his most basic rights.  I remember dressing down a gay, active duty JAG officer (military attorney) at a cocktail party for not standing up for better treatment for Bradley.  It was astounding that a gay officer would buy the government’s line that Bradley was being held in solitary confinement because he presented a risk to himself.  That was BS.  The goal, obvious to so many, was to punish Bradley before he had even been tried, to discourage dissent, and to intimidate other would-be whistleblowers.  It’s important to note that Bradley was not convicted of aiding the enemy.    

What are the two most important challenges all residents in your city face in the next two years? What do you propose as solutions to these challenges?

We face a number of issues across public safety, transportation, fiscal health and other important areas but my response is more fundamental than that. My response is that we need a shift in the city council from a passive body to being an active one, and that we need to push reform and transparency and performance improvements across the full scope of city government. I remember when Shirley Franklin came into office she commissioned a study from Bain Consulting that highlighted areas for improvement. In speaking with someone from that firm and in my own experience, I understand that there is a lot of resistance to change and inertia and complacency in the city organization. And, frankly, with the economy in poor shape and quality of life crimes a serious problem and transportation a real puzzle, there is no room right now for resistance to change or inertia or complacency.

We need more independent-minded folks on city council and in the executive branch with new ideas to push through performance improvements because we can’t continue to paper over problems with higher taxes (including stealth taxes like ParkAtlanta and Red Light Cameras) and the continued issuance of additional debt which is in fact a latent, future tax. My tough stand on ParkAtlanta shows that I have that independent streak which is necessary to push back against inertia and push for serious performance improvements. 

Have you been contacted by any LGBT residents of the city? What issues have they raised or discussed with you?

In canvassing, I have come across a number of people from the LGBT community who opened up and shared their concerns. Public safety and transportation were two concerns that continue to come up. In terms of issues specific to LGBT, I’ve heard a lot of skepticism that the incumbent candidate has really proven himself motivated to represent them well, and this was surprising at first but now I am hearing it enough that I am no longer surprised. I’ve heard he missed an opportunity to improve the enforcement provisions of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance and that more working class gays and the community at large would have been protected from discrimination in housing, employment and other areas had he done so. 

Why should LGBT voters support your candidacy?

This city government is not working. It needs to be improved. People don’t feel safe and that’s not acceptable.  And so you need to bring in new blood to help make that happen. This is why LGBT voters should support my candidacy. In addition, I hold strong convictions in regard to the protection of the individual’s right to privacy, to freedom of speech, and to other basic freedoms, all of which offer intrinsic value for the gay community and the community at large.

Given that LGBT residents make up nearly 11 percent of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District (encompassing Atlanta), and the fact that there are roughly 180,000 LGBT residents in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area, please explain how you would work with the Atlanta mayor in order to ensure this diversity is reflected in the leadership roles of your municipality’s non-elected workforce.

Putting some teeth in the non-discrimination ordinance would be a big first step. Second, if you’ve heard the idiom culture eats strategy’s lunch everyday, you understand that the status quo is difficult to change. And so to the extent that there is an issue of systematic discrimination in a particular body, I think you have to take action and make changes. At the Atlanta Police Department, I was happy to see a handful of openly gay and lesbian officers serving there and I think a little bit of change goes a long way in starting to create understanding and empathy and a new organization dynamic. I’d like to see more of that. 
 
If elected, in what ways would you serve an advocate for the LGBT community through interactions with other governmental bodies, such as the state legislature, the U.S. Congress, and the federal government, particularly on issues sensitive to the LGBT population, including marriage equality, military service, accurate counting in the U.S. Census, and health-care?

I am for marriage equality and for openness with regard to serving in the military. I am for taking a fair accounting of the LGBT population with regards to the US Census. And I am for non-discriminatory access to Health Care. As a municipality, Atlanta is a creature of the state, and so these tend to be state and federal issues, but to the extent possible, either through resolutions or other informal channels, I would advocate on these issues. 

If elected, in what ways would you advocate support for people living with HIV/AIDS?

A few years ago I became close to a personal trainer of mine and he opened up and told me he had contracted HIV while in prison.  He was a neat guy and actually danced in drag over on 12th Street back in the day as a night gig.  He had good days and he had bad days and you could feel the heaviness of the situation.  I certainly had a lot of sympathy for him.  I would certainly support and advocate for this population and think that access to and affordability of treatment that helped quality of life would be a good way to go about it.   

If elected, in what ways would you advocate for increased support, housing and services for transgender individuals?

This starts with strong anti-discrimination provisions, and I’d want to guarantee equality of access to these services for transgender individuals. 

Would you appoint openly-LGBT individuals to local boards and commissions?

Yes, I would. 

Do you support a policy of dealing with transgender sex workers that include supporting organizations working with the population to provide housing, substance abuse treatment, job training and assistance, and HIV prevention?

Yes. 

Specifically, how would you deal with the “banishment” law proposed?

The banishment approach, also known as “lock-em up,” is consistent with our failed approach in law enforcement in general, of focusing on arrest and jail time instead of diversion and rehabilitation. You have to remember jail time is tremendously expensive to the taxpayer, disrupts lives and families, and usually leads to recidivism. It’s profitable for the prison industry but that’s about it. It would be much better to address these as social and not criminal problems. 

File photos
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.