What Atlanta mayoral candidates said at Thursday's forum

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What Atlanta mayoral candidates said at Thursday's forum

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<p>Atlanta Mayoral Forum</p>

9:04 p.m.: Friday at noon, AJC reporters J. Scott Trubey and Leon Stafford will have a Facebook Live conversation about today’s forum. It will be carried in the Intown Atlanta News Now Facebook page. See you there. 

9:03 p.m.: All right that’s the end of the questions. Candidates are giving closing statements and that’s going to wrap it up for the live blog. Thanks for following along and watch for a story on the forum in Friday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the subscriber website, MyAJC.com.

9:02 p.m.: Woolard called Emory part of her family’s home, but the city needs data on what it takes to “absorb” any new part of the region to the city. She said the city needs to understand the costs and needs. Woolard also said it doesn’t have to be revenue neutral or positive to annex, she said. “Let’s just be clear with any annexation we do.”

8:59 p.m.: Mitchell said he would look into Fort’s charges to see if any quid quo pro happened. But he said he is supportive of the annexation. Mitchell also said the issue of transit to Emory should be addressed. The other question, Mitchell said, is if APS’ jurisdiction would extend to this area.

8:58 p.m: Laban King said he does not support the annexation. He called it “redlining” that could be used to take control of voting in the city of Atlanta.  Fort again criticizes the addition of Emory if it jumps in line for MARTA. “It’s Emory, a wealthy community, jumping in line.” He also alleged an agent of Emory paid $10 million to help the purchase of the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter, calling it a “quid quo pro” to get the university into the city. (The AJC has looked into this and so far has not found any proof of it.).

8:55 p.m.: Bottoms and Eaves also supportive. Bottoms said Emory, CDC and Children’s Healthcare coming into the city are “testaments” to the city’s improved financial performance since the recession. Eaves called it a “win-win” for the addition of the institutions and brain power in the city. 

8:52 p.m: Aman said the city has a problem, including a broken revenue and expense model. The city is 8 percent of the population but it’s population doubles with all the workers who come into the city. It comes with huge infrastructure cost burdens. He said he’s “in favor of the growth of the city in any direction,” including South Fulton and Emory. Aman said he wants to make the city so good at services all will want to join.   

Next question is on annexation of Emory  

8:50 p.m.: Mitchell touts his connections to the school system, including his teacher wife. “As mayor, our superintendent is going to come to cabinet meetings.” Mitchell also pitches an initiative he calls Seventh Period for after school programs.

8:46 p.m.: Fort calls for a community schooling model like in Cincinnati and other major cities. Fort also touts apprenticeships with the city’s unions to get kids into jobs. Fort also touts his plan for two-years of free community college education for all city school graduates. 

8:44 p.m.:  Eaves said he supports a partnership that he called “bold.” “There’s a school to prison pipeline.” If you add law and jail costs for Fulton and Atlanta. He’s proposing closing the Atlanta detention center. Only nonviolent offenders are there. “it’s unnecessary.” Eaves calls for saving $35 million, put the non-violent inmates there on ankle monitors and put the money into education.  

8: 43 p.m.: Ammanamanchi said he’s at an advantage as a candidate in his 20s for having to gone to schools in the Internet age. He wants to build more schools in neighborhoods so kids can walk and bike there and participate in after school programs without being dependent on someone else to transport them. 

8:42 p.m.:  Aman said the issue is beyond partnering but also about youth development. 

Aman said he leads on the issue and he’s willing to bet on youth development as the key to winning a second term as mayor. Aman said birth to age 3 learning is critical to the future of the city of Atlanta. A system need to be introduced and needs to be made available to all.

8:40 p.m.: Sterling said he wants to be the partner-in-chief with the schools and expand hours of Centers of Hope, among other items. Woolard touts her ability to partner when she was on the City Council. Woolard said when she launched her campaign for mayor, she said she met with APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to learn what the schools needed from the city.

Next Question is about partnering with the Atlanta Public Schools

8:38 p.m.: Hall said he doesn’t support privatization, and then quips unless Amazon wants to bring a new pilot program here. Hall echoes call for more of the contracting material to be available and searchable online. Hall said there might be a place to privatize some portion of services, but generally opposes.

8:37 p.m.: Mitchell said he’d evaluate privatization on a “case-by-case basis.” He called for a full audit of procurement. Mitchell also is calling for an independent ethics czar. Mitchell said he created a portal for council to put expenses online and he wants the procurement department to have all their contracting done online.

8: 34 p.m.: Woolard said: “Everything starts with ethics.” She said she wants a full review of the department and the process to figure out what went wrong. She also wants to look at every aspect of contracting from writing the requests for proposals through the award process. Woolard said she would look at limited privatization but by and large isn’t in favor of it. 

8:31 p.m.: Let me focus on ethics first. If the citizens of a government don’t’ trust it to spend money, there’s nothing else we can do. Aman said he had procurements investigated when he saw red flags. Aman said contracts need to be linked to payments and people who own businesses need to be linked to their companies so people know where citizens’ money is going.

8:28 p.m.: Bottoms said privatization of procurement is not in the city’s best interest. She calls for an online contract bidding process and putting contracts online. Bottoms also called for an audit of procurement department. She also wants procurement department employees taxes be placed online along with ethical disclosures.  

8:27 p.m.: Eaves said he’s open to privatizing some city services. Given the corruption probe he said there needs to be arms length between politicians and contracting. “I’m certainly open to it. It’s a noble idea,” Eaves said.   

8: 26 p.m.: Fort for one he does not approve of privatization. “Philosophically I’m not in support of privatization of city services.” Fort said that citizens can hold city officials accountable, and hard to do that through a third party. As it relates to ethical contracting, Fort renewed his calls for an inspector general at City Hall to investigate when needed and refer for prosecution. “What is going on there is not working,” Fort said.  

The next question is on privatization of the procurement of goods and services and ensuring an ethical process:

8:25 p.m.: Aman said the city will see up to $14 billion for the next city council and mayor. That’s from MARTA (with federal match), $6 billion from the airport, $300 million for roads and sidewalks. The city needs another infrastructure bond, Aman said. The city also needs new revenue sources for infrastructure, pitching a parking tax to shift some of the burden on commuters entering the city from elsewhere.

8:22 p.m.: Bottoms said the city along can’t handle all the needs. Other states take a portion of a property’s purchase price that goes into a trust fund that buys land for a land bank. She said such a thing should be explored in Atlanta for properties costing more than $1 million.  

8:19 p.m: Eaves said the 8.9 percent local sales tax is too much. People in Atlanta support Fulton County, the city and the city schools. “There’s an opportunity to consolidate our efforts,” Eaves said. Eaves said the city could use existing dollars to address the capital needs of the city.  

8: 17 p.m.: Fort said the city is “leveraged to the hilt.” But people don’t see the impact of the bonds, the transportation SPLOST… if people don’t perceive that their money isn’t being spent wisely or fairly, they’re not going to buy into future T-SPLOSTs.” He called public trust critical.

8: 15 p.m.: Sterling said the city is leverage, echoing Woolard. Sterling said the city has to come up with creative financing. The city passed a local bond referendum, but it is three-quarters of a billion dollars behind. That doesn’t include sidewalks, he said. “We’ve got to find new sources of revenue.”

Next question on  keeping up with infrastructure needs

8:14 p.m: Eaves called for a regional transit solution and touts experience as bringing regional leaders together for a transportation plan. Also touts expansion of MARTA. The expansion of the project from Lindbergh and Clifton has stalled because of a lack to talks among governments.    

8:12: Fort said at the core of solving the issue is increasing support for MARTA. Fort said he supported the MARTA referendum especially for a western expansion of the rail. “What I would put the brakes on is the annexation of Emory University” into Atlanta, “if it mean it jumps in line” over projects voted on by people in the city of Atlanta. “The people of Atlanta did not expect to pay for a light trail line form the city of Atlanta to Emory University.   

8: 10: Hall said land use and transportation go together. He said we need to put the brakes on the Beltline and fix the roads that are broken. Hall pitches the S-concept. That’s a transit system that puts bus first, links to a circulator and also to MARTA. The rail comes later.  “We have some dollars now and we have to figure out to leverage them to spend them as wisely as possible.”

8;08: p.m.: Mitchell said he will be a “champion, cheerleader and partner on transit.” Need to have “doorstep to destination solutions” for connecting people to the system. Mitchell said MARTA and the streetcar must connect to the Beltline. He said the city must also look at bicycles and other alternatives to get people around. MARTA doesn’t receive state funding, the only large system in the U.S. that doesn’t. “We are going to change that.”

8:07 p.m.: Sterling says there are no shortage of plans from various planning groups. “But one of the biggest issues we face is the funding of these plans,” calling many of them “academic exercises.” Sterling calls for a new infrastructure bank for projects, along with public-private partnerships on transit. “That investment (in transit) needs to increase substantially.” 

8:04 p.m.: Woolard said almost 20 years ago she met Beltline architect Ryan Gravel. She proposes laying down five lanes of transit along the Beltline, streetcar and orient density around transit. Also need to spend on bike lanes and pedestrian improvements to make those transit connections more efficient. “We must convince the General Assembly to support transit,” she said. Touted 20-year record of backing transit.

8:01 p.m.:  Aman said Atlanta is “on the verge of either a wonderful future or choking on our own growth.”  “We have a real risk and a real opportunity.”  The city has two transformative, once-in-a-lifetime events about to happen: spending of $14 billion on transportation spending (MARTA and the airport). The second is the rezoning of the city and where buildings can go. If not done well, Aman said, “we’ll have a nightmare.” Said the city needs more light and heavy rail, buses and bus rapid transit and centralize traffic control.

7:58 p.m.: Bottom said it’s not just traffic but about mobility. City needs to be creative, public-private partnerships. Need to look at Beltline expansion. “It’s about connecting all parts of this city.” People needed public transportation need to be connected to jobs centers, she said. City needs to be friendlier to get around by foot and bike. Overall, she said it will take a regional fix. Called it region’s No. 1 issue.

Next question is on solving traffic. 

7:55 p.m.:  Hall said he’s heard solid proposals tonight. His district has seen a ton of development. Much of it is on private property and can’t force private owners. But government owns a lot of property. Also banks and businesses own property who share vision of making the city great. West of Northside Drive there’s 5,000 empty houses and 5,000 empty apartments. A huge opportunity along with 400 acres of Atlanta Housing Authority land that could help “revitalize the heart of our city to make our city a place everyone can live in.”    Hall says the city can get 20,000 to 30,000 units by using this government controlled land.

7:51 p.m.: Fort said the mayor has to hold accountable people who made commitments for affordable housing. He calls out the Beltline for only doing 10 percent of its affordable housing commitment from 12 years ago. “We’re going to have to hold the Beltline accountable to make sure it doesn’t continue to be what it is, an engine for gentrification.”   

7:48 p.m.: Eaves said that rampant development has caused displacement and crunched affordability. He said he saw the issue as Fulton County chairman and the spiking property assessments. “The most vulnerable people in our city are seniors.” When people turn 65 they leave the city of Atlatna and Fulton because of high property taxes. He’s pitching a senior exemption for school taxes. He said it would be only a $32 million impact on tax digest.    

7:45 p.m: Bottoms said her descendants settled in Atlanta more than a century ago. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, her mother closed a salon because of high rents. When she sold Turner Field, she said she was concerned about the issue and explored “displacement-free zones.” Expects to replicate that model across the city with public-private partnerships “to help keep our city affordable to all.”

7:43 p.m.: Aman said he’ll bring “will and commitment to this issue.” 

“I will bring will and commitment to keeping Atlanta affordable,” he said. He touted his help in founding the Westside Future Fund, a nonprofit to steer redevelopment on the Westside near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The organization has a non-displacement fund to help keep people in their homes. He said the city needs inclusionary zoning, public-private partnerships. “But at the  end of the day, they all require money.” Aman also touted his ability to find budget savings under mayors Kasim Reed and Shirley Franklin when  he was city chief operating officer. 

7:40 p.m.:  Woolard said need focus on long term policy and transportation within the affordability issue. Need to talk to schools about whether seniors could get some relief from school taxes. “We need to talk about policies related to inclusionary zoning.”  Need to work with developers about creating permanent affordable units. She also suggests reducing parking to reduce development costs. The third piece is transportation, if people can get around quickly and affordably, you can lower cost of living. “We really do have displacement for the poorest of the poor right now,” calling it an “emergency.”

7:37 p.m.: Sterling talks about people being taxed out of their homes. Pitches a cap on what people can see in terms of an increase in their property taxes.  We put something in place so that people aren’t run over,” and not displaced because of tax increases. Also pitches inclusionary zoning and requiring affordable in new developments. 

7:33 p.m.: Mitchell calls it the top issue of the city seeing people displaced. The redevelopment he said, “It’s good in some ways, be we have to be cognizant of the bad.” Pitches a plan called “Blight to Light” to convert abandoned homes, renovate them and make them affordable units. Worries about seniors being able to age in place. 

7:31 p.m.: And we’re now getting to questions. Dorsey asks to stick to specific principles. Question 1 from Dorsey is on growth. Atlanta region is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next 25 years, per the ARC. What are your plans for  housing equity and affordablility? It’s going to Mitchell first. 

7:26 p.m.: The candidates almost universally hitting on themes of tackling income inequality in their intros. 

7:15 p.m.: Now with introductions of the candidates starting with Wrightson and going in reverse alphabetical order to Aman. Dorsey, the moderator, said the election comes at a time about concern about the divide between the haves and have-nots, at a time of growth and many other challenges.  

7:13 p.m: 11 of the 13 overall candidates are here. “All of the candidates were invited.” 

7:12 p.m.: Moderator Jocelyn Dorsey about to kick things off.  

7:07 p.m.: Mary Norwood not present in tonight’s forum. We have 11 candidates here on stage: Rohit Ammanamanchi, Keisha Lance Bottoms, John Eaves, Vincent Fort, Kwanza Hall, Laban King, Ceasar Mitchell, Michael Sterling, Cathy Woolard and Glenn Wrightson

7:03 p.m.: Emory President Claire E. Sterk opens with a welcome for “a community conversation.” 

“Emory and Atlanta have something in common. We are local and global economic drivers” and gateways to the world. “Emory is the kind of place where people can hold difficult conversations with respect.” 

7:01 p.m.: And here go. About to get started. 

6:46 p.m.: Pauline Pituk of Buckhead said she’s here to learn more about how the candidates plan to take care of the blocking-and-tackling issues of city government: filling pot holes, paving streets and beautification. She said she is dismayed by how many tunnels in the city don’t have lights. “It’s not safe. You need to be able to see.” Pituk said she’s undecided, but she’s leaning toward candidates Ceasar Mitchell, Peter Aman and Vincent Fort. 

6:42 p.m.: Sue Heerin, who lives in Druid Hills, said she’s here to sort through all the different candidates, some she knows, and many she doesn’t. She said she is undecided, but it’s getting down to crunch time. She said her top issues are traffic, transportation and affordable housing. “This is firmly an introduction to most of these people.” 

6:35 p.m.: Jason Grubb, 26, a theology major at Emory, said this would be his first opportunity to dive into the candidates positions. He admitted he had not kept up with the race so was excited when he learned of tonight’s gathering.

“I was curious so I decided to stop by and hear what the candidates have to say,” he said. 

6:28 p.m.: Kwanza Hall praised the League of Women Voters, which is a sponsor of the forum. Hall said the group’s history of voter activism has helped ensure a robust democracy through the years.

“This is a very dynamic group,” he said. “They are a blessing to our community and I appreciate their ability to bring us together.”

As for expectations of the forum, he said he expects a good discussion.

“This is good and I’m excited about the event and looking forward to a fun night,” he said. 

6:20 p.m.: Peter Aman said he said he expects a very good discussion at the forum. He said he expects to attend about 67 and that there are about 30 left to go. At least among those that are already scheduled.

“They are getting larger and better attended,” Aman said. “Attendees and more engaged and more attentive. That’s important because we’re just a few weeks away from the beginning of early voting.” 

6:18 p.m.: The first candidate in the room is former City Council President Cathy Woolard. We caught up with her and she said she’s happy to be back in the church she attended as a kid. Her extended family members were members of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. Woolard said, “I always enjoy continuing the dialogue with voters.” 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and our partners at Channel 2 Action News and WSB Radio are here at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus at Emory University for the League of Women Voters mayoral forum.

AJC reporters J. Scott Trubey and Leon Stafford will be live blogging from the event, which starts at 7 p.m. Once the event starts, the newest posts will be at the top of the page.

Atlanta has a crowded field of candidates hoping to be the city’s next mayor. L-R top, Peter Aman, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, John Eaves. Center, Vincent Fort, Kwanza Hall, Ceasar Mitchell. Bottom, Mary Norwood, Michael Sterling, Cathy Woolard. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All candidates for Atlanta mayor are invited to participate. The forum will be moderated by WSB’s Director of Editorials & Public Affairs Jocelyn Dorsey.

With the election coming Nov. 7 and early voting just a few weeks away, the candidates are buckling down looking to win over undecided voters.

You can watch the live event LIVE on AJC.com or on the official AJC Facebook page from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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