The first person to respond to my questions from the other day has been Amir Farokhi. I’m going to post the response here without comment. I’ll make a summary post after I’ve given other candidates time to respond/gotten responses.
Thanks again for your email and your patience. My responses to your questions are below.
Financial stability/recovery: What programs do you plan to begin, expand, or get rid of right off the bat to get the city back on its feet again financially?
The first thing we have to do is eliminate existing inefficiencies in city services. For example, we need to sell the City’s jail to Fulton County as we under-utilize our jail and rely on Fulton County for most jailing services anyway. This would result in a $30 million + windfall for the City and save the City $10 million per year. We must also collect money that is due to the City under the existing service framework. For example, Watershed Management (which is a department that needs significant improvements) has not collected $50 million due to it over the last four years. Until this month, parking enforcement has been largely absent for the last year. Further, the City must look into leasing its abundant property to generate new revenue streams.
Fundamentally, we must do more with less. Atlanta residents pay, primarily through property taxes, for services that hundreds of thousands of non-residents use every day but do not pay anything for. Thus, we have to be much more thoughtful in how we use our revenue and look for ways to reduce the burden on homeowners in the city.
I have set out my view of budget reform here: http://www.amirfarokhi.com/index.php/amir/issues/category/budget_reform/
and view of city services here: http://www.amirfarokhi.com/index.php/amir/issues/category/city_services/
Crime. Specifically how does the candidate plan to address the officer shortage, the broken 911 system, Firehouse closings, the revolving door of the justice system, the rash of escalating crime, and the broken juvenile code.
I have long stated that public safety must be the City’s first priority. If New York can be a safe city to walk around, Atlanta can be a safe city to walk around. My attention to this issue has earned me the endorsement of the police and fire unions.
You touch on a whole host of issues, each that could be discussed in great length. I’m pleased to see that you view public safety though a nuanced lens that it’s not just about the police. It requires attention to after-school programs and truancy and to how individuals are transitioned back to society after being in jail or prison. There is a continuum of crime that needs to be addressed holistically and that requires much more cooperation between APS, the City of Atlanta and the Fulton County justice system.
In short, using money free up from eliminating some of the inefficiencies mentioned above and using a portion of the recent tax increase, we must grow our police department. This must be done by improving officer retention by re-instituting step pay increases and a career leader and putting in place a police chief that inspires morale in the rank and file. Yet, with our number of officers currently on the force, we need greater police visibility on the streets. I’d like to see more officers on foot and bike patrol in certain areas and fewer officers at desk jobs.
The firehouse closings were unacceptable. Again, this speaks to prioritizing public safety as the top priority of the City. While the closings (and brownouts) are of concern to me, my greater concern is that we are not always staffing fire trucks with the industry standard of 4 firefighters per truck. This greatly increases the risk to both firefighters and residents.
With respect to our 911 system, we might want to look at combining forces with Fulton County. If not, we need to increase the number of 911 operators to eliminate the disturbing trend of being put on hold when calling 911.
There is a long list of issues we need to tackle under the public safety umbrella and what I have mentioned is just a start. I’m happy to talk at length about public safety if you wish. In the interim, you can learn more about my public safety vision here: http://www.amirfarokhi.com/index.php/amir/issues/category/public_safety/
Infill What is the candidate’s stance on infill, both residential and cmmercial. What is their stance on live/work/play and other planned communities.
Because of the economy, the infill issue has grown silent. My view from a 30,000 foot perspective is that there is a balance to be struck between a neighborhood’s existing scale and feel and what is reasonable for infill housing. Some neighborhoods in the city need good infill housing, others, that are more developed, and have a stronger aesthetic theme, require stronger oversight of infill housing to ensure a neighborhood’s character and history remain intact.
Ultimately, however, we must pay greater attention to smart, urban design. If we are going to be a more livable city, a city that can absorb more residents and enhance our street life while not taking away from our existing neighborhood framework, we must focus on high-density, transit-oriented developments. This does not mean pushing for high-density, mixed use development in existing neighborhoods but along corridors that support such uses. From smart street design (incorporating bicycle lanes and good sidewalks) to mixed-use developments, we must make Atlanta an easier city to live in and move around in.
Greenspace How does the candidate plan to protect and expand public greenspaces, what is the policy on allowing developers to clear cut?
Great cities have ample greenspace; and work to maintain and grow that greenspace. Further, if we were by an ocean or a mountain, we would everything we could to protect and accentuate it. Here, we are in a fantastic forest and we need protect that forest. I”m in favor of strengthening and doing a better a job enforcing our tree ordinance and working to ensure that Atlanta has greater park space. Right now, we rank 25th of the 25th largest cities in the amount of parkspace per resident.
You can learn more about my parks vision here: http://www.amirfarokhi.com/index.php/amir/issues/category/parks/
Urban homesteading What is the candidate’s stance concerning existing regulations re: chicken keeping, rainwater harvesting, beekeeping, guerrilla gardening, community gardens and regulating farmer’s markets. How does the candidate plan to encourage these green practices in the future?
The issues you bring up are exciting developments in urban living. The City needs to encourage and support urban agriculture initiatives at every scale. These issues are often new ones for Atlanta and we can find best practices from progressive cities around the country on each. Atlanta has a terrific opportunity to be a city takes advantage of its climate and land to create a vibrant urban agriculture scene. Of course, we will need to balance safety with the scale and density of each neighborhood but I come from a position of wanting to see more “green practices” in the City.
You can read my stance on urban agriculture here: http://www.amirfarokhi.com/index.php/amir/issues/category/urban_agriculture/
Again, many thanks for your email and your commitment to the issues in this election. I’d love to have your vote on December 1. If you want to talk about any of these issues and your ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me.