Amir Farokhi is running unopposed for City Council District 2.
Candidate website: www.amirforatlanta.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Atlanta City Council, District 2 (incumbent) and Director of the Corporate Council at CARE USA
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: There are many big issues facing my constituents – some of which are beyond City governance. From a municipal perspective, the biggest issue is the decline in quality of city services and built environment, from public safety to solid waste to infrastructure. I have worked on raising these issues during my first tenure, often repeating the mantra to my staff “basics, first,” and have pushed a range of legislative approaches to push our City to focus on the small things. The second biggest issue facing my constituents is managing growth in a smart and accessible way.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: Spending more than 25% of income on housing is unaffordable in my view. While there are many tools we can use to increase affordability, the quickest way is to allow and incentivize for the building of more housing, typically through density. This does not need to come at the expense of the tree canopy or our lovely neighborhoods bit it does mean that everyone isn’t going to live in a single-family home. We are one of the least dense big cities and regions in the country. We cannot continue to absorb people as we have for the last 50 years.
Q: City Hall has been dogged by an apparently ongoing federal investigation involving accusations of corruption in the previous mayoral administration. How would you help restore public trust on matters of staff spending and contract procurement?
A: While Councilmembers are rightfully kept removed from the Department of Procurement’s work, currently the Department suffers from sluggish execution. It must find a balance between best in practice procurement processes and efficiency. Separately, all City salaries are public and I include all of my office expenses on my monthly newsletter and on the City Council’s website.
Q: In 2020, Atlanta and the nation experienced two historic events: the COVID-19 pandemic and protests about racial justice and police brutality. What is a public-policy lesson you learned from those events?
A: The lack of trust we have for one another and our institutions, while sometimes warranted, has created a toxic public square that makes creating good, sound policy incredibly difficult. Also, that in times of crisis, people need regular information delivered with honesty, empathy, and resilience.
Q: The debate about the location of a public safety training center is an example of longstanding tension over whether Atlanta’s urban planning should be more top-down from corporations and private groups or more bottom-up from communities and neighborhoods. What is your approach to planning processes and is there a specific change you would make?
A: The public safety training center is a different issue than the urban planning tensions we face. Cities across the country are grappling with the challenge of encouraging neighborhood input but not allowing it to exclude new residents. We see this most often in zoning disputes where single-family homeowners push back against new development and density. This exclusionary approach, while perhaps rooted in human nature, is not in the City’s best interest. If community input is to be comprehensive, it must include folks who traditionally do not engage: renters, immigrants, folks holding two-jobs, multi-family residents, etc.
Q: Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: This was an imperfect choice: we need this facility but the location was not ideal. I voted for the center coming out of Public Safety Committee (where I expressed concerns on maximizing tree protection and limiting the acreage needed for the facility). And, at Full Council, in late August, I voted to table the proposal to make time for more community engagement. I was on parental leave for the Sept 7 meeting and did not vote on any items. Moving forward, we must commit to working together to ensure the best development for the neighboring community and for excellent public access.
Q: Who is the main expert you turn to for information on understanding and addressing crime and what is an important fact you have learned from them?
A: I don’t have one expert I turn to on crime. However, the most interesting study I recently came across looked at whether increasing the number of police reduced violent crime. The study was conducted by an economist at NYU and found that generally, yes, there is a correlation. Among the findings: 10 and 17 new police officers yields one saved life a year in an average city but that benefit is less pronounced in the South and in cities with high Black populations. The recommendation: use less resources to arrest people for petty crimes and use more to fight and solve serious crimes.
Q: What are some areas of opportunity for the mayor’s office to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
A: 1) Universal Pre-K; 2) Communication and planning between the Department of City Planning, ATL DOT, and APS on what new residential developments mean for school enrollment and infrastructure needs, like safer crossings and bike lanes.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: It’s been an honor to serve the residents of District 2. I look forward to serving for another four years and working on our most difficult issues, together.
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