Jason Hudgins is running for City Council District 10.
Candidate website: www.jason4atl.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Corporate Trainer – IHG Hotels and Resorts
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: Housing Displacement – I will approach creating solutions for the district in the same way that I approach issues at work, I will begin with the data. By using data to craft solutions it will lead us to focus on the root cause of issues and not just the symptoms of them that capture media attention. Proactive leadership is not just solving the issue as it exists now, it is creating solutions that solve for future and evolving issues. I will also focus on collaboration and communication with subject matter experts. It is important that we lift the voices of those who have expert knowledge around the issues that plague Atlanta. It is important that we see fruitful results from that activity. I will collaborate with department heads and commissioners to set realistic targets that allow the city to measure success and show taxpayers how policy has benefitted them.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: I define affordability as the ability to obtain housing and pay all related costs including utilities without burdening or reducing the quality of life of an individual. As councilman I would push innovative solutions to change how we calculate affordability. Currently the city uses the federal Area Medium Income (AMI) formula to calculate what is affordable. This formula takes into account the richest communities in Atlanta when calculating affordability. I will push for a targeted formula that is localized to zip code or council district and based on average salary to calculate affordability for city supported developments. The medium household income in the 10th District is $31,655 which means most residents are locked out of “affordable” housing set by AMI.
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: We must first begin with fixing the underlying trust issue with citizens in the transparency of their City Government. I will push for greater accountability in city spending including increased funding for the auditor’s office and more accountability for the open checkbook site. This will allow citizens to see how their tax dollars are spent and create accountability to improving areas that they believe are important. I would also push legislation and changes to council rules to require full transparency related to the budgets of individual council offices. The city must also focus on some quick wins to show movement on issues that eroded public trust. Investment in kitchen table issues like sidewalks and ensuring proper waste pick-up will go a long way. Finally we must make a commitment as a city to upgrade the technology infrastructure to allow for more online transactions. This would also allow for more automation.
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: If we do not commit to solving the root causes of issues they become fuel for the cultural fires that burn. With Covid 19 historic health inequities including access to healthcare in the city of Atlanta fueled vaccine hesitancy and led to pushback from public health policies such as masks. The racial justice protests came after generations of ignoring the the needs of the black community. Data that showed that black and brown communities were policed differently were ignored, we ignored the school to prison pipeline and we ignored the data that showed inequities in how black communities received investment.
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: Planning is only valid if the result is that that meets the needs of the community that would live, work and play in its eventual reality. As a former NPU Chairman and Community President I favor a bottom up approach. This will ensure that we are not just building for who will come but we also take into account the communities that exist today and were not given proper support and resources. As councilman I would push for more accountability to the master planning and CDP process as well as adding teeth to the City Design Plan to prevent developers and event the city from arbitrarily ignoring them.
Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: No I do not. I agree that the city does need a new public safety training center but we should have prioritized land currently owned by the city. The process was also a disgrace as the Key Road site was negotiated behind closed doors in back rooms. There would have been no public input without the public outcry. Also the sessions held only represented the views of the Atlanta Police Foundation. The plan was approved without proper site plans, details about the lease terms, an environmental study and engagement with the neighbors of unincorporated DeKalb.
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: As a former NPU Chairman and President of the Westview Community Organization I value the relationships with individual officers who live in the community. The biggest takeaway is that the structure of APD does not lend itself to the larger goals around community policing, simply put our zones are too large and they do not allow officers to get out of their cars outside of being dispatched to engage the community. Also we must attack the root causes of crime, even beat officers admit that their tools only allow them to react to a problem that already exists.
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: There should be more collaboration around creating a pipeline from APS to the jobs that will dominate the economy of Atlanta in the future. What companies are we recruiting and what skill sets will workers of the future need. The city should collaborate with APS leadership to create curriculum and internship/Apprenticeship programs to give students real world experience.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: We must begin by understanding the factors that create an environment that results in our unhoused neighbors being left behind. As Councilman I would push to increase appropriation for wrap around services that target mental health and substance abuse issues. We must also drive employment opportunities for our unhoused population. The city is facing a historic labor shortage. We should train and employ the unhoused in city positions and create partnerships with the business community to do the same. We must also solve the affordable housing question. We have a view of homelessness that does not always match reality. Homelessness also impacts our students, and those who are employed but cannot afford the historic rise in housing prices. By solving the underlying issues we will also make progress on reducing homelessness in Atlanta.
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