Doug Shipman is running for Atlanta City Council President.
Candidate website: www.dougshipman.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: No Current Job (most recently CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center) Board Member– The Carter Center
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: Public safety and wellness are the most significant near-term issue. I am best positioned given my long history of working across communities on important initiatives combined with my public policy and business background. Public safety will require doing basics like incentives and training better while also investing in neglected communities so that every citizen feels invested in Atlanta. We need to expand our commitment to hiring specialists in mental health and domestic violence so that our officers and social workers are trained to respond to the needs of our residents. I have a history of building bridges between and across communities in Atlanta that will help rebuild trust between people and police.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: Affordability in housing is the percentage of your household income you have to spend on housing while adjusting for family configuration, costs of transportation, and childcare. We should be aiming for 30% or less of the income required given the specific household. Specific initiatives:
- Increase the use of the city-owned property for the development of affordable housing
- Increase the ease of rehabilitating existing properties into affordable or mixed-use units
- Allow ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) construction and conversation without the ability to deed separately
- Using future payments from projects like the Gulch as bond supporting funding for longer-term bond issuances to support affordable developments
- Expand our use and support for land-banking initiatives to support longer-term control of underlying real estate for affordable housing.
- Consider zoning changes in certain parts of the city to allow ground-floor commercial to be converted to live/workspaces (i.e., Greenville Riverwalk approach)
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: Oversight always rests on three principles- transparent data, consistently raising questions and following a consistent process to know what is happening and holding individuals accountable for following good practices. As City Council President this means helping to produce clear data and insights, consistently asking questions directly and through Council proceedings, appointing committee chairs who are committed deeply to transparency and holding individuals accountable through requiring reporting, answering questions of Council and undertaking when appropriate audits and special reviews. My history of leading major institutions including the use of public funds at both the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Woodruff Arts Center have given me experiences in providing clear transparency processes.
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: 1. Facts and institutions are low in public credibility. We have to work harder to build relationships before a crisis and then sit together and address their concerns. We need to spend more time directly engaging questions people have, and doubts people hold. 2. Covid has shown us that Atlanta is not working for many people. We have seen how many households are economically and socially precarious (Atlanta had 25% poverty going into Covid). We must better support households through childcare, economic investments, and better infrastructure. 3. We need to build a public safety department that can better deal with folks in crisis, domestic violence, substance abuse and has deeper insights into racial bias. We must hire, train and retain officers and staff who are deeply committed to addressing the needs of our citizens in ways that are nonviolent and most appropriate given their specific situation.
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: When we were building the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, we spent 2+ years working with communities and stakeholders to determine the best location for the center. We had a thorough process and showcased the results, so everyone understood who was involved and how we had made recommendations. We were also clear about the cost and operating implications of various options. This process led to broad support of the location and ultimately a successful project. This illustrates how I would go about building input and alignment regarding significant decisions like the training center.
Q: Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: I support the building of a new training facility. However, I am still concerned that the environmental impact of the Key Road site is too high. If Key Road is the ultimate destination, we need to make additional and different investments to lower the environmental impact of the facility on the site and the city overall.
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 turn to several experts, including former officers, individuals I’ve worked with regarding security at the Woodruff and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, as well as public safety academic experts. The most important fact I’ve learned is that approaches are available and proven for addressing different kinds of calls and situations with different skill sets.
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: The City of Atlanta should focus on investing in early childhood education and care, after-school programs, and summer programs and internships so that students are ready to learn, have great experiences in addition to school and see affordable and local options for spending their time. These investments will also help parents have a more affordable approach to childcare.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: I am the only candidate who is a three-time CEO with a proven commitment to this city. I’ve demonstrated my commitment to service through my work at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Woodruff Arts Center, and BrightHouse Consulting. I have deep community connections, including my service with the Anti-Defamation League, the Carter Presidential Center, the Islamic Speakers Bureau, Easter Seals, Midtown Alliance, and Out of Hand Theater. I have experiences working across communities and sectors in Atlanta that I will bring to create collaboration and engagement to move Atlanta forward.
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