Russell Hopson is running for Atlanta City Council District 1.
Candidate website: www.russellfordistrict1.com
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
Business Development Specialist – Amedisys Home Health
New Leaders Council – National Training Co-Lead
Atlanta Beltline 67 – Founding Member
Morehouse Healthcare – Board of Trustees Member
Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center – Community Coalition Board Member
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. – Eta Lambda Chapter
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
Housing insecurity. An enormous number of residents in District 1 are on the brink of not being able to afford their rent, mortgage and/or taxes. As the moratorium on evictions and mortgage delinquency ends an enormous number will be displaced, causing a spike in homelessness and related quality of life issues. As an NPU Chair and member of the Empower committee of the Atlanta Beltline 67 I helped many of my neighbors appeal their taxes, locate and apply for rent/mortgage assistance, and connect with organizations and nonprofits providing housing assistance for individuals and families down on their luck. I am also proud to be from a neighborhood, Historic South Atlanta, that welcomes individuals of any income and doesn’t mind having Senior Living facilities and transitional housing.I am dedicated to protecting our residents and have a legacy of making sure our longtime residents don’t get forced out.
How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
Affordability is not a universally applicable word nowadays in Atlanta. There needs to be a complete re-envisioning of Area Median Income (AMI) and the qualifications for builders to be approved for multi-income housing. Currently AMI for Atlanta is determined by averaging household incomes from Atlanta, Roswell and Sandy Springs; those hold vastly different communities. I think AMI needs to be determined by the zip code of a development and it’s closest three adjoining zip codes. Additionally, if that cannot be done in the short term new developments should be compelled to have at least a minimum 30% of units priced at 30% AMI.
City Hall has been dogged by an apparently ongoing federal investigation involving accusations of corruption in the previous mayoral administration. What do you see as the role of the City Council in holding the Administration accountable and in helping restore public trust on matters of staff spending and contract procurement?
City Council should be the checks and balancing system for the Executive Branch of our city government. Council should be fervently responsible for demanding transparency and holding the Mayor’s office accountable for the entirety of their policies and transactions. This transparency is paramount to rebuilding the public trust in City Hall. We as a community need to know that those elected to serve will do just that with transparency and honesty. I also know the School Board should be the third arm of accountability for city government generating synergy and cross-functionality across branches.
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?
Our city government has to champion progressive policies regarding public health and public safety. They must also be willing to legally fight the governor’s office if they allow partisan politics to usurp common sense public policies that protect our citizens. Our police officers also need ongoing training surrounding cultural sensitivity, conflict resolution, de-escalation and addressing mental health and homeless-related calls. These are just the facts and it is finally time we address them head on in order to embrace our diversity and protect our citizens.
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?
Atlanta city policies should not continue to echo practices anchored in environmental racism. The concept being that certain projects are always earmarked near communities of color and lower income. The locations of projects and facilities like these need to be considered for their proximity to other less-than-favorable developments. In addition public response and opinion are our guide and should be sought prior to proposing such projects, not after.
Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
I do not. As I have said before, it echoes principles of environmental racism. It is clear the overwhelming majority of our community do not want to see this built, I know we should listen to them. If the City Council does not, we cannot claim to represent them. This was clear and I know the City made the wrong decision on this.
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?
As an NPU chair, and a citizen, I have consistently sought the insight of my APD Zone Major and public safety personnel who work my beat. I recently met with our current Zone 3 leadership to apprise myself of current staffing, initiatives and concerns regarding District 1 and neighboring communities. It is my experience that our public safety personnel are far more progressive and engaged than most major city police forces but they are under-resourced. They are open to working hand in hand with engaged communities on public safety and I believe that to be the foundation of positive and engaged public safety.
What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
It is amazing that only recently has there been a combined City Council and School Board Committee formed for collaboration and cross-functionality. We can all agree that fresh eyes create better perspective and aptitude for problem solving. I feel that this committee should become permanent and open to the public moving forward for feedback and transparency. Doing what is best for our children, families and teachers often starts with being able to support them in the classroom and on the playground. We can help coordinate with the School Board to make sure children have a safe walk to school and teachers can afford to live in the communities they teach in.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
As an NPU Chair and mentor, neighborhood leader and advocate, Russell Hopson has worked to improve District 1 for nearly 20 years. He’s running for City Council to apply years of experience making a positive impact at City Hall.
Service and accountability are at the foundation of Russell Hopson’s nearly twenty years as a homeowner and community leader, mentor and advocate for City Council District 1. Hopson chaired Neighborhood Planning Unit Y for four years, and also served as neighborhood president of South Atlanta Civic League. In both roles, he united neighbors behind connectivity, beautification, sustainability, public safety and civic engagement while advocating for neighborhood solidarity. As the next Councilmember for District 1, he is focused on establishing true equity across District 1 communities through scalable growth, greater connectivity between neighborhoods, more consciously applied public safety, improved educational opportunities and safe and affordable living for a variety of income levels.
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