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Jason Dozier is running for Atlanta City Council District 4.
Candidate website: www.votedozier.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Currently employed at Director of Program Operations and Evaluation at Hire Heroes USA.
Intrenchment Creek Community Stewardship Council, founder and Co-Chair
BeltLine Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee, former board member
Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, former board member
Advance Atlanta, former board member
Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, former steering committee member
Mechanicsville Civic Association, former board member
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: The #1 issue facing the residents of District 4 is displacement. Families who built Atlanta can no longer afford to stay in the city and reap the benefits they’re owed from years of investing in our culture and history. The lapse of the eviction moratorium exacerbates something that’s already been happening-our residents, neighborhoods, and institutions are changing at such a rapid pace that we’re at risk of losing what makes our city so special. It’s traumatic. And I know how traumatic it is because I’ve experienced displacement, eviction, and homelessness. My experience haunts me, and it absolutely drives me in my run for Atlanta City Council. But unfortunately, it’s not my experience alone. Fulton County has one of the highest eviction rates in the country and I’ve seen many of my neighbors experience displacement in real time. And this is all happening at such a rapid pace. We’ve got to address displacement immediately.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: Affordability is relative to individual households, and our housing policies must be responsive to that reality. Affordability is typically defined as when housing costs encompass less than 30% of household spending, but this model is insufficient considering transportation and utilities costs can radically transform the ability of households to make ends meet. Everyone should be able to live in the community of their choosing, and Atlanta needs to do more to protect both legacy residents and the next generation of young talent and leaders who can no longer afford to stay in the communities who raised them. No individual policy is a cure-all, but I support expanding funding for land bank, expanding inclusionary zoning, and working with partners to developer new tax exemptions for cost-burdened property owners.
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 can restore public trust but giving citizens greater access to the information that drives the day-to-day operations of the city. Developing robust and open data portals would aid in transparency. Many city departments lack the resources and staff to address myriad open records requests, or even routine information requests, from the general public. But by committing to open data, citizens, nonprofit organizations, and private companies can help the city streamline its processes and potentially identify problems before they arise. Open data would also allow for better monitoring of campaign contributions at the local level. Currently, the city uploads disclosure reports through a confusing website which compiles difficult-to-search .pdf documents which are only accessible through a cumbersome user interface. Comparatively, state contributions are scannable and reportable through simple keyword searches, and I believe Atlanta should implement a similar searchable database.
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: I recognize the role that housing security plays in helping families get access to the health and support services that they need to survive. The City of Atlanta explored this reasoning through a partnership with one of our downtown hotel chains. Because the hotel was already dealing with low occupancy, it’s management staff offered beds and rooms for homeless residents, ultimately making it easier to provide sanctuary to those at extremely high risk for COVID-19 infection. Beyond these immediate health implications, with secure housing, families in need can receive necessary resources to get back on their feet. Beyond housing, I recognize that not every resident in need is homeless, but many are at risk of being displaced. Direct payments to families for aid including rent and mortgage assistance would go a long way towards ensuring that basic needs are being met, and that health services are available and accessible to those in the most need.
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: I will empower citizens to be informed, engaged, and to hold their elected officials accountable by fighting to:
-Improve awareness of citizen-led meetings and community gatherings by communicating directly with constituents and investing in improved signage and wayfinding
-Lower the barriers to participation in government by streaming videos of community meetings online and exploring child-care and transportation options for citizens
-Reform the Neighborhood Planning Unit system, investing in additional staff and resources to standardize and streamline the system across the city
-Incorporate participatory budgeting processes to ensure that the allocation of monies from the annual District 4 discretionary fund are community-driven.
Q: Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: As an environmental justice organizer and community leader that’s been actively working in the Intrenchment Creek watershed for years, I’ve been opposed to the redevelopment of the Atlanta Prison Farm since the beginning. I believe that the community engagement process was broken from the start and that it’s only worsened tensions at an already critical time for this city. The competing visions, competing priorities, planning in silos, and lack of central leadership have all poisoned this process and any deliberate actions to address these issues would have defused a lot of the tensions. Mega development projects can reshape whole cities and regions, let alone communities and neighborhoods. The public needs a say too, and I intend to make sure that happens. Robust community engagement is ugly. It’s messy. And it’s slow. But it’s necessary.
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: Conversations with the Pre-Arrest Diversion team have been an invaluable resource for me and have greatly expanded my understanding of ways we can address public safety outside of traditional models of policing. Through these conversations, I learned more about why we must change the culture of policing by emphasizing diversions as public safety outcomes rather than relying on arrest statistics to drive our understanding of success. Arrests are often the primary metric used for officer evaluations (which are linked to promotions and authorization to work off-duty), which further disincentivizes officers from using our diversion programs in the first place. For PAD to be successful, not only must it be fully-staffed and fully-funded, but it also needs to be prioritized by APD.
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: We must develop effective partnerships between Invest Atlanta, WorkSource Atlanta, and Atlanta Public Schools that can help facilitate internships, apprenticeship opportunities, and work experience for students to aid in career exploration and development of soft skills. Reopening and resourcing our recreation centers could present our youth with vocational, recreational, and learning opportunities that promote personal growth and social development.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: Out of a sincere love for this community, I ran for this exact seat in 2017. As a first time candidate, I took a then-six-term incumbent into a runoff for the first time in her career. In the end, I lost by just 240 votes, one of the tightest margins of any race in that year’s municipal elections. Four years later, I’m back to finish what I started, and I believe our voters are ready to embrace the change that our district deserves. The issues I’m fighting to solve are based on my lived experience organizing in marginalized communities across southwest Atlanta. At the end of the day, families who built Atlanta are getting displaced and can no longer afford to stay in this city or reap the benefits that come from years of investing in our culture and our history. We have to remedy that, and it’s why I’m running.
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