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Natalyn M Archibong is running for Atlanta City Council President.
Candidate website: www.archibongforatl.com
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
Since 2001, my primary job has been representing the citizens living in District 5 on the Atlanta City Council. There, I have served as President Pro Tempore and as chair of various committees, including: Community Development/Human Services Committee, Committee on Council and City Utilities. I currently serve as chair of the City Utilities Committee. Outside of City Hall, I am a member of the Georgia Family Connections Partnership Board of Directors and the Pension Board of Trustees for the Atlanta City Employees’ Pension Fund. I’ve served as a trustee of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, the Atlanta Beltline Inc., and Invest Atlanta. I am also a member of the East Atlanta Community Association and advisory board member of the Oakland Foundation Board and of Sweet Auburn Works. In addition to my civic responsibilities, I am a bankruptcy and family law attorney.
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
My constituents are most concerned with the link between poverty and crime. The rising cost of living, lack of upward economic mobility and educational disparities contribute to Atlanta’s uptick in violent crime. Similarly, mistrust between the community and law enforcement; and constituents and government contribute to the assumption the city is not working hard enough to solve crime in our city. I am the best candidate to address this issue because I have a proven track record of maintaining a strong relationship between the community and the police. For the past 19 years, I have been the only city councilmember whose staff includes a full-time retired Atlanta Police Officer working as the District 5 Public Safety Liaison. Another example of my commitment to restoring the relationship between the police and the community, is my vote against authorizing a 50-year lease between the city and the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF).
How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
Affordability is not just a rental or mortgage payment. Affordability should be defined as the overall cost of living to have a meaningful and productive life for yourself and family. To make Atlanta more affordable, we must first invest in affordable housing. As Council President, I’m dedicated to finding a dedicated revenue stream to incentive developers to build affordable housing units. I plan to work with our City Law Department to determine if the city could authorize a private placement bond offering that would be offered to Atlanta’s largest private foundations, corporate foundations, financial and pension funds. As envisioned, these bonds would be self-amortizing and the repayment of these bonds would not create a burden on the general fund. Additionally, I look forward the policy recommendation developed by the City Affordable Housing Commission. I am proud of my work in drafting the legislation that created the council’s first commission dedicated exclusively to addressing our affordability housing crisis.
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?
The City Council is a co-equal branch of the city government and must be a check on the mayoral administration’s power of the purse. Council must hold the administration accountable by increasing public input and transparency in the procurement and spending process. I support expanding the current online dashboard that tracks government spending to include subcontractor payments, vendor expenses and project delivery timelines. I will also ensure the Inspector General, an office I helped establish, will have the latitude to broadly evaluate the use of city resources. No city employee or elected official is above the law. The Inspector General must have full discretion to investigate waste and fraud within City Hall.
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?
Both historic events of 2020, showed that city leaders should have worked more diligently and proactively to address at least two major crises that were already facing our city. For instance, we already had data that demonstrated health disparities among our black and brown citizens. This disparity was magnified during the pandemic. Similarly, we knew about the income inequality challenges that existed in our city pre-pandemic. We had taken some preliminary steps to address these issues, but the riots that erupted following the murder of George Floyd, and the fact that black and brown workers were largely the front line workers who were at the greatest health risk during the pandemic, showed that we should have done more. As a political leader, I’ve learned that reacting to a crisis is not nearly as important as creating policy that is proactive in preventing the next inevitable crisis from worsening pre-existing conditions.
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 robust public engagement process must be the prerequisite in any planning, zoning, and redevelopment project. While I agree that the police need a new training facility, the lack of public involvement and the top-down approach from the police foundation convinced me to proudly vote “no” on the proposal. As Council President, I will ensure that every major proposal that comes before the council is presented to the public for the comment and input prior to a final vote.
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?
Retired police officer Valencia Hudson. I hired Valencia during my first term in office to be the district 5 public safety liaison. She epitomizes community-oriented policing. For her entire time on the police force, she lived in the community she served. The neighbors knew her and trusted her, and she knew them. That’s how we begin to make our communities safer: building strong community-oriented relationships and providing adequate training and fair compensation to ensure our officers feel valued as they work hard to keep us safe. Today, Valencia continues to advise my office by providing qualitative and quantitative data on policing and crime in the community. I know that District 5 is safer with citizens that trust law enforcement because of Valencia’s work in my office.
What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
As Council President, I will work with APS to establish a program identifying at-risk students who are facing food and housing insecurity and will work with their community partners to help these families. Additionally, I will reconvene the 6-member joint committee between the City Council and the Atlanta School Board. This group will meet monthly to determine ways to strengthen our collaborative efforts around summer and afterschool programming, connections with Work source Atlanta, and with Atlanta Housing and other partners. I will also work with the Small Business Advisory Council to identify barriers to the economic success of our business owners. These business owners are often the first employers of Atlanta’s youth.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
It has been my life’s privilege to represent District 5 on the Atlanta City Council for over twenty years. Frankly, I never thought I would run for higher office. But given the tumultuous past few years, our current council president running for mayor, and the multitude of pressing issues facing this city, I recognized and followed this call to serve our beloved city at a new and higher level. In this higher office, I’ll continue being a fierce advocate for affordable housing initiatives; securing funding for green-space and infrastructure upgrades; and improving public safety by addressing the underlying causes of crime and strengthening the relationship between community and police. Frankly, this is not a time for on-the-job training for anyone seeking the 2nd highest office in our city. I have proven record of being independent and never forgetting the importance of listening to the will of the people.
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