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Todd Gray is running for Atlanta City Council, Post 1 At-Large.
Campaign website: https://toddagray.com/
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
- National Director Supplier Diversity, Kaiser Permanente
Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council – Past Vice Chair
- Atlanta Business League Board – Innovation Co-Chair
- National Healthcare Supplier Diversity Alliance – board member
- South-Fork Conservancy – Board member
- Villages at Carver YMCA – Board member
- City of Atlanta Ethics Board – previous vice chair ;
- Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council – Awarded Diverse Business Advocate of the year in both 2015 and 2017
- Greater Women’s Business Council – Atlanta 2016 Advocate of the year for Women-Owned Businesses
- Atlanta Business Journal 2008 top 50 rising stars in Atlanta
- Georgia Hispanic Chamber of commerce corporate member
- US Pan-Asain Chamber of Commerce – SouthEast corporate member
- Georgia Small Business Mentor Protege Program Mentor and Sponsor
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
Safety. As a former APD employee,I know first hand the issues facing the police force, and the community. We must hire and train enough officers to place them on the street and in places where they are seen and unseen. We must engage in auxiliary units to handle non-violent crime and traffic, so that our highest trained officers are available for the more severe situations. We must work together to prevent crime as much as we are working to punish our most violent. The City, our justice system, and county partners must collaborate to approach this problem on both fronts. With my experience, I will reimagine policing – ensuring we implement a community based policing model to increase rapport with our citizens, and law enforcement. We must deal with mental health and homelessness with empathy, and a well assessed manner.
How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
Affordable housing is 30% AMI, including utilities. As a Council member, I will negotiate with all stakeholder parties to ensure that the affordability matrix is adhered to throughout the City of Atlanta. Right now longtime residents are being priced out of their neighborhoods and wages can barely pay rent in most places. This is disproportionately impacting minority communities across the country. There are many tools the City has to combat this that are not currently being utilized. Working with the County Probate Judge to better inform our senior citizens about wills and trusts so their property is not lost. Continuously updating our affordability scale so that those living and working here can afford to stay. We also need to work with developers to ensure housing of all levels is built in the SAME neighborhood creating equity in housing access across our City.
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?
As a former Vice Chair of the Atlanta City Ethics Board and as a career expert in Supplier Diversity I have a unique ability to help resolve this ongoing crisis that continues to erode trust in City Hall. When I speak about bringing fresh ethical leadership to City Council this is a big part of what I am talking about. As servant leaders we need to restore the public trust, with transparency, accountability, and diversity. This includes all levels of leadership, and I promise to bring that ethical accountability to the City Council. As the Vice chair of Atlanta’s Ethics board I have imposed advisory opinions and fought unethical behavior. I was already directly responsible for the hiring of Atlanta’s first ever Inspector General giving the office subpoena powers and further legal oversight.
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?
It was clear that the economic and health crisis disproportionately impacted communities of color. We need to ensure that in the future our city is prepared for a continuity of city services by funding and standing up an emergency constituent services, permitting, and economic recovery office so there is no delay in meeting our citizens’ challenged times. We also need to do a better job of working with our medical and public health communities to reach those communities that are most impacted by a crisis like this.
As for racial justice and police brutality we have to allow our citizens to express their first amendment right to protest and voice concerns. We will hold officers and all violent offenders accountable for their actions. Beyond that, by implementing community policing methods and with proper training we can ensure our City remains safe and officers never use excessive force.
Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
No, I do not support the facility on Key Road. In regards to cop city (the location of a public safety training center) we saw City Council ignore the will of the people. However, I do support a constituent desired top quality public safety training facilities to recruit, train, and retain an adequate count of top tier law enforcement; which will be in the best interest of our public safety, and tax dollars. When planning developments it takes time and we need to make sure that all stakeholders have a seat and voice at the table. If a developer brings a plan to City Council I see it as our job to make sure we represent Atlanta’s best interests and not just developers. I am a servant leader here to bring fresh ethical leadership that actually represents the people of the city.
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?
Not only do I have my experience in working for Atlanta Police Department to rely on, but I also heavily rely on the Social, Civic, and Nonprofit community organizations here in our City to help me learn and grow in my understanding. With their insight and experience I see how they are often more prepared to handle mental health and homelessness responses before they become criminalized by police response.
What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
First and foremost I think we need to evaluate and ensure that any tax abatement or allocation does not impact the quality of support and education in APS. If a single penny does not have a return on investment for our students, it is not a good investment.
I also realize that as Council members we need to advocate for a standard in education, affordable housing, and pay equity among our teachers or we will further widen the gap in early childhood education and graduation rates in our City. We must always be active in addressing our constituents’ concerns in any way we can.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
I am an Atlanta native that wants to see my home, this city move forward and reveal its promise. I believe that everyone that comes into our city deserves to be and feel safe, know their leadership is working for them in an ethical and equitable manner and use all of our resources to solve our cities ills. I have also dedicated my time to bettering my community through service and giving back. Using the connections I have made through business to show young people that their birthplace does not have to determine their destination. I believe my service to this city in my professional and private life has prepared me to step into this role to represent every citizen in Atlanta. I have a record of demonstrating how collaboration and the rising tides theory can better Atlanta and beyond.
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