Jason Winston is running for Atlanta City Council District 1.
Candidate website: www.jasonwinston.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: I am a small business owner, my company Winston Media Group is a Marketing Consulting Agency. I’m also a part-time instructor at Georgia State University where I teach Social Media Marketing, and I have been a long-time volunteer in my district. I started volunteering at the Boy & Girls club almost 15 years ago as a coach/mentor for children in my community. I later joined the Grant Park Conservancy board of directors in 2015 and co-chaired the Summer Shade Festival from 2016-2018. The festival is Grant Park’s largest fundraiser and during my tenure as co-chair over $200,000 was raised for Grant Park. I later co-chaired the board of directors and helped lead the organization through a large historic preservation project which included over $500,000 in upgrades to the park, and worked closely with the City of Atlanta’s Parks and Recreation department during the construction of the $45 Million Gateway Parking Project that opened in Grant Park in winter of 2020.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: Transportation. For a city to thrive, it needs to be accessible. Investing in transportation means cleaner air, less congestion and more job and educational opportunities for people. I didn’t have a car for two years when I moved to Atlanta and relied on MARTA for transportation. That’s why I’m personally committed to additional investment in MARTA. With the “More MARTA” program, we have a huge opportunity to expand Atlanta transit and make our city cleaner and more connected. I will work to expand our Transportation options and prioritize the safety of all Atlanta residents and that includes making our streets safer for pedestrians, bikers, and scooters. That also means working to ensure our city streets and sidewalks are 100% ADA compliant and safe for wheelchairs and strollers. We must also prioritize more, “Complete Streets,” projects throughout the city to safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, and vehicle traffic in dedicated transit lanes.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: It is imperative the City of Atlanta make access to affordable housing a top priority. Affordable housing is important for Atlanta to continue to remain an attractive place for people and businesses to relocate for a better quality of life. The housing deficit and rising rental costs are large barriers that keep us from succeeding on this front. Currently, there does not seem to be enough coordination between the City’s various housing agencies. I believe we should create a Cabinet-level housing position to better coordinate and facilitate resources to address Atlanta’s house shortage. The city, through Invest Atlanta, and Atlanta Housing owns over 800 acres of underutilized land. We should consider prioritizing this land for Affordable Housing. I also believe that an additional prioritization of the development should be focused near transit and jobs.
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: The stewardship and accountability of the management of city resources is critical. We must eliminate the apparent enticements for fraud and abuse by creating a checks and balance system that performs periodic audits of all our city employees who are charged at every level with committing and expending city resources. The results of these audits must be made public to give our citizens a transparent view of where and how their resources are being managed. Relying on long-after-the-fact reviews allows for the potential for fraud and abuse to go on unchecked for an unreasonable amount of time. I am also committed to making sure we continue to make our procurement process transparent and ensuring the ongoing independence of the Office of Inspector General.
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: Atlanta has an opportunity to be a leading voice in addressing economic mobility and the racial wealth gap. If elected, I will be a strong advocate of workplace development and education. My office will work with all major stakeholders to advance legislation and policies that work to close the racial wealth gap by addressing and leaning into diversity, equity and inclusion and by recognizing individual talents of all individuals. I strongly believe we must commit to existing economic development tools that have helped foster private market investment like tax credits, TADs, and other funding mechanisms designed to provide access to more funding. I will also work to make sure these resources are made readily available to legacy and minority-owned businesses. Sponsoring initiatives such as city sponsored job fairs will highlight the need for workers in particular areas to prospective employees.
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 support a bottom-up approach that involves having a substantial community engagement process. I also want to make sure we engage citizens who have not traditionally participated in our neighborhood or NPU meetings, like renters. We must make sure members of the community have a voice in shaping the future of their neighborhoods and that they are afforded an opportunity to benefit from the growth happening in our city.
Q: Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: Our police and firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our families daily. They deserve a state-of-the-art training facility so they too can feel safe when they’re keeping us safe. However, the proposed training center’s location threatens the volatile ecosystem that surrounds the South River, and I believe the process lacked substantive community engagement with the communities impacted the most. So, in that sense, I think a bottom-up approach is key – especially when so many people who are traditionally underrepresented are impacted. I completely understand the need for an updated training facility however, it must be in the right location. I do not support the location on Key Road for these reasons.
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: Chris Newman is the NPU-W Public Safety Chair where I reside. He has worked very collaboratively with our Zone 6 Major, Peter Ries, and our Beat Officers. During my tenure on the Grant Park Conservancy Board, I worked closely with Chris to address our park safety and homelessness issues. He has been a great resource for me on understanding the crime in our community and I have learned from him that we must maintain an open line of communication with police and other first responders to address our community safety concerns.
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: If we believe that our children deserve a bright future, then we must invest in our schools. I will work with the APS school board to support what is working for all kids. If elected, I will focus on safeguarding District 1’s public schools with the understanding that parents must prioritize what is important to them for their children’s education. We must make sure our schools are provided the funding to develop curriculum and purchase equipment.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: My business background, community volunteer work and experience leading the Grant Park Conservancy has prepared me for the work of a City Council representative for my district. I have worked closely with city officials and community leaders for over 14 years to make my community a better place to live, for everyone. I hope to continue serving my community at a higher level.
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