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Mandy Mahoney is running for City Council District 5.
Candidate website: www.mandy4atlanta.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Currently I serve in an advisory capacity to the Southeastern Energy Efficiency Alliance, where I served as executive director for the past decade. Prior to that position, I was appointed as the first Sustainability Director for the City of Atlanta by Mayor Shirley Franklin and was among the founding team of the Atlanta BeltLine. I also currently serve on the Board of Directors for the East Lake YMCA, Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: Public safety is the most pressing issue facing my constituents because an Atlanta where everyone thrives is not possible until all residents are safe at home, work, and in their communities. Addressing public safety and crime requires both urgency and persistence as there are short term actions we can take but the underlying systemic reasons for crime are driven by education, inequality, and mental health. I am the only candidate in the District 5 race with a proven track record of making change at City Hall. From my time working for Mayor Shirley Franklin to my work throughout the region advancing affordable housing policy, I am ready to get to work on day one. My education, ability to work with both the grassroots and grasstops, and my inclusive leadership style position me as the best candidate to address the complex and urgent issues facing our communities.
Q: How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
A: There are a number of needs related to affordability in Atlanta: 1) the ability of legacy residents to remain in their homes, 2) the creation of new workforce housing for teachers, first responders, and front-line workers and 3) secure, stable housing for members of our community making less than 50% of the median income. To address these needs I would create a revolving loan program to provide capital funding that supplements projects applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the state, leverage city-owned property to create affordable housing developments close to schools and jobs, institute transparency and reporting practices that hold all parties accountable for their responsibility in creating greater access to safe and economical homes, and improve flexibility in zoning laws.
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: In life and in business, the most effective way to rebuild trust is to acknowledge fault and find meaningful ways to follow through on promises. It is no different for the City of Atlanta. It will be critical for the next mayor and city council to take responsibility and move into action to improve essential city services – 911 response times, waste collection, and infrastructure repair. I believe the Office of the Inspector General is an important function in the city. As a council member, I will ensure we retain that office and fully resource it in the next administration. At the district level, I will implement participatory budgeting on day one. Participatory budgeting establishes a process for residents and business owners to transparently select how the district’s discretionary funds are used. I will use stakeholder engagement processes that go beyond the NPU and neighborhood association level and connect directly to residents.
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: Planning and community engagement in conjunction with being sensitive and transparent to trends building from what some argue are merely isolated events is essential. The issues of police brutality and racial justice have been present for a long time. If we had opened our eyes and listened deeper to those affected in frontline communities earlier, much more information could have been unearthed and solutions implemented. The same challenge applies to our public health response. Our responses to the pandemic over the past 20 months have shown a lack of preparation, an absence of educational efforts to inform the public, and a safe and appropriate response to the crisis. Servant leadership requires leadership for the public good based on fact, engaging with constituents, addressing their fears, allocating resources to prepare us for future challenges tomorrow and telling hard truths. I will bring that kind of leadership to the City Council District 5 seat.
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 am a “both-and” leader rather than an “either-or” leader. We must engage both residents and civic leaders in order to discover, develop, and implement the best ideas for addressing public safety and community cohesion in Atlanta. My leadership approach is grounded in the belief that all stakeholders deserve an opportunity to provide input into decisions impacting their lives. Stakeholder input is an important complement to the essential work of policymakers and subject matter experts. I seek out diverse and often disparate perspectives and create processes that are inclusive and respectful of individuals.
Q: Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
A: Transparency has been lacking in many of the decisions the City of Atlanta has made in recent years and no decision highlights this more than the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center debate. The proposed center location has brought out a public interest and involvement that has been missing from many of our city’s conversations. I am running for City Council not only to be a better advocate for my constituents, but also to better advocate for the city government that Atlantan’s need and deserve. Our city government cannot and should not make decisions in a vacuum and ignore the needs of stakeholders whether it be our law enforcement officers or the community at large. I am committed to making city government a place where issues are debated in an open and honest process that facilitates the best path forward for our city.
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: I am fortunate to hear from residents, community leaders, and public safety professionals as I seek to understand and develop solutions for addressing crime in Atlanta. One expert to whom I turn for guidance is Karla Baldini, a senior law enforcement officer with the Atlanta Police Department and public safety consultant. Karla is also an East Lake resident and volunteer leader of the East Lake Security Patrol. She educated me on the lack of vehicles and equipment as well as the abysmal state of the police training center. It is common knowledge that we need to hire more officers but we must also properly resource the department. Sufficient resources not only support APD’s responsiveness, they also improve morale and retention.
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: As an independent education system from the city government, it is critical that Atlanta Public Schools and the City of Atlanta have a strong, cooperative partnership. Atlanta’s students and families cannot reach their full potential without safe, prosperous communities. The Mayor’s office should work in partnership with APS to advance affordable housing goals, connect students and families to municipal resources, and strengthen public safety. Additionally, the city, school system, and county governments should work together to ensure that property taxes rates are best serving their constituents and are strategically aligned with one another.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: Atlanta must integrate climate change into our infrastructure planning like other major cities such as Chicago and New York. Having spent the last 15 years as a national leader on climate and energy issues, I have a clear idea of what the City Council can do to combat climate change. We should require city infrastructure projects to incorporate sustainability goals and consider climate change impacts. Atlanta has already set aggressive goals to get to 100% renewable energy but we have to pass ordinances that will enable us to achieve that goal. We must maximize energy efficiency and utilize renewable energy on city buildings and make it more cost effective for homes and businesses to maximize energy efficiency and utilize renewable energy. Furthermore, we need to dust off the Resilient Atlanta plan and put it to work.
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