Mark Hammad is running for mayor of Atlanta.
Candidate website: www.Hammad4ATL.com
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
Consultant – Secretariat Intl
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
The biggest issue is obviously crime. I am the only candidate who has taken the time to review the data and reports available from both the police and the courts; and I am the only candidate who has specific policy solutions that will be most effective at reducing the crime.
On crime, we need to direct our action appropriately. THE POLICE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INCREASE IN CRIME! The APD has been doing their job. While I will increase the APD staffing, this will not stem the flow of crime.
I will work with the APD, DA’s office, and the courts to bring greater consistency and more accountability to the criminals. The focus would be on the most serious crimes and criminals – repeat and violent offenders. We will work to make sure that criminals are accountable and face jail time, bringing justice and dignity to the victims.
How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
I define affordable housing as housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families. The housing market is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many due to the simple supply & demand imbalance. There has not been enough supply of housing built over the last decade. This is especially acute in growing areas like Atlanta. As a result, the demand for housing is outstripping the supply and is driving both home and rent prices up.
The scale and need for affordable housing in immense – tens of thousands of new units are needed. This is beyond the capacity that the City can provide alone. I will work and partner with housing developers to get these units built quickly and most cost effectively. Further, I will prioritize for development vacant and underutilized property that is located close to Marta stations and in established commercial corridors.
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?
Corruption will not be allowed in my administration. Within City Hall, my #1 priority is to stamp out all waste, fraud, and abuse.
Ethics, transparency, and accountability are a core personal belief of mine. These aren’t just words – I live it. I have decided not to take a dime of campaign contributions specifically to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest or influence.
I will restore trust through actions and transparency. On action, I will set up better monitoring and controls of contracts and purchases. My goal is that any contract or purchase should be able to pass a rigorous audit without any blemishes.
To provide better transparency, I will set up an independent commission, with unwavering access to investigate any claims of waste, fraud, or abuse in City Hall. This commission would be beyond the reach of influence or interference from the Mayor’s office or any other department.
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?
There are three lessons I observed as a citizen during the last year. The first is leadership – a Mayor needs to be accessible and visible during difficult times. The Mayor needs to serve as a sounding board for the public and be empathetic.
The second lesson is that many felt that their voices weren’t heard. We need to provide an environment for respectful discourse and discussion where all can feel that they are listened to and heard.
The third lesson is to seek continuous improvement within the city. We need continuous review of processes and policies. Times change, our citizens evolve and progress. Our city, and the policies of the city need to keep up and be able to adapt.
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?
The public safety training center was a contentious issue for a myriad of reasons and the decision to build or not and the location would have been controversial, no matter what. Alternate locations floated that were outside the city were derided since many were vocal that the facility should be in the city limits and benefit the city.
The planning process needs to balance growth and development with the input from specific neighborhoods and communities. We have to ensure that all neighborhoods are benefiting from development, without the development being forced or not desired by the neighborhood.
This process starts by reinforcing the NPU system that we already have. We can use this to gather bottom-up input from each neighborhood with what the needs are for each community and what development meets those needs.
Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
Yes, I support the councils and Mayors decision to approve the location of the facility. This is an amazing opportunity for the city. First, the city will get a world class facility that will help usher in a new era for public safety. Second, the city does not have to put in any funds – the facility is being supported by private donations.
There are additional benefits for residents and the neighbors in the area, the facility concept includes accessible walking trails and green space. Further, the construction of the facility may spark new development in the area that can bring jobs and amenities in an area that has been traditionally overlooked when it comes to development.
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?
The experts on crime are the police and the courts. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel – both the courts and the police provide reports that give a clear picture of crime and crime trends in the city. Further, many third party think tanks and organizations review and analyze this data as well.
The conclusions from the most recent crime data are unanimous that the increase in crime and violent crime is driven by repeat offenders. Further, the most disturbing finding is that many of these violent offenders have not served any jail time or had their cases adjudicated. Violent, repeat offenders are not facing any accountability for their crimes and victims are getting no justice.
The other key conclusion from the data is that the police are doing their job. Even though they are short staffed, they are keeping up investigating, solving, and closing cases.
What are some areas of opportunity for the mayor’s office to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
City Hall and APS need to form a better and closer working relationship. Right now, on average, APS is not producing positive outcomes for the students and graduates. In fact, more than half of the students are not proficient in grade level math or reading. APS is producing outcomes that perpetuate, not break, generation poverty and limit socioeconomic mobility. As a city, this is not desirable and we need better outcomes for our citizens.
The best areas to partner with APS is to reinforce and provide closer coordination on existing social services and programs. Additionally, for high school students, the city and APS can better coordinate on job development and job placement programs. The primary function of APS is to ensure that the students are college or career ready. To the extent that existing programs in the city can enhance the education provided by APS, the better.
Describe how you envision Invest Atlanta operating under your administration. What changes, if any, would you implement?
Invest Atlanta (IA), like any other public facing entity, needs to be run with the utmost transparency. Under my administration, I would remove all conflicts of interest or even the appearance of conflicts of interest or unethical behavior from IA. IA has faced well deserved scrutiny in the past for conflicts of interest, lack of due diligence, and the appearance of corporate favoritism. All of this would end under my administration.
In addition, I would revisit all previous IA approvals for prior projects and ensure that all of the partners and parties are meeting their promises and obligations (for example the promises made by the gulch developers).
Lastly, I want to make sure that the limited resources that IA has are used most efficiently and effectively. We need to be able to stretch the funds for maximum impact, all while meeting the goals and mission of IA.
Explain your leadership style and how it would best serve the people of Atlanta.
Being Mayor gives me the opportunity to do great things for this city and transform the city – I truly believe this. I expect my staff to have the same mindset. This isn’t a regular job and successes and failures are magnified at this level. My leadership style is to lead by example.
As Mayor, I am accountable for EVERYTHING that occurs in City Hall and ignorance is not an excuse. It is my job to know and understand what is going on within each department and that they are functioning to the highest extent possible.
Lastly, no one will work harder than me to ensure that the vision for the city is executed. I am well aware that this is not a 9-5 job, its 24/7. I believe that demonstrating this work ethic is a key leadership trait and is a motivating factor for the leadership and other city employees.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
For undecided voters, ask yourself: are we headed in the right direction? The status quo is NOT working and we need change. We need an outsider in the Mayors office who will not be conducting business as usual. I am that outsider; I will bring change and I bring REAL policy solutions.
I am the ONLY candidate who has been transparent about the issues and my specific policy solutions and priorities since day one. I have not altered or strayed at all from this. I have not changed positions when convenient. I don’t have political consultants or rely on polls to tell me what positions to take. I have not and will not pander to any group or audience and I will not promise what I cannot deliver.
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