Ceasar Mitchell
Following are Mitchell's responses to the ThreadATL Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire, 2017
Parking question
ThreadATL: "The ubiquity of free/cheap parking is considered a threat to walkable cities and to the competitiveness of public transit. Are there parking-management strategies, or zoning changes, that you would put in place to decrease automobile dependence and increase walkability?"

Response...

Atlanta voters approved a sales tax that will raise approximately $2.5 billion for new transit in the city. The list of transit projects has been approved by voters and as mayor, I will continue to work closely with the Atlanta Regional Commission to help develop alternative transit options and have been front and center on exploring solutions to Atlanta’s growing traffic concerns. I believe projects that offer true connectivity will have the most impact and I’m excited about addressing the woes of traffic and congestion, by improving mobility. It can have a profound effect on quality of life.

Transit plans include the extension of MARTA Blue Line over Light Rail to Emory and the completion of the Atlanta Beltline, which I am proud to have sponsored the original legislation for over a decade ago.

Under my administration, an off-street parking tax would be instituted to fund road improvements and other mobility projects, like expanded bikeways and the installation and repair of sidewalks. Atlanta residents alone cannot fully support a best in-class transportation network. A dedicated parking tax would serve the dual purposes of decreasing automobile dependence, while increasing the use of public transportation and walkability.

Invest Atlanta Question
ThreadATL: "As mayor, you’ll have significant control over Invest Atlanta. Luring companies through tax incentives and the issuance of bonds is a chance for us to invest in good urban design, walkability and the reduction of car dependence in our office developments. What can you do to guarantee this happens with Invest Atlanta projects?"

Response:

As Mayor, and chairman of the board of Invest Atlanta, I would oversee its operations and have a direct line of contact to the management team, namely the CEO and executive leadership. As with all partnerships, open communication and shared goals are key. When I am Mayor, one of my priorities, and duties, will be to meet with Invest Atlanta’s executive leadership team to discuss what economic success in Atlanta looks like (as the goals for the past 4-5 years are likely different from the goals for the next four). From there, it is the board’s duty to ensure that Invest Atlanta is fulfilling its promises to the people of Atlanta and meeting its objectives.

If objectives are not being met, the board chairman would be tasked with working with executive leadership to ensure more favorable outcomes.

Streetcar Question
ThreadATL: "After years of ridership and operational challenges, the City of Atlanta recently announced an agreement to transfer responsibility for the Atlanta Streetcar to MARTA. What specific additional steps should the City take to ensure the streetcar's long-term success?"

Response:

Now that MARTA is responsible for the operation of the streetcar, I would like to prioritize construction of the streetcar system to provide more transit options in areas like the Beltline and the Campbellton Road Corridor. The Streetcar’s success is directly related to its connectivity to MARTA, the Beltline, and the walkability of surrounding areas. Therefore, it is imperative that both MARTA and Streetcar lines be extended, that the Streetcar extends to the Beltline, and that Atlanta’s neighborhoods are pedestrian-friendly (i.e., paved sidewalks, well-lit streets, and favorable destinations within walking distance). Success in the aforementioned areas equals long-term success for the Streetcar.

Gulch Question
ThreadATL: "A large entertainment-focused development in the "The Gulch" of Downtown has been proposed, where there are also long-standing plans for a regional multimodal transit terminal. How will you ensure that this potential rail service can be integrated with development in the Gulch?"

Response:

The success of this City will be contingent on the strength of its partnerships. By working closely with Fulton County government, as well as surrounding businesses, residents and reputable developers, The Gulch can be transformed into a desirable destination and house an entertainment venue and a large-scale transit terminal.

Bus Lanes Question
ThreadATL: "In the interest of improving transit coverage along major bus corridors and in other areas not served by heavy rail, do you support dedicated, transit-only lanes for buses, even if it means reallocating existing roadway space from cars?"

Response:

Yes, in order to truly alleviate Atlanta’s traffic problems, we must reduce our dependence on cars. We can achieve this goal by expanding bus routes and creating transit-only bus lanes for more frequent and more efficient service. The solution to Atlanta’s traffic problems is not pitting one mode of transportation against another, but creating a transportation system that offers residents options for how they get from Point A to Point B. It is creative solutions like improved transit systems, synchronized traffic lights, bike lanes, and walkable streets that will keep Atlanta moving.

Small Retail Question
ThreadATL: "Economic challenges for brick-and-mortar retailers creates instability for neighborhoods when large “anchor” chains disappear, leaving blighted spaces behind. What policies will you seek to assure that developments include retail spaces that are not too large to be reused, in the event the large anchor tenant leaves?"

Response:

This question raises a point about the importance of urban planning and economic development. As brick-and-mortar stores lose market share to online retailers, it is important that commercial developments around the City of Atlanta reflect those changes. However, like my plan for transforming blighted homes into renovated affordable housing, I believe that any blighted, unused real estate must be repurposed and put to good use. Instead of implementing policies to restrict business owners and the size of their stores, in the event of an anchor store leaving blighted space behind, I think it is up to the government to pose the question: What can we do with this space? Who can gain the most value from this space? Innovative ideas combined with best practices in community development will be key to a successful outcome.

Preservation Question
ThreadATL: "New developments in our neighborhoods can result in the loss of buildings that hold cultural or historic significance. What policies would you support that would preserve the historical built identity of the city in the midst of new growth?"

Response:

I am a long-time resident of the Historic West End and have witnessed the swift transformation of neighborhoods, including my own. Because of Atlanta’s overall attractiveness as a place to thrive and raise a family, our overall growth has been unprecedented. I believe it is imperative that we protect the buildings and landmarks that give Atlanta her history, her culture, and her identity. To help preserve this historical identity in the midst of new development, I would support a mandatory public comment period to be implemented before the razing or material alteration of certain types of structures. I believe this public comment period would give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns, while giving notice to city officials that altering certain structures may do more harm than good. With a balanced approach, new development projects can be managed. I believe developers can be incentivized to build in a way that preserves and protects buildings that hold cultural and historic significance.

Safe Walking to MARTA Question
ThreadATL: "Walking to a bus or rail transit station in Atlanta should be a thing that you want to do — not a dangerous chore that you do only when you have no other choice. How will you help the city partner with MARTA to strengthen pedestrian infrastructure around bus stops and rail stations?"

Response:

Safety is a big concern for Atlanta residents, and tackling this issue starts by ensuring that the City has enough adequately-compensated and properly-trained police officers. As it relates to safety for pedestrians around transit stops and stations, we must use innovative technologies that are at our disposal. High-visibility security lighting and security cameras are sure-fire ways to curb crime and increase safety. I will also work with MARTA to ensure that there are
sufficient police officers on duty, so as to have an officer stationed at each stop, in a location that is visible from the station’s entrance/exit. Further, I would work with MARTA to determine what upgrades are needed to the existing pedestrian infrastructure, and ensure that TSPLOST and other transit-improvement funds are earmarked for the upgrades.

Neighborhood Master Plan Question
ThreadATL: "The car-centric Fuqua development under construction at 17th Street and Northside Drive runs counter to the Loring Heights master-plan’s call for a walkable, neighborhood-focused center of activity in this property. How will you ensure that developments respect neighborhood master plans and the work that residents have put into them?"

Response:

Residents must have a greater say when it comes to the development occurring in their neighborhoods, particularly when master plans have been submitted to city government. I would encourage new developments to be cross-checked with neighborhood master plans. Any conflicting developments must be addressed with the City and neighborhood prior to construction.

Affordable Housing Question
ThreadATL: "How will you increase the availability and accessibility of good-quality new housing that is affordable for a variety of household sizes, including owners and renters?"

Response:

Ensuring an adequate, high-quality supply of affordable housing will be one of my top priorities as Mayor. In addition to requiring developers to designate 20% of new units as “affordable” rentals (up from the current 10-15%), I will work with various development agencies, such as the Atlanta Housing Authority, Atlanta Land Bank Authority and Habitat for Humanity, to transform the 5,000+ blighted and vacant homes around the city into affordable homeownership options for low-income families, recent graduates, law enforcement officers, and educators.

What say you, Atlanta urbanists? How does this candidate's response rate?
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