Summit Recap: April 5 with Atlanta City Council District 3 Candidates Byron Amos and Antonio Brown
The April 5, 2019 Transform Westside Summit featured a special Q&A with Atlanta City Council District 3 candidates Byron Amos and Antonio Brown ahead of the April 16 run-off election. Atlanta Business League President and CEO, Leona Barr-Davenport, served as moderator.
The candidates answered questions from the moderator based on the Historic Westside Platform, a non-partisan advocacy effort to foster a thriving Historic Westside. Questions addressed a variety of issues ranging from affordable housing and education to long-term growth for jobs and infrastructure.
Each candidate shared opening statements detailing their platforms before fielding questions from Barr-Davenport and Summit attendees.
Barr-Davenport began the Q&A by asking each candidate about their views on the role of neighborhood planning units (NPU) and neighborhood associations in the planning process for the forum. Amos said how vital NPUs are for Westside neighborhoods because they are currently the only organizations providing official recommendations to the City of Atlanta. Brown responded saying that while NPUs play a vital role in city government, they aren’t inclusive and many citizens don’t understand what they do.
In response to the moderator’s question about his views on the Westside Land Use Framework, Amos, a supporter of the framework, said the plan speaks for the Westside community since it was created with their input. As the plan relates to affordable housing, Amos said, “It’s time for true public/private partnership to offer incentives to the developers to actually create affordable housing.”
Brown rebutted by stating there should be more visible progress and development happening on the Westside as a result of the framework. He said, “We have plans with empty promises, plans with no actions. We should be doing a better job of moving our district forward.”
Brown said there is too much red tape around affordable housing initiatives. He said, “We need to ensure the land the city owns and that Westside Future Fund owns… on the deed to the land there is an affordable housing guarantee to ensure that no matter what happens in this city we have real affordable housing.”
Barr-Davenport then asked each candidate for views on the partnership between the City and Atlanta Public Schools and what they can do to more effectively partner. Brown said, “I think there is a huge disconnect between the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools. There’s not enough conversation happening before we pass certain agendas through our city and not properly vetting those agendas with our Atlanta Public School board. In the City of Atlanta, we continue to operate from a reactive perspective and we cannot do that if we plan on moving our city forward.” Brown also questioned Atlanta Public Schools spending on a school board special election.
Amos, an Atlanta Public Schools board member for the last eight years, responded by saying, “For the last eight years, the relationship between the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools could be very different. We have a $1.2 billion budget for Atlanta Public Schools and one of the biggest questions I always ask is ‘what is the return of investment to our citizens for that money?’ When I was first elected, we had a 51 percent graduation rate. When I left we were up to 79 percent. That is growth.”
Barr-Davenport then directed the candidates’ attention to the questions that audience members had submitted. One audience member asked the candidates why they believe they are the best choice for the community. Brown answered first, responding with, “I’m the best candidate because I have an independent perspective with no ties to political interest groups in Atlanta.” Amos responded by saying, “As a black male I would lead by example. What I’ve been doing all 46 years of my life as Vine City resident and what I’m doing right now as a father of four.”
Another audience member asked about whether or not the candidates support the Vine City park named after Rodney Cook, Sr., Brown said, “I do not support the park… I love the fact that we do have representation in the park… but I don’t support the park in its totality. I believe we need to change the name of the park and it needs to be a true representation of the residents of District 3.”
Amos, a park supporter, responded by saying, “As we talk about the name, that is a continuing conversation that needs to take place. But, we finally have somewhere on the Westside that begins to honor the cultural significance of the Westside.”
Another audience member asked how they plan to protect Atlanta Public Schools in the Washington cluster to ensure they remain public schools. Amos replied, “To ensure there are traditional schools – we’re talking about schools like Washington High and Michael Hollis – those are schools named after our people. We must keep traditional schools in the community.”
Brown responded, “I believe there is this divide in Atlanta when we talk about our public schools and our charter schools. It’s like we’ve created this perception that charter schools are better, and we need to reevaluate that and look at that differently. We need to start strengthening our public schools. We need to look at our curriculum and start including opportunities for our youth to be able to build and look outside their environments and conditions and find success.”
In response to an audience question about the candidates’ long-term plans for community growth for infrastructure and people, Brown said, “I really believe we need a community resource center that addresses the financial literacy needs of our residence. But in addition, we need to educate them and make them aware of the programs and opportunities that exist [through] Westside Future Fund.”
Amos rebutted, saying, “On the Rise Financial Center, which has been in existence for the last two years, is the resource center you’re looking for. We need to funnel residents into existing programs that are already in place. Also, [we need] to begin to rebrand our business district. Until we brand our business district as a place of destination [and] create a walkable business community, that’s how we begin to move forward.”
Barr-Davenport concluded the forum after each candidate made their closing statements.
To learn more about each candidate and read their bios, visit:
(WFF is non-partisan and does not endorse any political party or candidate.)
Devotion by Rev. Eric George Vickers, Senior Pastor, Beulah Baptist Church
The Summit’s morning devotion was led by Rev. Eric George Vickers. He focused on how all people have a role to play on the great stage of life. He also reminded attendees that it’s important to focus not only on building buildings, but also on building people. He said, “If you build buildings, but still have sick people. If you build facilities, but still have illiterate communities. If you build grocery stories, but still have people who have to choose between food and their medicine… Then everything that you build will be for naught.”
Additional Summit highlights:
- The Anti-Displacement Tax Fund program deadline has been extended to June 1, 2019. To date, 93 Westside homeowners been enrolled in the program. Apply here.
- The April Day of Service will be April 20 at Lindsay Street Park in celebration of Earth Day. Register here.
- The Beloved Benefit, held March 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, raised more than $5 million for five Westside organizations, including Westside Works, Grove Park Foundation, City of Refuge, At-Promise Youth Center and Westside Future Fund.
Watch the entire Summit presentation by viewing the below video.
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, April 5, 2019
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, April 5, 2019 About the Transform Westside Summit: Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit is held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Our audience includes a diverse group of stakeholders. Longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods. Meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with morning devotion,* presented by a member of the historic Westside community, and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.
Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, April 5, 2019