Atlanta City Council candidate Q and A: Greg Clay

Greg Clay, candidate for Atlanta City Council District 3. Credit: Courtesy Greg Clay

Greg Clay, candidate for Atlanta City Council District 3. Credit: Courtesy Greg Clay

Some comments have been edited or condensed for brevity and clarity.

Atlanta City Council would be the first elected office for candidate Greg Clay.

Campaign website

Q: What’s your No. 1 concern for your district specifically?

A: I think equity is one of the ones that rises to the top of my list. When you drive from the top of the district from Atlantic Station all the way down through West Midtown, literally crossing the railroad tracks into communities like English Avenue and Vine City and Castleberry Hill as well, even out west as far as the Center Hill, Dixie Hills, Penelope Neighbors communities, the differences in quality of life issues from neighborhood to neighborhood are very different.

I think about the Howell Station/Knight Park area, where green space, park and recreation space has been a challenge for them. How do we turn it into true opportunities from the public side for people like them?

When we talk about extreme blight, we all know some of the challenges in the English Avenue community, are issues we see on a daily basis. What does that look like from a resource standpoint comparable to the Home Park community that’s dealing with some of their challenges?

So the equity of resources. Atlantic Station is a prime example of a great type of project where amenities are very flush, are very dense in the area, but how do we continue to make sure that communities get what they need in an equitable manner?

Q: What can you as a Council member do about that, what would you propose?

A: From the public resource side, I think we’ve got to look at the way we utilize resources in a different way. Not just the public dollar from the city coffers itself, but also looking at it from the intergovernmental side of things, how we work with the county, how we work with the school board, how we work with the state, how we work with the federal government when it comes to the public dollar and the public trust. Leveraging those types of resources when it comes to private investment, nonprofit investment, all those different types of things that allow us to be better stewards with the issues.

One of the things that comes to mind when it comes to affordable housing is: if we aren’t able to have site control specific to some of those parcels and properties, how much leverage do we really have when it comes to some of the incentives that are available?

… [At a September Bisnow forum], they talked about affordable housing … it was corporate folks, political folks as well. The conversation around the affordable housing units that were lagging behind, and how we get that to a certain point with incentives, with even brick and mortar building ourselves, how do we begin to do that from the public trust in a very different way? And so really leaning into some of those decisions rather than straying away from them is something that — I think we just got to recalibrate the conversation.

Q: Tell me, what’s an accomplishment you are proud of. It could be something personal, professional.

A: I tell you, I keep it really, really humble. The more I think about the future and my “why,” I think about my family. Being a first-generation college graduate is something that, when I walk through the door in my suit, when I walk through and have conversation with my family, get my master’s, my ability to commit to education is something that I’m proud of. And I think that it’s been a catalyst for change in my perspective and how I see service. It’s been a catalyst for change in how I even communicate with folks about what communities need in the context of resources.

So, while degrees are something that are printed out and put on the wall, [it’s] my walk in education, and even as a servant, my walk in the way I utilize resources, becoming a college graduate in the face of obstacles and challenges, when you look at mobility issues, where I sat on the other side – I was one of those students in the Atlanta Public Schools system that sat on the other side of these very harsh mobility rates. Beating statistics, education played a role in that regard. And how we serve going forward.

… My background is in public administration. I’ve worked for five different municipalities in three different states … professionally it’s been, the ability to serve in leadership roles in municipal government at a young age. I managed utility departments in two municipalities … being the youngest guy in the room but where there’s still a lot of responsibility. That’s something that enabled me to have this practitioner’s experience that I speak from directly now when it comes to constituent issues.

Q: What’s an uncomfortable truth the next City Council will need to face?

A: There are a lot of them. But let’s start with the ability for people, again going back to the housing concern, the ability for people to live and enjoy the amenities of the city. … In the hub of Atlanta, Atlanta-specific, when it comes to the residents, the constituent experience of Atlanta residents, not the region, the ability for folks to live in the city and enjoy the city in their neighborhoods is something that should be of dire importance to us.

… We all know how those neighborhoods make us unique, that’s why they have their own names. There are some common denominators there, but again, neighborhoods are unique in regards to what it is that they want in the present and the future and even the history attached to the past.

How do we, for folks that want to live in the city by choice, make sure that they have the opportunity to do that, for folks that want a hand up not a hand out, [how do we make sure that] we’re able to continue to do that as good stewards of public resources, as good stewards of conversations when we’re talking with our corporate partners, nonprofit, small businesses that hire, employ a lot of folks in the work force? That’s an active conversation that must continue to happen.

Q: Looking at this outgoing Council, over the last four years, what is something that that Council has gotten right?

A: I’m able to put my perspective of personal opinions aside because I know what the work looks like. How I feel about people personally and the decisions that they made, for me, it always boils down to the work. And a lot of the a lot of the opportunities I talk about during the campaign, because I’m a constituent first, have extended from the gaping holes of decisions that we have not made …

Q: That’s kind of the next question — I was going to ask what’s the Council gotten wrong or failed to do?

A: … The most important piece, for me, again, goes back to people living in Atlanta and the quality of life that they experience and the neighborhoods in which they live. …

Going back so you have a response … I’ll go one positive. I think that they made it apparent what our problems are. I think that they made it apparent that when it comes to decisions that have not been made over time, that now we know how big problems are.

…Transportation, we can go down the regular run of the list that you experience all the time.

Candidates will say from City Council side that we don’t have anything to do with education. I think that’s the biggest … put it this way … the reason why one of my Great Eight [priorities] is youth development is because we can’t leave folks in the wind on educating our students when it comes to the school board. We’ve got to do what we need to do from every center of the public trust when it comes to educating and contributing to a lifelong learning kind of culture for students.

For somebody to say as a City council candidate, “Nah, let the school board deal with that,” I think that’s not going far enough. I think we’ve got to talk about that experience, that walk to school, what happens after school, what happens on the weekend, what happens to that student that just doesn’t see themselves in school. My service record speaks to that as well … speaks to what I’m doing and have been doing to offset it.

I know that it’s possible through … what we can do more in leveraging those dollars.

So City Council has made it apparent, more apparent what our problems are.

From a partnership perspective, it doesn’t take anything except a relationship for us to start talking about what’s important to us …You’ve had some great strides. I think when you look at entities that were created where you had the overlap of the school board and the City Council — I think they’ve been meeting for probably the last two years — to at least have a dialog and say, “While we are two separate chartered organizations and entities with two separate budgets and two separate responsibilities there’s this overlap when it comes to the culture and the quality of life.” Not only should the school board and the city be at the table, the county, the local [state legislative] delegation, all the folks from the public trust, should be at the table to talk through how we address these issues.

Q: Overall, bottom line, what’s your pitch to voters, why should people vote for you?

A: We’ve got some very important decisions to make as a city going forward. In order for us to do our best as a city going forward, we’ve got to really consider who’s making those types of decisions.

For someone like myself that has government experience as a practitioner, as a leader in local government, for someone like myself that’s a fourth generation Atlantan, that understands the historical context of our neighborhoods, and for someone for myself that has a proven track record of serving people, not when cameras were around, not when it was popular, serving people at the point of service delivery. My insight, my perspective on the issues and my willingness and openness to know that we’ve got to work together to get this thing done as better stewards is why I’m running … it’s the reason I think I’ll be a great Council member for Atlanta, particularly District 3.

Back to Atlanta City Council District 3 candidate profiles

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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