Atlanta City Council would be attorney and entrepreneur Jennifer Ide’s first elected office. She spoke to Saporta Report via email.
Q: What’s your No. 1 concern for your district specifically?
A: The No. 1 issue I hear about from residents of District 6 is traffic congestion, in particular the impact that commercial development has on traffic in our neighborhoods. The city is anticipated to triple in size over the next 25 years, and we will not be able to accommodate this growth without a negative impact on our quality of life unless we implement smart development and expand transportation options.
Our highways are packed, and this often results in overflow to our intown streets. We need a better mix of public transit options and streetscape designs that make commuting more efficient, walking and biking safer, reduce cut-through traffic, and make school zones safer for our children. We need smart development, including transit-oriented development, which requires hand-in-hand work with MARTA to prioritize the expansion of public transportation in the city.
Q: What could you do as a Council member about that?
A: Smart development means having a vision and being proactive in what our business districts, neighborhoods and commercial sectors look like. Rather than just building buildings, we need to be developing communities. The city should play an active role in shaping Atlanta’s growth, with strong commercial sectors and development in or near residential neighborhoods protecting their character, while making them stronger and connecting neighbors.
Particularly along the BeltLine and in other tax allocation districts, we need to focus on how development should play a role in supporting the public good and the core components needed for a community — access to housing, jobs, health, and education.
On City Council, I would ensure that we pass a new zoning code and tree ordinance that build off of the Atlanta City Design Plan to ensure a sustainable city. I would also ensure that when public dollars are used to incentivize development, it is development for public good and in locations that are in line with any existing neighborhood master plan and the vision laid out in the Atlanta City Design.
Smart development will include working hand-in-hand with MARTA to prioritize the expansion of public transportation in the city. In addition to MARTA, Atlanta needs to work through its backlog of infrastructure projects to ensure that our roads, bridges, sidewalks, and bike lanes are functional, and we need to be good stewards of the Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST [transportation sales tax] funds as we do so.
On City Council, I would push for complete transparency on how these public dollars are spent, and make all of the project finances and status reports available online. A City of Atlanta Department of Transportation, separated out from the Department of Public Works, that would plan and implement the City’s transportation projects, working closely with MARTA, could greatly facilitate these objectives.
Finally, smart development means implementing technology to make Atlanta efficient, sustainable, safe, and accessible. From traffic sensors to water leak detectors to logistics systems to license plate readers, Atlanta can and should improve its city services, public safety, and business efficiencies through technology.
Q: What’s an uncomfortable truth the next Council needs to face?
A: While the city of Atlanta has come out of the recession with a strong bond rating and substantial reserve fund, parts of our city have been left behind. Unemployment is higher than the national average, and disparities in education and health are drastic across the city. The city hasn’t done what it promised it would on affordable housing on the BeltLine. We just need to do a better job in supporting and ensuring the success of all of our residents.
And the City Council cannot continue to sit back and simply respond to the policy proposals put forth by the mayor. The issues we have to solve require both the Council and the administration to engage fully and creatively. I will bring my decades of legal experience, an entrepreneurial approach and will invest in policy staff to ensure that smart policy originates out of the City Council and not just from the mayor’s office.
Q: What’s something Council has gotten right in the last four to eight years?
The current administration tackled the difficult issue of pension reform for the city. This was a complex and painful situation to address, and it required asking city employees to make some sacrifices to ensure the financial well-being of the city.
Q: What’s something council has gotten wrong or failed to do in the last four to eight years?
A: City Council should have been more proactive in updating our tree ordinance. Atlanta’s tree ordinance was created as an effort to protect our city’s beautiful, natural tree canopy. However, in its current state, the ordinance does not effectively achieve this goal. While much work was done in 2014 to revise the tree ordinance, there were objections, particularly from the development community, that there was not enough public input, and no action was ultimately taken. The ordinance needs to be revised to ensure that our beautiful tree canopy is protected by making it more expensive and more difficult to cut down healthy trees within our city. Our City Council has recently approved funding toward assessing and revising the tree ordinance and I intend to work with residents and local organizations to pass a more effective ordinance.
Q: Bottom line, overall, why should people vote for you? What’s your pitch to the voters?
A: I am running for City Council to make sure that we don’t lose the things we love about Atlanta as we grow. Atlanta is anticipated to triple in size over the next 25 years, and we are going to have to focus on smart development to solve our traffic problem and ensure that commercial development doesn’t impinge on and change the character of our neighborhoods. We will need to work proactively with Atlanta Public Schools, and we need to ensure that our government is transparent and worthy of our citizens’ trust.
I am proud to have earned the highest score of ANY candidate running for City Council from the Committee for Better Atlanta. Representing the business, workforce development, civic and arts communities, CBA’s candidate interview process was rigorous and required thoughtful responses on the full range of issues facing city government. As a lawyer, entrepreneur, parent, and community volunteer, I have the experience, skill set, and temperament to be an effective policy maker, problem solver, and bridge builder on the Atlanta City Council. This district needs a leader with my skill set, and I need your vote on November 7.