Atlanta City Council would be commercial real estate broker Kirk Rich’s first elected office.
Q: What’s your No. 1 concern for the district?
A: For the district, transportation. We have many transportation issues from gridlock to speeding through neighborhoods where kids play and people try to bike and walk, to massive amounts of cut-through traffic that was never intended to be on our neighborhood roads. So that is the primary thing within the district, to try and get that under control.
And then that really plays into development and capacity of the neighborhoods and the capacity of a place to live.
Q: So what could you as a Council member do about that?
A: What I promise the district is that I would work rapidly to update and finalize the master transportation plan with the city. Specifically to our full district so that then we can go in and start looking at the different pieces of that traffic master plan that can be implemented through TSPLOST [transportation sales tax] funding and other funds that might be available for safety and Atlanta Public Schools to make those changes, especially for the safety of kids, pedestrians and bikers. But also to slow down the neighborhoods.
Q: Turning to Council, what’s an uncomfortable truth that the next Council needs to face?
A: There’s a couple, but I’ll go with the major one: and that’s how we deal with homelessness, really how we deal with equity, to capture all of it, make it more generalized.
This is city-centric, it is not as much district-centric, but we have to be concerned as anyone where ever you live within the city. We have the poorest rating in the country on equity and income mobility. We’ve got to do a better job of making opportunity for all. And then that points obviously to getting our education system in line, making sure that we have technical training for folks that can’t be college-educated. These are the things we’ve got to look at as Council: how do we level the playing field and bring those people up?
Q: Looking at Council in the past four to eight years, what’s something this Council has gotten right?
A: Fiscal responsibility. I think this Council has done a great job and the mayor has had a lot of political courage to get our fiscal ship righted and to make some very hard choices with pension reform and pay increases.
However, I think that now that the reserve fund is built up the way it is, we need to re-look at where we are without damaging the improvements we’ve made. … But to make sure that if we have fat in government we cut it out, and how do we then make sure that the people that are doing great jobs get recognized for that? Especially our public safety folks.
Q: Again over the last four to eight years, what’s something this Council has either gotten wrong or failed to do?
A: I think they’ve been weak at controlling the quality and the sense of place with developments. We have been a development-rich city to the point of hyperdevelopment. But I think we lost track of policy and enforcement to make sure that setbacks are appropriate so we activate streets with cafes and social space, and create that sense of place that other cities have. We just aren’t there yet.
Q: Overall, bottom line, what’s your pitch to voters, why should people vote for you?
A: I am the one candidate that is running for District 6 that has the experience with the Invest Atlanta board. I know the players within the city, the City Council members that will be staying. I know the business leaders of this city. I can hit the ground running on Jan. 1, where most new Council members coming in, especially if it’s my competitor, will have a severe disadvantage, because they’re going to have a big, big learning curve.