Steven Lee was first elected to the Atlanta Board of Education four years ago. This election cycle, he’s seeking a move to Fulton County Commission District 4. He spoke to SaportaReport via email.
Q: What’s your biggest concern for Fulton County Commission District 4?
A: We must find a way to ensure that people are safe, they are secure in keeping their homes, and that we provide the best services possible to improve their quality of life. That means: quality health and human services; a criminal and civil justice system that is fair and balanced that keeps people safe; a state-of-the-art library system, economic development that produces good-paying jobs; and a government that all people can trust to be honest, transparent and fiscally responsible.
Q: What could you, as a commissioner, do about that, what are some policy ideas?
A: By the time I take office we will be in the midst of approving the 2018 budget. Therefore, on “Day One” I will direct my immediate staff to launch a review of the county’s services and service delivery, in addition to an analysis of our budget so we can get a real sense of where we are financially. When we do that, we will know what we can and cannot afford to do to realize additional services outside of what’s already a function of the county government.
One policy area I am extremely concerned about is our youth and young adults; making sure we provide pathways for them to succeed so they not end up another statistic in the criminal justice system. I will launch a strategic initiative to bring together all stakeholders: our schools, our police and law enforcement agencies and our nonprofit organizations to improve the lot of our young people. We must get back to making Fulton County that “village” to raise a child.
Q: In Fulton County, a lot of public services are handled by the cities. What do you see as the role of the county government and of the Commission?
A: Now that 99 percent of Fulton County is incorporated, we as county commissioners can put all of our energy on human services and helping people! We no longer have city-type functions to oversee, but we still have critical areas of responsibility that impact people. For example, every year the County spends about $1 billion of taxpayers’ dollars on critical areas, we often take for granted. Counties are responsible for libraries; criminal justice (courts and jails); public health, including keeping Grady Hospital thriving; environmental health; clean air and water; human services, including helping the homeless; property tax assessments and tax collection; and also, our elections. It will be my role as a commissioner to see that we uphold the highest standards in the execution of these services while ensuring that we do so with sound fiscal and fiduciary oversight.
Q: What’s something the Fulton County government has gotten right in the last 10 years?
A: Transparency and balancing its budget. Each year for the past decade, the County has maintained a surplus budget always north of $100 million (in its reserves) and has kept a respectable bond rating. Also, and unlike what we see at the city, the county has been corruption-free and found a way to come together with different voices, backgrounds, races and political parties. I will continue this practice — as I have done so for the past four years on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education. Commission District 4 is one of the most diverse districts in the County and based on my experience in this area of unifying different populations, I am the best candidate prepared to be the next District 4 Commissioner.
Q: Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin: in the last 10 years, what’s something the Fulton County government has gotten wrong or failed to do?
A: As we discovered earlier this year, the property tax assessment process is broken and needs immediate fixing. The assessors are appointed by the Board of Commissioners. They in turn hire the Chief Appraiser who executes the assessment process. We cannot have valuations done every other year, and then get stuck with sky-high valuations, and as a result tax bills that force people from their homes. This will be on my radar when I am elected.
Q: Overall, bottom line, why should people vote for you, what’s your pitch to the voters?
A: I am the only candidate who has (elected) leadership experience overseeing a $1 billion budget (at the APS). I am the only candidate who has personally helped send more than 270 at-risk kids to college. I am the only candidate who is rooted in the community and understands the plight of citizens whether they live in Buckhead or on Bankhead.
Most of all, I understand that above all else, the County has a legal and moral obligation to provide services that improve the quality of life and living of EVERY CITIZEN: no matter their income or their zip code; their race, religion, sex, or orientation. I understand that our diversity is our strength. I understand that FULTON MATTERS, BECAUSE PEOPLE MATTER:
• Whether it’s an emergency room at Grady, or a public health clinic
• Whether it’s breathing clean air and drinking clean water.
• Whether it’s a computer lab at a library or cultural arts centers.
• Whether it’s keeping safe at home or in a courthouse.
• Whether it’s getting there expeditiously on MARTA or on a highway
• Whether it’s a fair property-tax process or citizen-friendly county government
• Whether it’s economic development and jobs or affordable housing
• Whether it’s protecting seniors or boosting youth programs
FULTON MATTERS, BECAUSE PEOPLE MATTER.