I’m Doug Williams and I’m running for Atlanta City Council. The primary theme of my campaign is Atlanta that works for everyone. Built into that is the premise that currently it does not. Frankly, our city works very well for a few at the expense of everyone else and it’s been that way for a very long time. We pride ourselves on being the city too busy with business to hate, we neglect the fact that we have been too busy to care for our people. That’s why we have an economy the size of Norway, but a kid born into poverty has about a 4% chance of working his way to prosperity. Our elected leaders have sold us on the idea that government can’t work, so that we don’t hold them accountable. This allows them to do whatever they want for their friends and we don’t expect it to be any different. We have made ourselves into the victims of our own low expectations. If our city government isn’t working for us it’s because we keep electing leaders doing the same thing and then expecting different results.
Too often, we look for representation based on the appearance of a leader rather than the results they’ve delivered for us. If we want to get better we’ve got to do better and it starts with changing the set of expectations. One of the ways the City Works well or did in the past until recent administrations was our NPU process which was created to allow the people to set the direction for the city. In recent administrations we’ve seen the NPU’s lose power as they were moved from being bodies that give approval to groups that give advice, that is readily ignored at the whim of the mayor’s office. We need to change that and then we can use the NPU process to set a new course.
One of the worst performance areas for the city is communication. We can see that with the recent training facility at the prison farm where the city had plans in place going back to the Reed Administration, but it did not bother to communicate with the neighbors. When some of us actually worked on improving that communication and started work on an agreement, the Atlanta Police Foundation just ignored it and pushed for the vote it wanted anyway.
We have to and we can do better. It starts by baking communication and engagement into the system for how growth and development happen. Currently the city is trying to push through a new zoning plan by implementing a top-down approach to changing our community development plan. They are telloing us what we should do, rather than making the investment of time to build support. While we do need to revisit our plans it should be a process that includes everyone in the community who wants to have a voice and make sure those voices are heard and recognized.
We can engage citizens easier than ever thanks to changes in technology. This is why I am proposing and have begun rough drafts on what we’re calling a Community Performance Review. My plan is to have an annual online survey which will also be available at our local libraries and community centers. Any citizen can go online or get a copy of it to complete it. They could then submit it to the city and have their results recorded and confirmed. These results will be annually tabulated to rank the performance of the city and all the ways that it serves our people. They would be publicly available for view and would help guide the direction of our cities representatives as well as our growth plans for our community. If the city’s leaders are trying to do something that goes against the wishes of the community it will be publicly apparent. It also can help us establish clear goals objectives obstacles and vision for what we want to be period we’re going to grow as a city how it looks happens should be up to us. We need to quit with the false arguments that it’s either all single family residential or increased density that doesn’t let our neighborhoods look anything like they used to. The truth is we can find a way to do affordable housing, increase density, maintain our tree canopy, and conserve large parts of single family residential housing if we are thoughtful and intentional, but like any good relationship we need to invest the time into proper communication. By working out common goals and visions as a community, we not only can create a city that works for everyone, we can get everyone more engaged. It is time to realize this city is all of us our best days are before us if we will put in the work.