The below interview is one of five interviews done with the top five candidates, in terms of polling, in the race for the next mayor of Atlanta.
CBS46 anchor Karyn Greer sat down with each of them one-on-one to talk about the issues plaguing the city and what each of them would do if elected mayor.
This is the interview with Felicia Moore.
What made you decide you were going to run for mayor?
Moore: Well, I thought I was going to be council president for a long time, but I had started preparing to be mayor because I thought perhaps our mayor may go to DC and, of course, being the president of council, that meant I had to be mayor. And then when she didn't leave, I did make a decision to continue on my preparations because there was just so many things going on in the city. From the crime to people calling me late at night and employees really upset with the deplorable state of our city services and what was going on in the department. So I said, I've got to put my hand on the wheel and try to steer us in a better direction.
So what is the first issue you would tackle as mayor of the city of Atlanta?
Moore: Well, of course crime is number one. So there are a lot of things on that list that I want to tackle. One, making sure I get in front of all of our patrol officers and letting them know that I support them. Two, trying to get some of those who have left the force recently to see if they'll come back and work for us on contract, as an incentive, keeping their retirement, being paid, so that we can get more officers on the street. Looking at leadership of the department; I'd love to sit down with a lot of people in our activist community to have a discussion about how we handle protests in the city. So there's a long list of things that, on the crime front, that I certainly will be working on.
You mentioned violent crime. Violence is a big problem that we've been tackling here in the city of Atlanta, and I've heard you talk about what you would do. Let's hear it one more time. What would be the first things, when it comes to violence, you would tackle?
Moore: Well, first I think we need to make sure that we're messaging to our citizens that we got to resolve our conflicts in other ways. I mean, it used to be where you would see people fighting and you would be all appalled. Well, people aren't even fighting anymore, they're going directly to their guns. So, that's one thing. The other part is the community part. The community education and engagement to prevent this, because many of these guns that are being used are guns that are frankly coming out of our citizens' cars that they're leaving in their cars. We need to get them a part of the solution. Violent crime, particularly the ones that are happening, are happening between people that know each other and they're not resolving their conflict. So we need to find some ways to continue to message to citizens on how they can resolve conflict in our community and put the guns down.
Is there transparency currently in the mayor's office?
Moore: I don't know. I think there's some, and I do know that the mayor, this mayor, I lawed her from getting the open checkbook, my transparency measures. That's what I fought for and so I was glad that she implemented it. It's going to be a lot broader. There's going to be a lot more transparency. Transparency from body cameras. You know, we're not going to be waiting forever to see body cam video. Transparency in terms of reports that we're doing. Internal documents, as well as spending and how we're spending our money. I want the agencies around the city, whether it's Invest Atlanta or the housing authority to include that. I want people to be able to see what's happening in their city government.
The COVID pandemic has really created some problems for businesses, small businesses, and we're still going through it at this point in time. What would you do to help some of these business people and families come out better on the other side of this pandemic?
Moore: Well, first I want to look at the federal funds that we have, that we have put towards those initiatives, and see how we can better dispense them. I know that many people try to attempt to use the rental assistance and it was a lot of bureaucracy and we want to make sure we can lower every barrier we can to people getting quick access to that assistance. We also help to have a fund for small businesses and we need to make sure that we can continue that if we get more federal funding and make sure that they don't have a bunch of barriers to go through to be able to access it. And particularly if we're going to mandate something, if we have the ability from the state to do that, wherever we can, to help with either testing or supplies. The city needs to help our small businesses be able to meet those needs as well.
Let's talk about Buckhead, perhaps seceding and becoming its own city. Quite a lot of comments about that and what should happen. What are your thoughts on that and what would you do?
Moore: Well, first I do not agree with that. I don't want any part of my body to be cut away. And so Atlanta, I want to make sure that we're a unified city and I'll work to do that. Talking with them, I don't think they'll change their mind, but I would like to have a good discussion about what they plan to have as an outcome, and assuring them that leaving the city of Atlanta is not going to get them the outcome that they expect. But secondly, I'll be down at the state legislature. I'll be a familiar face in the governor's office and others, convincing them not to allow a vote on it. And if by some miracle they do get a vote on it, by November 2022 I will have been working hard every single day to address the issues that they care about and the rest of the city cares about, and that's making every neighborhood safe and making sure that we get the delivery of services that people are paying for.
Another major issue is our schools. Let's talk about that. For several years, schools in the city of Atlanta Public School District have been identified as underperforming in 2019. 13 Atlanta schools are among the state's lowest 5 percent. What can you do to help raise the level of performance in these schools?
Moore: Well, first and foremost, we don't operate the school system and we're going to leave that to them, but we're going to do more than lip service. We're really going to partner with them. We have facilities like our recreation centers across the city that we can enhance what they do at school. And what I would love to see is, after school the kids come directly on an APS bus to our recreation center. Get help with their homework, fed a meal, and then we give them some enriching activities to do. Maybe some science, technology, engineering and math activities, like e-sports and things that get them excited. Or they can do basketball or swimming or whatever is provided at the center. And then later the school system, come and pick them up and take them home. And that way you keep your eyes on your kids and they don't get in trouble and they don't maybe get in gangs. And so I think that there are ways we can partner with our unions. Maybe we can get them to come in our rec centers and teach some of them to fix a car or learn a trade, just to get them excited and engaged. I don't think that we can fix the curriculum. That's something the school system will have to work, but we can enhance the experience.
One of the other big issues is traffic in and around Atlanta. Our infrastructure has some problems. What would you do to better accommodate a rapidly growing community?
Moore: Well, first and foremost, everybody says there's traffic in Atlanta, but they're never a part of the traffic. It's everyone else but them. So, one thing I know that we've talked about for many years, and it will take a capital cost, is seeing how we can synchronize our traffic signals and lights so that we can have a better flow of traffic. But the biggest thing is that we have a car-centric culture here in Atlanta. It's so car-centered and we've got to get people to use more transit. Now there are people who are really undergirding our transit system because they have to use it. For the doctor, for the grocery, to go visit a friend. But for those who have a car, we've got to make it more accessible and more convenient, so you will choose to use it. And so we can get our BeltLine rail fixed. That will be a wonderful thing. If we can get smaller buses to come up in the neighborhoods and make it more convenient and more connection points for people. I think we can turn the tide and the less people who are in their cars, the better.
What about the housing market? Many lower to middle income class Atlantans virtually have no shot at entering the housing market as prices have definitely skyrocketed over the past years. What are you doing to make sure there's affordable housing for all the residents of the city?
Moore: So there's affordable housing and then there's housing you can afford. And so first we need to get our workforce development agency up and running to make sure that people can get above livable wage jobs so that they can afford it. Because it's not just the rent or the mortgage, it's also the utilities. As far as affordable housing, we're going to start with the low-hanging fruit. And that is the property that we have at the city that we can build out at our density and make sure that there are affordable units. We have property in our land bank authority. Atlanta Housing Authority. The mayor has a lot of influence with that. Getting them to get building on some of these, mostly all of these vacant properties that we have, and we're gonna start there. And then when we incentivize people to build, we're going to ask for more affordability than we have been in the past so we can start adding to the affordable realm. And one thing about real estate, it has cycles. And so now we have this big cycle where everything is really high. I believe at some point that will break like it has in the past. And perhaps it'll go in another direction.
That said, you look at areas like The Bluff and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. What can be done right there? It still breaks your heart when you go there and people are in there, parking. And it's not safe, one. But people need to live somewhere.
Moore: And that is another part of how we can keep affordability. We look at neighborhoods like that, and others who really need some help. Who need to be stabilized, where we can keep the affordability that they have now and stretch it out over a longer part of their life cycle. And so there are a lot of initiatives of anti-displacement fund there, and we may need to expand that to other areas. And we also need to help the very few that are left, that are actual homeowners there to be able to help rehab their homes. Some of the seniors get roofs so that they can keep their homes and be able to stay there.
All right. Let's lighten it up a little bit. A little lightning round with some topics. Tell me what comes to mind when I mention these things. What's your favorite restaurant in Atlanta?
Moore: Oh gosh, I got a lot of them, but Nuevo Laredo. I love that.
Ooh, okay. And what would you pick for one activity to do with your friends and Family?
Moore: I always like to take them, if they're visiting, to The King Center.
Okay. Which team will win a championship first? Your Atlanta Braves, the Falcons, your Hawks, United or the Dream?
Moore: I'd say United.
Ooh. Big soccer fan.
Moore: I'm not, but I think that they will win. They are very good.
Okay, Okay. And what's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Atlanta?
Moore: The place I want to be.
I love it. All right, let's take this next 30 seconds to tell the people at home in Atlanta, why you should be mayor.
Moore: Okay. Well, why I should be mayor because I started as a neighborhood president, MP chair, aid to a council member, council member, and president. And so I've invested much of all of my adult life in this and I want and love this city. I want it to be great and continue to be great and greater than we already are. And so I want to be mayor because I'm uniquely qualified to put my hands on the wheel and steer us in a great direction.