Cathy Woolard Mayoral Interview Full Transcript

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Below is the full unedited transcript of the interview with mayoral candidate Cathy Woolard held on March 22, 2017, at the offices of Atlanta Black Star. 

Present for interview from Atlanta Black Star: Neil Nelson, co-founder and Chairman of ABS; Andre Moore, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at ABS; Cliff Albright, contributing writer; Kamau Franklin, Political and Social Editor.

Neil Nelson:                       You sit in a unique position and you have to, as a candidate, think about all the issues that are going come up in this debate and the current debates in the campaign. And unlike most voters, you’re of a unique perspective. From that point of view, what do you see as the top five issues that voters, readers [inaudible 00:00:40] should think about as they make a decision who to support, who to vote for this fall?

Cathy Woolard:                 Wow, you took a different turn on that than I thought you were going to do. So this … So the question, then, is top five things voters should think about.

Neil Nelson:                       Yes.

Cathy Woolard:                 Not top five issues. But what they should think about us as candidates.

Neil Nelson:                       Well, issues as well, yes.

Cathy Woolard:                 Well those are two different questions, so I want to make sure I’m really responsive to you.

Cathy Woolard:                 So one is … What I heard you say was top five things voters should be thinking about this election, which, to me, is top five things you need to think about as you’re evaluating candidates. Or top five issues that are important to voters that a mayoral candidate should be thinking about.

Neil Nelson:                       Got it. So for us, the question is the top five issues that you are privy to, that they may not be thinking about but they should be thinking about.

Cathy Woolard:                 Okay. Got it. You know … Let’s see. I think there you give me five. So, I think there’s categories of things and then we can break them down, right?

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 I think … When I got into this election I thought that community development was the most important thing. And I’m going to talk about that cause there’s clusters of issues in there. Since that time, we now have a pretty extensive bribery scandal happening at City Hall, which I think voters don’t think a lot about, and I think they should think a lot about it. And I think the third thing, and it’s the cluster of things, is the election of Donald Trump. And what Mayor is going to be able to not really, not necessarily, kind of face down Donald Trump, cause that’s not a hard thing to do, right? But deal with the repercussions of what the policies of the Trump administration are going to hand us at the local level. So those are the three, sort of, categories of things.

Community development is really, sort of, the net of it all, right? How are we going to triple the size of our city in the next 25 years, and make sure that every part of our city, every individual of our city, sees a place for themselves in here as we do that? And I think that, as we think about how we grow this city and how the city has grown, you know, people have clustered in neighborhoods that are around schools that work. Right, you see density in Buckhead, you see density in Midtown, you see density in Virginia-Highland, Candler Park, Lake Claire, because the schools function well and everybody’s trying to shoo-in, you know, shoehorn into those neighborhoods, right? So the next Mayor had got to really be thinking about, how do we make sure all the schools work and not have purview over the schools, right? Mayor doesn’t have direct purview, but the Mayor’s got to have a relationship with the school system.

And then we’ve got to think about how we grow the city together, right? So if you’re closing Whiteford Elementary School in Edgewood, which is a pretty high-performing school, a small elementary school, pretty high-performing, and that is a neighborhood that’s experiencing great growth in densification, that’s not a recipe for success in terms of how we’re growing our schools, right? The flipside of it is, is we start thinking about how we’re going have transit and transportation, how we’re going have housing choices all over the city, you know. I think about a neighborhood like in Southwest Atlanta like Capitol View, Capitol View Manor. The neighborhoods that, like, you know, are along the spine of Metropolitan Parkway, right. Well Metropolitan Parkway is a place where we should be thinking about building transit and building some densification and some market rate housing while we do it, thus helping spur, perhaps, some better outcomes for that particular elementary school. See what I’m saying?

So, we got to talk about how we’re going grow the city and how we’re going do this in an equitable manner. But we have to do it in concert with education. I’m sure we’ll talk about juvenile justice. I’m sure we’ll talk about young people and that kind of thing where I’ll expand. But I would say the big three categories are community development, but within that: transportation, housing, education, public safety. You know, sort of the key things-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 That people think about. But I think a lot about infrastructure.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 And then, the bribery scandal … If we don’t have ethical government, nobody wins. You know, this is not the first one, it’s not the second one, not the third one. You know … When people pay $1 million in bribes, and that’s the only part we know about right now, that’s $1 million that’s coming off the top of taxpayer money, right? Nobody gave that out of their bank account. They got a contract that allowed them to return some of it. So when we think about the pressing problems that we have in neighborhoods and money is going off to people at, you know … Either for bribes or for deals that are not the right si- you know, outsized money, that’s a problem for everybody. So I think there’s that.

And then I think within the Trump administration, what I think is really critical, is that when we start thinking about income inequality, when we think about housing choices, the wins that we face in this city, and it’s cities all over the country, are exacerbated by policies that happen at the national and state level. Right, so we talk about, you know, affordable housing in Atlanta. Well Atlanta’s not the only city that’s got an affordability problem. We’re late to the game, you know, frankly. And we’ve got some affordable housing, we’ve just got to figure out how to unleash it. Right.

So the next Mayor has got to figure out how to do the things I said we need to do in terms of growing this city with a President that is like digging a hole as fast as we can. Right. If we kick everybody off of health care, you know, we’re turning a lot of people into a very difficult, sick position, I still have to look at them as Mayor, right? If somebody’s homeless or we’re not delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors who are living alone in their homes, I still got to find a way to feed them. And so this is a- you know, this is, you know … We don’t even know where we’re going with this, you know. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to look at this President’s budget, but it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen because the lack of compassion for human beings, and what it will still cost us as a society to deal with what they’re cutting-

Neil Nelson:                    Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Is unbelievable.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 So, you know I like public policy so be careful about how many choices you give me. I can turn five into, like, 20, you know, if you let me cut it out.

Neil Nelson:                       You have follow-up?

Cliff Albright:                      Yeah. So on that last … I don’t know … the implications of Donald Trump. So what is your perspective on how to deal with that? Cause you’ve got cities whose response is to actively resist-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Cliff Albright:                      You know like, like sanctuary cities saying, “We’re going to keep doing what we do.” Or whatever.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Cliff Albright:                      Or states that are actively suing, right?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Cliff Albright:                      And then you’ve got the other perspective of, you know, “Nothing I can do about what he does, but we’ll just try to have to figure out a way to deal with-.”

Cathy Woolard:                 Right, right.

Cliff Albright:                      “Less housing and … ” You know … “A horrible budget.” So, where do you stand on that? What solution?

Cathy Woolard:                 We have to be smart. You know … I was going to say something about the current Mayor, but I’m not going to.

Cliff Albright:                      It’s just us.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanks. Please don’t print that. If you don’t mind. I’m not trying to pick any fights here.

Cliff Albright:                      Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 So I’ve been, you know, a lobbyist and advocate for social justice my entire career. And I have been outside the decision-making room and I’ve been inside the decision-making room, and I’ve been at the head of the table of the decision-making room. I’ll tell you that I really like to get things done. I have learned over the years that having people work effectively on the outside’s really good. Right, you need people to raise the issue, to crystallize the issue, to bring attention to the issue, and I can do that as good as anybody. But where I really think I’m good, is at trying to find solutions that either neutralize bad things, or actively defeat bad things. And there’s somewhat of a difference, qualitatively.

So, you know, when I think about … We have a general assembly that, you know, is generally hostile to the things that I care about. I don’t think there’s ever been an issue I’ve worked on at the general assembly where I walked in the door and they were supportive of me. And we can talk about some of the issues that I’ve worked on. But, just for example, these were religious freedom bills, right. For the last four years, I’ve been one of about two or three lobbyists that have been working on these. And every step along the way … You haven’t heard about it, cause I don’t talk about it, cause I don’t need to talk about it. But I present solutions constantly. Every time they come up with a version, I come back with another version. Every time you know. Trying to help them have political cover or whatever it needs they need to stop doing it. You know, as a result, you know, they just did it again on Monday on an adoption bill and I fully expect that we’ve now got the Governor in a place where he understands the dangers of doing this, both politically and, you know, to the kids that are going to be impacted.

So I think we have to be smart enough to play inside the room when there is something to be gained inside the room. And when we want to have opposition, I play to win. Right? If I’m going to stand up and poke somebody, I’m poking them because I know I’m going to win when I’m done. So as a Mayor, if we need to file a lawsuit, if we need to, you know, resist in any particular way, I’m going to do it in the most effective way I can do it. But I’m not going to do it all day long. Because I still have to get infrastructure money out of this administration. You know, I still want this general assembly to start funding transit operations for MARTA. You know, so it’s not going to behoove me to be the Mayor that’s poking people in the eye all day long. But, believe me, I will resist and I will find the most effective way to do it.

Kamau Franklin:                Now you haven’t held public office for that long, for a little bit over a decade. And this is going to be your last softball question.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Why now, did you decide to, sort of, jump back in and run for Mayor of Atlanta?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah. That’s a great question. So, first of all, let me tell you why I left office so that you can be really clear about that. So, you know the Atlanta Beltline was a project that I worked on for a long time. When I got to be Council President, was still working on it, got $23 million in federal funds dedicated to it, helped create the idea of the tax allocation district to fund it, held 90 community meetings to get people to tell us what they wanted on it. I decided that we had reached a point where I could continue on but it might not happen unless I stepped away from it. You know, because political reality is it’s a Mayor’s project, you know. It had reached a point where it needed to be handed off. Out of the blue, Denise Majette decided she was going to resign for Congress with 100 days left. And it seemed to me that we needed a transit advocate, a transportation advocate in Congress. And so I decided, with Shirley’s blessing, to resign, to run for Congress, in the hopes that I could be that transportation advocate. And we’ll talk more about transportation, I’m sure.

I didn’t win and so I just went back to my business. I have a really happy life. I lobby and I advocate for things that I really love and that I’m passionate about and I didn’t think I was ever going to run again. I have done it and I’ve enjoyed it and I’m not somebody that needs to be in the newspaper. I’m not somebody that has to be in office to get political fulfillment because I still do what I do.

I decided to get involved because I felt, you know … Kind of the first, you know, shiny object that attracted my attention was I really felt like the quality of development along the Beltline, both in terms of the affordability issue, but just the quality, the architectural design, you know, the way we were making connections or not making connections into communities was disturbing to me. And as I thought more about it and got more concerned about it, I thought that maybe I should step back in. You know, and, to me, the Beltline is transit-oriented development. If you don’t put transit on the Beltline, you don’t have the Beltline in concept. Right. You’ve missed it. And you’ve oriented density around a sidewalk and that is just not what the game plan was. So that got me involved.

And then I started thinking about, “Well, what would it be like to Mayor now?” You know, if I got to be Mayor now. Besides very clearly addressing these issues with the Beltline, getting transit going, which are big in and of themselves, the issue that crystallized the most for me was that we’re number one or number two in income inequality on any given day. And that kinda leads me back to this thing about community development, right? That we have left some communities behind. We have almost destroyed some communities by over-building and doing, making … not making decisions that have led to, you know multiple high-rises and nowhere to go, you know, things like that. And so I really felt like, the combination of the experience that I’ve had working on social justice issues and the experience I have had on, you know, working on infrastructure in a very detailed way … I really felt like I had something that I could offer here. And there’s no huge solution. Like I can’t snap my fingers and end income inequality but I do know how to work in partnership with people to develop communities. And I’m really interested in that. And that’s my reason for running.

Neil Nelson:                       Talk a bit more about transportation as it relates to the Beltline.

Cathy Woolard:                 Sure.

Neil Nelson:                       Not real sure exactly you meant by running more transportation to the Beltline.

Cathy Woolard:                 So the Beltline … When we started working on it, when Ryan Gravel brought the idea to me, I represented District 6 in Northeast Atlanta, so Midtown, Morningside. And I became hyper-aware of that rail corridor because there were, you know, people were complaining about it, you know. All kinds of stuff was going on, on that corridor that was not making my constituents very happy. Plus … Remember this was 15, 20 years ago. Land was starting to approach about $1 million an acre in Virginia-Highlands. That was leading people to want to build very, very dense things because when land’s $1 million an acre people are going to want to build very, very dense things.

And so, when Ryan … I’ll shortcut the story. But when Ryan came to my office to show me this idea, the idea of orienting density around a transit corridor that had land, industrially-zoned land, that could be denser but that didn’t destroy the fabric of really cool in-town neighborhoods, struck me as a solution for now and the future of Atlanta. And so along the way there have been people who’ve said, “Well, why don’t you just build a bigger bike path? Why don’t you make the sidewalk bigger? We don’t really need transit. Trains are going to be too big. It’s not going to work. It’s too expensive.” All those things. If you’re building density and you have a corridor that’s transit-ready and it’s not in traffic … You know, I mean this is the place where we need to be doing it and we can do it fast. Because we don’t have to go through traffic. We don’t have to close down streets. We don’t have to relocate utilities. You know, we can do this in a very, very different way than … And we can talk about the streetcar.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 But, so, to me, it’s not the only place we need to put transit. It’s not the singular idea that I have about things.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 But it is a shovel-ready project where we have a proof of concept, we have ridership, and we have great need. And so it connects to MARTA and four or five stops.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Two over here on the West side. And if people can now start walking in from their neighborhood and get on transit that hooks them to the long-haul of transit, that is so much more efficient than a bus that’s sitting in the same traffic everybody’s sitting in. And so I’m committed to that idea unless somebody can show me an idea that’s better than that and I haven’t seen one yet. People have shown me other ideas that they want to have happen cause they’re their ideas, and I just happen to like this one because I think transit out of traffic is the way to go.

Neil Nelson:                       Got it. What about the other transit ideas that are on the table for areas that are not on the Beltline?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       What were your thoughts about those?

Cathy Woolard:                 Well … So there’s, you know, a pretty fully flushed-out transportation plan. So I think we have to, sort of, look at it and figure out how we stage it and what we do, and I can talk about that a little bit more. But I think what is intriguing to me is this combination of the Atlanta City Design Plan about, you know, how we’re going to densify. And if you take the corridors like Metropolitan Parkway, Memorial, Joseph E. Boone, Northside Drive-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know, these are all old highways that used to run in and out of the City of Atlanta. That’s why there are so many lanes and that’s why they’re so straight, you know. And, you know … And so we got to be thinking about them as highways in a new kinda way, right? You know, I’ll go back to Metropolitan cause I think about Metropolitan Parkway a lot. I just am a real fan of that area. And so, you know, if you think about that four-lane road that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, really, and you take a lane and you do skinny bus-rapid transit all the way straight out all the way into downtown, and you start to densify along, you know … The retail word is ‘endcaps’, right? You know, like, instead of having single-family homes along there … And I’m not suggesting we tear anybody’s home down-

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 But, you know, as things happen, you know start to densify like quad-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Plexes, 8-plexes, that kinda thing. Widen the sidewalks, and use that as a rapid way for people to get into town and connect at Five Points or whatever. Again, you’ve created a really efficient people mover among people who need it.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know. Don’t have cars, you know, or rely on the buses quite a lot. And then, you know, I think the other thing we have to think about is, is we’re developing communities, you know … How do we make sure that every community has the, sort of, basic things, the basic resources that it needs? So every community is within a mile … I don’t know if this is the right distance, but, every community’s in a mile of a grocery store, right? That sells fresh food.

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 Every community has a laundromat and a dry cleaner. So, you know there’s a pharmacy. You know, there’s like a basic thing.

Neil Nelson:                       How does a Mayor do that?

Cathy Woolard:                 Well a Mayor does that by, first of all, setting goals for that, right? Cause if you don’t measure it, you don’t get it.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 I think the second thing that a Mayor can do is if the retailers don’t think that there are, you know, the economics are right for that, then we have incentives. Right? We give incentives to millionaires to build stuff that we haven’t asked for. We can use those same incentives, and quite frankly far less money, you know, to build the things that we do need in neighborhoods. And we can do it by a lot of ways, right? You know, we can outright give them money, we can buy land and give them 99-year land lease, you know, we can be partners in the business, you know. You know, there’s … We can give them tax breaks, I mean, you know, there’s a lot of things that we can do to make sure that we achieve that.

And one of the things that I been thinking a lot about grocery stores, and I’m really committed to this is … You know you have ALDI and there’s another European grocery store, Lidl that are coming into town. So these are small-footprint grocery stores, you know, that have kind of everything you need, right? You know … You need 45 kinds of hot sauce, then you need to go to the Publix. Right. And you can get on the bus or get yourself there however you need to do. But if you need cereal, milk, bread, bananas for the kids to have breakfast that is sufficient.

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know, if we decided that every neighborhood had to be within a mile of the grocery store, we could look at neighborhoods that don’t have grocery stores and do an RFP to say, “We want small-footprint, urban grocery stores that have fresh food and little parking, and will be in ‘X’ number of neighborhoods, tell us what you need.”

You know, I helped get the IKEA here when I was City Council President and when they were building Atlantic Station … Because I had gone to high school up in D.C. and they had an IKEA and I loved it, you know. And so I called Charlie Brown, he was one of the developers, and I said, “Let’s get an IKEA here.” And he said, “Well, what’s an IKEA?” And I said, “Well, you know, it’s this kind of thing.” Well you know, IKEA’s never do urban developments. They’re always in the suburbs. Really far out in the suburbs. And so when we started talking to them, they were like, “Well we’ve never done an urban IKEA before. We don’t even know how to do it.” And so then, they were actually talking to Alpharetta. And so when we talked to them they said, “Well, we’ve heard bad things about Atlanta. Like, you can’t get a permit, you know. Like, we’re comfortable with Alpharetta.” And I said, “Look. If you have any problems at all, just call me and, like, I will help you get through whatever is happening.” You know, I mean that’s all I could do as-

Neil Nelson:                       Right. Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 City Council President. It’s like I can give you my cell phone and I can raise hell til we, like, make sure that you don’t get held up. Cause it costs them a lot of money if they get held up.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 They decided to go to Atlanta. They only used their ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card once. And I don’t remember what it was, it wasn’t significant, but it-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Was just like, “We need a permit. We’ve been waiting.” And it’s been the highest-grossing IKEA since the day they opened their doors.

Neil Nelson:                       Oh really?

Cathy Woolard:                 I mean, I don’t know if that still holds.

Neil Nelson:                       Oh, okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 But when I was still in Council it was. I mean they were phenomenally excited about it. And if you’ve ever been- I mean you’ve probably been there. Like on a Saturday, you can’t-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah I think we’ve all been there.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah right? You know, I mean it’s like-

Neil Nelson:                       Well thank you, by the way.

Cathy Woolard:                 Well you’re welcome. But what I want to say is like, you know sometimes that’s all it takes. Right. Maybe it doesn’t- you know, maybe I don’t have to say to these grocery stores like, you know, “I got to give you stuff.” Maybe what I need to say to these grocery stores is, “Look, here’s my phone number. I want you to build 20 of them. Let us help you find the sites. Let me tell you where we’re going to be incentivizing development and, like, let me help you get this done.”

Neil Nelson:                       Got it.

Kamau Franklin:                Let me jump in … We’re going to come back to another question, but since we’re on the Beltline, I want to kind of continue going on this and a couple areas you talked about. So where do you think the, no pun intended, the derailment of the transportation idea happened on the Beltline? This is a three-parter. Two, so what do you think of the trolley system that’s-

Cathy Woolard:                 Streetcar.

Kamau Franklin:                That’s sort of puttering around here? And, three, it sounds like obviously from the time which you were in the City Government to today, there’s been a great deal of change around the Beltline in terms of the development which you alluded to earlier. Which has caused massive gentrification and dislocation of communities. What do you think is the responsibility of the Mayor to change that? And where do you think the responsibility lies in why that happened?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yep. Okay first was-

Kamau Franklin:                Derailment.

Cathy Woolard:                 How did the transportation thing … Well, so that … You know, about the time we were working on the Beltline, there was this notion of the Peachtree streetcar. And so it was a streetcar coming down Peachtree Street and then going across. That didn’t fly for a number of reasons, the Peachtree part. I opposed it … I don’t even have to get to secondary or tertiary reasons. I opposed it because I couldn’t see why we would invest in a transit expansion on top of the only transit we had. I get why people think it would be nice to have a streetcar on Peachtree Street. But we’ve got precious little transit as it is and we have underground transit. So that was my first problem.

Second problem was, there was never any … There was never enough potential ridership on that project, which is why the Peachtree … One of the reasons Peachtree part went away, plus the financing of it was difficult. So I think it was an unfortunate project to start with. I think we should’ve started with the Northeast Corridor because we knew along that it had great potential ridership and it had enough ridership before the growth even started. And so I think it’s unfortunate that we didn’t try to connect people from Fourth Ward, you know like all the way to Ansley Mall or even to Lindbergh. To like, work to sorta push through that agreement. Ansley Golf Club owns a little bit of property there, it did. But you know, but like try to make that one connection. And then I think we would’ve been able to move much more quickly with other stuff. You know, whether that was the place to start or not, I don’t know. But I think it was a better idea than where we did.

Okay. So there’s that.

Kamau Franklin:                Like well speak about what’s happened in Atlanta over the last 10 years.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                In terms of the gentrification and the Beltline, in some people’s opinions, being a driving force-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Behind some of that with, you know, not meeting the affordable housing standards-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                And all that kind of stuff. What would you as Mayor like to do that changes that situation, even as a proponent of the Beltline?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yep.

Kamau Franklin:                It sounds like, there’s obviously these things that have not happened right.

Cathy Woolard:                 So I want to, first of all, say a couple things. One is, I do think that the Beltline and coming out of this recession, you know, has exacerbated housing costs. But I also want to make it really clear that this confluence of federal and state policies, you know the popular- you know, frankly traffic driving people in town because they don’t want to sit in traffic anymore. You know, I mean there’s … You know, it’s sort of a perfect storm. And I’m not trying to be an apologist for the Beltline but I just think it’s really important to not place the blame all on an infrastructure project that has generated great excitement, that has not even had enough time to do more than just a little bit. Right? So I think there’s that.

Secondly, for the better part of the last decade we have not had a Planning Department that has had strong leadership. Nor … And we had a Mayor that [does not] seems particularly interested in how we grow as a city. And I don’t actually say that as an indictment. He had … Poor use of words. Please don’t say that. I don’t say that really to single him out. Every Mayor has their own strengths. But this is not one where he seems to be particularly interested. And that’s okay. Next Mayor needs to be interested.

So I just want to say that, right? Because people … Developers have been allowed to build in Buckhead, in Midtown, and along the Beltline with really no guidance from the city as to what we want. And as a result, we really created a bit of a mess. So I think that that’s important to say. The next Mayor has got to, you know, unleash what I think is a stronger Planning Department and make the Planning Department even stronger, to be very, very specific about what we want and where we want it to make sure that it gets done, and then direct the incentives that we use to make sure that happens. I mean, we have given incentives and Fulton County has given incentives … Developers in Midtown, they were developing luxury apartments. Why on Earth would we do that? I mean paying someone to develop market rate apartments in Midtown is just ludicrous. I, you know, maybe somebody could convince me we need to do it, but nobody’s tried. So, there’s that.

I think the other piece is … So there’s that. To me the issue about housing, is we need to make sure that we’re focused on the right thing, right? If we say we need more affordable housing then we’re shooting in a very narrow lane. We need housing for homeless people, we need housing for kids just out of school, we need housing for people in pretty tough income brackets, and we need to make sure that seniors can afford to age in place and live in this city really no matter what their income is, right? You know, because Social Security at anybody’s level is not going to keep up with where taxes are and things like that. So the next Mayor … And neighborhoods that, you know, have affordable housing in them don’t necessarily want to be the places where more affordable housing come.

So we’re going to have to be very creative about that and we really need to think through … In the next 25 years, if we’re going to triple in size where are we going to do it? And how do we accommodate these ranges of people and incomes and situations that are not folks who can kinda, like, take care of themselves and figure it out, buy a single family home and they’ll work their way in, right? So we’ve got to figure out, what do we need to deal with all those things and then how do we scatter them … Who needs them, right? Buckhead needs more workforce housing because they just flat don’t have it and they need a lot of workers. You know, we’ve got to figure out, how do we get homeless people, you know, into homes and into places where they’re near the services that they need. So I think the next Mayor has to kinda scope that out.

And I think, relative to the Beltline, I think what we need to think about the Beltline is the Beltline becomes the catalyst for being able to do that. Right? We have … So the Beltline, you know, the basic core of the Beltline is 75 feet wide. At it’s widest, it’s about 200 feet. So, just talk about the fat parts is like … We should be using the fat parts for what we want. Right? You know. It’s not a lot of land but people have been able to do a lot of stuff. And we own that land and we don’t have to sell that land at market rate to get what we want.

Now, there’s philosophy at the Beltline right now that we got to build it fast, you know, we got to create, you know, like, development. We got to just kinda go, go, go, go with that. And so, therefore, we have to sell this property off at the highest rate. I just … You know, I get it, I get it it’s been tough that TAD didn’t perform the way wanted it to because of the global financial crisis. But we’re, you know, we’re on our way back. Atlanta is growing. The proof of concept is there and we need to take a different kind of approach to how we get that done. And I think that the Mayor can do that.

And then, as we talk about community development on and off the Beltline, is what we don’t want is the Beltline to be this great wall of densification and there’s no gracefulness into neighborhoods. Like, if you think about, you know, sort of the Lee Street corridor … You know … I mean, West End and Oakland City have always been kinda ‘never the twain shall meet’, right? I mean there’s just no easy way to get from one neighborhood to the other without getting, you know, in a whole lot of weird traffic and figure out your way. But the thought about, like, how do you create cross-town connections, so somebody can walk, you know, right across the street, you know, and get from Oakland City to West End is a pretty fascinating proposition and we’ve got to facilitate that. Just because we do.

So I think we have to use the Beltline as a catalyst. And I think we use the properties that we own to do things that are harder to get the market to do. And then, I can talk somewhat endlessly about the ways we can get more affordable housing or more housing choices, but-

Kamau Franklin:                Can you give us two or three policy ideas for it?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Either affordable housing or, you mentioned housing for homeless.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, I mean from policy ideas … You know, I’m hopeful that this Council will sort of make a decision about what affordable definitions are and, sort of, if we’re going to do inclusionary housing, what that is. I mean, I think at some point, just make a damn decision and quit trying to put too fine a point on it. Because we need to move. I mean, I think it’s the critical part is we’ve done a lot of hand wringing for the last couple of years and it’s time to move. So that’s the first thing.

One of the things I’d like to do is figure out how do we unleash housing that investors have bought and boarded up? And mostly that’s neighborhoods on the Southside and the Northwest side. And I think that at a certain point, you know, we have to create a paying point. I’m all for people investing. I think people should make money. I am, you know … I’m a capitalist. I think that’s a good thing. And I don’t want to, like, wrench the market around too much because, ultimately it’ll wrench you right back. You know? But I think that, you know, when you have people who are sitting on houses, I think … And I would do this, you know sort of … I’m different than this particular administration in that I want to work with people and get their opinions. And I’m not afraid to make a decision at a certain point, if we’re like, sort of, you know kinda going like this I will put the stake down. But I don’t want to jerk people around.

But I think what I think we should do, is say to people, “Look. You’ve got a reasonable- You buy a piece of property, you got some amount of time to return that property to the market.” Two years, one year, I don’t know. “But you can’t just board up the windows and walk away and trash an entire neighborhood because you want to sit on it cause you think there’s $1 million coming to you one day.” So there needs to be a taxation issue that- You know so your taxes start rising when that clock starts ticking so we can recoup- I mean you got people sitting on houses and they’re paying $25 a year in property taxes. I can’t keep the rats out, keep the grass mowed, keep the code enforcement moving, pick up the trash, for anywhere close to that. And so that’s one policy issue I would like to tackle.

I think that the other one is, and this I don’t quite have the answer that I want to have is, you know, is how do we use, again, the land, city assets, land that the city owns, to give people long-term leases, you know to build on? And we could discuss, like, what they would build on it. But that it would stay affordable because the land stays with us and the, you know, and the rents go with the person. So I think there’s that.

I think we also are going to have a lot of houses that are, you know, kinda coming, you know, out of the Section 8 Program really, really fast. You know. Through nobody’s fault, it’s just, you know, sometimes there’s policy and issues 30 years later and now we’re getting ready to … have the effect of when it all comes to an end. So we’ve got to get our hands around that really fast, and I think we’ve got to work with the private sector to help us deal with that. And there’s some pretty cool things going on.

The Open Door Project that commercial real estate developers are doing. You know about this? They’re working together, they’re not working with government. But it’s like big apartment owners. You know. They’ve got vacancies, they want to rent to people and so they need … We need to connect people to that, right? So they’ve created, and all agreed to like a, you know, a universal credit application that’s no fee. So if you’re homeless or poor, you can go to whatever Social Service Agency that they’ve partnered with, do your credit app, it stays there, and they’ll accept it. Right, and it’s in the can, so you can renew it and you can use it and then, you know, and then they’re accepting those people. And then they can use vouchers or whatever they need to use. So they’re knocking it down on their own and trying to find out ways, you know … How do they protect themselves against people that might wreck property-

Or leave, or whatever? But they’re doing it on their own and I think that’s really great and, you know, we should encourage that.

But, you know, other stuff happened. You know the Triumph Lofts on Memorial Drive, that BeltLine bought that out of, you know, a foreclosure package. It was really difficult to do but Brian O’Leary was very creative and got it out. And, actually, I saw the first one come up for sale so they must’ve outlived their deal on affordability. But you remember they did a lottery?

I think the other thing is, is we should build … When we’re building affordable housing and senior housing, we should have a local preference. If you live in Vine City and we build senior housing, the first units should go to people in Vine City who are living in substandard housing. They don’t have to go to the end of the line. And we need to figure out how to do that, and do that fairly.

Kamau Franklin:                Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 You can tell me if you want shorter answers. You’re just, like, talking about stuff I really like.

Kamau Franklin:                No, no, no. Those are good answers. [crosstalk 00:39:04] We want honest answers.

Cathy Woolard:                 I’ll try to be quick. I’ll try to help.

Cliff Albright:                      No it’ll probably be on my side, more so than your side. But, you know, cause there’s an elephant in the room, right? And just as a little context, I actually worked with Georgia Stand-Up at around the time that a lot of the Beltline discussions were going on, particularly around affordable housing. And so, some of the problems that we’re seeing now … It wasn’t a mystery at the time.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Cliff Albright:                      But there was pushback and, you know, I’ve heard you say a couple of times, “We need to make some decisions. We’ve got to figure it out. No guidance from the city about what we want.” And so the question is, to what extent is that accidental and to what extent is that just a function of power in the city? In other words, there were reasons why people were building and getting incentives to build, you know, luxury apartments on the North side. And there were reasons why developers, as well as community members, don’t want affordable housing on the North side. And our politicians are generally responsive to those power dynamics. So it’s the elephant in the room, right? So some of the ideas that you’ve talked about are good ideas. But any one of those that deal with where affordable housing is located … Outside of renovating the abandoned houses, and you know, on the South side, but … So, how do you … What are your plans on dealing with that elephant in the room?

Cathy Woolard:                 So, I have not heard that people in Buckhead and on the North side don’t want affordable housing. In fact, I have heard the opposite. I mean I sat at the BUCKHEAD REdeFINED meeting about three weeks ago, and they said, I think 40% of the people who work in Buckhead make less than $44,000 a year. They are highly cognizant, people who run hotels, people who run office buildings, people who run restaurants, that they can’t get their workers there. You know? I mean they can’t. Because, hell. You know, those streets are so clogged with traffic. If you’re riding a bus, I don’t know how you ever think you’re ever going to get there on time. It’s got to take you three hours even if you’re in the city limits, you know? You can get there by MARTA, maybe. So they … People in Buckhead recognize that there is a real problem. And it’s going to be very hard … Just like it’s very hard to retrofit transit, it’s really hard to retrofit affordability kinda once you’ve got that level of density.

But I think that people want to see it and I think people are willing to work creatively with it. I think that … The same thing on the Northeast side. I think people, I hear … I go to meetings and people say, “How are we going to make things more affordable?” You know, when I came out of college, back to Atlanta, you know, everybody my age, like lived in Candler Park and Virginia-Highlands because you had tons of 8-plexes and they were cheap, you know? And you could do that. And we’re losing that stock. So, I don’t know if that … I don’t know if I agree with you that there’s that elephant in the room. Now any particular given project may send people off. But I want to say that I think that people are much more open to it. We’ve just got to be able to figure out how best to deliver it. I think that-

Cliff Albright:                      I think that everybody wants their housing to be more affordable, which is a different issue from we want to build more affordable housing that other people would have access to. But, I-

Cathy Woolard:                 When push comes to shove, maybe.

Cliff Albright:                      Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 But I’m just not sure I agree. I think people in Atlanta have reached an accord that we have lost control of housing in this city and that … you’re right, everybody does want their housing to be cheaper. I will-

Cliff Albright:                      I know I do.

Cathy Woolard:                 I will grant you that. I will grant you that. But I do think that people who are thinking about how we make this city function and like-

Kamau Franklin:                Do you think elected officials care about what these people may want, as opposed to what developers want….we have a question about corruption.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Not saying this is completely there, but-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Do you think that the elected officials really care that much about what ordinary people may want, compared to what they see- through what’s happened over the last decade or so? And through some of the things that you mentioned around it … The tax breaks for people to build in places where they would probably build anyway. Doesn’t it seem like elected officials, Mayor on down, City Council included, are far more interested in helping bigger developers develop bigger things for various reasons-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                Than they are affordable housing?

Cathy Woolard:                 I think there’s some of that.

I think there’s some of that. I think some of the elephant in the room is that, Atlanta is a city where, you know, development has been king. And I don’t think that that’s going to change and I’m not even sure, you know, it needs to change. What needs to change is what we ask of developers. Because, particularly, big developers, they develop stuff in cities all over America and have to adhere to all kinds of standards that we don’t present. Right? And we are now big enough, that we need to have those standards. So I think that’s the first thing.

It’s like we don’t … You know, I passed legislation when I was on Council disallowing the closure of sidewalks when, you know, big companies close and, you now, they just kinda take over the sidewalk and fence it off and everybody else has to walk through the street. It’s never been enforced. I think, you know, occasionally I see some alternative routing that’s required. So, you know, you can have things and if people aren’t going to enforce it that’s the other issue.

I think that it really requires leadership and you’ve either got to have a Mayor that’s going to provide that leadership or you’ve got to have Council members who are going to decide that they want to really delve into the policy and start to try to adjust our code in a way that gets it there. Ideally, what you would have is the Council, the Planning Department, and the Mayor coming to some agreement about what that looks like and all trying to push those policies together. I say this with all due respect for my former colleagues and some who haven’t been my former colleagues, but not all Council members know how to write policy. I’ll just leave it at that. And that’s okay, you know, that’s just not what their sweet spot is, necessarily. But, you know, I think Andre Dickens has done a good job of kind of going in that direction and learning from that. And I just think we have to get together and do it. And I think … I go back. We have to ask things of the development community. And we kinda need to … Not ‘kind of’. We need to do it with them. Right? You know, nobody likes to have something shoved down their throat, but I don’t think that that means we don’t have the discussions and make decisions.

Kamau Franklin:                Any more follow-up?

Andre Moore:                   So- yeah, one follow-up on the gentrification. There are racial implications to the development that’s taken place.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Andre Moore:                   Where a lot of residents in Atlanta feel as if there’s this … There’s a top-level to push them out of the City of Atlanta. What, kind of, is your perspective on that in terms of assuring African-American Atlanta residents that you would work towards these moves that do push them out, whether intentionally or unintentionally, but-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Andre Moore:                   As Cliff alluded to, it’s seen as an intentional move?

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah. Well, I can understand why people would think that. You know, it is an income issue. And income relates very directly to race in America. And very directly, you know, in this city, in some neighborhoods. And so that’s the places that we have to look, really closely to figure out, you know … How do we make sure people have places to be when change comes? Cause the answer is not “Don’t have change”. You know, we’re an incredibly segregated city and we’re segregated by race and we’re segregated by income within that. Right? And that hasn’t served anybody well. Like, that, we’ve got to figure out how to get our hands around. Right? Because if you’re poor in Atlanta-

Neil Nelson:                       Must serve some people.

Cliff Albright:                      Yeah, that’s what I said.

Cathy Woolard:                 What do you mean?

Cliff Albright:                      It serves somebody.

Neil Nelson:                       Some people make a lot of money from it. Well they’re not interested in just long-term, you know, theoretically, there’s a lot of millions of dollars to be made, billions of dollars to be made, and are being made by people who’re building these luxury-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, sure.

Neil Nelson:                       Apartments or condos on Beltline, or houses. So there are people who are making a lot of money from it. And people who’re specifically being put out of the city by that and being pushed into areas where there are less resources, less opportunities, less services.

Cathy Woolard:                 Alright, I’m not going to put that on the Beltline to this point.

Neil Nelson:                       I’m saying one example. But it’s one example of investors making money-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Neil Nelson:                       At the cost of people losing opportunities. Whether or not the Beltline is the sole factor, that’s probably not the case because all things are conjoined in a society.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       But that’s a dominant factor and the most recent example of folks being pushed out of certain areas-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       In the city.

Cathy Woolard:                 Well, so here’s my thinking. Those people are vulnerable to begin with.

Neil Nelson:                       True.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right? And when change happens-

Neil Nelson:                       Yes.

Cathy Woolard:                 Their vulnerability is even more exposed. Right?

Neil Nelson:                       We agree.

Cathy Woolard:                 Because, you know, we’ve been seeing this all over America, right?

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 The suburbanization of poverty. Right. Again, not just Atlanta. So, I only say that not to be argumentative. I say that cause when you’re trying to solve a problem, you need to make sure that you’ve identified it correctly. Right, so I want to be really clear. Like, I don’t think gentrification is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a word that has been affiliated with negative consequences, right? But if you look at neighborhoods-

Neil Nelson:                       Sorry, so you’re saying that those aren’t real consequences that that process has produced? Or no? I’m not sure what you’re saying last part.

Cathy Woolard:                 Gentrification … You have to define what you mean by ‘gentrification’ and I think it’s like one of those words, you know, that starts to not express accurately what it is, right?

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 I mean are you saying that you don’t want to see a grocery store in the poorest neighborhoods in our city?

Neil Nelson:                       I don’t think anyone is saying that thats gentrification-

Cathy Woolard:                 But that’s gentrification. Right? Because to get a private investor to put a grocery store in a neighborhood, they’re looking for certain income … You know, they’re looking … They’ve got a number, right, that they’re looking for.

Neil Nelson:                       Yes.

Cathy Woolard:                 And so if you can’t get to that number while keeping folks in that neighborhood, that’s not going to get you the grocery store.

Neil Nelson:                       There’s another word for that, though. It’s ‘investment’, it’s ‘development’, it’s ‘job training’. There’s tons of other variables and pathways to get to that new grocery store in that community, as opposed to-

Cathy Woolard:                 It’ll take you a lifetime. In Atlanta, Georgia, if you’re born poor-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 And four generations later people are still poor-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 That isn’t going to get you a grocery store in anybody’s lifetime. Right?

Kamau Franklin:                But you stated earlier that, let’s say if you had 20 grocery stores and you gave them tax breaks per se-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Kamau Franklin:                To get them … I mean, again, that’s not what’s been happening. And so, I think what people are trying to say is, or are saying, is that there seems to be a collusion of interests, right, that’s saying, “We can take this property that poor people used to be on and make it something that moves those poor people out”- poor black people, in particular, “and puts in develop-“. And this is obviously not just Atlanta-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                But this is something that’s going on-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                Which is why we know it’s not an accident. Right-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right, right.

Kamau Franklin:                So it’s not just happen stance-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                That we can instead put middle-class housing or upper-income housing, and then around that, all the different grocery stores and boutiques and restaurants that folks like that like to go to.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                Dog parks, whatever it is.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Kamau Franklin:                But-

Neil Nelson:                       All good things, by the way.

Neil Nelson:                       But the cost-side of that-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       Is that those poor people are pushed out.

Cathy Woolard:                 That’s right.

Neil Nelson:                       And that’s the cost … The human cost that we’re talking about. We’re saying that, I don’t buy the idea that you can’t do development except for gentrification, which is you bring in wealthy people to take the land that were being used by poor people. Like that can’t be the only model.

Cathy Woolard:                 No it can’t be, So, no, I don’t really disagree with you.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 Let’s put it that way.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 What I want to say is, let’s just not use terms that get very diffused, right. So let’s talk about, how do we address poverty in Atlanta, Georgia against the trends that are causing the suburbanization of poverty around the country, right? That’s where I’m much more comfortable.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 So, again, it kinda goes back to this issue that I started with was community development. How are we going to develop communities that haven’t seen development? We’ll leave the ones that have seen it off the table for a minute, cause that’s just a whole other thing. So, you know, how do we grow the city? Cause the city’s going to grow. If we triple in size in 25 years, it is going to grow.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 And so with some intentionality, we’ve got to figure out how do we let the people that are here stay here and accommodate new people that aren’t, you know, high-income? Because we need them here. Right?

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 And so, with that I think what you do is, again, you create a pretty detailed plan about what you have, who you have. Like who you have and what assets you have that are, you know, that help provide housing. Housing in particular, right? But transit too, because housing and transportation are so closely aligned, particularly in this city, this car city we have. That we’ve got to figure out a way that we can house people and let them have transportation options and not have to own cars. Right? So I think that that’s how we create a growth plan for the city and we figure out how many people we have. What’s really interesting about Atlanta is we only have about a half a million people. If you look at English Avenue and Vine City, you really only have a couple of thousand, you know like, owner-occupied homes. Right?

And so you need to think about, like, “Well what do we need to do to make sure those folks keep in their homes if they want to in light of inevitable rising taxes?” Right? Or just the fact that they may not have the money to put a roof back on it and then they start running the risk of losing their home. And we can survey … You know one of the things I think people do is they throw a lot of money over the top of stuff. I mean, we know of foundations in this city that have been working in neighborhoods for decades and spent millions of dollars, and they’re not different. When maybe if you gave people a paycheck for 30 years, it might be different. You know? And so we need to think about solutions that are very, very specific to people. That’s my approach to it.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 And then get about putting those resources into place to get that.

Neil Nelson:                       You mentioned earlier about when we were going back and forth. You said that, “If people are in families that have been poor for four generations that it’s almost-” it’s not impossible … my word-

Cathy Woolard:                 Difficult.

Neil Nelson:                       “But it would take a very long time, more than a lifetime-”

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       “To undo that poverty or fix that problem.” Do you think there’s a cultural component at play in poverty?

Cathy Woolard:                 A cultural component about poor people?

Neil Nelson:                       A cultural- poor, everything. I mean all people who … Poverty and the lack thereof. Because if there’s four generations of poverty in Atlanta, a fast-growing city of so much opportunities-

Cathy Woolard:                 Right.

Neil Nelson:                       And then right next door people are creating so much wealth and so much affluence, then there has to be some other, perhaps non-material variable, in the equation. And it appeared that you were alluding to that in your statement about “four generations”. I didn’t know if that was what you were alluding to or not.

Cathy Woolard:                 I’m just alluding to the stats. I mean, you know but … I mean racism is a cultural issue-

Neil Nelson:                       It is. It is.

Cathy Woolard:                 That comes into play in this.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 I will absolutely grant you that. That is what is at play here.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 Now what we have to do is figure out how do we combat that?

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know, the laziness of the trend of it in addition to the consequences of it, right?

Neil Nelson:                       I’m glad you said that, though. Cause I think that racism, culturally, becomes … As a cultural construct is missing from our previous dialogue for the last hour about what are the-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       Tools that can be used-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       To fix that problem. Cause we’ll be talking about policy, which are good, I think, to fix these problems. We’re talking about capital, which is also good.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       But if people are being motivated by some other non-material variables, we have to also think about how does a Mayor address those non-material-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       Cultural variables in rectifying poverty, housing, transportation, in what Cliff was talking about, why some people would be disagreeable to fixing problems for other people while those folks can fix for themselves. So it’s okay that we get … Again, the Beltline, not to pick on the Beltline. It’s okay that we get the Beltline, which I love, by the way.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       I ride it on a weekly basis. Okay that we get the Beltline and better housing and these stores and transportation, and all these things. But for those people-

Cathy Woolard:                 And education.

Neil Nelson:                       Education-

Cathy Woolard:                 That is so key to this whole thing.

Neil Nelson:                       And schools. Absolutely. But these other people who are culturally different, distinct racially and other ways, I don’t know if our tax dollars should go into paying for those things for them

Cathy Woolard:                 But it does. But it does. Right?

Neil Nelson:                       It should, but-

Cathy Woolard:                 You need a Mayor to be able to say, “Look, you’re going to pay for people’s health care-”

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 “Whether you have Obamacare-”

Neil Nelson:                       Or not.

Cathy Woolard:                 “Or not.”

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right? You know, you’re going to pay for it straight up at Grady every single day or you’re going to help people have a way to participate in making themselves healthier by helping them get insurance and-

Neil Nelson:                       How do you champion that cause though? What kind of policy, what kind of programs to make other side, both sides, see that there’s a vested interest in restoring a level of equity in the city?

Cathy Woolard:                 Oh, well I could have that conversation all day long.

Neil Nelson:                       Not all day. There’s time for a few minutes.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no, no I mean I think, you know, I think there’s a couple things. Gosh.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know, I think you have to be willing to talk about it and I think the really interesting thing about where we are as a society right this minute … You know, frankly because of Black Lives Matter, but because of the shootings-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 That have caused the conversation.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 That have elevated lots of other parts of the conversation is. It is like a conversation that, like, we decided 30 years ago … And Atlanta’s the worst, right? We decided when we were ending segregation that the way things were going to happen is the business leaders were going to get together, in a room, and figure out, like, “How are we going to sorta fix this and divide up the pie? And then we’re going to kinda go back to our sides and have a good time.” Right? And I really don’t mean that to be disrespectful, I really don’t.

Neil Nelson:                       That was accurate.

Cathy Woolard:                 You do things in a moment of time and it worked, right?

Neil Nelson:                       It worked.

Cathy Woolard:                 I mean it helped, you know? It helped. But we’re in a different moment in time and it can’t be left up to a few people, sort of at the top, to decide what’s right.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Now it really needs to be the community coming together in a dialogue that says, “Look” you know, “We have a problem with juvenile justice”.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know … And you can do it down to numbers. Right? If you don’t care about people that cost $90,000 a year to house a kid in a prison, you know, versus less than 10 to, deal with him in a program that’s home-based-

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know? Or, hell send him to school

Neil Nelson:                       I’m not trying to be, you know, a hard-ass or anything, but I think that-

Cathy Woolard:                 Oh be, though. Be. Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       I think the 90,000/10,000 comparison doesn’t work if there are emotional, psychological, cultural variables that make 90,000-. Worth it. Because I feel safer-

Cathy Woolard:                 Oh yeah, I mean, yeah but-

Neil Nelson:                       I feel better.

Cathy Woolard:                 But you have to talk about it. You just have to say. From a public policy perspective, we can no longer do this to people.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right? And if you don’t care about anything else but, like, what I can do with that $90,000 besides put that child in jail-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Then that’s how I’m going to say it. You know, if that wins the day.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Because remember I said at the beginning, my goal is to win.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know. But I don’t mind talking about it. You know, I mean I think we have to talk about it and I think we have to have this conversation about how do we make decisions in Atlanta anymore?

Neil Nelson:                       I agree.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right? And, you know-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 We’ve seen this, you know, with Turner Field, you know. We’re seeing it go on with the Underground sale … We are selling public assets without ever determining what people wanted.

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right? We’re deciding what the business folks wanted. Now we might come close, you know, on some of these after arm wrestling and twisting, and yelling, and whatever but it didn’t need to start that way and it should not happen with public assets. And I think that that’s why I’ve always used a community organizing model for the things that I do. Because if you have a lot of conversation, someone will provide the answer. Or the theme of the conversations will get you there if only you can do it long enough. And I think that that’s a distinction about how I see politics and how I see getting things dones that’s really different. I would not even start to have a conversation that says, “People aren’t racist.” I mean, we know that to be true. You know? We know people to be homophobic and it comes out in just weird ways. You know? Like sometimes people just do, like, the strangest thing and it takes about four years to explain to them why they did that and why they reacted that way.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 But, you know, that’s another conversation.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 As a city, I think we have to face the fact. We are all here- We’re all in it together. We will be a better city if we have people … We have diversity, that we have international diversity, you know. And we’ll go back to sanctuary cities. We don’t have an international community here to speak of, in the City of Atlanta. I think that’s bizarre, you know? We won’t even get off on that.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 But, you know, so I just think that we have to have a Mayor that is willing to look at that and call it when we need to call it. But work around it if we need to work around it. You know? Because at the end of the day, we have to get started and we haven’t gotten started. I mean we have let poverty go for a really long time. You know? And now we have to … We just need to get about it. And it’s not going to be easy, but we have to get specific.

Neil Nelson:                       So, it’s about 5:50 right now. I think that, one of the things that we’ve heard with conversation with other candidates. And one of the things that we’ve heard is really … Everyone really seems to be on the same boat.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       It seems. And when we ask about specifically, you know, what kind of policies that folks are looking to put in place when they, you know … They’ll, “My first hundred days” or whatever, you know, they throw out there, “we’ll put these things on my top … on my agenda to do specifically.” Folks have been really … Try to come to an answer that makes sense.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       And so, you know, I’ll pose it to you in the last 10 minutes, you know … What kind of policies around, and things that we’ve talked about … We’ve talked about poverty, as a broad-stroke, we’ve dealt with specifics, we’ve dealt with transportation and housing and schooling and jobs, and for different levels of society where folks are coming into the community-

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       Those who are in there and those who are coming, and those who will come in the next 25 years.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       What kind of policies, do you put in place … Specifically though, around for us at least and our readers, those poor black folks who feel like, at least, they’re being pushed out by gentrification … What kind of policies to reverse that push?

Cathy Woolard:                 Well, some are policies and some are actions.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 Right. So, on the action front I do really believe that we have to think holistically about how we grow communities. And so I’ll go back to the beginning thing.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 Education, transportation, housing … In particular, and public safety is almost like a by-product of community development, right? It’s not really a thing-

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 You do. And, you know, working with the school system, in particular, to think about how we grow the city and be smart about it so that we’re spending tax payer dollars to grow in a, like … we’re growing in the same way. So I think that’s one thing.

I think, secondly, you know, having a clear census of who’s struggling and what makes them struggle. Because, again, I think we need to define the problem really, really clearly. How many people are senior citizens? You know, how many people are children? You know, and devise a holistic community strategy that addresses what that is and benchmarks where we need to see this go. A lot of communities do that, right? They have community well-being benchmarks that, like, you start moving the dial and then you start experimenting with policies that get you to that right thing. So if you don’t know it with great specificity, you won’t. Interestingly, in Seattle, they have a … I forgot what they now call it, but it’s like a … I’ll just make up the term. It’s like ‘community equity survey’.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay.

Cathy Woolard:                 So for all departments, before they propose a policy or, kind of, institute a project, they have to kinda run through a community equity, sort of, survey.

Neil Nelson:                       Evaluation.

Cathy Woolard:                 To make sure that they’re kind of … You know, making sure that they understand that the 360 of the impact-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Of what it is that they’re proposing. You know, and I’ve looked at it … Some of it I think we do as a matter of course in Atlanta because I think we’re just a different place, but Seattle’s not phenomenally diverse community. More diverse than us, you know? I mean, we’re a black and white city, for the most part. They’re very, very multicultural.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 So I think that’s a really interesting thing to think about adopting. This is sort of a by-product, but I really want to change who sits at the Cabinet table so that we have a Transportation Director, a Housing Director, and a Planning Director who are, you know, overseeing, kind of all of those components and making sure that they’re in alignment with where we go. I think that … We haven’t talked anything about arts and culture, we haven’t talked anything about youth programming-

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 And what we can do as a city to help with that and what a Mayor can do as a champion. But there’s a lot of things that we can do in that particular space. But I think that, really and truly, the job of this next Mayor is to figure out how we develop our city in, you know, in the fullest capacity that we possibly can. And I think the Mayor’s job is to make sure that, first of all, that we all understand what the plan is, that we benchmark against poverty and where we need to go, and that the Mayor aligns resources and goes and gets resources at the national level, at the state level. You know, and generates resources to get that done. And I think the next Mayor has to focus on this like a laser beam. This is not … Be great if I got interested in this. This is the job of the next Mayor to do this. Because the growth is going to happen, whether … If we stop the Beltline tomorrow, it’s still going to happen. You know? It’s just going to happen, right? So we’ve got to drive that as best we possibly can.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 And I think, just on the jobs front I want to say one thing, cause we haven’t talked about it, is we’re very, very good at getting Fortune company to locate here. I think we should stay with that. Right? I think the next Mayor needs to be like, not missing a beat. Cause the opportunity’s there, we’re doing it, it drives growth for us, it drives income. I also think that the next Mayor had to really think about and benchmark how many jobs can we attract here that are, you know, living wage, at whatever level you want that to be, benefits, promotability for people who have high school degrees … You know, and maybe even don’t have that. Right? But, you know, you can drive a forklift, that turns into you can drive a truck, that turns into you might be a dispatcher manager … And we need to set some goals on those kinds of jobs. You know UPS is just opening a giant facility in South Fulton, which is great. It’s not too far from the City of Atlanta. But, like, we should’ve fought for that.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 You know? We should’ve put it on MARTA. And if you couldn’t put it on MARTA, we should’ve built MARTA as part of the attraction, right? And I just use that as an example.

Neil Nelson:                       Sure, sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 Again, I’m not disparaging anybody’s efforts on getting that. Good for them, you know.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah.

Cathy Woolard:                 But that’s the kind of thing we ought to be looking at.

Neil Nelson:                       Right.

Cathy Woolard:                 And making sure that we’re, you know, don’t have people riding buses for three hours each way to try to find decent job.

Neil Nelson:                       Okay. Final question.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       We ask everyone the same question. This final question is as I mentioned earlier, in the City of Atlanta, is about 300,000 each month.

Cathy Woolard:                 City of Atlanta or Metro Atlanta?

Neil Nelson:                       It may be metro.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, it’s got to be metro, yeah.

Neil Nelson:                       Probably metro. I think the city’s really small.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah. Half that.

Neil Nelson:                       Metro is about, what? Is it eight or five million?

Kamau Franklin:                Four million.

Cathy Woolard:                 Yeah, that sounds about right.

Neil Nelson:                       Yeah, probably so. So what do you say to them, and why they should vote for you, in particular as opposed to other candidates that are out there?

Cathy Woolard:                 I think they should vote for me because I sort of have the great privilege of being an insider outsider, right? I’ve served at City Hall, so I understand how City Hall works. And I have accomplished a lot in the short period of time that I was there, and I will talk to you about that in a minute. The flipside of it is, I am not so enthralled with the idea of being in public office that I have felt like I have had to run for everything that was out there. I want to be the Mayor because I want to do the things we talked about, right? I want to focus on community development. I want to make sure that we clean up City Hall, once and for all. You know, and that we figure out how we both combat, and extract the best possible results from this administration that’s scaring the heck out of all of us.

Just a couple things that I did at City Hall-

Neil Nelson:                       Sure.

Cathy Woolard:                 That are of interest. The Beltline, obviously, is one of them. I also passed the only comprehensive civil rights bill in the state of Georgia. The state of Georgia doesn’t have a civil rights bill. We’re one of three states in America that don’t. I passed one 15 years ago that covers housing, employment, and public accommodations for everyone, including sexual orientation and gender identity. But it has served us well in these recent RFRA fights, but it also has not been challenged. Right. This general assembly- And you know this … They could’ve preempted that. I didn’t particularly want you to print that cause I don’t want to invite it. But they haven’t because the understand that it was the right thing to do. They’re not ready to do it, but we needed it because both to say who we are, and also provide protection for people who had absolutely none.

And I have worked on social justice issues. I worked on LGBT issues, I’ve worked in Florida to try to repeal the Stand Your Ground laws, I’ve worked for transportation policy, I’ve worked on environmental issues, I’ve worked for CARE, combating global poverty, at the executive level … I have devoted my life to seeking justice and making policies happen that do that. And I don’t feel a need all through my career to make sure everybody was noticing I was doing it, but I never missed a beat. I did it the whole time. I was a Peace Corps volunteer after college, you know, and I’ve done it up until this day, today down at the Capitol, making sure that stupid RFRA bill doesn’t fight.

And so I think that for your readership, if you want to think about what a fresh voice is, you should look at what I’ve done, both in my private career and at what I did in the six or seven years I was on Council. Pretty damn major stuff. And, you know, women aren’t supposed to do that, right? We’re not supposed to brag about what we do, but I am now, not as bragging but to say, “I helped make a very complicated project get done that most civic leaders didn’t want to have happen.” There are so many things that are way easier than that that we can accomplish in this city if we have focus and we engage everybody in the city in helping find the solutions, and then get about it. And so that’s why I want to be Mayor. I don’t want to be anything else after that. Some people say I shouldn’t say that, but I really don’t. I just want to do this. And if I can’t do this, I’m going to go back to working on social justice and all those things that we just figured because I have spent my entire life doing it and there’s nothing else I want to do. So, thank you.

Neil Nelson:                       Thank you.

Cathy Woolard:                 Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I’ve enjoyed this.

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