Katrina “Katie” Kissel is running for Atlanta City Council District 5.

Candidate website: https://www.katieforatlanta.com/

What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?

Current Paying Job: Outreach Specialist at For Momentum.

List of Active Roles in Public Service Organizations:

President, Kirkwood Neighbors Organization; Executive Board Member and Mentor, HEY! Helping Empower Youth; Steering Committee and Board Member, Unearthing Farm & Market; Founding Board Member, Integrated Schools Organization - Atlanta Chapter; Board Member, New Atlanta Action Forum; Legal Observer, ACLU; Member, League of Women Voters; Member, Dekalb County Democrats; Member, Toomer Elementary Parent Teacher Association

What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?

Available and affordable housing is the biggest issue facing our constituents. I am the best candidate to address that issue because I have the trust of the community I serve and I am able to translate the wonky policy into something that a regular person can understand. We need our neighborhoods to be on board with the changes that are going to have to happen in order for our city to move forward as a city for everyone, not just the wealthy and well connected.

How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?  

Affordable means that you can pay for clean and safe housing as well as have enough money left over to provide for your other basic needs such as food, clothing, education, transportation, etc. Housing should require no more than 30% of your income. If you make $15/hr for a full time job that means you should pay no more than $780/month on housing. The average rent in Atlanta is double that. In order to reverse this trend we dismantle exclusionary zoning policies, utilize city owned land, fix our broken permitting system, incentivize below market rate housing, all while simultaneously managing our rising property tax burden. City council will need the support of our constituents to get this done quickly and correctly.

City Hall has been dogged by an apparently ongoing federal investigation involving accusations of corruption in the previous mayoral administration. What do you see as the role of the City Council in holding the Administration accountable and in helping restore public trust on matters of staff spending and contract procurement?  

We have to open our books. Right now the 2022 FY Budget is 623 pages of nonsense. It takes summary data, splits it about 30 different ways and then depending on what way you split it the totals are different. It doesn’t take an investigative accountant to figure out that this does not add up. We must pull off the bandaid and truly open our books to show where the money is going. By using the investigative power of the collective we can finally hold our executive branch accountable.

In 2020, Atlanta and the nation experienced two historic events: the COVID-19 pandemic and protests about racial justice and police brutality. What is a public-policy lesson you learned from those events?  

Police accountability is a public safety issue. As a legal observer for the ACLU I got a first hand view of why this is so important. Our citizens will never feel safe until they know that the officers enforcing the law are held to the same standards as the citizens they are supposed to serve. I believe that our increase in gun violence across this city and across this country is directly related to members of our community feeling unsafe in the presence of our police. The only way to repair this broken relationship is by holding officers who have broken the law accountable. Jimmy Atchison was murdered by an Atlanta Police Officer one week before the Superbowl in 2019. There is a recommendation to indict sitting on DA Fanny Willis’s desk. Until that family and all of the other families see justice we cannot begin the healing process.

The debate about the location of a public safety training center is an example of longstanding tension over whether Atlanta's urban planning should be more top-down from corporations and private groups or more bottom-up from communities and neighborhoods. What is your approach to planning processes and is there a specific change you would make?

I don’t think you can hardly classify what happened with the public safety training facility “urban planning.” The 2017 Comprehensive Development Plan, which promised that area to be a protected green space, was in fact urban planning. The passing of legislation to fund a public safety facility that will be privately operated is no more than a case of big money politics giving in to the wants of the few over the needs of the many. But to answer your question I think that the process should be that a combination of public and private organizations should develop proposals in partnership with the community and then work on education with room for revision as the wider audience is included in the process.

Who is the main expert you turn to for information on understanding and addressing crime and what is an important fact you have learned from them?

Crime is such a multi-layered and multi-faceted issue that I do not have just one expert that I turn to in terms of addressing crime. When we are talking about reaction to a specific violent offense that occurs my first call is to Major Peter Reis, the zone 6 commander, with whom I have a long standing relationship. If the “crime” in question is in relation to issues of poverty or mental health I would call Clara Green of Atlanta's Police Alternative Diversion initiative. If we are talking about proactive problem solving of crimes related to homelessness I would call Tracy Woodard of Intown Ministries. If we are talking about proactive problem solving as it relates to gun violence, gangs, drug activity, etc. I would call friend and journalactivist, George Chidi. 

What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?

City Council and Atlanta Public Schools should be working together on every issue because so much of what one does affects the other one's outcomes. Children who are receiving a subpar education are less likely to be career and college ready, will rely on more government services, and are more likely to commit crime. On the flip side, children whose basic needs aren’t met will struggle to learn no matter the environment. If we continue to operate in silos we will be doing a disservice to the city and its children. The first initiative I would like to see spearheaded would be a land use study that would incorporate property owned by both APS and City of Atlanta with the goal of providing more affordable housing.

Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?

I am the ONLY active community leader in this race. As President of Kirkwood Neighbors Organization, I have the most active executive committee of any president in recent history. I revived the Kirkwood Newsletter and brought it to each of the 3,500 doorsteps in our neighborhood including multi family homes. During the pandemic I helped start up the Kirkwood Adopt-A-Senior Program which provides resources and companionship to our seniors. I reimagined our Public Safety Committee to be our Health & Public Safety Committee. We have consistently seen our membership grow both in numbers and in diversity. My leadership of Kirkwood has shown my ability to bring people together and that is exactly what I’ll do as your next District 5 City Council Woman.

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