On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, residents in Atlanta’s City Council District 3 will vote for their new representative in a Special Election to fill the remainder of the term left vacant by the death of Ivory Lee Young, Jr. #VOTELOCAL is a campaign from the Center for Civic Innovation designed to engage the local Atlanta community in the upcoming elections. For the special election, they asked each of the candidates about their qualifications to govern and posted the responses of those who answered.
Matthew Charles Cardinale
QUALIFIED TO GOVERN
Q: What do you think is the most important role of the City Council?
A: The most important role of the City Council is to write, deliberate, and consider legislation.
Q: Please describe, in sufficient detail, one professional accomplishment or contribution of which you are most proud. These examples should illustrate skills and capabilities you think apply to governing the City of Atlanta.
A: My most professional accomplishment is having drafted twelve ordinances and two resolutions that are now law in the City of Atlanta, including laws related to affordable housing, transparency, public comment, due process for small businesses, protecting the First Amendment, and other issues. I have drafted the laws and given them to various Councilmembers for introduction, mostly without pay. I have worked primarily with Councilman Michael Julian Bond, in addition to Natalyn Archibong, Carla Smith, Andre Dickens, Matt Westmoreland, former Councilman Kwanza Hall.
Q: Please list or describe no more than 3 current and past activities you participated in as a private citizen (not an elected official) in which you have acquired skills and perspectives that will make you a stronger mayor. Include your role in the activity and the year(s) in which you were involved.
A: Well, I have attended over two hundred Council Meetings and Committee Meetings, and have made public comment just as many times. I formerly served on the Board of Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority, and currently serve on FACAA CHDO. I serve as the CEO of State and Municipal Action for Result Today / Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration, and have worked with jurisdictions including New Orleans, Louisiana; Clarkston, Georgia; and Portland, Oregon, on affordable housing issues.
Q: What does it mean to be an Atlantan/ATLien in 140 characters or less?
A: You mean 140 characters or “fewer.” I don’t care for this question.
Q: What is a new slogan for our city that could unite Atlantans and highlight who we are as a people?
A: I’ll have to give this my prayerful consideration, thank you.
DEMONSTRATES PEOPLE-CENTERED APPROACHES
Q: There are several major development projects happening or planned in and around District 3. What is the role of community input in public- and private-sector development and when should it take place?
A: I am a strong proponent of Community Benefit Agreements and I can use my legal knowledge and progressive principles to empower communities through education about their rights to form CBA’s and about how to do so. Because of case laws around contract zoning versus conditional zoning, CBA’s need to be driven by the community. Then, conditions that support the health, safety, and welfare of the community can be included as conditions for zoning changes. I also want to require that public comment on zoning matters be allowed at the Full Council and Committee Meetings; currently such comment is only allowed at Zoning Review Board. The call for progressive public policy and the call for participatory democracy are one and the same, which means we cannot have one without the other. Developers must be held to the frameworks adopted by neighborhoods, and when they seek variances, it is completely appropriate for the community to make demands including affordable housing.
Q: The NPU system was envisioned as a place for communities to engage with development in their neighborhoods. How would your administration support the existing NPU system or seek to change it?
A: First, I would support NPUs having meaningful veto power, which may require changes in state and local law. I believe that the NPUs have strayed from their original intent in terms of the empowerment of low-income people, and have become too dominated by people of means and sometimes developers. I believe we need to improve the way and the accuracy with which the Department of Planning communicates the decisions made by the NPUs as well as neighborhood associations. Often there are miscommunications, but I’ve never seen a miscommunication that benefits the public, rather than the developer.
PROACTIVE & RELENTLESS RELATIONSHIP-BUILDER
Q: Give an example of a time when you had to collaborate with many people and/or organizations, especially those who may not hold the same views as you do.
A: One of the best examples of this has been my ongoing ability to address the concerns of Atlanta City Councilmembers to ensure the passage of some of the legislation that I drafted, especially with the Stadium Neighborhoods Trust Fund and the Surplus Property Affordable Housing Policy. I communicated with Councilmembers by phone and via public comment in committee, to address specific concerns, and win over the support of Councilmembers Ivory Lee Young, Cleta Winslow, and Joyce Sheperd, and I believe also Felicia Moore on the Surplus Property policy. I was able to address concerns through changes that still preserved the progressive intent and integrity of the proposed policies.
Q: Think of one major Atlanta issue impacting the district you seek to serve and that needs to be tackled with a collaborative approach, how would you build relationships across the city and region with other governments, private enterprises, or organizations to effect change in our city?
A: I would like to start a grocery store in District 3, bringing together the organic fresh fruit and vegetable growers in Atlanta; the entrepreneurs; and the Atlanta Development Authority (d/b/a “Invest Atlanta”) to start a grocery store in District 3. I’m tired of begging Publix to come back. They can go sat down.
STRONG INTEREST IN TRANSPARENCY
Q: What level of openness and transparency should the citizens of Atlanta expect from city government under your leadership?
A: The highest level possible. I sued the City of Atlanta in 2010, winning Georgia Supreme Court ruling Cardinale v. City of Atlanta in 2012, forcing the City Council to disclose their secret vote. I have caused, through litigation and other strategies, the Council to open their formerly-closed Committee Briefings to the public.
Q: Please describe any policies, programs, or ideas you are considering to increase the transparency of city government, particularly in your office.
A: I believe that the Committee Briefings should be videotaped. I wrote legislation for Councilman Bond that he introduced; he could not get a second to pass it. If on Council, I will reintroduce the ordinance and Mr. Bond and I will force a vote on the issue. I might just reintroduce it every two weeks until it passes, and we can have a ten minute debate every time about why they don’t believe in transparency.