Michael Sterling @ CCI
#atlmayor2017 #cci #atlanta
April 11, 2017
He comments on Rohit’s usual TMNT mug and then Rohit asks:
What cartoons did you watch as a kid?
- Captain Planet
- The smurfs
- Half live action half cartoon Super Mario
Why are you running for mayor?
- thanks to CCI for hosting
- Life started in an orphanage, as a warden of the state
- my social worker Ruby Douglas helped him find a loving home. Placing me multiple times, eventually called a couple she knew 100mi away in Bovine Texas. She said “I believe I’ve got your son”, they already had 3 kids. My mom takes one look at me and says “He’s going to be nothing but trouble, but this is going to be our son”.
- At every point of my life, always something like her. 3rd grade teacher, 9th grade teacher and debate coach encouraged him to become a lawyer
- “I know personally the difference… a public servant has made in my life… if I ever had the opportunity to do that for someone else, I would do that
I noticed you posted yesterday for National Sibling Day, there is a Hindu holiday called Rhaksha where brothers give sisters money,… tell me about your siblings
- people who knew me for 10, 15 years had no idea about my background
- Oldest sister became a teenage mother at 16
- She laid down the law
- In the black community, we have a no snitching culture, she is who enforced that culture
- I’m 6’2” and she’s closer to 5’2”, and I’m still scared of her
- Other sister a teacher
- brother is incarcerated, doing 40y for a murder. Happened while Michael was a federal prosecutor
- Life is complicated
- Can’t look at someone and assume you know everything about that person
How did you find this adversity as a young person
- First visited at 16
- Someone from my hometown was class of 1950, would tell me stories about eating chicken with MLK Jr (c/o 1948), how he was supposed to be in the house that Abernathy was in that was bombed
- He dropped me off at Moorehouse at homecoming and that was it, “I’m coming
Argument that GSU graduates more black students than all of the HBCUs combined
Was Kasim then the same?
- I think he was much more idealistic then
- Probably someone like us who think we can change the world and make everything better
- people ask why he is running for mayor at such a young age: “I don’t want you to politic all the hope of me”
- “I think we’re at our best when we’re trying to achieve extraordinary things
What were you involved in in school?
- I was on my fraternity step team. I have two left feet, but I practiced really hard
- I couldn’t win an election at Moorehouse, my polling numbers were much better at Spelman
- At law school, wanted to be in top 5% of his class, and was
- Worked in student government then
- Was chairman of a national organization of black law students
- Went to Texas Southern
- Runs through Obama’s career, was inspired by him at such a time
- Narrowed it to 2 law firms, one was _ gump, the other was the law firm where Barack and Michelle met each other, he chose the latter. Wanted to start his career at the same place, Sidney Austin (?).
Was there a statue of Barack there?
- [no, but] there’s a big statue of Newt Minnow, He started the presidential debates, worked at Sidney Austin for 50, 60 years. Barack was only there for a year, Michelle may two
What was it like to be a federal prosecutor?
- it was intense
- worked under Patrick Fitzgerald, US District Attorney
- We prosecuted two governors in a row, one was republican, one a democrat
- intense FBI background check where they go 10y in your past
Rohit: Yeah, you’ve gotta tell people, I didn’t tell my mom, and she called me and said “why is the Secret Service calling me?”
- 27, youngest federal prosecutor in Chicago
- Being called as “Michael Sterling, on behalf of the United States of America” in court in first trial case was one of the most special moments of my life
- Took a year off during his brother’s trial
- “I’m not overly emotional, I felt more empathy for my parents than anything else. Someone could tell them that their son’s a murderer and they didn’t deserve that
Is the system fair to people, and if not, why?
- system is not fair, let’s separate the system and the people
- I tried to make the best judgment based on the facts in front of me
- Some people had better lawyers who could better represent their interest
- Someone’s life is in the hands of a lawyer , so you see the value …
What brought you back to Atlanta?
- initially when I went to Chicago my plan was to go for 2 years, but then I got the role of US Attorney
- After Mayor Kasim Reed’s first (or second?) appearance on Meet The Press, he texted me, so I texted him back, and Kasim called me, and he would never call, and he said “we need your help” with respect to pension reform, etc, asked him to be a special advisor
- 6 months later Kasim called me again and said “are you ready?”, “are you happy with your job?”, and I don’t know how I could turn down the opportunity to help a major American city which I love
- got here on Friday, on Saturday was called to go to Woodruff Park and he was representing the mayor for Occupy Atlanta
- Kasim told him to come the Police Command vehicle, and asked him “what should we do?”
How does the city usually react to something like that? How seriously they take it or are they laughing about it
- the city’s response normally reflects the mayor’s personality
- That circumstance may have been different because it was the first test of protest
- I think he was a nicer, gentler Kasim with that protest. Kasim was trying to find the right balance of the history of the city’s civil rights past but also not let the city be lit on fire
There was a hanging in the park, etc, people who protest. How does the city communicate to the people?
- need to investigate facts before we jump to an early conclusion
- if people don’t have answers, they’ll fill that vacuum. I think the city has an obligation to respond and to be responsible
And to be transparent?
Tension between how public voices concerns and how city hall makes decisions. How do we resolve that?
Walk me through a big decision
- Transparency pledge, even when the public isn’t paying attention. I’d have 0 viewers on our webcast, but I made it publicly available.
- open up public response via twitter, open surveys
You can’t call that engagement. Yes there are meetings but they’re on the 29th floor of the Georgia Pacific building, yes there is a twitter account but it has 300 followers. What does engagement look like in a Sterling administration?
- let existing organizations provide feedback
Is that engagement?
- this depends on who is receiving the information
- I listened to someone from the Atlanta Women’s Foundation and updated my platform
That’s okay in a campaign. What happens when decisions are made in spite of data about growing income inequality, etc.
- you change the mayor, you change the narrative. Even city council members
- In the last competitive mayor’s election 27% of people who showed up
- The mayor is looking at ideas of people most likely to vote. That’s 27%. If the stadium has a 65% approval among those 27%, that’s 14% of the population, then it’s a good thing
- Not a single politician who cares what a non-voter thinks
- Wanted to do something for kids in a place, but the reaction to do that was: none of those people vote
As a senior advisor to the mayor, did you ever say that something was a bad idea
- you don’t hire someone as your advisor who’s going to agree with you all the time
- If you imagine what our mayor is like in public, imagine what he’s like in private when you tell him something he doesn’t agree with
- before Michael announced he was running for office, Kasim used to say that “I [Michael] tell him the truth
- I don’t tell the media that I disagree with the administration because that’s not my role
- Was appointed to head Atlanta Workforce Development Authortiy (AWDA)
AWDA: were these rogue actors in city hall or
- One of my work guiding philosophies in running the Workforce Development: “if we all trust each other, it’s going to be much more efficient
- Left AWDA to run for mayor, was there for 2 years
A lot of narrative about AWDA is that it’s making a turn around.
- was vetted for US Senate, Democratic Party was trying to get him to run against Isackson, but he turned that down
- day I decided to run for mayor, Annie Casey Foundation showed me the a presentation of 80% of African American children are still living in poverty [Ed note: it could be this study based on the timeline]
- To think I’ve worked for the city for all of this time and not address these problems
But they know that?
- but I’d never heard anybody articulate these issues
Did you raise that up the administration?
- yeah, I encouraged him in that, but I’m not solely responsible for this issue
- the mayor hired an economic inclusion expert
- I made it a priority. Invited that foundation to give the presentation to his entire staff at the Workforce agency
How to deal with multi-faceted factor like race and view equity in all of your projects
- mayor has to do a better job of being a local leader. As mayor of Atlanta you can become a national figure, but you’ve got to be a local leader. You’ve got to have personal relationships in these communities
- Affordable workforce housing
- Accountability for companies that receive tax benefits
- Anyone who says they have all the right answers doesn’t understand the job
- Mentions APS, Social impact bonds
- people have to first know what your intentions are, and your policy flows from that
Charles Stevens, asks about hanging in Piedmont park, which was actually a suicide. How do you plan for input from LGBT community
- went to pride with his girlfriend Eva Marcel, was called gay
- Everybody deserves to be treated the same
- Reaches out to organizations invested in these issues
Jillian Madden, with Midtown _, a question about affordable housing
- doesn’t think 80% of AMI is the right definition. Has looked at Arts District in LA, Brooklyn and Harlem. Look at what hasn’t worked in these cities
- Massive gentrification because of lack of affordable housing
- Hasn’t seen a city solve it in a way that he would be happy with
- Require developers to work with affordable housing advocates
- Looked at a cap on property taxes for people who have lived in a place for 10y
- have to have a % of homes be affordable when developers are getting tax breaks
Lee Moore, entertainment attorney, question about entertainment bills at the state level and at the city level
- I helped create the office of film and entertainment
- 2012, the office was shut down
- 2013, the office was reopened, reached an agreement between producers, neighborhoods
- One of his proudest accomplishments
- Publicly opposed the ordinance restricting recording studios in Atlanta
- thinks that controversial ordinance came up because politicians listen to people who vote
- When I’m mayor well revisit that piece of legislation
- You don’t want to overcorrect
- Feels like the adults in the room kill all your fun
Question about HIV/AIDS in Atlanta:
- a lot of us were shocked by how bad the numbers were
- Fulton County lost $6,$8M to fight HIV/AIDS
- We’ve gotta lead an educational effort
- Work with college and institutions to promote safe sex
- Mobile health clinics
City’s relationship with Fulton County. How do you navigate
- “Change the person, change the narrative
- Conflict between city/APS
- Have somebody who is less confrontational, who has a more regional (vision)
- Wanna be partner in chief with APS
If you change the person, would you change the outcomes?
- it’s not a go along to get along relationship
- Be willing to create the partnerships. There’s a reluctance for politicians to put their name on the line.
- To me, that’s not the way to govern
- First step is to say we’re trying
Natasha from mayor’s sustainability office, question about climate change
- easy answer: climate change is very real
- Obvious to anyone who is living
- Cities can lead the way
- The existing office has done a good job
- Wants to increase recycling
- Replace gas vehicles with electric vehicles
- “You all in the sustainability office have done a terrific job
- The 100 buildings challenge has been terrific [Ed note: I think this press release is about the same program]
What about selling Underground, Civic Center, Ft McPherson
- in a lot of those instances, there wasn’t enough public input
- The public would be if there was more public engagement, participation
How would you have done it differently?
- let’s look at Underground
- only one company was involved
- By the time the public heard about it, the deal was done
- was on more of a political timeline rather than a public participation timeline
Rohit: They’ve said there were 20 public meetings
- I’ve seen that game
- it was after the deal was cut
- For me, if I were mayor, I would make this transparent
- I don’t remember the 20 public meetings that happened
Film and entertainment office, when I brought it back, Teamsters, location managers, 25 different stakeholders at a big table at Home Grown. Go one by one with a piece of legislation to get agreement. Then filed it with city council, but put it on hold while notifying and meeting with NPUs. Everyone could see their input. Got stakeholder, community buy-in
- had meetings with his staff when he was defining the governing philosophy of the Workforce agency. I needed the ideas of those ~60 employees because [they had lots of experience in the industry and agency]
- Need to rely on people who live in these neighborhoods
First day, what’s the theme song that plays?