Kwanza Hall @ CCI
#atl #atlmayor2017 #cci
June 13, 2017
Ed note: Kwanza strikes me as a difficult person to interview
The day CCI opened, Kwanza was one of the first people they had here.
- I was born and raised in SW Atlanta,
- Dad Leon Hall, kicked out of school for organizing at 17 in Alabama
- He was a community organizing troubleshooter worked for Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young
- Went to MIT, almost completed
- When you travel to the northeast you realize that people there read a whole lot more
- When I came back, I did okay in my technology business
- Went to work for Ambassador Young in 2000, said he wanted to run for public office, Young said politics and business don’t mix
- Next thing he knew he was running for school board
Sounds like a lot of this comes from your father
- And my mother too
- we did community kitchens and co-ops
- We had toy closets and food pantries and we were always giving
- Being a public official isn’t politics, this is service
- a younger brother, 18months
- I was more cerebral, he was more on the aggressive sports side
- I did science projects all the time,
- we must live together as brothers or perish as fools - the Dr King quote
Where did you grow up?
- SW Atlanta
- between Cambelton and Cascade
- my dad lived in [some tough neighborhoods]
- My dad had a business repairing projects
- Who here is from Atlanta?
- When we had housing projects [in atlanta] you would not go anywhere near these places
I’d love to get a sense of what was the relationship like between people and elected officials. Has that changed? Was that intimidating?
- Maynard Jackson, governor Busby, Governor carter
- We campaigned for these people
- Hosea Williams was probably the funnest person to be around. He was in a variety of elected posts… and then he was so real. He might’ve been arrested for a DUI 50 times, let’s say 20 times.
- My dad probably had gone to jail 100 times for causes he believed in
- My dad and I would drive down Cascade and there would be Hosea Williams asleep in his like, like Tiger
- He [HW] would get a dui and then come out and do something great for the community
- These people had experienced a lot of pain, and it was like their coping mechanism [he likens them to vets]
There’s a lot of wear and tear
- a tremendous amount of resilience
- A lot of people you care for, people you don’t even know
- Each of them dealt with it in a different way, sometimes substance abuse or alcohol, or depression
- Father passed away at 42 of a heart attack when Kwanza was 18
- One time my dad was talking to ambassador young and they were friends but he [Kwanza’s dad] was cursing him out on the phone, and we were riding to the swimming pool, we see him, and my dads just cussed out the mayor
Did that make you want to pursue public office?
- my dad was a loyal lieutenant, he believed in the ideals of what dr King [proposed]
- He did oral histories of vets, but didn’t finish
- ran for school president in 8th grade and lost
- Prepared to be president of high school from 9th grade
- Hung out with the good bad and the ugly
- I couldn’t fit it
- This was pre outkast so we were the original outcast if you will
- In 7th grade, got transferred to a… 90210 kind of school…, and a lot of material stuff came into my life
- got into West Point, Annapolis, Berkeley, Chicago
Who was guiding you?
- because my parents didn’t go to college, I thought that was the solution
- I was competitive
- Stopped playing sports in 10th grade,
- We used to ride MARTA to school, through 15,20 neighborhoods
- It was very dangerous
- From Oakland city, west end, to five points and this was the worst stop. [People I knew are still at Five Points now.]
- And go all the way west out to high tower
- And every stop there was another gang
- And if you had mays high school colors, you wouldn’t get through
- My dad worked for Dr King [NOTE: remove?]
- everybody carried guns, we had access to weapons
- How was I going to get my calculus homework done if I couldn’t get to school
- Even on the main APS school bus, there was a fight every day
- I won’t be the guy in the background
- I think I have to step out or I’ll follow that same pattern
Why’d you choose to leave Atlanta
- Emory with the Woodruff scholarship
- Chicago too cold
- Berkeley too far away
- I’m leaving Atlanta, the capital of African American intellectual
- Went to Boston and thought this could be really cool
- chose mit because of innovation, it’s on the leading edge, “they’re trying to figure out how to teleport and stuff
- I knew I would be challenged
Were your friends and family excited about you leaving? I just watched the get down, and the main character is leaving his friends for Yale.
- everyone had high expectations for us
- I was gonna go do genetics, I was gonna get a patent on a plant
- I say science projects saved my life
- We had a free day
- Cops were looking for some kids who had robbed a bank
- My cut buddies, big brothers
- Principal says you go to late home room, [he saw I still had a chance]
- Here are all the students who won the science fair
- Pull myself out of the natural gravity the inclination to rebel
- We’d tell cops “well you work for us, and get arrested for disorderly conduct
- there’s so many young people with this dillema
- Luckily my dad knew how to get me through the system
- He would embrace us and let us be with him instead of chastising us
- Whereas my mom would ask when we came in at 5 in the morning, what have you been doing?
Boston, did you get the bug for [public policy] there?
- became president of high school, running against the valedictorian/drum major
- Were playing basketball, kept us out of trouble
- We can never go to parties because people are always starting fights and all we want to do is meet our friends and meet girls, [someoen suggested we wear all black]
- Realized I was the president of the high school, [so I could do something about it]
- We had a fight at our school, the invited the other school over and it was like a gang reconcilliation
- Black Teen Advancement, talking how we can end the violence in SW Atlanta
- political science department [at mit] was calling him
- Didn’t want to be in the lab
- Atlanta was a 24 hr city at that time
- I looked for that in Boston
- I would hang with crazy saudis and people with 3 Mercedes a year
- Didn’t discover politics until 2000
- Didn’t graduate, never wrote my thesis
- If I write all these great ideas, you get to own it, and that was one of my philosophical issues
- I ended up on Wall Street
- I went to work at Goldman Sachs one summer
- Discovered I need to live life
- A slight degree of depression or lack of confidence [about not finishing]. But it goes back to resilience
- Everybody [back home] had something going on, goodie mob, tlc
- What am I doing in this place?
- College is supposed to help you do what you’re already [going to do in life]
Do we have the wrong North Star for college?
- we need to empower our young people to have tangible skills
- If you can fix a cell phone screen you can have a business at 16, and then you don’t have to beat someone over the head on the beltline, you don’t have to sell dope
- We’ve gotta give them tools that [show them a way out]
- Portable skills
- Traditional skills - plumbing,
That wasn’t your future. You were into genetics. We lose a lot of talent in Georgia. You were talented.
- 50% in APS don’t go to college
- then you have people who don’t graduate from college
- So, what’s missing?
- If you partially go to college, and particularly in the black community, you don’t have financial literacy
- I’m trading oil with mark ritch, [but I didn’t understand why. If I had stayed 3 yrs until we went public, but I was worried about falling into the trap (see below?)]
When was the first time you ran for office?
- I came back in 1996
- Worked at Fulton county, doing technology. Met his wife. They started a business together and an incubator. Lost it in the dot com bubble. Became a father, husband, and homeowner in one week. [they bought in O4W]
- We called O4W Little Vietnam
- It’s like different strokes
- I’m from 100% SWATs [SW Atlanta], suburban style houses, all African American
- Over here
- Nancy Boxtel
- Brenda Mohammed was a school board member. She was running for state [office]
- People suggested he [kwanza] run for office
- He got fired from his tech company (consulting to the city) for running [TODO: wanting to run?] for city council
- Its not their future its mine
- I’m not going to let someone tell me no
- They told me no when we started the anti-gang thing in high school [TODO: see above]
- They told me no when I tired to run for city council
- People try to talk you out of your dreams
- 2005 for city council
This is happening a lot, where people run for school board and then city council. It’s almost like it’s an incubator. Why don’t people stay?
- it’s so hard when you’re dealing with children and parents who don’t care. It’s a high animal of a beau racacy.
- The chamber was influencing the school system heavily
- I went against this board member as president
- I figured it out
- All the schools in my district have no pta support and all the schools in the high performing districts
- My sons school had 500, and we went to another school and they had a thermometer to raise 200k, and they do this every year
- Most parents do not listen to administrators. There’s no dialogue. They come from a different place. They’re not available to navigate the system
- The system needed to be overhauled
- I wanted to raise some money for this
- I raised like a thousand dollars
- That’s too revolutionary
- Are you sure you want to be a school board member. You’re rocking the boat
- The system was telling me we’re
- I watched Lamar Willis raise several hundred thousand, and I realized how city council can help kids
- We had a school board member who got an ethics violation for visiting a school
We have a broken procurement system. If it was I can’t be as revolutionary as I want to be. Have you
- we did the year of boulevard
- We tried to find the solution to poverty
- You can do things after 3, or in the summer, or on saturdays
What made it about city council that allowed you to do that?
- there’s more leverage more power
- Board members are just that, so it’s kind of a different type of politician
- Board members are supposed to work together as a board and not be distinctional
Does city council have a good relationship with APS?
There’s a function in city council that sequesters that information, it’s not public information, can’t say it in public, that’s exactly how people think government functions. All is good, but then there’re executive sessions
- because sometimes you can be speaking out of turn
If you don’t have full information
- yes and then someone gives you the information
- But some of the things are part of your fiduciary responsibility
- Do you air your families dirty laundry?
- We have a duty
- The way it feels to the public, leaders can have a tough use and rapport
- Debbie star before me in district 2, a
- The duty if piliticnas :
- Find people who don’t trust you and figure out why … and try to clear it up
Have you ever taken the public opinion and gone to an executive session and changed your mind. Have you compromised to change your position, if you vote that particular way it wouldn’t be poltically beneficial
- I voted against the stadium, that was a tough vote
If you’re voting for something, you believe in it?
- Sometimes you miss things
- I only serve on 3 committees
- Mayors have 85% of the power, [council] has 15%
- Have 8 votes and most likely 10 votes if you want to go against the mayor
- With mayor franklin We had a decent relationship
- at the end we got a little rocky because there was a negative reality from the economy, and she wanted to raise taxes and I voted against it
- We didn’t talk for like 5 or 6 years - with Kasim (surprise from the audience)
- Their staff might come talk to you
- You think the pressure trwlks to all the congress people
You just recalled where your father yelled at the mayor
- but he was his friend and advisor
- The mayor and I didn’t know each other growing up
- I grew up in neighborhood politics, he grew up in state politics
- There was a learning for all of us, his leadership style, his introverted personality, you can walk by him 5 times and
- We were traveling and we were in china and we didn’t even speak to each other
- You think Trump and Pelosi talk? They send messages to each other
What would the relationship be between Mayor Hall and city council people
- I learned there are some things I would like to do
- I would rather not halfway do the bike share. Let me build a relationship so that we can
- I had to acquiesce and humble myself to build a relationship and a trust dynamic with him
- If my input were in the room
- I have a diffeeent leadership style I talk to everybody. I wanna know you. I wanna meet your parents your kids. Let’s take Myers Briggs together
- As mayor I’ll be reaching out to everybody. Not just council members but school board members
- The county needs to be in the room (vizaviz homeless), but there’s not a relationship between the mayor and the commissioner
These are the right cords. Do you think the city is good at community engagement
- As mayor, I plan to engage far deeper
- we can use technology, number 1, allow people to have a voice and contribute ideas
- “City of Atlanta has been great at building buildings but not people
But also that my voice matters. You hear me, but you don’t feel me. The closing of the streets are an example. But it didn’t feel like the voice was heard. It would be bett
- we get pregnant with deals and
- Council members didn’t start it
- I like to do planning and visioning.
Does our legislation allow for that?
- Thats why I do neighborhood plans. Everyone of my neighborhoods has a plan.
- Now we want doggie parks, we never thought of that.
- We want basketball courts
Protection of people. Sidewalks are great. Immigrants, lgbtq, do we have protections in place?
- were in an interesting place. We have some legacy identities we could be losing. Because those people don’t live there anymore. That lineage doesn’t continue. It’s discontinuitous
- as long as it’s not impacting others
- The two identities were not helping the most - the homeless and people living in poverty
- And if you have another identity on top of that, it’s even harder
- We have 30-40%, The county has 60-70%. Need unification of human service delivery
- 100k+ people, not the million in new york
- housing, transportation, removing food deserts
- City will partner with developers to build 10-20k
Would you put legislation in place that prevents developers
- I believe in all those kind of protections,
- We did more affordable housing under bill Campbell than anyone else
- The market downturn drove everything
- We need to buy the land now that removes that additional layer of cost
- on transit nodes
Matt Weiss: Edgewood Boulevard district
Kirsten S, Atlanta Farmers Alliance. What are your intentions for fostering urban agriculture
- done a lot of work with Truly Living Well and Good Shepard
- I believe in this philosophy
- I’ve got 20 fruit treees in my backyard
- Disappointed we didn’t seize the opportunity. All this land is still vacant.
- That’s what we did on the Wheat Street site
- There should be a farm in the box, for a 3-year window.
- All these corner stores should be having fresh produce and not just hot fries
Angela Jay, Emory Junior Encironentla studies, strategies for resilience
- has a piece of legislation, a roadmap
- Thinks it’s more powerful than the Paris climate accord
- Atlanta is one of those places that lies to do stuff
- I think there’s some big things in solar
- How we do transportation
- Gonna require that we spend the MARTA dollars
I wanna give you an opportunity to clarify remarks on climate change. There was a speech you were giving where you suggested we don’t ave the full story
- climate change is real
- This was at the republican forum, I got your attention right
Yeah, but it felt like pandering
- his question was about global warming. You can see the climate changing around the world. Semantics for people about warming.
- You make a gaff you make a mistake
- Things happen in life
I just wanted to be clear
- I wouldn’t have introduced the legislation if I didn’t believe in it
- I was going to Paris with the mayor
- I don’t have the political operatives around me
- I just come The meeting. I ride my bike everyday
- In general I’m just honest
Michelle Shriner, curious about NPU system, should we change, update?
- every NPU is different. But NPU M is a good example of how we can get things done.
- Had 4 associations with Old Fourth Ward, and CDC (not that one) came together with NPU M
- Looking at that model and how it worked
- Self determination philosophy around NpUs
- Maybe we should share best practices
- There’s a need for continuity and training.
- City does have a high responsibility to hear wat constituents are saying
Are NPUs broken?
- I think they could be improved
- Some people in city council think they have too much power
- Our permanent underclass in this city don’t have a voice at the table
- All the gentrifiers control the NPU
City council used to support the NPU
 Georgia Organics: you have a dedication with school system, agriculture,
- edible schoolyard is an example we’re doing down in Maynard Jackson
- Zoom out and look at parcels that the city owns, the county owns, the school system owns
- Allow farmers, artists, homeless people to occupy houses
If you walk into a room, theme song?
They’re launching a website called vote local!
- I evolved when I saw the system still had its
- None of y’all have
- Ran for office in 2000 and won