Russell Edwards


Candidate for Commission, District 7
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Questionnaire Responses

Transportation

  • Do you support fare-free bus service?: YES

“A fare-free bus would boost the quality of living for innumerable Athenians.”

  • Do you support expansion of transit service (e.g. increased frequency, more locations, longer service hours)? YES

“Yes, within reason.”

  • Do you support increasing the budget for bike and pedestrian infrastructure from the general fund? YES

“Texting and driving has made car lanes dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. We need more infrastructure separate from car lanes.”

Criminal Justice Reform

  • Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES

“Jailing offenders for simple possession drains our county’s resources and wrecks lives.”

Environmental Sustainability

    • Do you support a statewide ban or fee on single-use plastic bags? YES

“Single-use plastic bags are the top driver of sewer and stormwater system maintenance expense.”

Racial Justice

  • Do you support an Athens Civil Rights Committee established through the county government? YES
  • Do you believe that Athens-Clarke County should move forward with comprehensive non-discrimination legislation? YES

“We must, so that Athenians are protected from discrimination & have a way to pursue justice in a state that lacks civil rights legislation.” Q: White people still hold a hugely disproportionate amount of economic and social power in Athens-Clarke County. If elected, what will you do to help fight this structural imbalance, increase the economic security of, and ensure the equal treatment of Athenians of color; especially black Athenians who continue to be most targeted by past and present systems of oppression? A: (click to read)

Athens has GA’s highest poverty rate yet lowest unemployment rate. That fact proves poverty wage jobs are the problem. Our government should promote good-paying jobs, not just any job. Poverty wage jobs trap workers in cycles of poverty where they inevitably come to depend on government assistance. Oddly, most of these poverty wage jobs are offered by some of the richest corporations in the world. Most local businesses pay living wages, along with our local government. I think momentum is moving in the right direction with passage of recent local legislation providing living wages for county employees.

Affordable Housing

    • Do you support repealing the single-family ordinance? NO

“Without this ordinance, 5 Points might become one large Fraternity row.” Q: Rising rents and the proliferation of luxury student apartment complexes has been a major issue in town for the past several years. What will you do to promote affordable housing in Athens for its current residents? A: (click to read)

Poverty wage jobs in Athens make it impossible for some families to continue living in our town. Wages have remained stagnant while rent prices have soared. I do support affordable housing incentives that compel large-scale residential developments to include affordably priced units in their plans. Also, our community should explore more public-private partnerships like what created Columbia Brookside, a mixed-income development that has met success.

Challenging Unjust State Laws

Q: County Attorney Bill Berryman has recommended inaction on certain issues in order to avoid, in his view, potential conflicts with state law. These issues have included operational funding in TSPLOST, marijuana decriminalization and comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. Citing his interpretations, the Mayor and Commission have elected to take little to no action on these and similar issues. Do you support a different approach, even if it may lead to Athens-Clarke County challenging state law? A: (click to read)
Yes, within reason. In some cases, like marijuana decriminalization, other communities like Clarkston and Atlanta have shown it can be done.

Childcare and Early Childhood Education

Q: Lack of funding in the CAPS program means that there is an “early learning gap” of over 2,000 children in Athens. There is also a lack of quality rated childcare providers here. Turning this situation around would be quite expensive and difficult, but also extremely important to the lives of many Athenians. Do you support policies that would expand access to childcare subsidies, encourage more childcare providers to become quality rated, and incentivize quality rated providers to accept children receiving subsidies? A: (click to read)
Attacking poverty wage jobs may alleviate the problem of childcare too. With living wages comes ability to afford childcare. As it stands now, many Athens children suffer from either a lack of attention or lack of nutrition. Their parents face a dilemma: work 2 or more jobs to support the family at the expense of providing adequate attention to their children, or work less at the expense of providing adequate nutrition for their children.

Poverty

Q: The rates of poverty and income inequality in Athens remain extraordinarily high. What will you do to specifically support low-income and low-wealth Athenians? A: (click to read)
I think public pressure brought to bear upon large-scale poverty wage employers can make a difference. Our government has begun this process by passing living wage legislation for county employees. There is a real disconnect in Athens where not enough is known about impoverished Athenians. Most folks just read statistics in the paper. The stories and struggles of impoverished Athenians must be known and shared to raise the consciousness of our community. With consciousness will come more thoughtful consensus-driven solutions. There is a lack of awareness.

Open-Ended

Q: What is your most important policy priority for 2018? A: (click to read)
Childhood poverty. I am called to public service to honor my community, and the Bible provides much of my moral authority. History will judge our community’s worth for how well we care for those among us that have the least. Fortunately, our community is blessed with a bounty of caring individuals already working dilligently on this problem through faith-based organizations and non-profits. Athens should be a place where every child lives with dignity.