District 2 Commissioner
Mariah’s Facebook page
Mariah has been everything that District 2 elected her to be in 2018’s special election. She is a fierce voice for policy changes that are already improving the lives of her constituents and all of Athens. She’s been key to passing an end to cash bail for local offenses and in advocating for the rights of Black and brown people. She has been consistently insightful and looked for places where measures can be adapted to serve her district and all those who have been most harmed by Athens’ racial and economic inequality.
When others block the passage or implementation of just policy, she hasn’t been afraid to tell the truth about what’s standing in the way, as when Solicitor General C.R. Chisolm declared he would not implement a local ordinance decriminalizing marijuana or in her fiery condemnation of commissioners who claimed they supported redress for Linnentown while rejecting the concrete proposal coming from the very people affected.
We’d also like to highlight Mariah’s “District 2 News” as a great example of putting extra effort into political education and keeping the community informed of consequential things transpiring in their local government.
Professional / Civic Experience
Graduate teaching assistant in the department of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia.
Toured internationally as performing artist Lingua Franca.
BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Modern Languages from Warren Wilson College in 2012.
Master’s in Linguistics from UGA in 2017.
Votes in Democratic primaries.
Inferred Party: Democrat.
Issues: Government Transparency
Mariah successfully spearheaded a government transparency initiative in her first two months in office.
Moving Work Sessions to City Hall: YES
Redesigning the Chase Street Corridor: NO
Updating County Anti-Discrimination Policy: YES
Reject Concept Maps for Athens in Motion: NO
Athens in Motion plan: YES
Bike Lanes on Barnett Shoals: YES
Delay Designating SPLOST Projects: YES
(More information about 2018 votes)
Reconsideration of Designating SPLOST Projects: YES
(More information about 2019 votes)
2018 Questionnaire Responses
- Do you support fare-free bus service?: YES
“Fully accessible transit systems are a basic human need that should be guaranteed to all.”
- Do you support expansion of transit service (e.g. increased frequency, more locations, longer service hours)? YES
“Expansion of transit is critical, most of all in areas of great need which are often overlooked in discussion of transit expansion.”
- Do you support increasing the budget for bike and pedestrian infrastructure from the general fund? YES
“It is critical that we strategically invest in expanded, sustainable transit options, particularly in underserved areas of our county.”
Criminal Justice Reform
- Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES
“The drug war has torn apart poor communities and communities of color for long enough and we must decriminalize to see it end.”
- Do you support a ban or fee on single-use plastic bags? YES
“I fully support a bag ban, so long as measures are taken to ensure such policy does not hurt low income families.”
- Do you support an Athens Civil Rights Committee established through the county government? YES
“The establishment of a dedicated Civil Rights Committee is a critical step toward full civil rights protections for all Athenians.”
- Do you believe that Athens-Clarke County should move forward with comprehensive non-discrimination legislation? YES
“The civil rights struggle in our city will persist for generations unless we pass legislation protecting all Athenians from discrimination.”
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)
Since emancipation, my people have been disenfrachised by Jim Crow law, redlining and other barriers to capital accrual, urban renewal and the destruction of local African-American neighborhoods, segregation, discriminatory hiring practices, state-sanctioned violence, mass incarceration and barriers to public accommodations. Similar state-sanctioned harm has been meted out on working women and LGBTQ communities– groups to which I also belong– as well as on Latinx, immigrant communities, and the disabled. We must pass legislation which uplifts all these groups with specific attention to our grim history on race. Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and the establishment a permanent, dedicated municipal Civil Rights Committee serves this end. Municipal policy of investing in minority owned businesses and contractors serves this end. Strategic investment in local adult education programs, job skills training programs and youth development programs targeting underserved communities serve this end. Fighting for our right to pass a living wage, ensuring prosperity for all regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and ability, serves this end. Deprioritizing marijuana arrests, which disproportionately harm poor communities and communities of color, serve this end. All in all, we must make facing discrimination and poverty the top concern of our local government and community and in every decision we make as local legislators.
- Do you support repealing the single-family ordinance? YES
“Single-family ordinances block working people from supporting one another by any means they can and such laws have no place in our city.”
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)
Researching, creating, passing and implementing comprehensive affordable housing legislation which disrupts and ameliorates our local history of racialized housing discrimination – including redlining and other racialized barriers to capital as well as the effects of urban renewal- is of high priority for me as commissioner. Most urgent is inclusionary zoning which ensures that construction of new properties contains a certain percentage of affordable units (“affordable” meaning accurately reflecting our local median income). In addition, ending the single family ordinance, emphasizing housing discrimination within the role of a dedicated civil rights committee, researching and funding public/private partnerships, reverse red-lining, demographically-driven property tax freezes and rent stabilization, and tax incentives for businesses whose employees live in the county are other solutions under consideration.
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)
The recent failure of Amendment One strongly evidences the nonpartisan support for local governance. Even when justice runs contrary to state law, our city attorney should defend and protect essential our right to govern ourselves.
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)
Access to quality and affordable childcare is an essential component to a functioning society. With it, families have greater access to a high quality of life for their children and the resources necessary for their improved educational attainment, social mobility, and emotional and social wellbeing. Utilizing my research background, I am committed to reviewing successful case studies and completing a needs assessment for Athens-Clarke County as the starting point for designing comprehensive affordable childcare legislation. As part of that needs assessment, we should carefully and systematically incorporate the voices and concerns of parents who have historically been kept out of such processes, as well as those of our overworked, underpaid teachers whose expertise is often overlooked, too. Expanding access to childcare subsidies, encouraging more childcare providers to become quality rated, and incentivizing quality rated providers to accept children receiving subsidies may be an uphill battle, but it is one that our government is fully capable of winning with thoroughly-researched, inclusively-discussed, well-designed, and hard-fought-for legislation.
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)
District 2 is the poorest district in the poorest college town in America. It is also a district of hard work and problem solving. My neighbors wake up everyday faced with unique challenges–40% of children suffer poverty and 1 in 5 families experience food insecurity in Athens, and these rates are likely even higher in District 2– but my neighbors face these issues bravely and creatively. Given their efforts, the people of District 2 and Athens at large deserve a minimum of $15/hour for their hard work. They deserve free public transportation and safer, expanded pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure so that they are no longer nickel and dimed just to get around town. They deserve job skills training and youth development programs which will empower and enable them to find gainful employment in industries of the twenty-first century. They deserve a government which strategically invests in minority owned businesses and strategically reverses policy like redlining which have purposefully kept communities of color poor. As well, because so much poverty is tied up in racial discrimination, they deserve a dedicated civil rights committee and a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance which ensure that everyone has access to the affordable housing, good jobs, public transit, and other basic human needs.
Q: What is your most important policy priority for 2018? A: (click to read)
Though my every policy position is oriented toward the alleviation of poverty, people of color have been purposefully kept poor by discriminatory practices and unjust economic policy, thus the end of poverty and discrimination are inextricably intertwined as my two most important foci as commissioner.