Editor's note: Abid Haque, Bobby Montgomery and incumbent Howard Shook are facing off for the District 7 Atlanta City Council seat in the Nov. 5 nonpartisan election. Below are profile articles on each candidate.
ABID HAQUE PROFILE:
Atlanta native Abid Haque may be the youngest candidate in the running for the Atlanta City Council District 7 seat, but the 21-year-old said he feels called to serve Buckhead residents to help them achieve a better quality of life.
The Woodward Academy graduate earned his bachelor’s degree in global economics and modern languages from Georgia Tech this summer and realized he wanted to focus on a run for the District 7 seat.
“I looked at the district and realized there are lots of things that could be changed for the better, and I could help make a long-term change,” he said.
From volunteering with organizations ranging from the American Red Cross to Habitat for Humanity to working at Coca-Cola Refreshments and The Coca-Cola Co.’s corporate treasury in Atlanta, Haque said his background in both philanthropy and business makes him an ideal candidate.
“All of my efforts and all of my life have been focused on the Atlanta area and ensuring Atlanta is the best it can be,” he said.
Haque, a financial analyst at Intalage Inc., said he feels residents are looking for a more proactive council member with a fresh perspective to work on reducing taxes and better managing city finances.
“There is a definite lack of transparency in how the city council is operating and how it’s spending its money,” he said.
Some of the key issues Haque said he plans to focus on include increasing the police presence in Buckhead and tackling the backlog in spending on sidewalk improvements.
“People want to live in places where they know they can raise their children in safe environments,” he said. “In order to make the district more walkable, we need increased public safety and improved sidewalks. By increasing foot traffic, we also increase business.”
In that regard, Haque said he wants to take a more global perspective on bringing businesses to the city by looking outside city limits to forge partnerships and boost the local economy.
“The people that live here are members of a global constituency,” Haque said. “They want a voice on a global platform.”
Most of all, Haque said he wants constituents to know he is available and ready to listen to all concerns. If elected, he plans to host regular town hall meetings prior to council meetings. As of last week, he said he had raised $8,000 for his campaign.
BOBBY MONTGOMERY PROFILE:
Pine Hills resident Bobby Montgomery said he is the best candidate to represent families living in District 7 on the Atlanta City Council.
After getting to know his neighbors over the last four years and serving two years on the Sarah Smith Elementary School council, the 37-year-old said he felt it was the right time to run for office. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to breathe new life and ideas into the city council while looking out for his No. 1 priority — Buckhead families.
“It is my belief that if we want to create a better city, we must start with family,” said Montgomery, who with his wife J. Elyse has three children attending Smith Elementary. “Cities and districts are made up of families. If families are prospering socially, financially and in all areas, they become overall healthy. The healthier families become as a whole, the more viable the city and districts become.”
Montgomery said he wants to represent his constituents by pushing for street improvements in an effort to create safer communities.
“I would start with simple things, like making it safer for families to walk in Buckhead [by] fixing streetlights and bridge lights, that sort of thing,” he said.
These small issues are easy fixes, he said, but continue to persist throughout Buckhead neighborhoods, leaving common areas unattractive and un-manicured.
“I think the city council [does] a great job with some of bigger items, but they are missing some of smaller items,” he said.
A former special education teacher who works as an search-engine optimization marketing manager and real estate broker, Montgomery said he wants to focus on bridging the gap between the city and Atlanta Public Schools.
“I think it’s important to create a partnership across government lines when it comes to education,” he said. “I think [the] city council and school board should work more closely together, especially with all the negativity our schools have been getting with leadership changing [at North Atlanta High School] and school board issues.”
Some of his other key goals are making the city’s business licensing and permitting process simpler for small business owners and forging partnerships between businesses and schools.
HOWARD SHOOK PROFILE:
Incumbent Howard Shook hopes to continue his service on Atlanta City Council in an effort to implement more policies and programs to benefit Buckhead residents.
Shook, who lives in Buckhead’s Ridgedale Park neighborhood, said his goals include representing Buckhead interests on an upcoming bond issue and continuing to partner with the community to establish more parks.
One of the programs Shook is throwing his support behind is the city’s proposed 311 call center, which aims to centralize the city’s phone system so resident calls can be easily transferred to the right city department. After talks of the program stalled due to lack of funding, a $3.3 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies last summer sprung the project forward.
“It will go a long way in eliminating the confusion and frustration people experience when they try to resolve a billing issue or try to get a pothole filled,” Shook said.
Shook said the call center, which will be fully operational by the end of the year, will also help the mayor and council to shine a spotlight on the performance of city departments based on the data gathered via resident calls.
The council is also working toward putting forth a public referendum to fund the city’s backlog of street, sidewalk and bridge updates. Shook said he wants to make sure the needs in Buckhead are well represented on the project list.
“This will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make this kind of investment,” he said.
Finally, Shook said his goal specific to District 7 is to continue to focus on the need for park expansion.
“As much as we’ve done with the PATH400 Trail, Little Nancy Creek Park and the initiation of what will be Mountain Way Common, there are many other opportunities we’re going to have to take so we can catch up and have the parks and green spaces that we need,” he said.
Shook said he tends to agree with many of his neighbors who say Buckhead residents do not get an adequate return on their tax dollars and he hopes to continue to fight for funding.
“I enjoy doing what I can to make sure we’re able to improve where we live, work and play,” he said.
Through June 30, Shook had $101,410.36 net campaign funds, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website.
Information: visit www.howardshook.com.