Jason Hudgins discusses his ideas for District 10, affordable housing, and more

When asked how his parents reacted once they learned of his plans to run for city council, Jason Hudgins instantly smiles with delight. “My dad was driving down the street and noticed a billboard advertisement announcing I was running for City Council District 10,” said Hudgins. “He immediately blew up my cellphone. I knew he was proud and surprised at that time since I had not told my parents yet that I was running.” (Laughs).

Hudgins began his career as a community organizer for the Westview Community Organization. Hudgins has served as Chairman of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit T.

The Kentucky native attended Hampton University and the University of Louisville, where he obtained a degree in Political Science and Public Policy. He is currently pursuing an MBA from Howard University.

Challengers: Andrea Boone (incumbent)

Website: www.Jason4Atl.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JasonKHudgins/

Campaign Page: https://www.facebook.com/Jason4Atl

Twitter/ Instagram/ TikTok: @Jason4Atl

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonkhudgins/

What he shared with us:

PrideIndex (PI): Why did you decide to run for councilman?  

Jason Hudgins (JH): The decision was solidified shortly after Mayor Bottoms announced that she would not seek a second term. I was leaving a community meeting where we were discussing the Comprehensive Development Plan that governs zoning in Atlanta. The city announced during the meeting that there would be limited public interaction around plan changes, limiting public comment on major legislation has been a pattern within city government. On the way home I was venting to a mentor about my frustrations. He allowed me to fuss for a bit before stopping and asking a simple question that sparked my run.

“At what point are you going to stop disqualifying your own voice and step up. You may just be the leader that you are looking for.” For as long as I can remember people have said that I would one day run for office. It’s a suggestion that I’ve always rejected, I enjoy working in the background and did not have aspirations to run for office. That evening was different. I fundamentally believe that there are moments that change the trajectory of your life, a simple question by a mentor created that moment for me.

 I decided to run for City Council simply because I know that Atlanta can be better if we have proactive leadership. Our city leadership is addicted to reactionary policies and have not shown a commitment to bold action that can solve out most pressing issues.

As a community leader I see the impact of bad policy on my neighbors. The lack of affordable housing and skyrocketing home prices are driving families from the neighborhoods that they call home. Dangerous street design means that our children cannot walk to school. The lack of investment in economic growth in my district has created an environment where legal pitfalls are more plentiful than job opportunities.

PI: What makes you qualified to hold this office?   

JH: For the last 10 years I have worked as a Training Manager for a multinational company where my responsibility is to teach leadership and branding. It is literally my job to teach those in leadership how to leverage data, tools and the proper team to get dynamic results. It is my desire to bring a more professional voice to the City Council. I did not build my career in positions paid for by tax payers. As an employee in a corporate structure I was held to a different level of accountability around ideas like transparency and productivity. I have managed a multimillion dollar budget, driven trackable metrics through the programs that I’ve written and inspired my teams to produce greatness. I know that there is the ability to do the same on the City Council.

In addition to my corporate experience I have served my community over the past five years in the capacity of Community President and Neighborhood Planning Unit Chair. In these roles I volunteered to steer policy at the community level. In SW Atlanta I created programs that repaired the homes of seniors to prevent predatory investors from using the code enforcement process to displace them. Under my leadership we created the 1st community-led COVID -19 testing and vaccine centers. I led the community to partner with Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University, GA State University and Atlanta Technical College on community initiatives. I advocated for the advancement of our kids, partnering with local businesses to create internship programs to allow them real world experience in diverse fields.

Even my opponent when she honored the work of the community before the City Council stated, “Jason does the work”.  

PI: What is your vision for District 10?   

JH: My vision is that the 10th District will be a model for how we can leverage solutions around issues like housing and development, transportation and equity. I will work to pass legislation that honors the dignity of work and creates opportunities for those who live, work and play in the district. Statistically every social ill in our society manifests in our district from unemployment to health inequities to income inequality. My vision would build on the solid foundation of the district to showcase innovative social solutions that create thriving families and communities.

In a 94% black district crisscrossed by streets named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Benjamin E. Mays we should see a thriving black community. Instead we have a community where our leaders are actively promoting policy that creates displacement and deepens the inequities that plague the black community.

As Councilman I would push policies that uplift black entrepreneurs who have been traditionally locked out of capital and growth opportunities. There should be a black restaurant row, black grocery stores and a fashion district that features black designers in this district. Popular Culture describes Atlanta as a “mecca” or real life Wakanda. Right now it is not but with visionary leadership it certainly can be.

PI: How do you plan address the issues of District 10?   

JH: I will approach creating solutions for the district in the same way that I approach issues at work, I will begin with the data. It is astonishing how many decisions are made in city government without proper or complete data analysis. By using data to craft solutions it will lead us to focus on the root cause of issues and not just the symptoms of them that capture media attention. Proactive leadership is not just solving the issue as it exists now, it is creating solutions that solve for future and evolving issues.

I will also focus on collaboration and communication with subject matter experts. It is important that we lift the voices of those who have expert knowledge around the issues that plague Atlanta. I will walk into office with a vision but I will leverage experts to create policy from that vision that has tangible results.

Finally I focus on metrics and accountability to track the success of my policies. It is not enough to simply have activity while in office, it is important that we see fruitful results from that activity. I will collaborate with department heads and commissioners to set realistic targets that allow the city to measure success and show taxpayers how policy has benefitted them.

PI: What similarities and differences do you see between yourself and your opponent(s)?   

JH: No matter my differences with the incumbent I know that we both love the 10th District and the city of Atlanta. However that love manifests in very different ways. My opponent is a politician’s politician. She believes in photo ops more than she believes in policy proposals. Years ago at a Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway she told me “this is how you win, you give people stuff.” I have a different mindset, instead reacting to hunger in the community by giving away food I want to figure why there is so much hunger and need in our community and create solutions that remove the need for food giveaways. I believe in creating solutions for problems that remove the need for a reaction from government.

PI: What should the city of Atlanta do to address the issues of the homeless and underserved?   

JH: We must begin by understanding the factors that create an environment that results in our unhoused neighbors being left behind. According to statistics in Atlanta:

  • 81% of the unhoused have experienced physical or sexual abuse
  • 58% report symptoms of trauma
  • 57% have a chronic medical condition
  • 55% spend their free time alone
  • 46% are under/ unemployed
  • 28% report drug or alcohol abuse

Homelessness is a symptom of larger equity issues in Atlanta. As Councilman I would push to increase appropriation for wrap around services that target mental health and substance abuse issues. We must also drive employment opportunities for our unhoused population. The city is facing a historic labor shortage. We should train and employ the unhoused in city positions and create partnerships with the business community to do the same.

We must also solve the affordable housing question. We have a view of homelessness that does not always match reality. Homelessness also impacts our students, and those who are employed but cannot afford the historic rise in housing prices. By solving the underlying issues we will also make progress on reducing homelessness in Atlanta.

PI: Should you win, what do you plan to do to address the needs of your detractors?  

JH: I do not believe in just working with and for those who you agree with. Being a community President and NPU Chair I worked as hard for my critics as I did for my supporters. I will begin by understanding the issues that may have led them to vote for my opponent. This is a work that has already begun as I have canvassed and engaged voters across the district. Some of my longest conversations are with those who have my opponent’s campaign sign in their yard.

As Councilman I will commit to a quarterly town hall in the district to discuss my work and legislation. I will also ensure that I am my team attend community meetings and Neighborhood Planning Unit Meetings. These meeting are pivotal to understanding how policy issues impact residents on the ground.

PI: What is your position regarding funding for affordable housing and/or the sky-rocketing costs of living in Atlanta?  

JH: Atlanta has simply failed on the affordable housing question. As councilman I would push innovative solutions to change how we calculate affordability. Currently the city uses the federal Area Medium Income (AMI) formula to calculate what is affordable. This formula takes into account the richest communities in Atlanta when calculating affordability. I will push for a targeted formula that is localized to zip code or council district and based on average salary to calculate affordability for city supported developments. The medium household income in the 10th District is $31,655 which means most residents are locked out of “affordable” housing set by AMI medium household income which is $82,700.

We should also prioritize and incentivize developing vacant city land and parking lots near transit hubs for affordable housing. In these developments we should legislate that developers not be allowed to opt out or pay penalties to work around their commitment to building affordable units.

I also support expanding inclusionary zoning in Atlanta. This would increase the types of housing including basement apartments, accessory dwelling units and neighborhood apartment buildings. The current zoning code pushes either exclusive single family zoning or large apartment buildings. By focusing on “middle” zoning we will increase the diversity of housing options and increase affordability.

PI: What are your suggestions for building a better relationship between the police and people of color and the LGBTQ+ community?   

JH: We must begin with an acknowledgement of the history of policing regarding black and brown communities and the LGBTQ+ community. Until there is acknowledgement of past harm we cannot take steps to repair the current relationship and build a better one.

As Councilman I would push for a restructuring of the Atlanta Police Department, by increasing the number of police zones. Department leaders have acknowledged that the police zones are too large. This means that officers may have to travel as many as 15-20 miles across the zone. The current structure of our department does not lend itself to allowing officers to get out of their cars and actually engage the community outside of enforcement.

It is also vital that Atlanta increase workforce housing. It is easier to build a relationship with a community that you live in. It is important that our officers be able to afford to live in the community so that their daily interaction informs their actions while on the job.

I would also push for more diversity in hiring, including more officers who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I would push an ordinance that removes burdensome requirements that prohibit hiring applicants with tattoos in certain places. Once hired I would push for a more robust training program that highlights community differences and needs to inform how police interact with residents.

PI: How should the city address funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and education?   

JH: I would push for reforms in how the City of Atlanta manages the HOPWA (Housing for Persons With AIDS) program. The administration of the program has been an embarrassment. Mismanagement has forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government earmarked to subsidize housing for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Mismanagement has also forced LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS non profits to reduce their participation in the program reducing access to residents. The City Council must provide better oversight of these grant programs to ensure proper administration.

We must also partner with County, State and Federal governments to leverage resources to drive testing and treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic showed the power of a coordinated messaging campaign as well as making resources more accessible to the public. We must remove the stigma from getting tested by making testing more accessible. The city should also focus on connecting residents to resources like PREP, especially in the black gay community.

To see the out LGBTQ candidates running for office in the November 2, 2021 election in the Atlanta area click on the names below. Check back for updates.

Antonio BrownLarry CarterJason HudginsBrandon Cory GoldbergLiliana BakhtiariJereme Sharpe, Kelly-Jeanne LeeDevin Barrington-WardKeisha WaitesCourtney DeDiAlex WanKhalid Kamau and Mike Russell.