Earlier this month, non-profit executive Alex Wan took a huge step towards becoming Atlanta's first Asian American on the city council by coming in first in his primary. Wan captured 32% of the vote and moved into a run-off against second-place finisher, Martha Coyle, who received 23%. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the two candidates appeared at a neighborhood meeting recently.
Two Wan supporters handed out fliers written by the candidate stating his concern that the changes are being rushed and he wants a delay. Coyle, who once served on the Atlanta Beltline Inc. board of directors, had been mum on the subject. Some took her silence for support of the proposed changes, possibly troublesome for Coyle since most of the public sentiment has been against the idea.
The buzz here on Wan is he's the pro-business candidate, a thorny label in this largely residential district. Wan, 42, has served on the Atlanta Development Authority board of directors. He scoffs at the characterization.
"You have to strike a balance," he says of business and community interests. "It's listening to what people need on both sides."
If elected, Wan, who is openly gay, would become the first Asian-American on the council. Much of the $95,300 Wan raised through mid-October came from the Asian-American community, his campaign disclosure reports show. Coyle has raised about $36,000, city records show.
Wan wants independent audits of city departments, he wants to "ramp up" the city's program to boost economic development in four commercial corridors in south Atlanta and he wants more police officers walking the beat in his district.
Wan says he has the advantage over Coyle because he's laid out more specifics about his plans. Coyle counters her years of civic experience (she's the former NPU F vice chair) makes her the better candidate.
Coyle, a 46-year-old married mother of two sons, wants department heads to start their budgets from scratch each year to justify their spending. She supports the Peachtree Streetcar idea and has endorsed a plan to add more greenspace in the city over the next five years.
As for the zoning change at 10th and Monroe, Coyle said she's not for it.
"I wanted the community to have its own say...I knew I didn't need to stand on a soapbox," Coyle said.
At Monday's meeting, both candidates raised their hands with the majority of more than 90 others against the proposed changes. The recommendation is expected to be discussed by the council next month.
By then, the runoffs will be over. Bene is dreading that moment.
"I keep saying ‘What are we going to do after all of this is over?' " he said. "What are we going to do for entertainment?"
There are very few Asian American elected officials in the South, so we'll be keeping an eye on this one.