Name: Melissa Link

Email Address: melissalinkathens@gmail.com

Running For: Commission District 3

Are you a Democrat? Yes

If elected, will you work to enact the ACCDC platform? (Attached in the email we sent you.) Yes

Have you ever been a member of the ACCDC? If you have, please indicate your years of service and describe your work with the ACCDC.

Been a member these past 3-4 years

Please list all campaigns you have worked on, regardless of party affiliation, in either a volunteer or staff member capacity, on either the federal, state, or local level, and briefly describe your work on each.

While in college at East Carolina University, I campaigned for Harvey Gantt for NC Senator 1990 (vs Jesse Helms); Since living in Athens, I’ve campaigned for Obama 2008, 2012; Jared Bailey for ACC Commission 2010; Spencer Frye for ACC Mayor 2010; Spencer Frye for GA 118 2012; Jason Carter, Michelle Nunn, + Dem Statewide ticket 2014; Bernie Sanders 2016; Jim Barksdale 2016; Deborah Gonzalez 2017–I canvass for Democratic candidates every election season primarily focusing on low-information & low turnout neighborhoods in my commission district. My goal is to educate citizens & encourage them to vote in every election. I also try to register voters along the way–particularly former felons who have not been informed that their right to vote is restored once they’ve served their time & paid their fines. I feel that this active support for fellow Democrats is not only part of my duty as an elected official, but also helps to fulfill my responsibility to engage in regular community outreach among my constituents.

Please describe any work you have done in your community, either in Athens-Clarke County or elsewhere, in support of progressive causes.

  • Athens Human Rights Fest
  • GA Climate Change Coalition
  • Boulevard Neighborhood Association
  • Athens Area Arts Council
  • AthFest
  • Athens Cultural Affairs Commission
  • Partners for a Prosperous Athens affordable housing input sessions
  • People For A Better Athens
  • Athens For Everyone
  • Athens Land Trust
  • Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation
  • People’s Climate March NYC Sept. 2014 & Washington DC April 2017

Please list organizations and/or causes you have been involved with in any kind of substantial way.

  • United Campus Workers of GA
  • NAACP
  • Sierra Club

If elected, what will be your policy priorities? Please describe 3 – 5 priorities.

  • Affordable Housing–Insist upon a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to meeting the housing needs of Athens’ diverse community not only to create new affordable housing in Athens, but to preserve our existing working-class neighborhoods via specialized overlay zones, home rehabilitation programs, & legacy funding opportunities to enable greater access to homeownership–especially for African American & Latinx families. In addition to inclusionary zoning, infrastructure investment, tax freezes, & tax allocation districts, we need new zoning & design guidelines to target appropriate locations for a diversity of housing opportunities & enable a variety of housing types including accessory dwellings, tiny homes, cottage courts, multiplexes & small apartment complexes in suitable locations throughout our community. We must commit to addressing gentrification & preventing displacement, especially as Firefly & Greenway trails run through low-income & working class neighborhoods to inevitably elevate property values & attract massive growth. As ACC moves forward with the adoption of our Comprehensive Plan, I will insist that we prioritize new zoning policies as a first step toward a comprehensive affordable housing plan. I have already brought this up in early FY19 budget meetings, requesting that funds be allocated to begin to address comp plan recommendations.

  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion–Invite & include residents of all racial, cultural, & economic background to participate in all governmental & social initiatives.
  • Economic Justice–Pursue economic retribution through fair wages, equitable development, taxation, housing, transportation, and racial & criminal justice reforms. My constant advocacy for this has led to the Anti Discrimination ordinance & the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion (I regularly communicate with members of this task force for updates). I worked with local activists in encouraging & participating in the first march against discrimination in Downtown Athens & advised Anti-Discrimination Movement leaders all along the way. I regularly reach out to African American & Latinx leaders & constituents to share information directly & encourage participation in government initiatives. When the Comprehensive Planning Process proposed an updated Land Use Plan that featured an “upzoning” of business corridors through African American neighborhoods (W Broad, Hawthorne, Baxter, & Oak/Oconee), I informed a long list of African American community members, met with them in small groups at the Planning Dept & explained the new map & the likely detrimental impacts it would have on these neighborhoods. They turned out en masse to the public input session, the changes were reversed to maintain the neighborhood-friendly “Main St Business” designation, the Comp Plan was edited to clarify equity issues, and Planning Commission members of the steering committee engaged in unprecedented conversation about the importance of equity in planning decisions & committed to a more proactive role in making recommendations regarding such to the Mayor & Commission.
  • Open Communication & Government Transparency–Insist that ACC entities pursue multiple outlets for reaching all members of the community with important info. All public meeting recordings, agendas, & minutes should be easily accessible. Encourage openly & democratically selected citizen committees to develop policy & recommendations. My constant advocacy for this has led to weekly public managerial reports; ACC website improvements including a more accessible meeting calendar, agendas, & documents; greater use of social media among ACC depts; & video recorded work sessions. I strive for constant open communication & transparency with my constituents via regular Facebook updates, postings to neighborhood listservs, & direct communication with community leaders.
  • Transportation–Insist upon safe, affordable, & equitable access to all methods of transportation throughout ACC. In the smallest county in the State of GA with one of the most travelled public transportation systems in the nation, no one in Athens should have to own a car to get where they need to go. This isn’t just an ideological concern, but very much a way of life for me personally. My husband & I are a one-car family & he drives to his job in Jackson Co. most days. I primarily rely on walking & taking the bus to get wherever I need to go most of the day. And because I suffer from an inner ear condition that causes unsteadiness & occasional vertigo, I do not feel safe riding a bike on most streets. I continue to advocate for proper, protected bike lanes in Athens so that less-than-confident cyclists such as myself, elderly & disabled people, and small children can safely ride their bikes. My constant advocacy for such has led to increased bike & pedestrian infrastructure investments throughout ACC (improved crosswalks & medians, green-painted bike lanes, more sidewalks), a proper safety evaluation of Chase St, and a professionally-led Bike/Ped Master Plan.
  • Environment–Now more than ever, it is our duty to do everything in our power as a local government to shrink our carbon footprint & do our part to ensure a safe & habitable planet Earth for future generations. Environmental considerations should be at the forefront of all planning, transportation, housing, & economic development decisions. My constant advocacy for such has led to the creation of a Sustainability Office in ACC government, solar installations at the Library & Cedar Creek water treatment plant, & an exploration of of biosolid reuse opportunities at our wastewater plant.

Does your campaign have a platform? If so, please include a link here. http://melissalinkathens.com/

Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour? Yes

Do you support making it easier for workers to organize and join unions?Yes

Will you support policies aimed at increasing the stock of affordable housing in in-town neighborhoods and making home-ownership more possible for ACC’s low-income residents? Yes

Would you support initiatives to help keep longtime Athens residents in their homes — people who are in danger of being pushed out of their neighborhoods by gentrification and rising taxes? Yes

Do you support equal pay for equal work for women? Yes

Should marijuana should be removed from the list of “Schedule 1” federal controlled substances? Yes

Should local law enforcement agencies be required to assist federal immigration law enforcement agencies with deportations? No

Should military-style weapons be accessible to civilians? No

Do you support repealing the Campus Carry law? Yes

Do you support incentivizing investments in clean energy and ending tax breaks and other perks for fossil fuel companies? Yes

Do you support increasing protections for wetlands buffers to help keep our waterways uncontaminated? Yes

Do you support comprehensive non-discrimination legislation in ACC? Yes

Should it be illegal for public businesses and institutions to discriminate against LBGTQ people? Yes

Do you support the expansion of Medicaid in Georgia? Yes

Do you support the goal of Universal healthcare – healthcare as a fundamental human right for every American? Yes

Should all state education funds should be directed to public schools? Yes

What are your thoughts about how to secure safe schools for all students?

Gun control first–ban assault weapons, mandatory firearms licensing & training, mandatory background checks, prohibit gun ownership for domestic violence offenders & those with a history of dangerous mental health conditions. Remove the stigma of mental illness, encourage outreach, enable access to counseling & treatment

Do you support the current Teacher Retirement System of Georgia? Yes

Should legislation requiring electoral districts be drawn by an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission? Yes

Do you support restoring the full protections of the Voters Rights Act? Yes