A gay educator has launched a campaign for the Atlanta City Council, hoping to win the District 6 post that includes portions of Midtown and has been represented by an LGBT person for 20 years.
Lock Whiteside, a 32-year-old teacher at Inman Middle School, said he wants to bring a fresh perspective to City Hall.
“We have folks that have been in [City Council] a long time, they are politically connected, they forget about the people they represent. And I’m going to change that,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside laid out priorities that span education, public safety, affordable housing, economic development and the LGBT community. He also highlighted the HIV epidemic, which he said is particularly important to him as a black, gay man.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic here is something I definitely want to hit the ground running with,” Whiteside said. “One in two of my peers will become infected with HIV.”
“I’m a huge cheerleader, for the prevention, you know through PrEP, and protection. And just making sure that the community is educated so we can lower the new infected rates and make sure that those who are infected are getting the proper healthcare that’s needed,” he added.
Whiteside said he views Cheshire Bridge Road, particularly the LGBT hotspots, as safe places that should be preserved.
“A lot of these places, as far the clubs, nightclubs. It’s a safe space for a lot of people in the [LGBT] community...and I want to protect that, you know from any type of redevelopment. We see it all the time right here off of Cheshire Bridge,” Whiteside said.
In 2013, a plan to push sexually-oriented businesses off Cheshire Bridge sparked a battle between City Council member Alex Wan, who proposed the initiative, and some LGBT people who opposed the effort. That failed but since, development projects have forced changes along the corridor.
Whiteside said another focus of his work on City Council would be repairing the relationship between the city and Atlanta Public Schools. As a teacher, he has seen the impact of the strain in relationships from the inside. The city and the school system have fought for years over ownership of school property and how tax funds for the Beltline are allocated.
“Being part of APS, I’ve seen and heard the back and forth, whether it was over the Beltline money or some of the other issues that they’ve been fighting publicly. I think both sides need to put their egos aside and need to put our children first,” Whiteside said.
As a political newcomer, Whiteside said that he knows it’s going to take a lot of work to build a successful campaign.
“I’ve already started visiting the different neighborhood associations,” Whiteside said. “It’s going to take a grassroots effort, but I think we can do it, I really do.”
Wan announced in January that he won't seek a third term to the District 6 post on the council and is instead running for City Council president. The District 6 seat has long been considered the LGBT seat on city council, and has provided the council with its only LGBT member for 20 years. Cathy Woolard became the state's first openly LGBT elected official when she won the District 6 seat in 1997. Anne Fauver, a lesbian, won in 2001 and served two terms. Wan won a crowded race in 2009 and easily nabbed a second term in 2013.
The district includes portions of Midtown, Ansley Park, Morningside, Virginia-Highland and Cheshire Bridge Road, and runs north to the city’s borders with Brookhaven and Buckhead.
Gay real estate agent Kirk Rich became the first announced candidate for the District 6 post when he kicked off his campaign in January.