Themes of in­clu­sion, di­ver­sity ex­pected dur­ing cam­paign

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

The race for At­lanta’s new mayor is un­der­way. Eight of the can­di­dates met to present plat­forms as part of the Buck­head Coali­tion’s busi­ness meet­ing on Jan. 25.

Openly LGBT for­mer At­lanta City Coun­cil pres­i­dent Cathy Woolard, who was the first can­di­date to de­clare, thinks her abil­ity to bring peo­ple to­gether makes her the top can­di­date.

“It’s not the job of the mayor to have all the ideas. It’s the job of the mayor to bring peo­ple to­gether, to un­der­stand what the vi­sion is for the city, to block and tackle and build part­ner­ships to get us there,” Woolard told the nearly 200 in­vited guests at the event.

She later told Ge­or­gia Voice this elec­tion could spell how At­lanta de­vel­ops over the next quar­ter-cen­tury.

“The fore­cast is we’ll triple our pop­u­la­tion,” she said. “How are we go­ing to spend the in­fra­struc­ture dol­lars and the trans­porta­tion dol­lars that were just ap­proved so that there is a co­her­ent plan when all is said and done? How do we grow this city in a way that is eq­ui­table?”

Woolard said govern­ment ethics ap­peared to be an over-arch­ing theme in the dis­cus­sion. Vin­cent Fort ap­peared to agree with her on that front.

“At­lanta City Hall has lost its way and there are peo­ple there who are more in­ter­ested in serv­ing their own in­ter­ests than the peo­ples’ in­ter­ests,” he said.

Fort’s big­gest pri­or­ity if elected is to tell the truth, which in­cludes speak­ing openly about gang ac­tiv­ity in At­lanta. Other can­di­dates’ pri­or­i­ties in­clude de­vel­op­ing part­ner­ships to unite the city, pub­lic safety, trans­porta­tion and in­creased trans­parency in lo­cal govern­ment.

‘Neigh­bor­hood re­nais­sance,’ part of can­di­dates’ plans

Woolard said one of the first things she hopes to do if elected is to build a co­her­ent trans­porta­tion sys­tem that in­cludes bikes, side­walks and ad­di­tional bus routes. She also wants to in­crease in­vest­ment in the arts and pub­lic spa­ces to “build on the qual­ity of life” for At­lantans. Coun­cil mem­ber Kwanza Hall

Fe­bru­ary 3, 2017

has sim­i­lar goals. He plans to ini­ti­ate a “neigh­bor­hood re­nais­sance” to make ev­ery res­i­dent “feel like they’re part of our great city.”

“I think all pol­i­tics are lo­cal and we have to en­sure that our cit­i­zens all feel like they’re in­cluded in ev­ery as­pect of life,” Hall said. “There are leg­isla­tive pieces that I have out there re­lated to crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, where trans­gen­der cit­i­zens are feel­ing alien­ated by our pub­lic safety depart­ment, and that’s some­thing I’m con­tin­u­ing to lead on.”

Hall is count­ing on his district’s LGBT com­mu­nity to get him in of­fice.

“I’m go­ing to be ev­ery­body’s mayor,” he said. “At­lanta’s not ask­ing for a black mayor, a white mayor, a gay mayor or a straight mayor. At­lanta wants a great mayor. I’m the only one with a proven track record with bring­ing neigh­bor­hoods for­ward.”

Hall said he is the only can­di­date who can con­nect with a broad voter base across the whole city. Mary Nor­wood, a long­time City Coun­cil mem­ber who barely lost the last may­oral elec­tion, isn’t so sure about that.

“That Mary Nor­wood con­stituency is there be­cause I care about the is­sues that mat­ter to them,” she said. “It is time for us to be com­pletely, openly ac­count­able to our cit­i­zens. I will have a foren­sic au­dit of all funds. I will do a top-to-bot­tom anal­y­sis of the bud­get and I will over­haul the bid­ding process, which des­per­ately needs it. I will put all ex­penses on­line, in­clud­ing checks. It’s our money. We ought to know how it’s spent.”

Peter Aman, the for­mer chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Mayor Kasim Reed, and for­mer as­sis­tant US at­tor­ney Michael Ster­ling said their can­di­da­cies stand out be­cause they’re not politi­cians. Aman also raised con­cerns about ethics vi­o­la­tions for fel­low can­di­dates Nor­wood and Ceasar Mitchell, the sit­ting City Coun­cil pres­i­dent.

“I was sur­prised that one of the can­di­dates went right out of the gates af­ter two of the other ones, but I have a feel­ing that’s what it’s go­ing to be like,” said Alex Wan, a City Coun­cil­man run­ning for Coun­cil pres­i­dent. “What I’ll also be lis­ten­ing for are themes of in­clu­sion and di­ver­sity and em­brac­ing that and cel­e­brat­ing it, be­cause I think in this day and age, that’s what At­lanta needs to be and it comes from the top


down. The mayor has to em­body those prin­ci­ples for the city to em­brace them as well.”

Both Woolard and At­lanta City Coun­cil­woman Keisha Bot­toms agree.

“At­lanta’s al­ways been on the fore­front of be­ing in­no­va­tive, of be­ing open, and I think that the next mayor — and I as the next mayor — will make sure that we con­tinue to be open and wel­com­ing,” Bot­toms told Ge­or­gia Voice. “I just hope that as a city, even if the na­tional tide may be trend­ing dif­fer­ently, that we will con­tinue to be on the fore­front and not be afraid to take a stand for equal­ity.”

The city has non-dis­crim­i­na­tion clauses and or­di­nances “vastly ahead” of other ar­eas of Ge­or­gia and the South­east, Woolard said.

“We have been able to cre­ate both busi­ness and a civic en­vi­ron­ment that is far more tol­er­ant and wel­com­ing than oth­ers around us. We have to be very ag­gres­sive in that re­gard,” she said.

Woolard said At­lantans needed to get out to vote when the can­di­dates’ names ap­pear on bal­lots this Novem­ber.

“Ev­ery elec­tion mat­ters,” she said. “It’s time for peo­ple to take charge of the fu­ture and elect good peo­ple who can do good things and not ruin our world.”

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