Themes of inclusion, diversity expected during campaign
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
By DALLAS ANNE DUNCAN
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.”