Eight candidates were given an opportunity to state their case in front of a highly-influential business and civic group at the The Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon and forum for candidates who are running for Atlanta Mayor in 2017. The coalition operates the Better Community Political Action Committee to address City of Atlanta nonpartisan contests of mayor, city council and board of education every four years. The forum, which was moderated by coalition founder, president and former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, began with two prompts: “What will you do better for Atlanta than your opponents? And what makes it more likely that you will be the one elected?”
Peter Aman, Atlanta’s former chief operating officer, noted he had more experience than the other candidates in running large organizations, listening, running the City of Atlanta government and knowing how the private sector creates job. He noted that he was not a politician like the other candidates and will work to make Atlanta a safer city with a better transportation network and better educational opportunities for the city’s youth. On electability, Aman started off by asking “Who do you trust?” and did not reveal any specific strategies.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta City Council member, pointed out that seeing her father being taken away in handcuffs when she was younger and her later attending law school and garnering legislative experience has made her an embodiment of the “opportunities and challenges” of the city, which, in turn, makes her equally comfortable being in the kitchen with a ‘grandmother in Vine City’ and speaking with executives. Later she explained that she was instrumental in the Turner Field sale and the amount of revenue it is projected to bring to the City. Bottoms said she won her city council seat for her 40,000 large district without a run-off and she polls very high in the district that includes Buckhead.
Vincent Fort, state senator, explained that Atlanta City Hall has lost its way but not the people of Atlanta. He noted that the civil servants in city hall were more concerned with enriching themselves than with helping the citizens and the city, and that the murder rate is up 33 percent — gangs and economic development are related, he said. Fort has 25,000 core voters which he intends to grow as his campaign continues to span the city and garners new voters.
Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council member, said that he wants to be “Everybody’s Mayor” and revealed his vision of a Neighborhood Renaissance to build out the city. During his city council run, he ran with virtually no opposition even though the demographics of his district have changed dramatically — moving from about 50 percent African-American to roughly 20-27 percent.
Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Council president, promises to call on the city’s leaders like the APS superintendent and MARTA’s CEO to unlock the exponential power and entrepreneurial spirit of the City and the position of Mayor. On electability, he quipped, “I have a very strong organization … I know this city. I’m not going to need a map to find my way around.”
Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Council member, is dedicated to total transparency and promised a comprehensive audit of the City’s finances and an overhaul of the bidding process. She expressed a need for a subway from the West side of the city to the Lindbergh station and also a new section in the juvenile code for a repeat offender provision. On electability, Norwood touted that she has won three out of four citywide races in the last 25 years; losing the one to Mayor Reed by only about 700 votes in 2009. Her ground game, she says, is established and she already has representatives in two-thirds of the city.
Michael Sterling, former Executive Director of the Atlanta Workforce Agency, stressed the need to focus on public safety, and that he was the only candidate with extensive experience dealing with law enforcement. Seventy-two percent of the electorate did not vote in 2009 and the average voter age is 35, he said. He reminded the audience that the City has only had one city council member elected to the Mayor’s office in recent history (former Mayor Bill Campbell), so the current support for city council member candidates hasn’t always translated.
Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council member and president, stated that it was not the mayor’s job to have all the ideas, but instead to build partnerships, and bring people together to get things done. She touted transit-oriented development and her role in maintaining the city’s standing as a birthplace of civil rights. Woolard hopes to be one of the three or four mayoral candidates left in the race fighting in a possible run-off. She talked about how she bested Michael Julian Bond in his own district despite being relatively unknown at the time.
To read Atlanta Tribune’s recent coverage of the mayoral candidates, click here.