By Camilla Mhute, Editorial Intern
The race for Atlanta’s next mayor kicked off when former Atlanta City Councilwoman Cathy Woolard announced that she would be campaigning to replace Mayor Kasim Reed in City Hall. State Rep. Margaret Kaiser also declared her bid to serve as the next mayor, followed by Atlanta City Council president Ceasar Mitchell, former City of Atlanta COO Peter Aman, and public policy leader and environmental activist in the Urban Waters Movement, Al Bartell. Potentials such as Kwanza Hall, Mary Norwood, and Keisha Lance Bottoms have yet to make official announcements. The last date to qualify as a candidate is Aug. 25, 2017, and the election will be held on Nov. 7, 2017.
If elected, she would add on to her list of firsts as Atlanta’s first openly gay mayor as well as Georgia’s first openly gay elected official and first woman to serve as president on Atlanta City Council.
As Atlanta City Council President and member for eight years, Mitchell is ready to expand his vision furthermore as Mayor of Atlanta.
Ceasar Mitchell leads as the top candidate in campaign funds totaling up to $567,947 followed by Peter Aman, who has raised $243,916 thus far. Although these two are ahead of the game financially, all of the candidates still have to buckle down and make clear plans concerning the city’s design, blighted buildings and the upsurge in rent.
The number one topic that has weighed heavily on Atlantans’ minds is the bill Governor Nathan Deal signed which allows a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA within Atlanta. As the next mayor, one of the candidates would be responsible for executing this expansion, as voters will decide to include the light rail system along a new beltline. Candidates Mitchell and Woolard, have already expressed their interests in connecting the Atlanta Streetcar and Beltline, also improving Atlanta’s transit system.
The announcement that Atlanta would host the 2019 Super Bowl prompted a celebration around the city, but not without a few concerns. Communities located near the Mercedes Benz Stadium could face economic and social impacts, and candidate Al Bartell has made it his mission to prevent gentrification.
“Disruptive gentrification is real for disadvantaged neighborhoods. Major developers and pro-business stakeholders propose gentrification as a solution to the future. When [the] community is not included in economic development decisions, disruptive gentrification is the ultimate sacrifice that we are no longer willing to pay,” Bartell said.
Mayor Kasim Reed’s first COO, Peter Aman, joined the mayoral race with the intent to help Atlanta redefine itself as a “vibrant, united and livable city.”
The potential need for additional zoning regulations has also been a hot topic among politicians and citizens. The predominantly white Druid Hills, located west and south of Emory University and home to 39,000 people (3/4 white populace) has been considered to become a part of Atlanta’s community via annexation. This addition could tip the racial balance that has historically appointed African-American mayors since Maynard Jackson in 1973.
Atlanta’s African American community has shifted from 68% to 54% since 1990, and in response, councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms has been working to infuse a largely black community of an estimated 17,500 residents, Sandtown. She and Mayor Reed have attended community meetings pitching the benefits the community would gain from joining Atlanta, and even offering a 10-year property freeze. These pursuits may be a result of the need for Atlanta to have proper political representation and economic justice among the black populace.
The 2017 Mayoral race will continue the conversation addressing the racial population in Atlanta, potentially determining who will be the next mayor.
“Michael Sterling, the 34-year-old former head of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, announced in a tweet and campaign video that he was running for mayor. In 2015, Sterling was vetted by the state Democratic party as a possible challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Before spending a little more than a year at AWDA, Sterling, a 2004 Morehouse College graduate, spent three years working as a senior advisor to Mayor Reed. He was also a former federal prosecutor in Chicago.”
According to Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort, “now, more than ever, Atlanta needs a mayor who will stand up for the citizens of Atlanta.” Fort believes that he is the best person for the job. According to Fort, “Atlanta can turn to the federal government, but we have to be prepared for a federal government that does not care about the city.” That’s why Fort says it’s critical “with Donald Trump in D.C. and the republicans in control at the state capitol” for Atlanta to have “a progressive mayor for a progressive city.”
“I have personally been impacted by both the challenges and opportunities of our city,” said Keisha Lance Bottoms, a fifth-generation Atlantan. “Across Atlanta, we all want the same for our city: safe communities, easy access to transit, opportunity for jobs and economic growth, and thriving schools. As your mayor, I will listen intently and work tirelessly to make Atlanta a city that meets and enhances communities at their point of need.”
Mary Norwood will continue to fight for a more safe, transparent, prosperous and sustainable Atlanta. “Atlanta is a wonderfully diverse, vibrant, energetic city. We need leadership that has the experience, passion, and commitment to address a multitude of issues and join us all together to resolve them. In different parts of our multi-faceted city, the importance of a particular issue is different. All over our city, safety is the top concern. When we don’t feel safe, nothing else matters. Other issues are important to our citizens–whether it’s transparency in government, blight in our neighborhoods, traffic congestion, pot-hole filled streets, broken sidewalks, or preserving the unique character that is our Atlanta.”
From AJC: “I felt the city needed someone of my caliber,” he said. “The city of Atlanta deserves transparency, and I want to set the tone.”
He announced his entry as the city is reeling from a bribery investigation involving its procurement office.