By Carla Morrison | The Atlanta Voice
More than 100 members of the public and 11 of 12 Atlanta mayoral candidates engaged in dialogue at an Atlanta Mayoral Candidate Forum hosted by the Cascade Heights Business Consortium on Oct. 5 at the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA on Campbellton Road in the heart of Southwest Atlanta.
Moderated by Atlanta-based television broadcast journalist Monica Kaufman Pearson, the informative panel discussion also included opening remarks from the center’s namesake Dr. Walter Young as well as Gavin McGuire, executive director of the Young YMCA.
Kaufman explained that the forum was conducted in order to help the southwest Atlanta community residents better understand each candidate’s vision of leadership as the potential Mayor of Atlanta. Topics of discussion included public safety, sustainability, affordability development, policing, public mental health, tourism, and gentrification.
In a statement from the Cascade Heights Business Consortium, the forum’s theme “Creating Linkages and Eliminating Barriers,” correlated with “creating linkages to relationships and resources that will foster an equitable and high 2 Quality of Life for all communities in Atlanta. And eliminating barriers to economic growth.”
The Atlanta Mayoral Candidates included: Cathy Woolard, Ceasar Mitchell, Glenn S. Wrightson, John Eaves, Ph.D, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Kwanza Hall, Mary Norwood, Michael Sterling, Peter Aman, Rohit Ammanamanchi and Senator Vincent Fort; one candidate – Laban King—was missing from the dozen of candidates vying to replace Kasim Reed, who served the city for the last eight years.
City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell impressed many when shared his vision for public safety, community policing and public mental health.
“Policing needs to start from the ground up,” Mitchell said. “My father was an Atlanta police officer and he walked a foot beat in the community, and when you do that not only do you make the community safer, but you also can improve policing and community relations.”
Mitchell also discussed his plan for implementing community policing, providing officers with the technology & equipment needed to serve on the ground, and mental health services for both constituents as well as officers who have gone through traumatic experiences on the job.
Keisha Lance Bottoms won applause for her ideas on equitable, affordable development. Lance-Bottoms discussed the attention she has already brought to District 11, with her “Invest in South West” campaign to bring more businesses to the area.
Lance-Bottoms also mentioned southwest Atlanta being the last area in the city with affordable housing.
Mitchell also emphasized the need for affordable homes, as well as creating partnership initiatives and having solid policies in place.
When gentrification was brought up, all candidates agreed that the senior citizen population is of the utmost importance and they will make sure no senior citizen is displaced. Eaves doubled down, saying, “I propose that seniors not have to pay the school tax.”
Eaves later broke down how the Fulton County tax bill is divided between three governments: “Half of it goes to the school, one-fourth of it goes to the City of Atlanta and the remaining one-fourth goes to Fulton County,” he explained.
According to Eaves, “it will only have a $78 million impact in terms of revenue, on a $57 billion tax digest.” Eaves emphasized again, the best way to prevent displacement of senior citizens, aged 65 years and older, would be to eliminate them paying school taxes.
“I felt they sort of equally share my concern (regarding gentrification),” said Robert Gray, 68, a retiree who resides in southwest Atlanta. “I was more interested in who their team would be. The team would determine what would actually get done.”
The team Gray was referring to, referenced a question posed to each candidate as to which two of their competitors would they consider recruiting for their cabinet. The top three picks among the candidates included Cathy Woolard, Ceasar Mitchell, and Senator Vincent Fort. Norwood declined to answer the question.
“I thought it was interesting that Mary Norwood refused to answer that question,” said Wendy Eley-Jackson, 47, a filmmaker who lives in southwest Atlanta. “I thought that was very telling. It was a direct refusal to answer a constituent.”
Cascade Heights resident Glenn Gilkey said the forum was informative and healthy for the community to have dialogue about issues related to the election; however, “we’ve heard a lot of political talk over the years, we’ve seen people put out what their projections were to change things, but there’s been very little change,” the 59-year-old educator and Inventor said.
“We need somebody who is informed, committed, and has had experience,” Gilkey continued, noting that it’s up to the community to hold the next mayor accountable. “You have some talent, you have some people who have had certain experiences, but, what is going to be the real change…impact for the person who is at that lower economic level?”