In a debate that placed a heavy focus on the law enforcement and public safety, the eight leading candidates, based on current polling, to become Atlanta’s next mayor squared off in a live debate on Sunday at the WSB-TV studios, featuring Mary Norwood, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Peter Aman, Ceasar Mitchell, Cathy Woolard, Vincent Fort, Kwanza Hall and John Eaves.
During the 90-minute debate, moderated by WSB-TV news anchor Justin Farmer, the candidates challenged one another to solve the problem of an understaffed police department, inadequate training and the strained relationships between the police and the community.
Highlights from the forum include:
“I am appalled that we have decimated our police department with 14-18 men and women leaving every month because the pension plan does not work for them,” Norwood said.
“I think we need to take a tougher stance when it comes to our re-entry programs, we need to make sure that people out of prison, they have an opportunity, for education, job training, etc.,” Lance Bottoms said.
“Now, what we need to do when I’m mayor is to pay our officers more, five to $10,000 more, so we are at the top of the market in Atlanta,” Hall said.
“I’m in awe of our officers but they need more help, we have to do targeted pay raises, we have to provide them with take-home vehicles,” Aman said.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re doing real criminal justice reform, which means not putting people in jail for things they should not be in jail for,” Mitchell said.
“We’ve got to do more with young people that would be very, very specialized in getting guns off our street and gangs out of our city,” Woolard said.
“I think we need to close one of the jails down, $35 million we’re using to stop the school to prison pipeline in our city,” Eaves said.
“We have to understand that if we’re going to deal with the public safety issue that we have then the community is going to have partner with police,” Fort said.
The debate became contentious when Fort and Lance Bottoms began a heated exchanged regarding property liens and unpaid bills, prompting the others candidates to jump in, each vowing in his or her own way to end the “crisis of corruption” plaguing the city.
Norwood is currently leading in the polls. Election Day is Nov. 7.