Coming off another weekend of violence, Atlanta mayoral candidates on June 8 discussed how they’d curb crime during a forum organized by the Committee for a Better Atlanta (CBA).
The event included separate forums for the mayoral and city council elections. Qualifying will take place August 17-20.
The mayoral candidates in attendance were City Council President Felicia Moore, Councilmember Andre Dickens, attorney Sharon Gay, Councilmember Antonio Brown and political newcomer Walter Reeves. They were given 30 seconds to answer questions and allowed no debate.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in early May announced she would not run for reelection this year amid criticisms around her handling of crime. To date this year, there have been 60 homicides in the city.
“The primary issue in this city is to make sure that everyone feels safe no matter what income bracket or neighborhood you live in,” Moore said. “This is going to be a collective effort that we all have to work to address.”
At Moore’s request, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant spoke to the Atlanta City Council on June 7 and shared a reorganization plan for APD in light of recent crimes. That includes restructuring the police department to expand the gun assault unit and create a domestic violence unit.
Dickens said in his first 100 days as mayor, the police chief would need to make an impact.
“The first 100 days, crime has to be solved and it has to be down,” said Dickens. “That’s when we start a national search if not.”
Dickens added he’d expand programs to help people get jobs and work with youth.
Gay agreed the city has a public safety emergency, saying she was a victim of a mugging near her home. Gay said she would implement fresh ideas to deal with crime.
“What’s happening is different from what we have seen before,” she said. “It is more random. It is more violent. It is everywhere … We cannot solve this with the same old techniques and tactics we’ve used before.”
Brown said he has a different perspective on public safety.
“I think the crime we are seeing in Atlanta is a side effect of generational poverty that has gone unaddressed for decades in this city,” he said. “You have to address them both.”
Brown said in his first 100 days he would mandate a community policing unit and examine the culture of the police department.
Reeves didn’t specifically address crime. “I have a special skill for building teams,” he said.
The mayoral candidates were also asked their view on the Buckhead cityhood movement. None supported Buckhead seceding from Atlanta.
“This is a cry for help,” Gay said. “Buckhead does not feel heard.”
Moore said the city needs to provide better customer service in a transparent and ethical way. “I believe if we address the issues, we take away any argument anyone would want to have to leave this great city.”
Dickens agreed. “They want to feel heard, and they want to be safe.”
Brown said it was necessary to rebuild trust and communication with Buckhead residents.
“Atlanta needs to hold onto Buckhead,” Reeves said.
Other topics for the mayoral candidates included income equality, the relationship with state government, and the role of the business community.
Other candidate forums
Along with the mayoral candidates, an afternoon session hosted by CBA included the candidates vying for city council president and two at-large council seats. Topics for discussion included crime, concerns in Buckhead and customer service.
Post 2 At-Large: Matt Westmoreland (I)
During a morning session of forums hosted by CBA, the growing field of candidates running for city council also answered lightning rounds of questions with only 30 seconds to respond. The main topics of discussion were public safety, infrastructure, affordable housing and transportation, especially getting rail on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Participating in the forum were:
District 1: Kelly-Jeanne Lee, Clarence Blalock, Nathan Clubb, and Jason Winston
District 2: Amir Farokhi (I)
District 3: Brandon Graham
District 4: Cleta Winslow (I), Jason Dozier, Larry Carter, Kim Scott, and Rogelio Arcila
District 5: Mandy Mahoney, Liliana Bakhtiari, Doug Williams, Katie Kissel, and Samuel Bacote
District 6: Jennifer Ide (I)
District 7: Howard Shook (I)
District 8: Nicolas Uppal
District 9: Dustin Hills (I) and Devin Barrington-Ward
District 11: Marci Collier Overstreet (I)
District 12: Joyce Sheperd (I) and Jenne Shepherd