Atlanta mayor hopefuls debate over a divided city

The candidates hoping to succeed Kasim Reed as Atlanta’s next mayor talked about racial issues that divide the city, including gentrification, the lack of jobs in relation to ZIP codes and the so-called “school to jail pipeline.”

“The issue of race frames this election,” said former city of Atlanta COO Peter Aman, pointing out that if he is elected he would be the city’s first white male to lead Georgia’s capital in decades. “It shouldn’t be the first issue and it shouldn’t be the only issue, but it should be discussed.”

City Councilman Kwanza Hall said a contributor to the racial chasm is the imbalance of incarceration among people of color. African-Americans, for instance, dominate the percentage of people arrested for marijuana possession, despite using the drug at about the same rate as whites. “We are not building and loving our people,” he said.

The discussion, which also touched on education, ethics and public safety, was held Saturday at The Shrine of the Black Madonna in west Atlanta. More than 125 people turned out for the event, which was sponsored by fledgling network Black on Purpose and streamed on Web-connected devices such as Roku, Fire TV and smart TVs.

The hopefuls have kept full schedules in recent weeks, crisscrossing the city to attend growing numbers of forums and “get to know the candidates” engagements — showing up sometimes for as many as three events a day. The packed itinerary is an attempt to reach voters before the Nov. 7 election.

Rohit Ammanamanchi, 24, who said residents may not be ready to vote for someone so young, said it’s evident that white leaders in the ’60s — decades before he was born — separated the city by roads in response to the civil rights movement led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We have highways rolling all through” formerly thriving black communities such as Sweet Auburn, he said. “The idea was to starve the neighborhoods to destroy them.”

The candidates — including Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, state Sen. Vincent Fort, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell — were cordial for the most part. Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Aman squared off briefly over ethics, with Woolard asking Aman why he didn’t do more to change the way procurement worked while at City Hall. Aman shot back that the process was not in his hands, but the City Council’s, leading to an ensuing back-and-forth between the two.

Former Atlanta Workforce Development Agency head Michael Sterling and Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, considered by most as the race’s frontrunner, did not attend. No reason for their absence was offered.

Former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves and Mitchell agreed that improving ethics at City Hall begins at the top while Fort told audience members to ask the candidates currently on council if they or people close to them are being questioned in the ongoing federal bribery case.

“What you should have is confidence in city government,” he said. “You deserve that.”

Bottoms was ready with a response: “Let me say that I am not under investigation,” she said, noting that she had returned more than $25,000 in contributions from engineering firm PRAD Group, a city contractor whose office was raided by the FBI last month.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Take to task for Feb. 19
Take to task for Feb. 19

New item-Atlanta Kathryn Voegeli says Peachtree Battle Road is a mess. “The entire road is a wreck! Workers were working on a new pipeline from Northside Parkway to Moore’s Mill Road for a very long time and now nothing. The road desperately needs to be repaved from one end to other. Some of the city’s wealthiest people live on this...
Cobb County restaurant inspection scores

Cobb County • Costa Mar Seafood & Grill, 677 Franklin Gateway, Marietta. 91/A • Family Jerk Restaurant, 803 Powder Springs St., Marietta. 85/B • Heirloom Market BBQ, 2243 Akers Mill Road, Atlanta. 90/A • Jeff’s Country Buffet, 7894 White Road, Austell. 99/A • Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, 3326 S. Cobb Drive, Smyrna. 83/B
Forsyth County restaurant inspection scores

Forsyth County • Carrabba’s Italian Grill, 420 Peachtree Parkway, Cumming. 72/C • Red Robin, 370 Peachtree Parkway, Cumming. 85/B • Rooster’s Cafe, 216 Atlanta Highway, Cumming. 93/A • Taco Mac, 2607 Peachtree Parkway, Suwanee. 91/A • Umami, 2631 Peachtree Parkway, Suwanee. 100/A
Fulton County restaurant inspection scores

Fulton County • Gu’s Dumplings, 99 Krog St., Atlanta. 99/A • Il Giallo Osteria & Bar, 5920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 99/A • RosaMia Ristorante, 11730 Jones Bridge Road, Johns Creek. 91/A • S & S Cafeteria, 2002 Campbellton Road, Atlanta. 83/B • Smokejack BBQ, 29 S. Main St., Alpharetta. 91/A
Gwinnett County restaurant inspection scores

Gwinnett County • Brisas de Tela, 1480 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross. 86/B • Come Take A Bite, 6330 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker. 96/A • Sabor Latino, 3435 Medlock Bridge Road, Norcross. 91/A • Won Won Seafood Restaurant, 1600 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth. 82/B • Wong Kee BBQ, 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross. 89/B
More Stories