Atlanta mayoral candidates pitch their credentials to business leaders

Three candidates hoping to succeed Kasim Reed as Atlanta’s next mayor say the city may be reaching its ceiling on sales tax increases while two others said they are open to the idea of a metro area casino.

“I am open to the conversation, but I think it is highly unlikely that I could be convinced that a gaming facility downtown would be the appropriate thing for the city,” Peter Aman, former COO for the city of Atlanta under Reed, said of bringing casinos to Atlanta. “Great cities generally do not have downtown gaming.

“I do think, however, we should examine the possibility of gaming out by [Harstfield-Jackson International] airport,” he said.

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said he supports a referendum that will let voters decide. But any casino must first prove it will complement Atlanta’s arts community, not hurt it.

The two men and nine others hoping to land the city’s top job in November met Thursday to pitch their credentials to members of the Committee for a Better Atlanta, a coalition that advocates on behalf of the business community.

Those in attendance also included former Atlanta City Councilwoman Cathy Woolard, Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, state Sen. Vincent Fort, former Atlanta Workforce Development Agency head Michael Sterling and Atlanta City Councilmembers Keisha Lance Bottoms and Kwanza Hall. Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood had a prior engagement and was not able to attend, her campaign said.

The CBA also included candidates Laban King, Elbert “Al” Bartell and Debra Ann Hampton, who say they have been overlooked in other forums.

The questions took on a broad number of topics, including transportation, police recruitment and retention, education, NPU’s and homelessness.

But there was a catch. The candidates, who took to the stage in groups of three or four, only had 30 seconds to respond.

When asked what she would do about housing affordability, Woolard said she would create a cabinet-level position to address the issue. The city needs to determine what housing choices make sense in neighborhoods and the extent of the need.

“We would access what those numbers are and then employ private sector incentives,” she said.

Bottoms, Hall and Fort said there is a limit to how high Atlanta’s sales taxes should go. Reed has proposed a one-tenth of a penny increase in the city’s sales tax to support the arts. That would add to the nine-tenths of a penny increase Atlanta voters agreed to last year for MARTA improvements and the purchase of additional property for the Atlanta BeltLine.

The city’s sales tax is now 8.9 percent.

Bottoms said there is a price to creating a great city with a vibrant arts community, but that city leaders have to demonstrate its value if it wants residents to dig deeper in their pocketbooks to pay for it.

“As long as we are good stewards of the money, people will support funding,” Bottoms said.

But Fort said there needs to be a process in place to make sure the proceeds are evenly distributed. He said he is concerned that not every community will see the benefits of the transportation spending.

“There is a healthy skepticism in the city of Atlanta in many neighborhoods about whether the bonds from the referendum and the two T-SPLOSTs have been used correctly for all parts of the city,” he said.


The AJC's Leon Stafford keeps you updated on the latest in the Atlanta mayoral race and everything else going on at City Hall. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta politics. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Vigil held for man DeKalb cops say was ‘lured’ to his death
Vigil held for man DeKalb cops say was ‘lured’ to his death

Justuss Rogers, 26, was only trying to sell some cell phones when, police say, we he was shot dead in a robbery attempt. “It’s sickening to know that people are so cold and so cruel that they’ll do something like this,” mother Tiffany Terry told Channel 2 Action News. The mother held a vigil for her son this week, declaring...
Traffic alert: Thanksgiving half marathon to close roads in Atlanta
Traffic alert: Thanksgiving half marathon to close roads in Atlanta

Battling Thanksgiving traffic is mainly a concern for travelers, but Atlanta residents should also be aware of potential congestion in the city.  One event that will cause temporary street closures is the Atlanta Track Club’s Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon & 5K, which takes participants on a 13.1 mile tour through the heart...
Man accused of withholding investors’ money
Man accused of withholding investors’ money

A man is facing several charges after authorities said he denied clients access to money they gave him to invest. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Gregory Tim Nichols in September when multiple people came forward, Sgt. Marianne Kelley said Wednesday in a news release. Nichols, 51, of Canton, is charged with racketeering...
Today's Hartsfield-Jackson airport wait times
Today's Hartsfield-Jackson airport wait times

Check current wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport here. » How to get to the Atlanta airport using MARTA If the TSA Wait Times Chart is not visible, click here If you want to beat the Thanksgiving traffic rush, it’s too late Read more: Live Atlanta traffic conditions, wrecks, stalls, updates Travel weather: Check...
Atlanta police still struggling to recruit, retain officers
Atlanta police still struggling to recruit, retain officers

It has become an annual problem that’s only getting worse for Atlanta police. “We’re certainly in a heightened alert headed to a crisis,” said Ken Allen, a retired Atlanta officer still active with the police union. With 266 openings, APD is about 13 percent shy of its authorized force of 2,039 officers. The department is losing...
More Stories