Opinion: Choosing Atlanta’s next mayor

12:00 p.m Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 Opinion

On Tuesday, voters in a runoff election will choose the city of Atlanta’s next mayor.

That day’s choice is an important one, with an impact that will simultaneously encompass and stretch far beyond the city limits.

With less than one-tenth of the metro area’s population within its borders, it’s indisputable that the city punches well above its weight in its importance to the greater region. Given its status as an economic and cultural colossus, Atlanta’s the nexus for this metro’s global brand.

The city that’s long helped show the world what world-class really means deserves a candidate who can keep that momentum going.

After a grueling election campaign involving more than a dozen candidates, November’s election brought the choice down to a runoff between Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood.

Strong currents of race, class and politics swirl around this contest. They shouldn’t be the deciding factor. We’d urge that voters studiously consider the city’s progress as measured by things like its improved financial position in recent years and a successful quest for MARTA expansion. In choosing who should next lead Atlanta, we expect voters will also weigh the downside of an ongoing City Hall corruption investigation that’s resulted in some A-lister guilty pleas and prison terms.

There’s a largely illustrious history in the mix too. Frederick Allen observed in his book “Atlanta Rising” that, “In almost every instance, I’ve found that the cliches about Atlanta mask a far richer truth — that for all of the city’s good fortune, it could not have risen to become the foremost metropolis of the American South without the hard work, hard-headedness, forward thinking, bluster and occasional sheer brilliance of its leaders, black and white.”

The city’s next mayor must prove worthy of keeping that torch lit, and held high.

This newspaper stopped making election endorsements in 2009, so we won’t now tell Atlantans who deserves their vote. We will offer here some recommendations on qualities and skills needed in Atlanta’s next mayor. Our hope is that the electorate will consider these points between now and when they cast ballots on Tuesday.

The Atlanta Committee for Progress offers a concise, sound set of prescriptions to, in its words, help Atlanta “go higher.” They should be heeded both by the winner Tuesday, and the voters who will make that decision. Key points include:

Notable progress has been made here during Mayor Kasim Reed’s tenure and it should continue under the coming administration, we believe.

We agree, and how the next mayor handles issues like affordable housing in a gentrifying city will greatly affect this goal. Much more remains to be done.

The ACP wisely espouses a target of reducing crime by 15 percent through increased use of high-tech crime-fighting tools and a strong focus on redirecting youthful and repeat offenders toward productive lives.

Allen’s book offers additional thoughts about Atlanta’s success. “Atlanta’s history is a tale of clever, ambitious men and women who exploited their natural advantages while leaders in other Southern cities failed to do so,” he wrote. “Time and again during the past half-century, Atlanta’s pathfinders managed to pick the right fork in the road.”

Making the next decision on the right path falls to city voters Tuesday. We hope they choose well.

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