In Atlanta Mayoral Race, Bottoms Rises to the Top

Emory’s anticipated annexation into Atlanta means that Emory will likely be under the jurisdiction of the winner of a Dec. 5 mayoral runoff election between City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Councilwoman Mary Norwood (74C). With 95 percent of the precincts reporting at 12:51 a.m. Nov. 8, Bottoms was in the lead at 29.7 percent, followed closely by Norwood, who received 22.81 percent.

Both candidates support annexation, the primary issue affecting the Emory community, but a vote for Bottoms represents a marriage of practicality and progressivism that could take Atlanta to the next level.

Atlanta’s economy has boomed during the current Reed administration, becoming a city on the “sunny side of the American economy,” according to The New York Times, as evidenced by development along the BeltLine and Porsche’s move to Atlanta in 2015. Mayor Kasim Reed endorsed Bottoms, whose proposed expansion of a student training program in film and technology would extend that prosperity, and who is the safest candidate to preserve a positive status quo of economic growth. The program would prepare grade school and college students for careers in the technology sector and Atlanta’s growing film industry, which contributed an estimated $9.5 billion to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2017. Additionally, Bottoms pledges that jobs resulting from public investment, such as public housing development, will “pay a living wage,” distributing economic power to Atlanta’s working class.

On the other hand, Norwood’s platform is lacking, but an interview with WABE revealed that her plan for development would begin with putting abandoned buildings back into use. Though Norwood said that this would benefit low-income communities, it is unclear how Norwood would accomplish that goal.

When it comes to education, Bottoms is the only candidate to mention the issue on her website. She has proposed a budgetary increase for technical and film programs to equip students with the STEM skills necessary to sustain Atlanta’s growing economy. Her platform outlines practicable means to pay for those courses by setting up a children’s savings account program with a $250,000 initial investment, about $50 per child in Atlanta Public Schools (APS), which would mature over time. Bottoms’ emphasis on education to maintain economic growth shows the comprehension of her platform. Voters should be concerned that Norwood has not said more about education.

Since 2013, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) has lost at least 100 police officers every year. The fluctuating officer count hit a peak of 2,000 in 2013 after a low of 1,300 in 2009, but the police union said that it rests around 1,400. Most candidates agree that stabilizing officer retention is a public safety issue, even though Atlanta’s crime rates show a consistent downward trend. Norwood has proposed an increase to police officer pay as a means of retention, but there is little evidence that a pay raise would solve public safety. Norwood already led Atlanta City Council to increase officer salaries in 2015 without solving the retention rates issue, and unsurprisingly, she has earned the endorsements of Atlanta’s police unions. Bottoms’ approach is different: She wants to address officer retention through a “smart recruiting and retention” strategy. In a questionnaire sent to candidates by Committee for a Better Atlanta, a nonpartisan business coalition, Bottoms said that her strategy would include “the expansion of our police force and the completion of our camera integration system … [and] expand housing for our officers within the city.”

A Bottoms mayorship would best continue Atlanta’s progress. Norwood is too conservative a candidate for Atlanta. She has, for example, prioritized police raises over establishing a clear educational platform. Bottoms’ election would preserve political and economic stability and spur educational development in addition to police reform, rendering her vision the best for Atlanta’s future. We urge eligible voters to cast their ballots for Keisha Lance Bottoms, not only because her proposed policies would benefit Atlantans and Emory students alike, but also because her time on City Council and endorsement from Reed prove that she has the experience and drive to turn her campaign promises into progress.

The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Jennifer Katz, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Isabeth Mendoza, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling. 

UPDATE (11/8/17 at 1:00 a.m.): This editorial was updated to reflect the Nov. 8 mayoral election results.

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