November 3rd is coming, and that means Atlanta, along with other cities around the country, will be electing new mayors. In examining the race to replace Shirley Franklin, I’ll be putting the top three candidates for the position under a tiny microscope. Jesse Spikes, a lawyer also running for mayor will not be included in this write-up, as he is running a distant fourth in most up to date polls. The race itself is shaping up as one filled with intrigue, and a possible significant shift in the paradigm of Atlanta city politics. Here are the contenders vying for the brass ring:
Lisa Borders is currently president of the Atlanta City Council after being re-elected overwhelmingly in 2005. She was also CEO of LMB LLC, a consulting company advising clients on community reinvestment and marketing and communications. Ms. Borders initially pulled her name out of the running, but was persuaded to re-enter, allegedly by some in the business community in which she has very strong ties. Ms. Borders’ combination of business acumen, and knowledge of the Atlanta political structure seem to be her best attributes. She is campaigning on a platform to bring more jobs to the city (who isn’t?), and creating more industry.
Kasim Reed has been a member of the Georgia State Senate since 2002. He is the former campaign manager for outgoing mayor Shirley Franklin, so he’s no novice to city politics. Senator Reed’s focus is on public safety. He plans to strengthen the police force by adding an additional 750 police officers to the streets, reducing our carbon footprint, and modernizing mass transit throughout the city. Reed is also campaigning on a platform of transparency, which is all too important considering the city budget is mired in the red, due to dubious bookkeeping practices and mismanagement.
Mary Norwood is a city councilwoman first elected in 2001, and the most fascinating candidate for one obvious reason (more on this below). Councilwoman Norwood’s main focus is taxes and financial responsibility. Her goal is to also bring transparency to city finances in order to rein in spending, and divulge shoddy accounting practices to the public. The councilwoman is also pressing to vigorously prosecute and remove repeat offenders from the streets, one of the most attributable factors to the high crime rate in the city. Councilwoman Norwood has pressed the cause for real change in Atlanta, and her campaign, by her very appearance, reflects that.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In a city where the majority of its citizens are black, we could possibly elect the first white mayor in almost 40 years. That fact has some in communities across the city up in arms. The Black Leadership Forum– an ultra-progressive group of activists along with two college professors, authored an inflammatory memo urging black Atlantans to support Lisa Borders for mayor– in order to prevent Ms. Norwood from claiming the office. It reads in part:
“There is a chance for the first time in 25 years that African Americans could lose the Mayoral seat in Atlanta, Georgia, especially if there is a run-off,” the BLF wrote.
“Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is a significant Black turnout in the general election,” the BLF wrote.
Black voters typically vote less frequently in run-off elections than White voters do, so Turpeau’s notion that a candidate supported by White voters has a better chance in a run-off is supported by historical trends.
“While some may think that Franklin represents the last link to the Jackson Machine, it is not widely known that both Borders and Reed are directly connected to Franklin; or that Spikes and Thomas are Republicans, as is Norwood,”
The memo made national news, and the castigation of the BLF in the city was vigorous. This type of sentiment is hardly befitting of true leadership in the community at a time when it is desperately needed. It is also anathema to the trans-formative politics that ushered in our country’s first black president just one year ago.
How preposterous is it to to assert that Norwood is a republican when she is not. It’s almost as if the mere mention of the word “republican,” is enough to conjure nightmarish images of bogeymen in closets, terrifying black voters. Fear of change can taint the blood like a bad IV drip, and some in the black community are so averse to it, they are willing to settle for the continuation of policies that subject them to second class status. This is by no means an endorsement of Norwood, or any other candidate. This is more of a shot across the bow of abject ignorance, and apathy. Being informed is being educated, and not being pummeled into submissive allegiance. Black voters are smarter than that.
Below is video footage from a debate last month, in which the candidates defend their positions:
I look forward to casting my ballet tomorrow for my city’s next mayor. Borders, Reed, and Norwood has turned into a fascinating race. May the best person win.