After watching the various forums, debates, and interviews including last week’s #FightingForAtlanta forum, it was clear to me no matter who wins the runoff we must continue to be engaged. I have listened to all of these conversations over the past several weeks, and I am uninspired by both candidates. Both mayoral candidates have expressed visions for the city including needed changes regarding ethics and transparency. The substance of their messages was lost in buzzwords and catchphrases that may sound good but have little practical meaning to the average voter.
During the #FightingForAtlanta forum, I couldn’t help but wonder for which Atlanta they were fighting. Words like economic inequality and equity were used but received minimal consideration. Despite how I found her off-putting, given the concerns raised with Councilwoman Bottoms, I tried to consider Councilwoman Norwood.
When a question was raised about Atlanta bidding for Amazon’s business, Councilwoman Norwood gushed about an article previously written by forum moderator Cathy Woolard on the subject. Nationwide serious concerns are being addressed with the bidding war cities are engaging in for Amazon’s business. Various articles have questioned this endeavor alongside potential challenges for low-income residents and workers. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the opportunity and challenges, Councilwoman Norwood used it as an opportunity to suck up to the moderator.
Councilwoman Norwood sounded very sure of herself when she talked about affordable housing and looking to New York and Chicago as examples of cities that were getting it right. I wondered if she knew anything about the housing struggles in those cities and ongoing battle with affordability and displacement. I also wondered what she considered affordable, and for whom was she calculating affordability.
Having lived in both cities growing up and now unable to afford to live in New York, I wondered who was informing her on strategies for housing opportunity in Atlanta. When she discussed blighted neighborhoods, garbage on the streets, and “slum landlords” I was curious what if anything was she prepared to do about the issues other than some plan that would ultimately buy out the “slum landlords” and replace existing residents. She reminded me of Miss Millie cooing over Miss Sophia’s children in the Color Purple. Councilwoman Norwood did not convince me she would be any better than a “Reed third term.”
Although I voted early, I still never found a definitive answer for which woman to support. There was a lot to consider and many arguments on “both sides” to wade through. While many have argued that we cannot let this election be about race, or focus on party over policy, I had serious concerns about Councilwoman Norwood’s potential governance over an Atlanta “for all.” Given the climate statewide and nationally, I was deeply concerned about her need to engage Republican voters in a manner that involved dog whistling.
Councilwoman Norwood may have tried to clean up the language she used during the last mayoral debate, but speaking to members of a voting bloc who already support limiting access to the ballot box cannot be excused. While there is an interesting collective across the political spectrum that has come together to help Councilwoman Norwood, it is unclear what will emerge if she wins. When it finally came time to press a square on the screen, I selected Councilwoman Bottoms. With all of the information provided my gut told me was the vote for me to cast. Regardless of who prevails today, I promised myself I would be involved with citizen action and organize to hold the Mayor’s office accountable. Hopefully, we will be in a better position when making this choice in four years.
A post over the weekend from local Attorney/Activist Mawuli Davis Attorney Davis gave me a little glimmer of hope. Attorney Davis explained that after much contemplation and various concessions he was endorsing Councilwoman Bottoms. He attached her newly released progressive action plan for the first 100 days in office. While I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of Attorney Davis’ post and apparent concessions from the Councilwoman, several others raised concerns about what local body would be responsible for holding Councilwoman Bottoms accountable to her promises.
This concern raised a very critical issue as voting alone, even with a nice list of promises, does not save our communities. As many have discussed, engaging in electoral politics alone will not alleviate the conditions and disparities we see in predominantly Black communities. We must be prepared to employ various strategies and accountability measures year round and not just in an election cycle.
#FightingforAtlanta should not require us to adopt false equivalencies or disregard the very real disparities that persist in the city and region along racial and economic lines. Although “Never Norwood” has been a mantra for some potential voters, it has not automatically translated into support for her opponent Councilwoman Bottoms. A colleague told me yesterday that while she was “Never Norwood,” she was “still waiting for Keisha to earn my vote.” Like many people I have encountered, she was grappling with the real issues and challenges presented by this election cycle, not adherence to party affiliation itself.
Our fight for Atlanta goes beyond today’s vote in all the races on the ballot. As many have noted, it involves committing to be a part of the same communities we are tired of seeing gentrified. Our fight also recognizes that those who rely on symbolic blackness and affinity, without any regard for overall wellbeing are problematic. These individuals need to be addressed accordingly.
Win or lose; I hope Democrats will finally learn that voters will turn out for meaningful issues and policies. As voters, we need to hear more than x candidate is “bad” and protect Democratic strongholds. Voter enthusiasm leads to better turnout.
Today, tomorrow, and each day hereafter we will be #FightingforAtlanta. Part of that fight today was making a choice. As we move forward, we must show up for what we value. We vote with the acknowledgment that it is merely one tool in our toolbox.