Eight candidates vying to become Atlanta’s next mayor attended a forum held by the Buckhead Coalition on Wednesday.
The event was brief, giving each candidate a few minutes to make their appeal. Sam Massell, a former Atlanta mayor and president of the Buckhead Coalition, was a stern moderator, pushing back against candidates who ignored questions to hit on other, less relevant points.
At one point, Massell asked the candidates to convince the audience where they would find 40,000 votes needed to win the election.
Peter Aman, Atlanta’s former chief operating officer, answered the question by discussing his work for the city. He also lobbed a criticisms at Ceasar Mitchell and Mary Norwood, the city council president and city council member who are also running for mayor.
“None of this is on subject,” Massell said, interrupting Aman. “Sorry that you couldn’t tell us what votes you were going to muster.”
“I come from a world of proprietary strategy,” Aman replied.
“I know exactly what you’re doing,” Massell said.
It was Massell’s forum and the candidates were going to play by his rules.
Each candidate explained why they felt they were the best fit for Atlanta’s next mayor.
“I have more experience in running large organizations, in listening to people and in working inside and outside city government in running the city of Atlanta than anybody else on this stage,” Aman said.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, an Atlanta City Council member, talked about watching her father being arrested when she was eight years old and watching her mother struggle to make ends meet.
“My life really epitomizes the opportunities and challenges in our city,” she said.
Vincent Fort, a state senator who is positioning himself as an anti-establishment candidate, said he would, “tell the people of Atlanta the truth.”
“I’ve been saying that Atlanta has lost its way, Atlanta city hall has lost its way, not the people, and there are people there more interested in serving their own interests than the people’s interests,” Fort said. “That assertion was confirmed last week by Barack Obama’s outgoing U.S. attorney. There are people at city hall more concerned with enriching themselves.”
Fort is referring to the charges that contractor Elvin R. Mitchell Jr. bribed unnamed city officials to obtain construction contracts.
Kwanza Hall, another Atlanta City Council member, said, “I’m the only one with a proven track record of bringing neighborhoods forward, neighborhoods that have been left behind. This will be a new era for our city.”
Mitchell, the city council president, said, “As mayor I’m going to unlock the exponential power of the position.”
“I’m not going to lead alone and I’m going to bring an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.
Norwood, who is also an Atlanta city council member, promised to run an administration that is accountable to the city’s residents.
“I will bring total transparency to our city government,” she said. “It is time for us to be completely open and accountable to our citizens.” She promised an overhaul of the bidding process, and posting all expenses online, including checks written by the city.
Michael Sterling, former Executive Director of the Atlanta Workforce Agency, touted his experience as a federal prosecutor.
“I’m going to be better at public safety, candidly,” he said. “I’m the only candidate who investigated and prosecuted crime.”
Cathy Woolard, a former Atlanta City Council member and president, said, “I will bring people together to get things done. It’s not the job of the mayor to have all of the ideas. It’s the job of the mayor to bring people together.”
The entire forum was posted to the GPB News website. To listen, click here.
The Atlanta mayoral elections will be held on Nov. 7.