Responses to Black Leadership Forum Memo

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Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed issued a statement Thursday in response to a comment made by Aaron Turpeau, a surrogate for City Council President and mayoral candidate Lisa Borders, in a position paper circulated by the Black Leadership Forum and Newsmakers Live.

In the paper, Turpeau made the following remark:

…[voters should] support Lisa Borders because she is ‘the best black candidate in the race who has a chance to win the election because she can attract downtown white support. 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.

Reed called on Borders to distance herself from the remark:

Not only do I find these comments racially charged and vitriolic, I completely repudiate them because they are fundamentally wrong and do not belong in today’s society. I call on Ms. Borders to do the right thing and denounce such divisive, racist language immediately.

These tactics divide the very community that has made Atlanta emerge as a leading city in the South and dishonors the legacies of Mayors Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Ivan Allen, Sam Massell, and William Hartsfield. This campaign should be waged on the merits of each candidate, not the color of their skin.”

State Rep. Ralph Long III (D-Atlanta) also issued a response that reads in part:

The Black Leadership Forum was flawed in its inception, is misguided in its purpose, and will not be a part of the new direction for a new Atlanta. The voters of Atlanta, the same people you claim to lead, will reject your antiquated style of politics in favor of real solutions to the challenges facing all of Atlanta.

APN’s analysis of the situation also contains more of what Turpeau wrote and what Long had to say about it.

UPDATE 4:27 p.m.

Borders read the following statement during a press conference at her campaign headquarters this afternoon (We added bold text to key portions):

The river of race runs through Atlanta. Given our political and social history here, we cannot completely ignore the question of race. It courses through the history of this city and touches almost every life. When I first announced my candidacy in December 2007, I sat before a diverse audience of Atlantans and publicly acknowledged that elephant in the room.

Atlanta is transitioning, but it has not fully transitioned. We will continue to have conversations about race and class, especially as the home to the new Center on Civil and Human Rights. But my run for mayor is not about race. It is not about rhetoric. It is about results. Atlanta is a broken city that needs the right mayor. One who can not only talk about her problems, but one who can offer concrete solutions and ways to pay for what all Atlantans need: a clean, safe, affordable city that works for all of us.

We have had two Atlantas for far too long. Through my lifetime of experiences, I have lived, worked and played in both. As a child on Hunter Street, as a student integrating Westminster, as a healthcare leader and as a business executive, I have not had the luxury of choosing where I fit. I have been and must always be of Atlanta. I am the only candidate who has navigated these difficult conversations every day, and I am the right candidate to bridge these divides.

The Atlanta we have today requires strong, focused and experienced leadership. We must have a leader with the political courage to make tough stands, regardless of political consequences. When our public safety officials were losing $250 a month and our families were unprotected, I am the only candidate who scrubbed the budgets, attended the hearings and stood up for our police officers and firefighters. I didn’t hide behind the excuse of not being the mayor yet – I understand that we must do what’s right – right now.

Similarly, I must make clear that I do not reject discussions concerning race because they may be too difficult or anger one community or another. I have never had the luxury of being Black or White. I have always been part of the entire city – and I know the entire city. I am a daughter of her legacy, and I proudly stand as proof of what Atlanta can produce: an experienced business executive who has balanced budgets, raised money and fought to protect her citizens.

We will continue to have these conversations, and I am committed to having them openly and honestly. However, I will not let these discussions divert us from what is most important. The color of skin of our next mayor is not the issue. Instead, we must be concerned about financial stability and public safety. About homelessness and the loss of jobs. About accountability, integrity and answers. Those issues don’t care about the race of the mayor or the race of any citizen.

I recognize the constitutional right of every citizen to express their opinions. Mayor Ivan Allen and Mayor Maynard Jackson upheld that core belief during some of the darkest moments in our history. I reject the analysis offered by Aaron Turpeau. He is absolutely wrong. I oppose anyone, of any race, who would distract us from what is important today.

Atlanta has a chance to do today what we have done so rightly before: not get drawn into an argument that has no winners. I repudiate anyone who would use this campaign to score points or divert our attention from the dangers facing our city: unsafe neighborhoods, crumbling infrastructure and a two-legged financial stool that cannot continue to stand.

I welcome the opportunity to move Atlanta beyond this damaging and misleading question of whether Atlanta needs a “black” mayor or a “white” mayor. I am the right mayor for a city that has the experience to start on Day 1. I have the relationships to reach across the city. I have the capacity to understand where we are and identify solutions.

We must be one Atlanta, a place where we get our money’s worth, protect every neighborhood, make Atlanta work for all her citizens and where we care for our community. I believe Atlanta’s best days lie ahead. We must judge every candidate not on their race, but on the solutions they bring to the table. I am that candidate and will be that mayor.

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