Mary Norwood Challenges Watson for Her Old Council Seat
(APN) ATLANTA — Former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large), who ran for Mayor of Atlanta in 2009 and attempted to qualify as an independent to run for Fulton County Commissioner in 2010, is running for her former City Council seat.
Norwood qualified yesterday, August 30, 2013. The seat is currently held by Councilman Aaron Watson.
“As my husband says, Mary with a project is better than Mary without a project. I’ve had several commitments that have now concluded and now I don’t have a project. What I really love is the City, I missed being part of the City deliberations, important discussions, important decisions, and knowing I’m representing so many wonderful people throughout the entire city; I think it’s really a special place,” Norwood told Atlanta Progressive News.
“As much as I’ve enjoyed my time away and have accomplished a lot in my time away, I would like to continue to do the work I’ve truly enjoyed which is being a part of this great city going forward,” Norwood told APN.
Norwood announced her bid for reelection in a video posted on the APN video section here:
The seat is one of three at-large, or citywide, Council seats for the City of Atlanta, and one where the representative must live in Districts 5, 6, 7, or 8. Norwood held the seat from 2001 to 2009.
In 2009, when Norwood ran for Mayor, a progressive candidate named Amir Farokhi entered the Post 2-at-large race early.
Watson, who had served on the Atlanta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and had approved the mass demolition of public housing in Atlanta and mass eviction of residents, entered the race fairly late, apparently as the preferred candidate for developers and the business community. Then, at the last minute, Weslee Knapp entered the race.
Knapp’s entrance had the effect of ultimately forcing Farokhi and Watson into a Run-off, and Watson prevailed in the Run-off.
It is likely that the Black candidates in down-ballot races that year, namely Watson and now-Council President Ceasar Mitchell, benefitted from the get-out-the-vote effort in Black communities primarily organized by then-candidate for Mayor Kasim Reed, who at the time was in a Run-off with Norwood in the race for Mayor.
Since his election to the Council in 2009, Watson has been one of the quietest, and also one of the least progressive, Members of Council.
He has no legislative accomplishments that stand out, although he has promoted bicycling through various bike ride events that he has held in Atlanta, and he had a healthy cooking program on Channel 26. Of course, these are things one does not have to be a Councilmember to do.
Watson’s current score on the Atlanta Progressive News Atlanta City Council Scorecard for 2013 is thirty percent, meaning that in his voting record, he has taken what APN believes to be the progressive position only thirty percent of the time, out of dozens of votes. The scorecard is available online here: http://bit.ly/WeZKhc
Watson is second from the bottom on the Scorecard, out of fifteen Councilmembers, just above, ironically, Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11).
Watson is expected to receive extensive support from Mayor Reed, who has extensive funding in his campaign war chest that he does not need to expend this year, having no serious challenger.
Reed will likely support Watson, first because Watson has supported his agenda almost completely, and second because Reed would probably not care to see Norwood return to elected office, where she could help Felicia Moore (District 9) and others bring meaningful oversight to the Reed regime.
Watson has supported: limiting public comment, in several different votes; the sale of City Hall East for well below its market value; the waiver of affordability requirements for the City Hall East redevelopment; the Yolanda Adrean (District 8) pension reform proposal which would have shifted even current employees away from a defined benefit plan; the airport concessions contracts; the new Falcons stadium; the panhandling legislation allowing up to 180 days in jail for first offenders; the sole source contract with Fog Fuels; the Lindbergh rezoning for a new Walmart; the Cheshire Bridge rezoning to get rid of existing adult entertainment establishments; and a slush fund for the Atlanta Development Authority.
Meanwhile, he opposed a three percent pay increase for City employees; protecting elephants from circuses that visit Atlanta and use bullhooks to torture elephants; and extending bar closure hours back to 4am.
Norwood said she will continue to be the same Councilmember she was before. Her many accomplishments while on Council included legislation to impose a temporary moratorium on so-called McMansions when they were out of scale with their existing neighborhoods; legislation to establish Senior Zones in Atlanta first suggested by Senior Advocate George Pilkington; an independent audit of the Arborist Division; and an independent audit of the City’s sewer and water billing.
APN reviewed Norwood’s legislative record in a 2009 article: http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2009/11/29/ajc-misleads-readers-on-norwoods-legislative-record.html
Norwood supported same-sex marriage years before Mayor Reed finally made up his mind.
During the 2009 campaign, she voiced support for re-extending bar hours.
And while she was not publicly very vocal about it, APN happens to know that Norwood was very troubled by the recent airport contracts.
“There is a long history there and I haven’t changed. I care about the things that I’ve always cared about. It will be an honor and a privilege to serve the people again. I really do care about the issues, the City, the quality of life,” she said.
“I care about the safety of the city – that’s a theme I’ve had forever,” she said, noting her support for use of surveillance cameras.
“Because of my years of service, I have the training, I have the knowledge, I have the expertise.
What I want the community to know, I have the same passion, I care about the same issues. I was an open book then, and I’m an open book now,” she said.
“I’ve been so encouraged by the feedback just within the first 24 hours, people wanting to be helpful. I did enjoy helping citizens all across the city. It’s very visible work, you can drive into a neighborhood, and say, that got better because I was there. This got solved, or that got improved,” she said.
Norwood had no comment on Watson or his campaign. “I’m looking at my campaign. In six weeks, people will make a choice…. I’m focused on my campaign, I’m not focused on contrast.”
Norwood also declined to comment on how she would have voted on various issues that came before the Council over the last four years.
“I have not been down there, and I was on City Council for eight years. If you are not in that position, you don’t know the full extent of what is being discussed, reviewed, even with all the open meetings. There is no substitute for actually being one of the Council Members and making a decision and weighing the various choices. You take thousands of votes when you’re there. I am not commenting on things that have happened when I was not there. I am not looking backward, I am living in fast forward,” Norwood said.
“I was an early supporter of the Beltline. I’m thrilled to see the Beltline moving so quickly,” Norwood said.
During her time away from public office, Norwood remained busy, “Going back to the life I had before I spent twenty years of it at City Hall: a lot of volunteer work, everything from special events to running nonprofit organizations, and it’s been very fulfilling.”
In conversations with APN over the last four years, Norwood expressed little to no enthusiasm for running for office again, especially after she was viciously attacked by Reed supporters in 2009.
But she began to return to public life last year, when Norwood began to serve out the remainder of a term for an open seat on the Fulton County Board of Elections. She was nominated, as an Independent, by the Fulton County Republican Party. She was then reappointed for a second term, which she will not finish because of her current run for Council.
“I don’t know it was a simple decision [for the Party to nominate an Independent]. I believe that decision was made because of my understanding of the issues and my passion for elections to be well-run. I was appointed as an Independent, not as a Republican. I think that was a big discussion,” she said.
“As a Board, we hired a new Executive Director, who is a consummate professional, who has the knowledge and background and the training… to be able to run… the largest county in Georgia,” Norwood said.
“I brought transparency to what was going on. I did not have access to all the data I wished I had access to. I did get an analysis done of where the voter list had issues which we know had happened because of the investigation by the Secretary of State’s office. I did at my own expense make copies of the data of the surveys. I did give all that data to the Executive Director when he first joined the organization, so he would have data he needed to make good decisions going forward,” Norwood said.
“It’s not like I’m an unknown and there’s a question mark about how I operate. I worked hard to keep people informed, to address the issues. I took controversial stands. I did what I thought was right all the time,” Norwood said.