Atlanta Mayoral Race 2017, APN Overview Part One: Norwood, Hall
The nine candidates are: Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large), Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2), Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), former City CFO Peter Aman, former Council President Cathy Woolard, and Michael Sterling.
This APN Overview series is intended to give readers key facts about each 2017 Mayoral candidate from APN’s archives and research, in order to provide a big picture survey of the nine candidates across an array of factors, including which ones are more or less progressive.
In this analysis, we rely heavily on the voting record data in the APN Scorecards that we have developed for City Council (Norwood, Bottoms, Hall, Mitchell), State Legislature (Fort), and County Commission incumbents (Eaves).
Because we have so much material, we are going to focus on two candidates in this round: Councilwoman Mary Norwood and Councilman Kwanza Hall.
Atlanta Progressive News endorsed Mary Norwood in 2009, when she was in a race with Kasim Reed, former Council President Lisa Borders, and two lesser known candidates.
In that race, we believed that Norwood was the more progressive candidate, and we were one of the only news publications to endorse Norwood.
Despite all the fearmongering about independent Norwood allegedly being a Republican in 2009, fueled by the tactics and playbook of then-Reed supporter State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), it turns out that Mr. Reed was the big business, big developer Mayor that APN predicted.
Reed pushed through–with the help of Peter Aman, then CFO of the City of Atlanta–a horrendous pension reform package opposed by labor. Reed withheld Beltline TAD money from Atlanta Public Schools–with the help of Cathy Woolard who was on the Beltline’s Board–until they cried uncle and settled for less than owed. Reed pushed through numerous major City asset sales with little or no public benefits. Y’all would’ve thought Kasim Reed was Bernie Sanders the way some progressives were acting back in 2009.
This does not necessarily mean that APN will support Norwood again, as there is a completely different field this year. However, as a previous APN endorsee, Norwood comes into this race with a rebuttable presumption of endorsability.
Norwood’s strengths are the same as they were in 2009 – she is accessible, she is independent, she is willing to stand up to developers and big money, she has relationships across the City, across racial and economic and party lines. She will bring a new day to City Hall that would mark the end of the same big business-big developer alliance that has coopted the last several Mayoral regimes.
To be sure, Norwood hasn’t had any major legislative packages or initiatives since her return to Council, although in her previous term she led the charge for McMansion reform and scale-appropriate infill development.
Her APN Scorecard score is 47.4, including votes from 2003 to 2009, and then from 2009 to present. Councilman Aaron Watson held the Post 2 at large seat from 2009 to 2013. APN endorsed Norwood over Watson in 2013.
Some negative Norwood votes include: rolling back bar hours to 3 a.m. in 2003 (in 2009, she said she would reconsider the hours); supporting the 2005 panhandling ban that the City law department later admitted was unconstitutional; opposing funding for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless in 2005; supporting limits to public comment delegations in 2014; and supporting eminent domain for the Task Force in 2015 and 2016.
Some positive Norwood votes include: supporting oversight of the AHA public housing demolitions in 2008; opposing privatization of streets surrounding Atlanta Underground in 2016.
Kwanza Hall has been trying to position himself as a progressive candidate in more recent years, and it shows in the fact that his score has risen quite a bit on the APN Scorecard.
Hall’s current APN Scorecard score is 59.1, and includes votes taken from the start of his first Council term in 2006, to present.
He pushed through the sale of City Hall East, which is now Ponce City Market, for what might as well have been two nickles and a song, to developer Jamestown, without requiring that even a sliver of that giant parcel be dedicated to affordable housing.
While District 2 Councilman, he basically oversaw, unmitigated, the gentrification of the now-unaffordable Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, which has become Exhibit A of how not to develop in Atlanta. He has similarly allowed the Mayor to offer Civic Center to the highest bidder.
He has also been a long-time opponent of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and introduced several pieces of eminent domain legislation aimed at closing the shelter.
At the same time, he has authored several pieces of progressive legislation, including an ordinance drafted by APN’s Editor–the present writer–which opened up the Council’s Committee Briefings to the public in 2013.
He introduced legislation to roll back bar hours to 4 a.m., but he did not get support of a majority of Council.
He recently introduced pro-environmental legislation setting a clean energy goal for the City of Atlanta, although this was after he made widely critiqued comments at a Buckhead forum that he was a skeptic about climate change.
He also introduced a package of decriminalization legislation that would have potentially stricken a long list of municipal crimes, many of which were so-called “Quality of Life” Ordinances that target poor and homeless people.
After the Law Department agreed some items should be stricken because of state law conflicts or constitutional issues, the Council removed those items from the Code earlier this year.
However, several so-called Quality of Life ordinances on Hall’s original list remain crimes, and an effort to decriminalize the minor possession of cannabis (“marijuana”) stalled after a pathetic display by the Mayor and several Councilmembers in which it was asserted that decriminalizing cannabis would be too confusing for the general public so it’s better to keep arresting people.
Hall has not done enough to fight for his own legislation, which seems stalled, although he says that as Mayor he would implement decriminalization.
Hall is known to rely heavily on his staff in terms of working out the details of policy matters. Many around City Hall have perceived it’s almost as if Hall’s Chief of Staff Jay Tribby been the de facto District 2 Councilman all these years. You know and that’s fine because Mayors have to delegate.
Negative votes by Hall: opposed funding for the Task Force for the Homeless in 2007; opposed Council oversight of AHA public housing demolitions in 2008; supported privatization of street vending in 2008; supported the sale of City Hall East in 2010; supported the failed aggressive panhandling legislation and the City’s new panhandling legislation in 2012; supported the sale of Civic Center in 2014; supported eminent domain of the Task Force in 2015 and 2016; supported the sale of Turner Field in 2016.
Positive votes by Hall: opposed limits to public comment in 2010; opposed the Yolanda Adrean pension reform plan in 2011; supported extending bar hours to 4 a.m. in 2011; opposed the airport concessions contracts in 2012; opposed public comment limits in 2013; opposed the new Falcons stadium in 2013; opposed the Cheshire Bridge rezoning in 2013.