Atlanta Mayoral Race 2017, APN Overview Part Two: Fort, Woolard
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the City of Atlanta 2017 Mayoral race, this article presents an overview of two candidates: State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and former City Council President Cathy Woolard.
In Part One, Atlanta Progressive News presented an overview of Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) and Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2).
Additional candidates, who will be reviewed in forthcoming articles, are: Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, former City CFO Peter Aman, 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 candidates are more or less progressive.
STATE SEN. VINCENT FORT
State Sen. Fort has been a true champion for wide array of progressive causes, most importantly for low-income and homeless people, for literally decades.
The Atlanta Progressive News archives are filled with dozens of examples of Sen. Fort speaking on behalf of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Grady Hospital patients, public housing residents, and many more underserved communities.
Sen. Fort also is distinguished to have a 100 percent voting record on the APN State House and Senate Scorecard, which scores the Fulton and DeKalb County delegations.
Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that if elected, Sen. Fort will be the most progressive of all nine candidates on issues of community benefits, community-led development, affordable housing, and many other issues.
Another critical issue he has taken the lead on–along with Councilman Hall–is the decriminalization of cannabis, which he promises to support and make a priority.
He has garnered the support of many young activists in the progressive community, especially as someone who supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for the Democratic nomination for President of the U.S. in 2016.
However, another factor to consider is that Sen. Fort is also a bridge-burner and a grudge-holder who, much like the current Mayor Kasim Reed, is known for the politics of attack.
In fact, as the third-top campaign person for Mayor Reed during the 2009 Mayoral Election, Fort and his protege, Rashad Taylor, were responsible for a brand of vicious attack mailers targeting independent candidate Mary Norwood in 2009.
This included a mailer comparing Norwood to several Republicans next to a picture of a giant elephant.
It would be ideal if there were a candidate in this race with a progressive voting record and a progressive activist record–like Sen. Fort clearly has–and the type of relationship skills that would allow the City of Atlanta to repair the bridges we’ve burned with Fulton County, with Atlanta Public Schools, with the media.
For the last eight years Mayor Reed has attacked nearly everyone who has dared question his judgment, including activists and non-profit leaders. Reed has used the City’s communications office to issue vitriolic responses to articles written by Atlanta journalists.
Point of fact, Fort stopped talking to APN’s News Editor for five years after APN wrote an article in 2010 reporting on how he worked with his ally, now-former APS Board Chair, Khaatim El, to plan the ousting of now-former Chair LaChandra Butler Burks.
Not all elected officials take that type of position with reporters. APN has reported several things about Councilman Hall, for example, that could be construed as negative, and Hall has remained accessible.
Of the nine candidates running for Mayor, it appears most likely Sen. Fort and Councilwoman Bottoms would continue Reed’s incendiary leadership style at City Hall.
And yet, Fort has also used his voice consistently to speak up on behalf of the least of these.
Here are just a few examples:
Cathy Woolard served as Atlanta City Councilmember for District 6 from 1998 to 2002, and then ran for City Council President for a four year term that was supposed to run until 2006.
However, Woolard decided she wanted to run against then-U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) for the Democratic nomination, in a race eventually won by Denise Majette.
In our view, the fact that Woolard challenged U.S. Rep. McKinney is, in and of itself, enough to cause concern, given that McKinney was one of the most progressive and outspoken Members of U.S. Congress in recent history.
McKinney called out the fraud in the so-called case for the U.S. Invasion of Iraq; she dared to ask questions about 9/11; she called out trillions of dollars of missing military spending; she criticized Georgia’s electronic voting machines as not being reliable without a paper trail.
But the national media piled on McKinney when it was incorrectly reported that she theorized about a government conspiracy. Woolard thought she had a ticket to Congress.
Woolard’s decision to not serve out her term cost Atlanta taxpayers a Special Election, won by Lisa Borders, who was so corporate. We further hold Woolard responsible for six years of Lisa Borders.
Woolard, during her time on the City Council, became a champion for the mass gentrification project known as the Atlanta Beltline.
The Beltline recently admitted they have no intention of meeting their promises to produce thousands of new affordable housing opportunities — promises that were meant to mitigate the effects of gentrification caused by all the public investment associated with the Beltline.
Woolard has sat on the Beltline Board, and, as reported by APN, supported a budget that included no payments for Atlanta Public Schools, at a time when the Beltline owed APS millions of dollars.
Because the Beltline and the City of Atlanta held firm, APS, under duress, eventually agreed to accept less than they were owed.
Woolard really disappeared from City of Atlanta politics for over a decade, and it isn’t clear where she has used her influence to do anything but support the Beltline.
Now, we’ve been observing the Woolard campaign and are hearing her say some good things of late. She is saying that surplus Beltline property should be used for affordable housing, and that is a great idea, especially if at least some the units are targeted for low-income families at 0 to 30 percent of the AMI.
She is saying to put a hold on Civic Center development so there can be more community involvement and public benefits.
She is calling for some good policies, but we have to judge someone not just by their current promises, but by their record; and one is left wondering, where has Woolard been all this time, except supporting the Beltline as a Board Member?
When a City Councilmember becomes the champion of a massive public project like the Beltline, and they don’t take the steps to make sure that gentrification is mitigated, then it seems that they share some responsibility for the harm caused by the displacement of low-income people.
APN has taken the position that Beltline is a bloated bureaucracy whose functions to date could be carried out by the City’s Planning Department and Parks and Recreation Department.
Where was the leadership to make sure that Beltline was spending the appropriate amount of dollars of affordable housing? Where was the leadership to make sure that the City Council was passing proactive legislation to create affordable housing?
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2017)