Abrams supports putting Atlanta’s training center to a vote

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams says she supports putting Atlanta’s public safety training center on the ballot for voters to decide.

The Democrat told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that city officials should embrace the democratic engagement without pushing back.

“I strongly support the right of residents to be heard and that right should not be unfairly impinged upon,” said Abrams, her party’s nominee for governor in 2018 and 2022.

“The rarely used citizen referendum is designed for precisely this type of fraught issue,” she added. “Regardless of one’s position on the subject matter, the leadership of the city should make every effort to allow direct citizen engagement by vote.”

Her comments come after Mayor Andre Dickens said during a Friday interview for the Politically Georgia podcast that he consulted with the voting rights advocate as well as Georgia’s two U.S. senators on the process the city will use to verify tens of thousands of petition signatures.

Top Democrats have been largely silent on the controversial issue of Atlanta’s proposed 85-acre police and fire training facility slated to be built in unincorporated DeKalb County. But after outcry over the city’s decision not to verify submitted signatures until a court issues more guidance, some have begun to weigh in.

Training center opponents say they submitted more than 116,000 signatures to the municipal clerk’s office on Sept. 11 -- roughly double the number needed to secure a vote on the ballot -- but city officials refuse to begin the verification process, citing pending litigation.

Abrams said that after reviewing the city’s initial verification process, she reached out to Dickens to share her “deep concerns and recommendations,” many of which, she added, were addressed by the city.

Abrams isn’t the only Georgia Democrat to express concerns with the city’s signature verification process which includes matching signatures with the signers’ voter registration.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock sent a letter to Dickens on Friday urging the first-term mayor to be more transparent and “err on the side of giving people the ability to express their views.”

And the Fair Fight Action voting rights group that Abrams founded is among a range of left-leaning organizations that have criticized the city’s response to the petition process.

Dickens said Friday that he’s anxious to see what is in the boxes submitted by petitioners and for the verification process to begin.

“These folks have collected signatures, we’ve got a half million residents — 500,000 residents in Atlanta — I want to know how many support this,” Dickens said.