Atlanta mayor’s anti-violence council to hold private meetings

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms held a press conference Friday, May 7, 2021 at Atlanta City Hall speaking about her decision not to run for a second term. Here she is shown with husband Derek. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms held a press conference Friday, May 7, 2021 at Atlanta City Hall speaking about her decision not to run for a second term. Here she is shown with husband Derek. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The committee formed to advise Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on how to reduce violent crime is convening privately to develop recommendations.

The Anti-Violence Advisory Council held its first meeting Wednesday two weeks after Bottoms first announced the creation of the group. Journalist George Chidi told people on Facebook that he sought attendance to the meeting when he was told the council’s meetings are not open to the public.

“It was named by a governmental body, considering matters of public importance. It is ABSOLUTELY an open meeting,” Chidi wrote on Facebook.

“The City of Atlanta holds that because the commission is a group of people named by the mayor without an act by the city council, it’s not a public meeting but a staff meeting and thus doesn’t fall under the Georgia Open Meetings Act.”

The Georgia Open Meetings Act defines public government meetings as “the gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon.”

ExploreFormer U.S. Attorney Sally Yates joins Atlanta mayor’s anti-violence advisory group

The Advisory Council, based on the city’s interpretation of state law, is not subject to the Open Meetings Act because it not created by the Atlanta City Council. A city spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Advisory Council will report its immediate findings within 30 to 45 days from the date of the mayor’s administrative order.

This means the public will have to wait until July 7 — excluding weekends and holidays — before the working group publicly presents its recommendations to Bottoms and the public. The mayor’s order to create the group was issued May 4.

Homicides were up 60% in Atlanta in 2020, and they have continued to rise this year. The number of shooting incidents and shooting victims this year are up by 41% and 35%, respectively, according to the latest data reported May 8 from the police department. Dozens of Atlanta police officers left the force last year, and the department is several hundred officers short of its full strength.

Bottoms, who recently announced she will not seek a second term, recently announced a plan to hire 250 additional officers. Atlanta City Council is also forming its own Public Safety Commission to spend the next 12 months developing recommendations for public safety reforms.

ExploreMore stories about Atlanta City Hall