The Race for City Hall: Atlanta Council president tackles crime in mayoral campaign video

City Council President Felicia Moore (left) is running against incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
City Council President Felicia Moore (left) is running against incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta City Council President Felicia A. Moore tackled the city’s crimewave in a new mayoral campaign video released Monday.

“Crime is out of control in Atlanta,” Moore said in a video. “Homicides were up 58% last year. 58%. That’s unacceptable.”

Moore is challenging incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the Nov. 2 race, as the current administration faces criticism about a lack of effort in combating crime. Residents and business leaders want Bottoms to take more aggressive steps to combat crime after a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot in Buckhead last December.

The council president told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that if she’s elected mayor, she would launch a search for a permanent chief of police, hire more officers to fill empty openings in the department, and address disciplinary issues on the force with oversight and accountability as the main focus.

A spokesman from the Bottoms campaign told the AJC the mayor has already declared gun violence a public health emergency, and she’s tackling the issue of rising violence as an “absolute top priority.” Atlanta Police are working with the FBI and other partners to crack down on gangs and guns, the spokesman said, adding that and work to address public safety is “happening around the clock.”

Some residents praised Bottoms as the “public safety mayor” when she enacted a 30% pay raises for police officers and 20% increases for firefighters. Her national popularity also soared last year when she delivered an impassioned plea alongside police and public figures during unrest in downtown Atlanta following Black Lives Matter protests.

But 2020 broke records as Atlanta’s deadliest year in decades. Bottoms previously told the AJC that the pool of police chief candidates is too diluted to find a permanent chief while many cities are searching as well.

Bottoms accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields during the civil unrest. Shields went on to be hired as chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, whose officers were responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death — one of the incidents that led to nation-wide protests.

A Bottoms campaign spokesman told the AJC that Bottoms will not politicize the search and appointment of a police chief.

“While others focus on campaigns and politics, the Mayor’s first priority is making our city safe,” the spokesman said.

On Monday, the AJC reported that President Joe Biden is holding a virtual fundraiser for Bottoms Friday afternoon. Bottoms played a prominent role in prompting Biden’s run for office, and this is the first campaign fundraising event he’s headlined since being sworn in office two months ago.

The mayor and the City Council recently enacted several reform efforts in the city’s police force, ranging from training reviews to changes on the city’s police review board. Bottoms recently stressed her efforts are motivated out of compassion rather than politics.

“It’s something I continue to focus on and take very seriously, not for purposes of reelection, but because this is my city,” Bottoms said during a virtual press briefing in January. “The care and concern I have about crime in this city extends far beyond any race that I’ll be a part of.”

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But more needs to be done, Moore said, adding the public deserves more “constant, transparent” communication on what’s happening citywide. The police hired 115 recruits last year, but Assistant Police Chief Todd Coyt recently told City Council that Atlanta’s force is down 436 officers. Moore said the fire department is also understaffed and overdue for equipment updates.

“There’s not a department in this city that doesn’t feel neglected,” Moore said.

Additionally, Moore said “we still have a federal corruption probe. That cloud is still over city government and there’s still much more that needs to be done to make sure that corruption doesn’t continue in the city.”

The council president called crime the main issue, but stressed her mayoral “to-do list is long,” with priorities that include fixing the city’s crumbling infrastructure and the need to maintain fiscal stability.

Moore also called her main tenets “transparency, ethics and accountability,” adding that she will be an “actively engaged, hands-on” mayor who will interact with residents and public employees alike to ensure the community knows that she understands what’s happening in the city.

“After I’ve served as 20 years as a council member and now going on my fourth year as a council president, I’m ready to be in a position to get something done,” Moore said.

AJC reporter J.D. Capelouto contributed to this article.

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