What Atlanta’s business leaders want candidates for mayor, council to prioritize

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A coalition of business leaders in Atlanta has unveiled a list of issues it wants mayoral and City Council candidates to focus on ahead of this year’s elections.

The Committee for a Better Atlanta, which is made up of representatives from over 30 large and influential businesses and civic organizations including Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta and Georgia Power, released its 2021 policy platform Wednesday.

The group’s top issues for this year include public safety, economic growth following the pandemic and housing affordability.

“If elected leaders delay or under-deliver on these issues, it will hamper Atlanta’s and Georgia’s competitiveness, and substantially weaken our standing as a top-tier city,” the platform states.

The CBA does not endorse candidates, but later this year it will assess each candidate based on their positions and understanding of the issues.

“Our in-depth platform dives into the critical policy discussions happening in the Atlanta business and civic community,” Kyle Waide, the 2021 CBA co-chair and CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said in a statement. “We look forward to discussing our platform with candidates and educating Atlanta voters.”

The coalition said Atlanta’s leaders should have “a unified voice on criminal justice and policing reform” and prioritize improving relationships between police and the communities they serve.

The platform does not take a stand on whether the Atlanta City Detention Center should be closed — a goal of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — but says the jail’s future should be “evaluated pragmatically” with intergovernmental partnerships in mind. Bottoms is in the midst of discussions with Fulton County officials about whether the city jail can be used to alleviate overcrowding at the county’s facility; the mayor has proposed temporarily using Atlanta’s jail to hold some county inmates.

The CBA also urges the city to recommit to a target staffing number for police officers. Former Mayor Kasim Reed set a goal of having 2,000 police officers on the force, and briefly achieved that benchmark in 2013. The Atlanta Police Department currently has roughly 1,640 officers on the force; Bottoms announced a plan to hire 250 more officers during her State of the City address.

On economic growth, the business leaders said the city should support the industries that were hardest hit by the pandemic through innovative relief tools, stimulus funding and increased communication.

The coalition urged the city to find a dedicated local funding source for affordable housing, and use publicly owned land to support affordable developments. Transportation is also a top issue. The CBA said city leaders should work more closely with MARTA and expand transit services, bike lanes and multi-use trails.

The full platform is available online. Every elected city office, including mayor, City Council president and all 15 City Council posts will be on the ballot this November.