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Group says Atlanta Mayor Bottoms not fighting gentrification

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

A group of Atlanta activists traveled to South Carolina last weekend to question democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden about why his top Georgia Surrogate, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, wasn’t doing more to stop low-income black people from being displaced from their homes.

Then on Tuesday, one of them created a Facebook flyer showing a head shot of Bottoms with the words “HELP FIND ME!”

“Last seen campaigning with Joe Biden. We need her back to do some work in Atlanta,” read the caption underneath Bottom’s portrait.

Bottoms endorsed Biden last year and has consistently attended campaign events to support him. A spokesman said that in the month of February, Bottoms attended campaign events in Iowa, Alabama and Tennessee. All of the trips were on the weekend, a spokesman said.

At a campaign event in South Carolina, Peoplestown resident Bertha Darden asked Biden to “please tell her to stop evicting and displacing black families in Atlanta.”

Biden responding by calling Bottoms a great mayor and then began describing how the problem of gentrification was affecting North Charleston.

Biden’s campaign surged on Tuesday as he won several states throughout the south.

A mayoral spokesman said in February Bottoms ordered a construction moratorium on the Westside, committed an additional $100 million for affordable housing, signed legislation to create the City's first Inspector General, launched the City's Bank On program, facilitated a mental health summit, cut the ribbon on Fire Station 26 and countless other public initiatives—all the while balancing her duties as Mayor with those of being a mother of four.

“The Mayor can walk and chew gum at the same time,” the spokesman said.

Darden and her husband Robert were in a long legal battle with the city that began under former Mayor Kasim Reed. Their home was among nearly 20 that sat on a block devastated by flooding in 2012.

The city proposed a park and a retention pond to stop future flooding and used eminent domain to acquire the houses.

But the Dardens have long contended that the city’s plan to stop flooding in their neighborhood was unnecessary. They insisted the city only needed to clean the storm drains.

Bertha Darden said after Biden’s response about gentrification, she told him that her case involved eminent domain. She said that he promised to have a conversation with her at a later date.

Bottoms has faced criticism before over allegedly not doing enough to stop low-income people from being displaced from their homes because of rising rents and real estate taxes.

But last month, she issued an executive order prohibiting new construction permits in two neighborhoods south of the planned Westside Park because of concerns over gentrification.

Former State Senator Vincent Fort, who ran against Bottoms in 2017, said the move did not go far enough. Fort also traveled to the South Carolina event. He said that frustration about Bottoms absence from the city extended beyond her campaigning to the amount of time she spends vacationing at her Martha’s Vineyard home.