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Longtime Atlanta councilmember’s death could shift power at city hall

The death of longtime Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young Jr. on Friday has set in motion a months long process to find a replacement who will serve out the remainder of Young’s term.

Young was widely regarded as an ally of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and whoever wins his seat could shift the balance of power on the council.

Young was re-elected to his fourth term in November 2017.

In a statement on Friday Bottoms said: “I was privileged to call Ivory a colleague and friend and am eternally grateful for his love and devotion to our city.”

Within 15 days, the city council will declare Young’s seat vacant and request that anyone who is interested apply to serve in the Young’s District 3 seat as a short term replacement. The council will pick a replacement for Young among the applicants until a special election can be held to fill the seat, said City Council President Felicia Moore.

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Moore said the date of the election has yet to be determined. The victor of that contest will represent Young’s district for the remainder of his term through 2021.

Young’s death at age 56 follows a battle with cancer. He took a leave of absence from the council a couple months ago to undergo stem cell treatment.

His leave of absence came at a critical time and set off a behind-the-scenes political maneuvering at City Hall as Bottoms tried to gain support for the $5 billion Gulch redevelopment project — the most significant initiative so far during her administration.

Bottoms was trying to pass legislation to help provide a developer nearly $2 billion in incentives to redevelop 40-acres of weedy parking lots and railroad tracks stretching from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the Five Points MARTA station in downtown Atlanta.

The mayor had to postpone three votes on the project because she didn’t have enough support on the council.

In September, she sought an opinion from Sam Olens, a former state attorney general, about whether Young could vote via conference call as he recovered from treatment.

The move was criticized by opponents of the plan. Young never voted on the incentive package, which the council approved earlier this month.

But if Young, who represents English Avenue and Vine City, hadn’t been sidelined, the deal would have probably passed more swiftly through the council.

The makeup of the council changed significantly as a result of the election last year. A federal corruption investigation and revelations about how Former Mayor Kasim Reed used city funds seems to have emboldened some members of council, who have asked pointed questions of Bottoms’ administration.

Young’s council bio highlights his work to transform the west Atlanta neighborhoods he served. It says that his role in the “redevelopment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive corridor resulted in more than $65 million for the completion of the Historic Westside Village project that served as a catalyst for continued investments.” It credits him with lobbying “at the state level for enhanced tools to combat blight across the city through code enforcement.”

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