Affordable housing and crime were among many issues Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed at a town hall meeting in southwest Atlanta, but speaking before hundreds, she made her most pointed comments on reports that she gave her political supporters jobs: “There was nothing unethical during my transition.”
Bottoms’ remarks were in response to a recent investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that revealed six members of her mayoral transition team were retroactively paid for work performed before she took office in January 2018. They also appear to have been given job titles based on their desired salaries and not their qualifications.
The investigation prompted the Atlanta City Council to pass a resolution requesting an independent investigation to determine whether payments from the city to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ campaign staff violated. Bottoms vetoed the legislation this week claiming portions of it — specifically asking for an outside investigator— violated the city’s charter, which designates the City Attorney as the chief legal advisor of the city.
“I don’t have a problem with the investigation,” Bottoms said at Thursday’s meeting. “I had a problem with the resolution and the language in it.”
She made her comments in response to a question submitted by the roughly 500 residents packed inside the Easley Conference Pavilion at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. The town hall was the last in a series Bottoms and top city officials have hosted in the past month in at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead and Cascade United Methodist Church in southwest Atlanta.
Questions about affordable housing and crime in the Southwest Atlanta community dominated much of the city’s third town hall meeting this year. It struck a different chord than the previous town hall gatherings, which largely focused on an influx of crime and policing concerns.
Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields acknowledged that many of the technological resources the police department uses, such as cameras and license plate readers, don’t make it to the south side of the city.
“We haven’t invested in technology that we have in the downtown or Buckhead area and that has to change,” Shields said.
Atlanta police typically use security cameras installed by local businesses to monitor crime in the area, but Shields said parts of southwest Atlanta don’t have that advantage.
“The problem is that we don’t have that economic development in some parts of the community that need that technology the most,” Shields said.
Another problem the area faced was the lack of an Atlanta police precinct building in their zone. Shields said the city broke ground on the precinct in 2017, but it has yet to be built. She expects it will be built in a year.
The current building is located in Zone 6, which includes the Grant Park area.
While there hasn’t been a precinct in the neighborhood for some time, residents such as Tarin Love have noticed increased patrols by police.
“I think they’re doing better,” Love said, adding officers have been coming to community forums. “They’ve stepped it up.”
Other residents were concerned affordable housing efforts would relocate those who already struggle to stay in their homes.
“It seems from an outsider perspective, (efforts) are catering to affluent people and not I’m not seeing homes for people who could be displaced,” Edgewood resident Lindsay Henningfield said.
A 15-year resident of Atlanta, Ion Snipes, 54, has seen the city undergo many changes including the closing of the longtime Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter, which she says resulted in displacing homeless residents.
“What is being done? Because it doesn’t seem to be getting better,” Snipes said.
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