Opinion: Bottoms: Atlanta is in my heart, and Georgia is on my mind

May 7, 2021 Atlanta:  Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms held a press conference Friday, May 7, 2021 at Atlanta City Hall speaking about her decision not to run for a second term. Here she is shown with husband Derek. In her first public appearance since announcing her decision to supporters Thursday night, Bottoms said her decision was guided by faith. “In the same way that it was very clear to me almost five years ago that I should run for mayor of Atlanta, it is abundantly clear to me today that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” Bottoms said at an emotional news conference at City Hall. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
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May 7, 2021 Atlanta: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms held a press conference Friday, May 7, 2021 at Atlanta City Hall speaking about her decision not to run for a second term. Here she is shown with husband Derek. In her first public appearance since announcing her decision to supporters Thursday night, Bottoms said her decision was guided by faith. “In the same way that it was very clear to me almost five years ago that I should run for mayor of Atlanta, it is abundantly clear to me today that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” Bottoms said at an emotional news conference at City Hall. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

ATLANTA’S MAYOR ON CITY’S CRIME SPIKE

In a year of awareness, awakening, and acknowledgement of underlying and systemic bias that has allowed division in America to fester, it is most unfortunate that the Editorial Board of the AJC continues to miss the mark and the moment. The assertion made in the June 20 Editorial that I can show people that I am leading by giving a Friday Night speech, or showing up at a crime scene, is a hollow suggestion to a complex issue.

If the uptick in crime were simply an Atlanta issue, it would be far easier to address. If we were alone in experiencing this rapid rise in violence, any deficits in our approach would be far easier to discern. But the reality is that in the year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic began, gun violence has skyrocketed across the U.S., and for the first time since the mid 1990s, the nation topped 20,000 criminal homicides in a single year (TIME Magazine June 4, 2021).

As cities and states begin to lift COVID restrictions, more and more people are interacting with each other while relearning social behaviors. “People are learning how to co-exist in public spaces amid a time of heightened tension, divisions, and incendiary political rhetoric,” according to the TIME article.

This is not a leadership problem - it is a public health epidemic, fueled by lax gun control laws and social ills spilling into communities in cities across America. We are in the midst of a systematic trend gripping the entire nation. The pandemic has been the great equalizer for cities big and small dealing with crime, but the root causes of the violence are much deeper than this virus and its effects on our citizens.

A speech will not stop someone from picking up a gun in the heat of a disagreement, but a program like Cure Violence might help. That is the reason we are making investments to expand this program in our city. It is also the reason that President Joe Biden credits our administration with his commitment to include billions of dollars in the American Jobs Plan toward violence interruption programs like Cure Violence.

01/27/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia —Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms takes questions form the media following remarks in the House Chambers on the sixth day of the 2021 legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
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01/27/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia —Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms takes questions form the media following remarks in the House Chambers on the sixth day of the 2021 legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

A speech also will not catch a criminal in the act, but expanding Operation Shield, our public safety camera network, may. That is why we are allocating millions of dollars from our city budget toward adding more cameras across Atlanta to help give officers eyes across the city. A speech cannot patrol our neighborhoods, crack down on clubs operating illegally as restaurants, or investigate major crimes, but hiring more officers will. For that reason, we are putting at least 250 additional officers on our streets during the next fiscal year. The men and women of the Atlanta Police Department work every day to combat crime in our city and they will continue to partner with state and federal partners to crack down on gang activity that leads to much of the violent incidents they see.

We also are installing 10,000 additional streetlights, in partnership with Georgia Power, in our Light Up the Night campaign to make traveling our streets on foot safer and we are supporting neighborhood safety planning.

I have never been a mayor for show only and will not become one now. Our residents are tired of talk. They want action. So, while you call upon me to create moments for show, our administration will stay in the trenches – working with the White House, talking with impacted families, listening to our community members and officers, and learning from experts in the field of violence reduction – doing the real work every day to make our communities safer.

Atlanta is my city, the place that my husband and I were born and raised. It is the place that Derek and I are raising our four children. When it comes to the safety of our communities, I will always be present and accounted for, until the end of my term, and beyond.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th mayor of Atlanta. She was educated in the Atlanta Public School system and raised on the city’s West Side.