Opinion: Mayor Bottoms, your city still needs you

March 8, 2021 Atlanta: A shooting at a downtown Atlanta apartment complex Monday morning, March 8, 2021 sent two men to a hospital and left a hallway covered in blood. Two men were taken to a hospital shortly after 9 a.m. for treatment of “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to Atlanta police. They were expected to survive. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

March 8, 2021 Atlanta: A shooting at a downtown Atlanta apartment complex Monday morning, March 8, 2021 sent two men to a hospital and left a hallway covered in blood. Two men were taken to a hospital shortly after 9 a.m. for treatment of “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to Atlanta police. They were expected to survive. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Leadership is about being present – fully visible and accounted-for – particularly in times of crisis.

And crisis is where the city of Atlanta finds itself right now.

The city is enduring a steep spike in violent crime while its CEO – Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms – seems absent from the fight.

That should be unacceptable to Atlanta’s voters and others invested in the city.

Atlantans deserve more, even from a mayor who has announced that she will not seek a second term.

The law-abiding public is reeling now from a flood of violent crime that is abruptly ending too many innocent lives and shattering too many others.

Others are living with a collective sense of fear and unease that, if left untreated, can corrode the civic foundations of great cities like ours.

We’ve seen it happen before, across this nation. The ranks of diminished cities should not – cannot – include our Atlanta. We have to be better than that. We have to be present – all of us – and face down this latest challenge.

For that to happen, we must have a fully engaged and active mayor of the city – a city, by the way, that serves as the core of this great region.

If we have any hope of reversing this violent trend, we need sound leadership. Nothing less will suffice at this moment.

Atlanta police have investigated more than 60 homicide cases so far in 2021, an increase of 58% over this time last year. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported June 13, “The surge follows a historically deadly 2020, when authorities investigated 157 homicide cases — the most in more than two decades.”

In fairness, the city of Atlanta is not nearly alone in struggling with the latest uptick in violent crime. Murders, assaults and other types of mayhem are hammering other cities across the United States.

Locally, too, crime is no respecter of city limits. Suburban areas are also dealing with a current round of lawlessness. Among the sad stories from just this month:

  • A pregnant woman stabbed and seriously wounded on a trail in Brookhaven.
  • A grocery store clerk shot and killed in DeKalb County and a reserve sheriff’s deputy injured moments later in a shootout with the gunman. This reportedly over a dispute about wearing a face mask.
  • In a series of events police say were related, a man was shot twice while walking in Buckhead, shots were fired at joggers along the same road and another man seriously wounded when the accused gunman’s car struck him.
  • A security guard was shot at a Buckhead mall, allegedly by one of two 15-year-old suspects.

The list of those injured or killed continues to grow too quickly. As a society, we’re at a point now where numbed human minds struggle to keep track of it all.

That is not a sustainable place.

We must do better.

So Mayor Bottoms your city and region still need you to be visible in this fight.

You should be in front of the cameras at crime scenes. Admittedly, of late there are so many violent episodes that it’s likely impossible to visit more than a fraction of them. But you should give it a try; showing up to attest to what the city’s doing – or should be doing – to help stanch the violence.

Mayor, you should help comfort the victims and show up at community meetings and labor visibly to assuage the nervous angst that is destructively cloaking your beloved city.

We’ve seen glimpses where you’ve appeared fully in command and unafraid to say what needed to be said.

That did – and still can – make a difference.

In May of last year, when violent outbursts overshadowed peaceful protests on Atlanta’s streets, you forcefully said “go home,” adding that “a protest has purpose.” In that same speech, you said, “This is not a protest. … This is chaos.”

In July 2020, after the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl amid rancor and violence, you said this: “We’ve talked a lot about what we are demanding from our officers in our communities. Well, now we are demanding action for Secoriea Turner and for all of the other people who were shot in Atlanta last night and over the past few weeks because the reality is this. These aren’t police officers shooting people on the streets of Atlanta. These are members of the community shooting each other.”

You were right then and now on that last point, Mayor Bottoms.

We need you in the final months of your term to stay out there, pushing for, yes, police accountability and effort, but also for community action to help curb crime.

It is unfair for newly permanent Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant to be the main municipal official in the spotlight now, speaking about violence and what the city’s doing about it.

At this point, the people standing figuratively next to the chief mainly seem to be folks seeking to succeed you as mayor. This vacuum must be filled.

An understaffed APD can’t do it alone, even as Chief Bryant scrambles to reorganize the department to try to respond to today’s level of violence.

When leadership is not visible, grassroots efforts spring up to try and fill the gap.

We’re seeing that now with the effort to carve out a Buckhead City. An understandable fear of crime is fueling the cityhood movement. The loss of this affluent part of Atlanta would be devastating to the city and its future.

Leading from the front – through visibility, action and results – serve as the best chance of keeping Buckhead as part of Atlanta.

Your city still needs you, Mayor Bottoms.

Please step back into the spotlight and lead the fight to make Atlanta and, by inference this region, a more-secure and safer place.

Your actions just might make Atlanta a better place for us all.

And it may help save lives on our streets.

The Editorial Board.

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. 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. She added that “the last three years have not been at all what I would have scripted for our city,” referencing a crippling cyber attack, a widening federal corruption investigation into the previous administration, the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest last year. Bottoms said she doesn’t know what’s next for her; she denied rumors that she or her husband Derek have taken jobs for Walgreens out of state. “I can’t get Derek to move two miles off Cascade Road,” she said. Bottoms, who was seen as a strong incumbent candidate despite a spike in violent crime, told friends and supporters Thursday evening she won’t seek a second term. She released a video and statement online a few hours later elaborating on her decision and reflecting on her time in office. “This is not something I woke up and decided yesterday,” Bottoms said Friday. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.” (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)


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