Gentrification and The Atlanta Mayoral Race

Carrie L. Williams

Friday, March 10th, 2017

It's going to be a tough race.

Or so it's being proclaimed -- by the media, and by various mayoral candidates. In an early candidate poll referred to by Bill Torpy in his latest AJC article, the highest percentage rating given any one candidate was only 9% -- the percentages of others at 5, 4, 3 and 2%.

An even tougher prospect: disadvantaged communities overcoming the odds faced by their community-based, grassroots candidates competing in Atlanta's prohibitive political marketing environment.

Disadvantaged communities cannot afford multi-million dollar media buys in the metro Atlanta hyper-expensive media market.  Several mayoral candidates have reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Some have reported over $1 million dollars -- already.

Disadvantaged communities cannot afford to finance multi-million dollar campaigns for community-based, grassroots political candidates.

The Buckhead Coalition held a mayoral race "launch" event -- and the Georgia State Bar Association held a mayoral candidate forum. Only a select number of mayoral candidates were invited.  

Disadvantaged communities cannot convince organizations like the Buckhead Coalition, and the Georgia State Bar Association to include community-based candidates in their candidate events and forums.

A majority of the mayoral campaign websites focus heavily on raising campaign funds -- and much of the major media coverage of the 2017 mayoral race has centered on ranking candidates' campaign funds.  

Is it that leadership in Atlanta is being measured by how much money a candidate raises, not on whether a candidate can impact disadvantaged communities, and decrease the threat of disruptive gentrification, for instance?

Some might say that is real leadership.  

Currently, Al Bartell has positioned himself as the community-based grassroots candidate in the mayoral race of 2017, launching his campaign by highlighting the issue of disruptive gentrification.                

Among the forums, roundtable discussions, annual meetings, leadership breakfasts, and media interviews that took place during the month of February, the topic of gentrification, of "displacement" was broached in nearly every event.

At the Midtown Alliance Annual Meeting, the issue of gentrification was raised in the context of "displacement".  Acknowledging "displacement" and affordable housing as major challenges for Midtown, there was no publicly proffered remedy, although the immediacy of "displacement" was noted as critical.

At the Park Pride mayoral candidate roundtable, revered Mother Mamie Moore, President of the English Avenue Neighborhood Association, asked the mayoral candidates present how they would ensure that the certain, planned redevelopment of her English Avenue neighborhood, inches away from the underconstruction Mercedes-Benz Stadium, would happen without "displacement".  Each candidate energetically reassured the veteran community leader as they shared their answers to prevent the "displacement" from happening.

Six mayoral candidates have been interviewed thus far at the Newsmakers Live Mayoral Candidate Showcase series.  Each candidate has been asked how they intend to deal with the gentrification of Atlanta. Each has come fully prepared with their own answers.

The gentrification issue is now out in the open. In a recent articleby AJC's Becca Godwin, the appearance of a billboard near I-285 and Camp Creek Parkway that reads (all-caps) "BLACK PEOPLE ARE BEING PUSHED OUT OF ATLANTA" urgently speaks to the gentrification happening in Atlanta -- and to the larger national issue as a whole.

Dare we draw the conclusion that the iron hand of gentrification is brutally alive and blatantly well?