The months leading up to early voting in Atlanta’s municipal elections were less than kind to City Council member and candidate for City Council President Caesar Mitchell. He was carjacked outside his mother’s home, but was uninjured. During the weekend of rains that brought Atlanta our recent flood, a tree fell on his house. And his Peach Pundit Fantasy Football team, Caesar’s Legions, began the season 0-3 despite respectable scores.
When you meet Councilman Mitchell, however, he does not appear to be a troubled man. Mitchell wears an infectious smile and has probably never met a stranger. Moreover, he doesn’t just work his own base, and has gone out of his way to reach out to non-traditional Atlanta voting groups – and by “non-traditional”, I mean “Republicans”.
I first met Mitchell at a happy hour gathering Peach Pundit sponsored in Midtown Atlanta. We had no idea he would be stopping by, and were honestly a bit confused that he did. After all, most of Peach Pundit’s readers, though not all, are from well outside the perimeter. (Prove me wrong on this, commenters). But Mitchell did quite more than a fly-by visit. He sat and engaged in thoughtful and detailed conversation. Even when his staffer was doing her best to keep him on schedule for their next appointment, he lingered to make sure questions were answered, and his thoughts completely conveyed.
At the risk of Mitchell being labeled that dreaded “R” word, his endorsement list should dispel any rumors that he’s Ralph Reed’s golfing buddy: P.A.C.E. (City Employees), AFL-CIO, Police, Firefighters, Georgia Equality, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, GA Association of Black Women Attorneys, and the Atlanta Progressive News headline the list. However, he also has earned endorsements from The Atlanta Board of Realtors and The Buckhead Coalition, indicating that he is effectively working across broad cross sections of the city’s electorate.
One endorsement Mitchell did not earn was from our friends at Creative Loafing, who described Mitchell as follows:
An at-large councilman for the past eight years, Ceasar Mitchell is bursting with ideas. He wants the city to adopt zero-based budgeting. He’d like to allow private sanitation companies to compete with city trash collectors. Mitchell even suggests that pumping desalinated water in from the coast might be a way to solve the region’s water issues.
Just taking the time to study all of his suggestions would require the next Council president to be a whirlwind multitasker. But the nature of the job is not to initiate reams of legislation; it’s to help guide city policy by building consensus among councilmembers with competing interests.
I can’t fault the guys at CL for aiming low, as previous mayoral administrations have conditioned the cynical to be willing to accept minmally acceptable as a goal.
Yet I don’t look at someone who dreams big with a vision to be a negative, and I believe Mitchell also meets their criteria of being able to build coalitions to solve everyday problems, as based on his endorsements.
To be specific, he is endorsed by both Georgia Equality and the Police Benevolence Association. The son of a police officer (and recent victim of violent crime), it’s not difficult to understand that Mitchell would have the trust of the police. The APD raid on The Eagle nightclub a few weeks ago brought public the longstanding mistrust between police and Atlanta’s large LGBT community. Mitchell has strong backing from both groups, and can hopefully continue to be an honest broker and identify common ground between police and these citizens.
Should Mitchell be elected the next City Council President, I hope he is able to keep smiling. The City faces spreading pockets of violent crime. Residents are losing confidence in City Hall as services are cut yet taxes and fees escalate. And with the economy continuing to tread water, the city will continue to be challenged to do more with less.
But optimism combined with some determination can have an effect. One reason Caesar may be smiling: Caesar’s Legions scored a skull crushing 139.8 points last week, a new league season high. He’s built a good coalition of fantasy football players. We’ll know in just a couple of weeks if he’ll be building coalitions as City Council President.