After an Atlanta Police Department officer watched her miss her lane, blow through a stop sign and a red light, Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow admitted to having a few drinks, according to reports. She refused a field sobriety test and was arrested for DUI Less Safe and refusing the state administered breath test under implied consent. She’s also charged with a basket of moving violations.
A spokesman in Winslow’s office said that “they’re talking with the lawyers” right now, but confirmed the arrest and said that we can expect a statement before the end of the day.
Meanwhile — and oddly enough, given the impregnability of incumbency around here — Winslow has primary competition. Torry Lewis, an adjunct professor of political science and PhD candidate at Clark Atlanta, challenged Winslow in February. Lewis isn’t wasting time talking about it, either.
“If you look at this district, it needs people with good judgment,” Lewis said as he was preparing for a noon press conference at City Hall to discuss the Winslow arrest. Lewis ran unsuccessfully in a primary challenge against State Sen. Pedro Marin (D-Gwinnett) in 2006. Lewis was 22 years old at the time.
Lewis campaigns in a humongous RV called “The Beast” that vaguely resembles an APD command vehicle. And Lewis’ PhD dissertation is in the use of rhetoric in politics. If he can’t make a driving joke connecting the two by the end of the day, he’s in the wrong line of work.
Atlanta City Council District 4 covers the West End neighborhood, along with Castleberry Heights, the Atlanta University Center, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Adair Park, Oakland City, Bush Mountain, Venetian Hills, and Westview. It’s the middle of the city.
Demographically, there’s a large student population in her district, which may explain why about one out of three households is formed by a single adult woman and only one of eight is a cohabitating couple. A quarter of the property in the district was vacant as of the 2010 census. A quarter of the district lives in dormitories or other group quarters. The three neighborhood planning units primarily forming Council district 4 are the poorest of the city, with a median household income between about $21000 and $30000, or about half the Atlanta average. It’s also home to some of the worst crime in the city.
Of all the Atlanta councilmembers, Winslow had probably been the low hanging fruit for a challenge even without the arrest. Winslow was a yes vote on the stadium. She was a yes vote on increasing PARKAtlanta fines last year. She was a yes vote on the 50 percent salary increase for city councilmembers. In a district teeming with college students and a vibrant bar scene, she voted present on a proposal to extend the drinking hours at bars in the city … a proposal that failed. (On second look, I wonder if voting to extend drinking hours would make her look better or worse, given the … unpleasantness … of the moment.)
In her previous re-election effort in 2009, she had the cops lined up against her. The police union said they “have been woefully ignored” by Winslow in the district and they unsuccessfully backed LaShawn M. Hoffman, CEO of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association.
She avoided a runoff by about 120 votes. Apparently, it only takes about 22oo votes to win a city council seat in Atlanta, even though her district contains about 25,000 residents.
After beating Hoffman, the five-time councilwoman paid an ethics fine for spending $5,420 of city money on her re-election effort. She didn’t pay any fine, however, for another $29,000 in taxpayer money that was spent on city-sponsored events … that had her name all over it. Jim Walls noted that “Winslow collected reimbursements from her city expense account for jazz musicians, a disc jockey, an inflatable bouncer, a popcorn machine and other equipment, plus $8,000 worth of barbecue and side dishes, for events Oct. 17 and 24” a couple of weeks before Election Day.
Hoffman told Atlanta Progressive News in February that he hadn’t decided whether or not to run again against Winslow in 2013, and previously reported that Kwabena Nkromo planned to run for the District 4 seat, but Nkromo hasn’t made an announcement yet.