I don’t live in the City of Atlanta, but I have. Two years ago I also chose as a product of Atlanta’s suburbs to move back there. Instead, a frustrating buyers’ real estate market and a year of searching ultimately led me to Cobb County, and I now consider Marietta home. As such, I and those of us in the suburbs do not get a vote in Atlanta elections. But the city is our brand. Who is in charge of that brand matters to all of us. To that end, I will kindly recommend to my friends in the City of Atlanta that they consider:
Kasim Reed for Mayor: This one is easy. After all, he has opposition that is virtually in name only. But the fact of the matter is, Kasim Reed has been a good steward of Atlanta’s brand. During the four worst years of economic growth in my lifetime, the mayor has taken deficits and turned them into surpluses. The city has a reserve fund again. We are just a few officers short of reaching 2,000 sworn men and women to protect us – including those of us visiting from outside I-285. Pensions have been reformed. He got his hands dirty helping fix the real and intangible problems in the aftermath of the APS cheating scandal.
He’s taken his job seriously as a self described mayor of the region. In fact, as credit is sorted out for Georgia’s port being expanded, Reed’s name will be at or near the top of the list. Atlanta is not on it’s way to being Detroit. Instead, it’s a great place to work. It’s a great place to live. And all of us that call ourselves Georgians benefit from that. Give the Mayor another four years to continue on this track.
Aaron Watson for Council (Citywide): This one is a bit more difficult, but shouldn’t be. Watson is standing for re-election against Mary Norwood, Reed’s runoff opponent from 2009. As such, this has become somewhat of a proxy for a rematch between the two. And given the chance to do it over again, I’ll take Reed’s assertiveness and backbone (via Watson, though he’s clearly a man of his own) vs. Norwood, who during the 2009 campaign complained that as a veteran member of the council couldn’t get budget numbers from council staff.
Sadly, after a few weekend trips through Buckhead, it does look like this race is falling on a black versus white, Democrat versus Republican sort of race. Norwood remains quite popular in North Atlanta, and she’s a pleasant person. But she hasn’t presented a clear vision for even her political career and ambition, much less one for a city that has clearly laid a foundation for a great and bright future.
Watson, on the other hand, has the talking points down. At a meet & greet last week in Grant Park, he gave a stump speech that would still be worthy of a Buckhead rotary club – or a suburban chamber of commerce. He’ll continue to make a good and effective team member of the Mayor, and should be able to represent all portions of Atlanta well.
Felicia Moore for City Council (District 9): I lived in the Underwood Hills area of Atlanta during the mid-late 90′s. The 1997 election cycle (Bill Campbell vs Marvin Arrington) concluded just before I made my exit. I worked Arrington’s campaign, and learned A LOT about politics during that year. It was “good times”.
That same cycle brought a newcomer to the council in Moore. I didn’t work on her campaign, and am not sure if I ever met her along the way. But I remember this: She was running against a loyal member of the Campbell regime, and she had one of the best grassroots efforts I have ever seen.
While a certain current political consultant was bombarding my answering machine (remember those) with 10 robocalls for his council race EVERY DAY, I would get a handwritten card from a Moore supporter inviting me to someone’s home in the neighborhood to meet her about every week. Each week, always handwritten, and always very close to my home. It had an authenticity to it that is lacking in too many campaigns. She earned my vote, and she’s been there long since I moved out.
In my former day job, I used to sell IT to the federal government. One of my colleagues had an account for the City of Atlanta. I asked him how it was going one day, and he said “We’re mostly good, but we need to get by Felicia.” I was intrigued, and told him I really had thought (hoped) she would be one of the good ones. He replied “Oh, she is. But she has questions. Always questions. We know if we can answer her questions, we’ll be good. She’s the one that wants numbers. We can B.S. a lot of them. But for her, we need answers.”
I believe that in government we need checks and balances. It appears that Ms. Moore isn’t on anyone’s team down at City Hall. And that’s OK. We need leaders and visionaries like Mayor Reed, and we need those that we know will work with them to help deliver and implement that vision like Watson. But we also need those like Councilwoman Moore that will ask questions. Always questions. It’s the kind of questions that she asks that makes the strong stronger. It keeps the overwhelming majority from getting fat and lazy.
As such, Kasim will be elected to serve another four years. This is not in doubt. But for those who are looking to a proper check in his power, don’t look at Mary Norwood as the obvious choice. Instead, help re-elect Aaron Watson to help him execute the vision of what Atlanta can be. But make sure that Felicia Moore is still down there asking questions.