Kasim Reid, the former mayor whose administration was marked by corruption scandals, is running for another term, promising to restore public safety.
ATLANTA – Fears of rising crime in US cities are having a profound effect on politics from New York to mayor Seattle. In Atlanta, it has the power of resurgence, a revitalizing blow to the once dying career of one of the South’s most polarizing public figures.
Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reid, who fell off the political map in 2018 amid persistent scandal in his administration, has returned to the limelight with an unlikely bid for a third term and is now a prime candidate In a crowded field of lesser-known contenders.
Much of the focus of Mr. Reid’s second work is Worrying rise in violent crime in Atlanta – and a promise that he alone can fix it.
“I am the only candidate with the experience and track record to address our city’s rise in violent crime,” He recently wrote on Twitter, introduced a new campaign ad in which he called public safety “Job No. 1”.
In an echo of moderate Democrats like Eric Adams, winner of this summer’s Democratic mayoral primary in New York City, Mr. Reid is promising to strengthen law enforcement in a way that takes into account the grassroots demands of cultural change in policing. He has promised to add 750 officers to Atlanta’s police force. “But we’re going to train them in a way after George Floyd,” he said in a recent television ad.
Most of Mr Reid’s major opponents in the nonpartisan race identify as Democrats, and most are also offering some version of this message, which differs from the vendetta-police rhetoric that emerged from progressive activists during the 2020 street protests .
Mr Reid’s fate in the November elections may also indicate how willing voters are to ignore politicians, unless they think they can get a modest advantage of peace and order. His time in office was defined by a sharp-elbow style that some described as bullying, and numerous scandals involving bribery, theft of public money and weapons violations, among other things.
Felicia Moore, city council president and one of Mr Reid’s top rivals for mayor, wants voters to think seriously about corruption cases involving members of his administration. “Leadership must take responsibility for the actions of its administration,” she said. “He was the leader of that organization.”
But in Atlanta, crime has increasingly taken center stage. The number of murders investigated by Atlanta police increased from 99 in 2019 to more than 157 in 2020, a year when the United States experienced its biggest one-year increase in homicides on record, and in Atlanta, it The year is on its way to getting worse. Some homicides that have particularly terrified residents over the past year are: 8 year old girl shot and was killed in a car riding with his mother last summer. a 27 year old bartender Kidnapped and killed at gunpoint as she was returning home from a shift last month. 40 year old woman mutilated And in July, she was stabbed to death along with her dog during a late night walk near Piedmont Park, the city’s signature open space.
“They’re more random, and they’re happening all over town at all times of the day,” said Sharon Gay, a mayoral candidate who noted that she was robbed near her home in the well-off neighborhood of Inman about 18 months ago. was taken. Park.
The political implications extend beyond the mayor’s office. Georgia Republicans have begun campaigning with dire warnings about violence in liberal Atlanta — even though cities run by both Democrats and Republicans have seen an increase in violent crime. Gov. Brian Kemp has funded millions of rupees for a new “crime suppression unit” in the city. And the upscale Buckhead neighborhood is threatening to secede from Atlanta mostly because of concerns about crime, a move that could be disastrous for the city’s tax base.
Some critics blame the current mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, for failing to adequately deal with the crime problem.
This spring, Ms Bottoms announced she would not run for re-election, with Mr Reed insisting that crimes had reached “unacceptable levels” that were “disrupting” the city. This was widely interpreted as a turn against Ms. Bottoms, her one-time hero, and as a sign that Mr. Reed was plotting a comeback.
When it came, it had a heavy dose of glamour.
“The fate of the city of Atlanta is at stake,” Mr. Reid announced at a star-studded party at actor and musician Tyrese Gibson’s Buckhead. “Tell Atlanta, tell LA, tell New York, tell Charlotte, tell Dallas, tell Chicago, and of course tell Miami – I’m back!” In a matter of weeks, he had raised nearly $1 million in campaign contributions.
Still, the idea that Atlanta would be better off if it could go back to the days of 2010 to 2017, when Mr. Reid was in office, is deeply divisive. Mr Reid takes credit for keeping crime down during those years and claims to have recruited hundreds of police officers.
FBI figures show that violent crimes in the city began in 2012, and continued to fall during Mr Reid’s tenure, a time when violent crime across the country began in the early 1990s.
In fact, the total number of violent crimes per year in Atlanta continued to decline through 2020. But the high-profile nature of some of the recent crimes has put many residents on edge, as have some short-term trends: as of early September, murders, rapes and serious assaults. all were up compared to the same time last year.
Mr. Reid, as mayor, could display both conviction and pragmatism: he sacked the city’s fire chief after the chief published a book calling homosexual acts “despicable” and he sacked the city’s vast unrestricted pension. In pushing through reforms to address the union protestors faced. liability.
However, investigations into scandals in Mr Reid’s administration led to guilty pleas from former city officials. chief procurement officer, before contract compliance officer and Mr. Reid’s deputy chief of staff. a former director of human serviceshandjob head of watershed management And chief Financial Officer were also charged, and are awaiting trial.
in June, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, relied on court documents and campaign records, reported that Mr. Reid appears to be under federal investigation for using campaign funds for personal purchases. Mr Reid said in an interview that the Justice Department had told his lawyers that he was not being investigated. The US Attorney’s Office in Atlanta declined to comment.
In interviews, Mr Reid said he accepted responsibility for the problems his watch faced, adding that after years of investigation, no charges had been filed against him. “I have gone through a level of scrutiny and protection that very few people go through and survive, and I have made my name clear,” he said. He suggested that racism may be a reason for all the scrutiny he has received.
Like the federal investigations in Atlanta, he said, “are often directed at black political leaders, certainly in the mayor’s job.”
In a survey by the University of Georgia Journal-commissioned by the Constitution and organized in end of august and beginning of september, Mr. Reid was narrowly leading the race for mayor with nearly 24 percent of the support. But about 41 percent of potential voters were undecided, and Mr. Reid’s opponents are hoping to convince him that there are better options.
Some voters have had enough of Mr. Reid. Bruce McLachlan, 85, is a landlord who lives in Inman Park near the site where Ms. Gay was kidnapped. Corruption “is swirling around Qasim Reed. It surprises you,” he said.
Mr MacLachlan said he was voting for Ms Moore, the city council president, who was just behind Mr Reid in the turnout with nearly 20 per cent of the support. She said she appeared to be honest and free from scams.
Robert Patillo, a criminal defense attorney, feels deeply the problem of crime. Over the past few months, his sister’s car was stolen, her laptop was stolen from her car, and a friend’s house was ransacked.
“I think everyone has been affected by it,” he said.
Mr Patillo said he was also voting for Moore, whom he believed would be more trustworthy and better able to fight crime with a civil rights agenda. But he said he understood Mr Reid’s appeal. “When people are afraid,” he said, “they turn to a stronger person.”
Pinky Cole, founder of Slutty Vegan, a local restaurant chain with a cult following, had a different approach. Ms. Cole, one of the city’s renowned young African American entrepreneurs, said Mr. Reid had helped her with the legal problems her business was facing.
For Ms. Cole, the issue of crime and the city’s business climate were intertwined, a common sentiment in Atlanta these days, but one that has hit her particularly hard: In recent months, she said, two of her Employees have been shot, one of them fatal.
Despite the burden of corruption cases, he believed Mr Reed was an honest man. And he saw how he had secured the city before.
“I believe,” he said, “that he would do it again.”