October 22, 2021 12:00pm

Leaders say Atlanta's next mayor should prioritize lowering violent crime

Violent crime – which has spiked in Atlanta and other major cities – has been the overriding theme in the 14-person race to succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

By Nancy Badertscher
Atlanta, GA Correspondent

Community leaders across Georgia believe combatting violent crime needs to be Job 1 for Atlanta’s next mayor.

In the newest Georgia Power Poll, community leaders reacted to the crowded Nov. 2 mayor’s race and two other hot topics – the state’s new election law and the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

The poll was taken of civic, political, and business leaders in Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah from Oct. 18 to 21. It was emailed to 933 leaders, 151 or about 16% of whom responded.

The survey does not have the precision of a scientific poll and is meant only to provide insight into the thinking of influential leaders across the state.

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Violent crime – which has spiked in Atlanta and other major cities – has been the overriding theme in the 14-person race to succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a race that includes a comeback bid by Bottoms’ predecessor, Kasim Reed.

Earlier this month, the Atlanta City Council voted to establish an Office of Violence Reduction. And in July, Bottoms pledged to pursue a $70 million investment in plans to combat violent crime.

In the poll, participants were asked what they believe the Atlanta’s new mayor’s top priority should be, given the city’s role in the affairs of the entire state.

Sixty-two percent said the new mayor No. 1 priority needs to be lowering the rise in violent crime, while nearly 24% said it should be boosting public confidence in the competence of city government.

Less than 10% thought the priority should be addressing the persistent belief that Atlanta city hall is rife with corruption, and another roughly 5% said it should be restoring the city’s image, nationally and internationally.

Randy Lewis, managing director and co-owner of Atlanta’s Fitzpatrick & Lewis Public Relations, wrote in an email to Power Poll that he believes there’s very little to say positive about city government in Atlanta.

“The corruption in city hall has seemingly been swept under the rug. Crime is everywhere and covers the city like a giant grey cloud,” Lewis wrote. “And Buckhead, a centerpiece of the city, is struggling to get out with their lives intact. It will take a decade of doing everything right to fix Atlanta’s reputation.”

On the topic of the state’s new and controversial election laws, which will be in place for next month’s vote, most poll respondents expect the new laws to have little effect on voting.

About 65% of the respondents said they expect motivated voters to accept and follow the new requirements that include submitting a driver’s license number or ID document to obtain an absentee ballot.

The remaining 35% said the new regulations will have a chilling effect and will likely reduce voter turnout.

Most respondents welcomed the news of a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, albeit some more cautiously.

About 43%, though glad to see the declines, said public health officials still need to proceed cautiously, given the pandemic’s ups and downs. About 24% said they hope the current trend signals that the worst is over and that the public can return to normal life with minimal risk. But 33% waved the caution flag as cooler weather takes hold and more people stay inside because of the state’s low vaccination rate.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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