New Year, New Mayor

Keisha Lance-Bottoms gives her acceptance speech as next mayor of Atlanta on Jan. 2, 2018. Photo by Samuel Pucket | The Signal

The inauguration for incoming mayor Ms. Keisha Lance-Bottoms was held on Tuesday, Jan. 2,
at the MLK Jr. International chapel of Morehouse College. The event began with musical performances followed by the singing of the national anthem. Invocations were performed in an interfaith ceremony with representatives from major churches in the city.

The prayers and speeches delivered by the faith leaders spoke to the themes of unity and
fairness. Pastor Byron Thomas of Ben Hill United Methodist church spoke to his hope in a mayor who could “bring Bankhead and Buckhead together.”

Reverend Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church was the last to speak. He shared his concerns about the future of the city, one he believes is a land of contrasts. He reminded the crowd Atlanta was home to both the Confederacy and the Civil Rights movement. He referred to a danger in our time, “a cold icy wind from Washington.”

The newly elected municipal judges were the first to be sworn in, followed by incoming city councillors, with intermittent speeches from Atlanta leaders.

Chief Judge Calvin Graves emphasized a new approach to municipal fines and jail time for petty crime, recognizing it often unfairly burdens low-income residents. This commitment from both himself and the outgoing Kasim Reed he said was shared in Lance Bottoms. Atlanta has received criticism in the past from the Southern Center for Human Rights on the issue of municipal fines.

Graves finished his speech, quoting the Atlanta native T.I., saying “Atlanta’s got some big thing poppin,” an acknowledgement that was appreciated by T.I., who was in attendance.

Incoming City Council President Felicia Moore received her inauguration next. In her acceptance speech, she echoed concerns over Atlanta’s justice system, which she called a “cradle to prison pipeline.” She charged Atlanta’s public schools, which she believes receive insufficient resources, to be the cause. She also spoke on ongoing housing affordability issues, alternative transportation options and an interest in Community Benefits Agreements to curb gentrification.

As former Atlanta Mayor and US Ambassador Andrew Young later described, Lance-Bottoms’ values have been shaped by the influential people in her life. Her father was the popular R&B singer Major Lance and his grandfather was the pastor who oversaw the unification of the southern and northern Presbyterian churches in 1984. Young said he met Lance-Bottoms in a swimming pool at a YMCA while she was training for a triathlon.

Atlanta’s new mayor took the stage and was sworn in by the Senior Judge of the state court of Fulton county, Brenda Cole. Lance-Bottoms’ speech reached many of the concerns for the city that had been mentioned both on that stage and along the campaign trail. She told the crowd of a plan to improve the transparency of government and municipal elections, requiring lobbyists to register and candidates to disclose their campaign funds, as well as their personal taxes. She said she wants to improve Atlanta’s schools, saying she plans to appoint a chief education officer to her senior advisors.

Lance-Bottoms also spoke of plans to pursue a AAA credit rating for the city of Atlanta, saying she would build on the solvency her predecessors gave her. She also spoke on plans to create commissions on key progressive issues, including homelessness and criminal justice reform, to issue reports and recommendations within her first 100 days of office.

“Atlanta magic is real,” said Lance-Bottoms promising to change the city towards the better.