#QuestionsForKeisha: Atlanta Mayor Talks Gentrification, Atlanta Child Murders, Potholes

May 22, 2019

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined GPB's Rickey Bevington live on 88.5 FM GPB at 10 a.m. Tuesday to answer your questions and discuss Atlanta's most pressing issues.

This will be a monthly conversation so submit your questions for the mayor on Twitter with the hashtag #QuestionsForKeisha or by email at allATL@gpb.org.

Interview Highlights

On when Atlanta’s open checkbook will be updated

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: So this is a new platform for us, as you mentioned it was launched last year. Last year, we had a cyber attack, and part of our recovery from that cyber attack is to transition the city to the cloud so that we won't have some of the same challenges we had.

Now that we have completed our transition to the cloud, we can now begin the quarterly updates as scheduled with open checkbook. We are also adding additional information onto open checkbook.

You'll also soon be able to access credit card information as well ... [along with] the p cards ...expenditures.

So, it takes a minute to get the kinks worked out, but we certainly are much more transparent than we were even two years ago.

On the creation of a task force to close the Atlanta City Detention Center

Mayor: When you're talking about the Atlanta City Detention Center, you are talking about a facility that over many decades has housed thousands of people. And so there are a lot of thoughts about how that facility is currently run, but also its potential to serve our community.

So, this step that we took with Atlanta City Council yesterday was to ... make sure that we are now creating a commission essentially comprised of former inmates, of community folk, community leaders [and] internal staff to help us chart the next course in that.

Part of it's a feasibility study. How much will it cost to repurpose the jail?

The other part of it is also what type of programmatic future will the jail have? Will it be G.D. training? Will it be vocational training? Will it be some form of housing?

This is the public process part of it. And we are excited to be moving into this next phase.

On Atlanta’s cybersecurity following the March cyberattack

Mayor: Our system should not have been that vulnerable.

When we were attempting to recover from the cyber attack… it was very interesting to even try and identify where the servers were, and it was personnel going 'Oh I think there's one over here!' and 'there may be one there!'

And it really highlighted what a hodgepodge way that we were running such an important system. So we've transitioned to the cloud. We are ...98 to 99% there in terms of being fully functional, but more than that we've also been able to take a leap and improve our systems in a way that we otherwise may not have had without the cyber attack.

On affordable housing

Mayor: For Atlanta to truly be affordable, and for us to be able to control affordability, we've got to begin acquiring property in the city.

We have to be able to control permanent affordable housing in the city.

And what I want people to understand [is] ... we're not going back to a housing project model, but it means that we have an assortment ... of choices for people in this city where they can live with dignity and they can also be able to afford a place in the city. We have to make sure that it's an assortment of housing.

When we talk about affordability in 2019, it's not just about someone who's living below the poverty line. It may be a school teacher, or it may be someone who works in the cafeteria, it may be a police officer: people who are making reasonable salaries, but to the extent that their housing options aren't available in our city.

On gentrification

Mayor: I think that people very ignorantly think that gentrification is related to race, and don't recognize sometimes that African Americans are gentrifiers, especially in the city of Atlanta, because gentrification is an economic conversation.

And I think that, one, we have to be informed on what gentrification means.

Secondly, not take the position that redevelopment is always bad, but take the position that when and if redevelopment comes, how do we preserve our neighborhoods? How do we preserve our legacy residents?

On her decision to reopen investigation into the Atlanta child murders

Mayor: There was a story, a national story, about someone who had been arrested for killing two teenagers in Alabama, and they were able to track this killer based on some DNA, uploading it into a national database. And this killer hadn't been on anyone's radar.

So, I've reached out to our police chief and asked if we had done anything recently through any of the national databases. We had not.

As fate would have it, she was having a meeting at the GBI the next day, and the GBI was on board in re-examining the evidence that we have.

More than anything, it's my hope and my belief that many of the families have some peace and comfort in knowing that we haven't forgotten their children and that their children mattered then and they matter now.

On fixing potholes

Mayor: We launched what we call "ATL fix it." It's our "fix it" campaign. We've fixed already nearly 20,000 potholes in the city of Atlanta.

So, the fact that people are still talking and frustrated about potholes tells you how bad this problem is.

In all of 2017, I believe we repaired less than 3,000.

We also created an app.

So, if you see a pothole, if you see a metal plate, if you can take a picture ...upload it to our 311 app.

If you can't take a picture, if you can just give us the coordinates, our timeframe for repairing potholes is less than 72 hours. [And] if we have not received a report on a street ... our plan is to send a team out to physically assess that street just in case, for some reason, the community has not reported it.

On preserving Atlanta’s green space.

Mayor Bottoms: We have signed on to a pledge with mayors across the country that essentially has said that we are working to have green space within a 10-minute walk of every resident in the city.

This will be a monthly conversation so submit your questions for the mayor on Twitter with the hashtag #QuestionsForKeisha or by email at allATL@gpb.org.