A Perspective on our Elections…
By Che D. Watkins, President and CEO of The Center for Working Families.
I recently had the privilege to sit on a panel focused on Atlanta’s upcoming run-off elections for the Mayor and City Council. The panel was convened by the Rotary Club of Atlanta – influential leaders from the business and civic community – and they would be forced to listen to me for at least a few minutes on what I thought the next Mayor of Atlanta should focus on. Boy, was I nervous. Should I keep it light and airy and make sure that everyone left feeling good? Or do I take my limited time to provide a different perspective on the city and its future, and how we engage together going forward? Those that know me know that I chose the latter.
We stand at the crossroads of a strange and special time right now; Atlanta has seen tremendous success while simultaneously trying to address its major issues in order to make us even better. How can Atlanta be a city for all? How do we bring constituents to the table when we see throughout the country a lack of trust in government? Though it’s easy to scoff at the campaign rhetoric of December 5th as “the most important election we have ever seen,” a part of me feels like if we don’t get this next step right, we have the potential to move backwards.
Not surprisingly, what underlies these critical conversations is race. Look at the election results: Buckhead supported Mary Norwood, the Southside went for Keisha Lance Bottoms and everything in between went to Cathy Woolard. Race remains and will always be an issue that we have to address. However, we have to be laser-focused on leadership that will bring us together, thinking about all parties – including those that currently don’t have a seat at the table – and working to make everyone’s life better. The great thing is, while it will be tough getting there, we will all be better off when achieved.
I can’t tell you who that is or who you should support, but opportunity-for-all must be at the top of our next Mayor’s agenda. We can’t be the best city in the world without it.