ATLANTA — Six mayoral candidates had one hour to get their points across to 11Alive viewers and explain their strategies on why Atlanta residents should vote for them next month.
Atlanta Former Mayor Kasim Reed, Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, Sharon Gay, Rebecca King, and Antonio Brown participated in 11Alive's Debate on Wednesday night. Each candidate participating qualified by receiving 5% support in a poll the station conducted at the beginning of the month.
They discussed everything from the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness, integrity, and every Atlanta driver's daily enemy: traffic. 11Alive's Shiba Russell and Jeff Hullinger moderated the debate. Questions were also sent in by the debate's sponsors and 11Alive viewers.
The topic that took up the most time was crime. 11Alive moderators Shiba Russel and Jeff Hullinger started the debate asking about how they would lower crime rates.
Brown said tackling generational poverty could curb crime.
"We've got to restructure our public safety system," Brown said. "And as mayor, I will enact a community policing unity that will require our officers to get out of their cars and start rebuilding the relationship between police and our community members."
Gay also wants to see police in the community. She said showing support to officers and holding them accountable could help. In addition, recidivism rates should not be ignored.
"We've got to work with our county and state partners to make sure we have all the procedures in place to make sure that violent criminals stay in jail," Gay said. We need to use smart policing strategy. We've got to do new and different things because we are in a new and different place.
Others mentioned strategies such as neighborhood watch programs and steering youth in the right direction.
While crime is a citywide issue, some Buckhead neighbors have been so concerned about violence that they want to form the community into its own city. The six candidates don't believe that would be a good move.
King gave a passionate answer as to why she thought it is a bad idea.
"You will be purchasing schools, you will be purchasing and making police departments," she said. "Those can escalate costs."
"We need to address crime by being involved," King added.
Transparency is also a topic that many residents have been concerned with. Some members of Reed's past administration are under criminal investigation Reed was asked how he could ensure voters that type of controversy wouldn't happen if he is once again elected as mayor.
"We have to work at and implement new policies to make sure this never happens again," he said.
Some of the actions would impact his team directly.
"We are going to make sure all of my senior reports and I publish our income tax returns every April 15," he said. "No member of my team or cabinet will have experienced a personal or business bankruptcy - that is where some of the challenges occurred."
Moore said public trust is earned and said she has the integrity to get the job done.
"As president of the council, I am so proud to be the author of the legislation that got our first Inspector General and Compliance Officer in the city, to make sure we can get rid of this cloud of corruption over city hall and hold ourselves accountable so the feds don't have to do it," she said.
As it relates to traffic, Dickens talked about how "we are too car-dependent in the city of Atlanta" and how he helped create the Atlanta Department of Transportation. He would like to build on some of those efforts.
"We will develop out our MARTA plan and hopefully one day by 2030 or 2035 we can begin to make sure we have free public transit in this city for students and for seniors," he said.
Watch moments from the debate in the YouTube playlist below.