ATLANTA - The balance of race in city of Atlanta politics was at the center of backroom and even social media conversations during the 2017 mayoral runoff where Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms faced off in a race decided by a slim margin.
In a video posted to Young's Youtube page Friday morning, the former mayor and Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young talks for more than three minutes about his perception of the role race has played in Atlanta politics and business.
"It's not about race but it is about race, really," Young said.
It sounds contradictory but it’s about nuance to Young – the civil rights movement icon and veteran of Atlanta’s rough-hewn city politics, elected to Congress and as mayor in the 70s and 80s.
Atlanta has been under a minority mayor for decades and Young ponders if that's the reason the term "corruption" is brought up often.
"Well you hear the term corruption all the time and the assumption is that if black people are making money, they're doing it illegally," he said.
Young said "creative financing" and not a heavy reliance on tax payer money is behind big projects in Atlanta saying, "we've had creative financing, largely with tax exempt municipal bonds where the people involved get together, work together and put together a model that is fair. And therefore, we've succeeded."
Young references big projects like the 1996 Olympics, the Georgia Dome and the newly built Mercedes-Benz Stadium saying a white mayor most likely would not have been able to get them built.
"Frankly, whether you like it or not, and maybe it's race but I doubt that any white mayor could have pushed us through to the Olympics. I doubt that any white mayor could have built the Mercedes-Benz Stadium or the Georgia Dome which I helped build. I took a whole lot of cussing outs," he said.
The former Ambassador talked about his run for mayor and the percentage of the white vote he received.
"I ran a race against a very nice fellow, but here I was, an associate of Martin Luther King, ten years working in the non-violent movement, 4 years in congress, 3 years in the United Nations and I come back here and I'm running against a guy who is a nice guy, but he got the overwhelming majority, I think that I got 14% of the white vote. Now, that doesn't mean that this is a racist city but it does mean that race is very conscious in everybody's thinking."
11Alive's Doug Richards spoke to Young in person on Friday who expounded on what he said in the video.
"Ivan Allen built the Atlanta Fulton County stadium with Mills B. Lane without a vote," he said with a laugh. "Without a contract, without a team and that’s true. When we get another Ivan Allen, we’ll elect him mayor, I guarantee you. But you haven’t had another Ivan Allen since Ivan Allen."
Ivan Allen Jr. served as the mayor of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970, he was white.
Young said his point is that Atlanta’s multiracial framework has made Atlanta special for more than a half century.
Watch the full video, here.