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Five candidates facing off in Atlanta mayoral race
by Everett Catts and Megan Thornton
nside@neighbornewspapers.com
October 23, 2013 12:34 PM | 5606 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Al Bartell
Al Bartell
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Fraser Duke
Fraser Duke
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Kasim Reed
Kasim Reed
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Glenn Wrightson
Glenn Wrightson
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Editor’s note: Al Bartell, Fraser Duke, incumbent Kasim Reed, Glenn Wrightson and write-in candidate John Benson are facing off for Atlanta mayor in the Nov. 5 nonpartisan election. Below are profile articles on each candidate, listed alphabetically.

AL BARTELL PROFILE:

No stranger to political races, Al Bartell threw his hat in the ring for Atlanta mayor because he believes neighborhoods, faith-based organizations and small businesses should have better representation in city government.

The 57-year-old certified mediator has been a public policy advocate for the last 10 years and ran for several elected positions in previous years, including failed bids for state senator, public service commissioner and lieutenant governor.

Bartell, who is running as an independent candidate and has not raised any money since announcing his campaign in November 2010, said business and community leaders need to be brought to the table.

“In the design and construction of Atlanta’s city budget, corporations who are members of the [Metro] Atlanta Chamber of Commerce [and] specialist groups who are members of Central Atlanta Progress are included in the design and construction of Atlanta’s city budget,” he said. “The 125 neighborhood associations are not. The 50 faith-based organizations are not. The 25 small business corridors of the city are not included in design and construction of city budget.”

To get more community members involved, Bartell, an eight-year Air Force veteran during the Vietnam War, said he would create an Office of Public Engagement with a “multi-million dollar budget,” just like other major city departments, and have Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Units fall under that umbrella rather than the city’s planning department.

With his own eye focused squarely on community interests, Bartell said Mayor Kasim Reed only lends his ear to corporations.

“He is disconnected from the community and I am connected to the community,” Bartell said.

Some of Bartell’s advocacy work he hopes to continue, if elected, includes allowing street vendors to apply for small business licenses, as well as advocating for other small business interests, and encouraging the city to recommit to supporting People TV, the city’s nonprofit public access station.

Bartell said another one of his top priorities is to give city employees a raise and guaranteed pension.

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website, Bartell had $0 net cash on hand through the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

Information: www.bartellformayor.com.

JOHN BENSON PROFILE:

John Benson is running for mayor to stand up for employees’ rights.

“I believe the most important questions facing workers is we need to organize ourselves to fight for our own interests,” the 72-year-old said. “The biggest obstacle to that was workers being tied to the two-party system. Workers need to organize independent of Republicans and Democrats. We need to form our own party, a labor  party for not only running its own candidates and developing its own workers, but also producing workers for the picket lines protesting for workers’ rights.”

Benson, a native of Crete, Ill., has lived in Atlanta since 2008 and currently lives in south Atlanta. He is retired from a career that included stints in the food service industry, meat slaughterhouses and processing plants and the oil and railroad industries but works part-time for QuikTrip Kitchens. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and is single.

Benson said he has run for office “three or four or five times” prior to this year in the other cities he has lived in but could not remember which ones or where.

“I’ve been political since I was 20 years old,” he said. “Being political was supporting the Civil Rights Movement while in college, participating in discussions in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, taking part in the Student Peace Union, organizing the movement against the Vietnam War in a number of cities and participating in unions and encouraging political actions and demonstrations.”

Benson said he is running as a write-in candidate because he cannot afford the $4,425 qualifying fee Atlanta mayoral candidates must pay.

“There was no way I or my supporters could raise that amount of money,” he said. “It’s a way to keep working people off the ballot who are not tied in with the two-party system.”

Benson said his top three issues are jobs, increasing the minimum wage and establishing a labor party.

“The most important [issue] facing working people is jobs,” he said. “For that we believe people need to work and organize and fight for a federally funded jobs program. Equally important is a big increase in the minimum wage, which workers need to follow the example of the fast food workers who are fighting for a minimum wage.

“Thirdly is the need to build a working-class party. Fight on the local scale for working conditions but also the world scale for continuing involvement in war by the United States in areas such as Somalia and Syria. Workers should oppose that.”

When asked if he could win in a race where incumbent Kasim Reed is heavily favored, Benson said, “I believe I am winning already. I am going around talking to working people. They’re very interested in the ideas that I raise. People are subscribing to our campaign newspaper, the Militant. We’re finding responsiveness to the issues we raise.”

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website, Benson had $0 net cash on hand through the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

He said he does not have a campaign website.

FRASER DUKE PROFILE:

Fraser Duke has a unique vision for the city — one that foregoes the planned new Atlanta Falcons stadium and instead uses those tax dollars to improve infrastructure, parks and transportation.

“I believe the Georgia Dome is already a world-class facility [and]we should not tear it down just for a few more sky boxes,” the 57-year-old said.

Duke, a certified financial planner and Emory University graduate, said he has no civic or political background to speak of but a better vision than Mayor Kasim Reed has for the city.

Duke is a resident of Buckhead’s Ardmore neighborhood and an Atlanta native. He said, if elected, he would suspend the $200 million in bonds issued by the city to help pay for the $1 billion new stadium and use the funds to remedy problems throughout the city, including what he views as an influx of crime.

“The city is at a crossroads,” he said. “Most people don’t feel safe in this city. Everybody I’ve talked to just doesn’t feel safe on their property, in their cars or in their houses.”

To make the city safer, Duke said he would work with all local police jurisdictions, including the area’s college’s police departments, to reduce crime.

His final goal would be to focus on making Atlanta a more livable place with easy access to transportation and parks.

“I’m just very adamant about trying to make the city better,” he said. “I’m basically for increasing greenspace, the Beltline and other parks. I’m about spending money to enhance [the] world-class image we already have, like the Civil Rights Museum [the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.]”

Duke is single has two adult sons, Logan and Paul.

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Duke had $0 net cash on hand in his third quarter campaign disclosure report.

Information: www.dukeatlanta.com.

KASIM REED PROFILE:

Editor’s note: Through his campaign spokeswoman, Kasim Reed did not respond to email messages seeking comment on the election at press time. This article was written based on information gathered from 2009 articles on Reed and his campaign website.

Kasim Reed says he has the vision to lead Atlanta and even the rest of the state through a second term as mayor.

“The successes we’ve had in Atlanta have been the outcome of my willingness to build relationships and work with local, state and federal leaders across partisan lines on economic development issues,” he said on his campaign website. “I have always envisioned metropolitan Atlanta as the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere, and by championing regional and state initiatives, such as the Savannah Harbor expansion project, we have been able to translate that vision into a reality.”

Prior to being elected in 2009, Reed served two terms as a state representative from 1998 to 2002 before spending seven years as the District 35 state senator. He resigned both that position and his full-time job as a partner with the Midtown law firm Holland and Knight LLP in 2009 to run for mayor.

The 43-year-old is the chairman of both the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Transportation and Communications Committee and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Transit Committee. Reed, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree from Howard University in Washington, has returned to the nation’s capital on several occasions to appear on national TV shows such as NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

His top three issues are job creation, public safety and fiscal responsibility.

“[First], a lot of people talk about what it takes to create jobs. Here in Atlanta, we’re actually doing it,” he said. “A recent study by Arizona State University found that Atlanta ranks No. 2 in the nation for job growth among major metropolitan areas, following Houston by less than 1 percentage point.

“[Second], in 2009, I promised to invest in the Atlanta Police Department and achieve the goal of reaching a police force of 2,000 sworn officers during his first term. Already, the city has more than 1,940 sworn officers who protect the citizens of Atlanta.

“[Third], during my first term, we successfully initiated a series of sweeping reforms to address the city’s crippling $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability. [We] increased the city’s reserves from $7.6 million to more than $126 million in three years.”

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website, Reed had $2,000,297.36 net cash on hand in his third quarter campaign disclosure report. The quarter ended Sept. 30.

Information: www.kasimreed.com.

GLENN WRIGHTSON PROFILE:

Glenn Wrightson is running for mayor of Atlanta to bring a fresh perspective and practical solutions to City Hall.

Wrightson, a 61-year-old consultant for utility companies and municipal systems, is taking his second shot at becoming the city’s leader after a failed attempt in 2005.

The Atlanta native and Grant Park resident said he decided to throw his hat in the ring after he disagreed with several of Mayor Kasim Reed’s comments and decisions, including the city’s purchase in 2011 of two Cadillac Escalades and Reed’s verbal lashing of political watchdog group Common Cause Georgia following its allegations that the city unfairly contracted with restaurants at the airport, calling both actions “inappropriate.”

Wrightson argues while Atlanta’s top elected official has been making these headlines, he has been neglecting necessary city services.

“If you want to get a copy of a police report, you almost have to go to Cobb County,” he said. “You ought to be able to do that within the city.”

According to the Atlanta Police Department’s website, all reports can be picked up at the central records office, located at 3493 Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy., from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day.

This is just one example, Wrightson said, of how the city needs to function more efficiently.

“Atlanta needs better management and operations,” he said. “We need to extract more productivity out of the Atlanta workforce. They have a secure job and benefits package that few others have and that [being unproductive] is a bad reputation to have.”

Wrightson said he believes he is the best candidate because he is not obligated to any corporate interests.

“I don’t have any deep-pocket dish dinners,” he said. “I understand Mayor Reed has collected $6 million and a third of that is from out of state. That’s suspect to me. We don’t want to have out-of-state money calling the shots.”

He said his top three issues are improving infrastructure and communications, economic development and streamlining city administration.

Wrightson, who is single, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wake Forest University.

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website, he had not filed a report as of last week and was fined $125.

Information: www.glennformayor.com.
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