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‘You See It at the Expense of Poor Black Communities’: Experts Weigh-in on What’s at the Center of War of Words Between Kasim Reed & Atlanta NAACPs

A war of words between Atlanta’s NAACP chapter president Richard Rose and mayoral candidate Kasim Reed has heated up as the city of Atlanta prepares to elect its next mayor. On Oct. 20, Rose issued a scathing letter criticizing Reed’s record as mayor from 2010 to 2018 and urged Atlanta voters to “choose wisely.” Reed says, “90 percent of what they wrote was overwhelmingly false.”

“I mean, he can say what he wants to, but prove it. Tell me those court records are false,” said Rose of Reed’s denials.

The letter criticized Reed for a lack of affordable housing, it questioned the city’s investment into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and disinvestment in Black-owned property, including Morris Brown College. Reed rebuts Rose’s claims, saying of Morris Brown, “But for the $10.1 million that Atlanta spent buying Morris Brown’s assets out of bankruptcy, Morris Brown would be a Family Dollar or Dollar General right now.”

Rose also criticized a corruption pattern that plagued Reed’s time in office where some members of his staff were charged in a federal investigation for fraud and bribery. Rose also questioned Reed’s record on policing by claiming Reed failed to support President Obama’s 21st Century Policing policy, which aimed to boost police accountability.

“I’m the person who had bodycams, I’m the person who disbanded Red Dog [an infamous former Atlanta Police narcotics unit], I decriminalized marijuana, I insisted on third-party officer-involved investigations, built the biggest police force in history, 1.7 million officer-involved interactions, guns fired less than 17 times,” said Reed.

Reed’s endorsement by Atlanta’s International Brotherhood of Police Officers was another sticking point for Rose, claiming “the group has never acknowledged any police misconduct, no matter how egregious” and also added, “one retired Atlanta police sergeant calls IPBO ‘the Klan.’” Reed said of the police-related criticisms, “I’m not going to let them make a bit of light between me and the police because if I do, the crime is going to go up.”

Rose’s comments drew the ire of the national NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, who said in a letter to Rose, “Immediately cease any endorsement or condemnation of political candidates. The NAACP does not support or condone its units and affiliates endorsing political candidates.”

“None of us are perfect, and that includes me. I’ve apologized, I won’t make that mistake again,” said Rose after Johnson condemned Rose breaking protocol.

Rose’s letter has merit, says longtime political science professors at Clark Atlanta University. “If you have been in the city for more than 10 to 15 years, you understand the policies and the impact of a Kasim Reed administration and how it’s been targeted to poor Black communities. If you’ve been in the city for five years or less, you have benefited from that targeting of those poor Black communities no longer existing,” said Dr. Tammy Greer, assistant professor of political science.

“Corruption certainly existed in the Reed administration, that’s incontrovertible, seven individuals, if not more, have been convicted or indicted or whatever,” associate professor of political science Dr. William Boone said.

Greer says gentrification and prioritizing business interests have squeezed out a chunk of Black residents who now make up large portions of the city’s southside.

“The unemployment, the poverty, the income disparity, the housing disparity, infrastructure disparity, the social services disparity has not improved inside the city of Atlanta under Black leadership, so it’s unfair to say it was all on Reed, yet Reed continued a legacy of such,” Greer continued.

Boone pointed to Atlanta mayoral candidates’ heightened interest in crime as a key issue in the election, but other issues worthy of adequate attention are not getting enough attention, to the detriment of the city’s Black residents.

“There’s a problem in the city with double digit poverty, the last 40 to 50 years which talks about the problem of income inequality and wealth,” Boone added. “These are real problems that need to be addressed in some fashion, and none of the candidates in any consistency have raised these kinds of questions.”

With less than a week before election day, about 23,000 voters have already cast their ballots. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution and University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs poll conducted on Oct. 24 found 41 percent of likely voters are still undecided, with Reed and Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore statistically tied for first place.

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