One Man’s Opinion, “An Itty Bitty City Committee,” Tuesday, October 5, 2021
A month from this week, the bulk of Georgia’s 500+ cities will be holding their elections for City Council, Mayor, and other municipal offices. Most counties will begin advance voting in two weeks.
Municipal Elections in Georgia are held in the odd-numbered years, as they have been for decades. And though the majority of Georgian’s live in cities, the bulk in metro Atlanta and the state’s secondary population centers, a small fractional minority of voters will choose to participate. Officially, these municipal contests are nonpartisan. There are no primaries, just a General Election and frequently runoff contests. And despite all you hear and read about voter suppression in Georgia, almost 95 percent of our eligible population is fully registered to vote. But this is not a state nor federal election year, and while social media and legacy media may attempt to ‘nationalize’ many of these contests, they are generally in fact focused on issues of local concern and priority.
The City of Atlanta has just under 525,000 residents, according to the 2020 census and more recent estimates. Just over 97,000 ballots were cast in the November General Election of 2017, four years ago. A voter turnout of less than 20 percent. A heated runoff followed, most of that vote returned, with just over 90,000 ballots being cast, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms winning by a margin of only 759 votes over City Council Member Mary Norwood.
For all the accusations that some state officials have attempted to tamp down or make voting more difficult, it might seem that the easiest and simplest show of strength and force might be a strong and surging turnout in city contests as again that is where the bulk of Georgia’s minority populations also reside. Atlanta’s Mayoral contest is boiling down to a two-person contest between former Mayor Kasim Reed, and a strong challenge from current City Council President Felicia Moore. With more than a dozen names on that ballot and at least five credible contenders, only two are polling above 20 percent, with more than 40 percent of voters still undecided. Expect a runoff between the pair two months from this week.
The metro Atlanta region alone is checked with a few hundred cities across the 20-county region. Several of those contests are also heated, but some offer voters fairly easy choices. Unless term-limited by charter or local ordinance, most area Mayors tend to spend some time in their offices. And some are more impactful than most. In Tucker, Georgia, that new city’s first Mayor, Frank Auman has expanded the job base and tax digest, built out numerous parks and other city amenities, paved miles of roads and new sidewalks, and somehow along with a collegial city council accomplished all of that with a millage rate of ZERO. That is a hard record to match. In another newer city, Brookhaven, the former Planning & Zoning Commission Chair, and more recently inaugural chair of the Social Justice, Race & Equity Commission in Brookhaven, John J. Funny, is hoping to succeed another inaugural city council member, Brookhaven’s Joe Gebbia, with both an impressive resume and a track record of community service.
In other cities, a changing of the guard will be underway, as stalwarts and community pillars like Mayor Pat Wheeler of Stone Mountain, decide that several decades of public service and leadership are enough, and hopefully others like Mayor Pat are already mentoring and helping to shape the next generation of their community leaders. Georgia also has many municipal school systems, and those local boards of education races are also underway. There may be fewer drop boxes this November and during the December runoffs, but Georgia still offers voters weeks of advance voting and multiple options for casting their ballot as well as the resource of the Georgia My Voter Page
Type in your name and address, and the website will tell you which districts you live in, your incumbent officeholders, the location of early voting and dropbox precincts, etc… Let’s not have another meager and pitiful showing of interest in the election contests which for many of us have a great impact on our daily lives. This isn’t simply about selecting some itty bitty city committee…this is often about deciding whether your community, leads, follows, or trails many others when it comes to serving you and your neighbors. Pay attention, spend a bit of time online doing your research and please, get out there and vote.