The city of Atlanta has no shortage of great leaders ready to confront the pressing issues facing its development. One such person is City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, a graduate of Morehouse College and a lifelong resident of Atlanta. Mitchell recently announced that he is running for mayor of Atlanta and rolling out was granted a special interview.
What made you decide to run for mayor?
I am running for Mayor because I love Atlanta. This city is literally bursting. I was raised here, educated here and every experience I have had as a citizen and professional has been due to the all the opportunities Atlanta has afforded me. I have been on a journey of public service as City Council president and I want to continue to serve this city as Mayor because I truly believe that this city can be a special city and also a great city. I believe in the people of this city and it’s potential. So my campaign will be about believing in ourselves and believing in our community.
What is your relationship with state officials?
I have worked very hard on building positive relationships with elected officials outside the city of Atlanta. I serve on the Atlanta Regional Commission by an act of the State Legislature, this was born out of the relationships I have with state officials and the Legislature. This is important because it has allowed me to develop relationships with officials that have an impact on the economics and development of Atlanta as a world class city. I also sit on the executive board of the Georgia Municipal Association. This has allowed me to have positive relationships and development not only for Atlanta but other municipalities in the state.
What are your top three priorities for Atlanta as Mayor?
Make sure that economic development remains a core focus for our city. Not just from the perspective of bringing big business to the city; but also to bringing jobs that allow families to live in dignity in our city. We must make sure these jobs bring careers that also lead to entrepreneurship opportunities to residents. Economic development must touch all people.
Quality of Life
I am going to be very focused on this. What this means is we should live in a neighborhood that you feel pride, positive, safe and clean. I truly believe that our neighborhoods should be clean and safe and it takes a commitment from our city government to make it a priority and not an afterthought. People want to live in a community where they can feel good. They deserve this by virtue of their tax dollars
Many people look to our school systems as having the sole responsibility of educating our youth and this is not the case. I think educating our young people and providing them with the environment and the opportunity to grow, learn, be enriched and be positioned for success requires everybody. To me this will be a continuing focus
What are two of the major issues confronting the Atlanta today?
Two critical issues are affordable housing, we have to address this issue. We are coming to a crisis situation were affordable housing we are going to have to double down on this issue. We must make a small commitment in connecting to our youth and making a clear path in what they are doing in school and what they can expect when they graduate well prepared for college and a career.
In Atlanta the background issue of transportation and access to mobility is being neglected. We are not going to be able to drive our way to world class and being a city of excellence. We are going to have to embrace all forms of transportation that includes transit and something as simple as having strong pedestrian infrastructure for people who walk. MARTA, Beltline Transit, streetcars are all an important aspect of mobility to the city. This impacts how fast or community and city runs and functions.
It seems that development on Atlanta’s “Black” side of town stops once you crossover Northside Drive. Areas such as Simpson Road and MLK Drive still remain the same after decades of leadership under Black mayors. Why do you think this is the case? What will you do in office to help the neglected parts of the city?
First let me tell you what I have done and how I intend to build on my initiatives. I have introduced and passed legislation creating economic incentive zones along critical corridors south of I-20 in west and south Atlanta. This includes areas along MLK Dr., Bankhead Highway, Campbellton Road and Metropolitan Parkway. These incentive zones are designed to bring economic development and bring positive small and medium size businesses along with quality affordable housing to these communities. As Mayor I am going to bring more effort that has ever been placed to these communities. I was born and raised in Southwest Atlanta, I went to public schools and graduated from Benjamin E. Mays High School and Southwest Atlanta is where I live now. So this area is important to me and to my mother because she still lives in this area. It’s all about bringing capital investment and public private partnerships; that is the government has to work hard to insure that we are delivering services that are important to the people. Also quality practices and that attract money and capital to the community; but the government has got to do its job to keep the community safe. This includes making sure we have a quality educational system, making sure we have streets that are clean and paved. These are the framework of economic development in a community. For my part, it is making sure we connect these dots to what city government has to do and we expect and hope from partnership with the private sector.
Atlanta has become famous for being the center of “trap music and trap culture” as well as adult entertainment. Is this a good image for Atlanta?
Atlanta is a magnet for tourism and conventions and for entertainment. This includes of course music and most recently the film industry. With all that in mind there come a number of different aspects of culture in entertainment. You mention ‘trap music’, this is attractive to a segment of the population. I would say one thing and I am not trying to cast dispersions on any form of entertainment that is legal or any type of music that is keeping with the law. We just have to make sure as a city that we are focused on those things that move us forward and make our city an attractive place to visit, stay, live and work. So from my perspective if we want to be a world class city, we are going to be a diverse city. What makes Atlanta special is that we have a mosaic of people, culture. My job as mayor is to ensure that we always have an environment that is safe, productive and provides an opportunity for those who visit and live in the city.
If elected, do you see yourself as a two-term mayor and will you seek higher office?
Well first I have to get myself elected as Mayor. So I am not going to bite off more than I can chew, I’m biting off one term. I will serve that term in an excellent capacity, because when elected I will be given four years to do the work. I’ve always loved my city and this is the only place I served in public office.
What would you like to say in closing?
Atlanta is a special city and we have an opportunity to become an even greater city. As Mayor it will be very important to me to bring people together using every asset we have in order to make our city a place where people want to live. I want Atlanta to be a city were young people can grow up educated and enriched as a people. A place where people know they have opportunity if they work hard and set their minds to it and push forward. This is the city I want to see. There is so much promise in Atlanta.