Barely a day after 95-year old Rev. Joseph Echols Lowery, an Obama Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee, endorses Mayoral Candidate Ceasar Mitchell, a unique set of Atlanta parks and greenspace voters gathered to hear ten Atlanta mayoral candidates' views on parks and greenspace. Ten, not nine.
The tenth candidate is Independent Al Bartell. Attending all mayoral candidate forums he's been invited to -- a declared candidate by the City of Atlanta's Office of Municipal Clerk -- Bartell's public remarks and presence have increasingly been marginalized by Atlanta's corporate media.
Bartell's explanation: "I'm a threat to the status quo. My campaign message about the severe, adverse impact on Atlanta by having -- and potentially maintaining -- a corporate mayor and a corporate model of city government, threatens the source of Atlanta's corporate media profits."
Interestingly, the Greenspace Forum was moderated by Maria Saporta, of Saporta Report and the corporate-funded Atlanta Business Chronicle --and
sponsored, Saporta announced, by Cox Enterprises, the largest private company in Atlanta, and one of Atlanta's top employers.
What Saporta did not announce -- and what did not get addressed during the lightening speed, no-questions-from-the-audience, one-hour forum -- was the elephant in the room.
To put it bluntly: the National Democratic Party's impact on the Atlanta mayoral race, by the public signaling of their selection of Ceasar Mitchell to be their candidate -- and the corporate money, manpower, and media coming with their selection.
The most recent signaling: this week's endorsement by Rev. Lowery.
Although a nonpartisan race, the communication in the background for the other mayoral candidates -- all except one -- is whatever "even playing field" they may have thought would be afforded them in the "mad dash" towards a predicted run-off election, has now gone, in one fell swoop.
The other Democratic mayoral candidates -- Kwanza Hall, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michael Sterling, Cathy Woolard, John Eaves, even Vincent Fort (endorsed by former Gov. Roy Barnes and Independent/Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders) -- as well as Independent candidates Mary Norwood and Peter Aman -- now face a competitive burden of operating without a political machinery behind them -- with predictably less media coverage.
With the "crossroads" corporate backing of the DNC, Mitchell is now on display as the corporate choice being offered to Atlanta's citizens.
The picture is bigger than Atlanta. When Tom Perez became the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the intention was made clear
by the DNC
about regaining, and/or holding, the nation's rural, small city, and urban center political bases.
Recently, the DNC made powerful moves in the City of Baltimore -- and here in Georgia, during the Sixth District Osoff-Handel run-off. Now, it is clear, they are moving on Atlanta.
The only candidate not adversely impacted by this week's solidifying of the DNC's backing of Mitchell is Independent Al Bartell. His drumbeat communication continued during the Greenspace Forum about the severe consequence of Atlanta having a corporate mayor and a corporate model of government. Bartell's
counter offer of an urban mayor with an urban model of government resonated with the packed room on several of the green agenda-related questions posed by Saporta.
Bartell spoke of returning the Beltline back into the hands of the diverse cultures and communities of Atlanta, having the Beltline be known as a landmark of community engagement in the Southeast region. He addressed the issue of parks and greenspace equity by declaring his commitment to establishing a dedicated city Department of Environment. He championed the urban culture of Atlanta's city festivals by advocating for expanded time, days, and space.
Bartell's "big idea" for improving Atlanta's tree canopy was to connect Atlanta's commitment to parks and greenspace to the United Nation's world environment program. He shared how the UN approach could provide a framework for Atlanta's urban leaders to become involved in a larger commitment that would have Atlanta be a premiere global city in the 21st century. He supported having the City of Atlanta purchase more property, as a measure in raising Atlanta's 6% of greenspace closer to the national 9% -- but he added, "That won't happen with a corporate mayor."
The unpredictable variable in Atlanta's mayoral election is what choice Atlanta's undecided voter base will make in this mayoral election. In Atlanta's last mayoral election of 2013, only 40,000 some voters came out to the polls. For the most part, community voters and "progressive" issues voters stayed at home.
With Bartell's community appeal and expanding name recognition in the series of mayoral candidate forums that have taken place thus far in 2017, especially in the area of environmental issues, Atlanta has a distinct choice coming their way in November. A corporate mayor and a corporate model of government -- or, as Bartell states it, an urban mayor and an urban model of government.
The looming, ugly issue of destructive gentrification -- and the parallel developmental impact for parks and greenspace equity -- is only one consequence of choosing the corporate mayor/model road. The future of a sustainable, inclusive Atlanta is at stake, many are quietly, and not so quietly pondering.
They may have to do so without the benefit of televised network mayoral debates. There are no signs, as yet, that the Atlanta Press Club will hold them.
With or without televised debates, ten candidates -- not nine -- are in the corporate mayor/urban mayor conversation.
Soon, it could be several less.