Last week, The Root caught up with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the United States Conference of Mayors annual convention in Washington D.C. Mayor Bottoms shared her thoughts on the impact of the government shutdown; on Atlanta’s Superbowl preparedness; how the 2020 election runs through Georgia and why readers of The Root need to leave her mac and cheese alone.
The Root: This is Dr. Jason Johnson and I’m here with—
Mayor Lance Bottoms: …..Kiesha Lance Bottoms. Mayor of Atlanta and the best Macaroni and Cheese cook in America! (Laughter)
In case you’ve forgotten the honorable mayor’s struggle mac, her misdemeanor mac, her wack and cheese was the subject of many looks and side eyes after an Instagram post on Christmas Day. Root Staff writer Michael Harriot chronicled this culinary scandal at the time. And Mayor Bottoms, a civil servant with a thus far unblemished record wanted to make sure we started off by establishing her baking bonafides.
TR: What brings you to D.C. this week? We know it’s for the U.S. Conference of Mayors but what are you specifically trying to get done today?
LB: Well, prior to the government shutdown, I was really looking forward to our conversations on affordability. As people are moving back into urban centers, our issues related to affordable housing get larger by the day. So I’m chair of the panel that deals with housing for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Our big challenge right now is: How do we continue to make the city appealing to people who want to move to the city but also make sure that we don’t lose the people that otherwise may not be able to afford to live in the city?
TR: There’s also a functional element to it because...to the degree that the city may gentrify, there’s voting effects, if the actual population of the city changes that is a concern, right?
LB: My election was decided by 823 votes and when you looked at our map it was a racially divided map. Obviously, you want the best leaders elected in the city, but we have a city like Atlanta we’re the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. Also, you want leadership that reflects the city. So as big as our racial divide may be in our city in terms of looking at our voting map there’s this income inequality issue that we have in our city.
With the influx of visitors for the Superbowl, Mayor Lance-Bottoms was concerned about the fate of TSA and airport security workers who would be forced to work one of the busiest weekends of the year without pay. Initially, her administration looked at offering short term loans to TSA workers affected by the shutdown but there were other concerns that went beyond just the airport.
TR: Other than loans what are you doing to guarantee to keep things moving smoothly and safely for the Super Bowl?
LB: We’re very lucky right now that we’re not seeing the impact on our public safety coordination as it relates to the Superbowl because we have over 40 agencies that are coordinating for security, that’s local state and federal agencies. The Superbowl will be worth over 400 million dollars to the metro Atlanta economy.
The Root interviewed Mayor Lance Bottoms about 24 hours before President Trump announced the end of the shutdown but the mayor had already flexed her political muscle during the crisis. The mayor spoke directly with Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson about the impact of the government shutdown on Atlanta and potentially the Superbowl
The result? Isakson was only of only six Republican Senators to vote for the Democratic bill to re-open the government (without funding for Trump’s border wall).
According to federal government sources who spoke to The Root, the vast majority of furloughed employees all received back pay (except for overtime that may take longer to process) by January 31st. However, contract workers like cooks, cleaning staff, and security guards for federal agencies, will not be given any back pay as of this writing.
Also at the top of the week, California Senator Kamala Harris announced that she would be entering the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Where a presidential campaign locates itself is a huge financial and logistical boon for cities and soon after the announcement, the Harris campaign chose their headquarters, not in Oakland (where she is from) but Baltimore of all places. We asked Mayor Lance-Bottoms how she felt about this decision.
TR: Are you mad that your soror [Baltimore Mayor] Catherine Pugh beat you out for Kamala Harris campaign headquarters? Because you know Senator Harris is going to be coming through Atlanta, did you think you were in the running?
LB: (Laughter) [ New Orleans] Mayor Cantrell is already mad at me. I do know that all roads will lead through the south. No matter where a headquarters may be, I do know if anyone expects to be elected for president of the United States they will have to come through Georgia and certainly through Atlanta.
TR: Thank you so much Mayor Lance-Bottoms and before we end, is there anything else you want to make sure the audience knows about the Superbowl or voting or any last message you want to get out there?
LB: I want them to know that my macaroni and cheese was good! (Laughter)
We know Mayor Lance-Bottoms, maybe next time just put up a better picture on the ‘gram!