The memo that’s about to shake the Atlanta mayor’s race

A memo arguing that African-Americans should unite behind a single black candidate in the race for mayor of Atlanta is about to become a prime topic of debate.

The material, which we include below, is said to be distributed by Aaron Turpeau, a long-time City Hall figure, on behalf of something called the Black Leadership Forum.

Turpeau argues that Council President Lisa Borders is the only candidate who can prevent the election of Councilwoman Mary Norwood as the first white mayor since Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell.

Both Borders and state Sen. Kasim Reed, also an African-American, have scheduled pressers this afternoon. AJC colleagues Eric Stirgus and Ernie Suggs will be there. We anticipate that Reed will demand that Borders renounce the memo.

Here’s the statement Reed’s campaign has put out in the last few minutes:

“Not only do I find these comments racially charged and vitriolic, I completely repudiate them because they are fundamentally wrong and do not belong in today’s society. I call on Ms. Borders to do the right thing and denounce such divisive, racist language immediately.

“These tactics divide the very community that has made Atlanta emerge as a leading city in the South and dishonors the legacies of Mayors Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Ivan Allen, Sam Massell, and William Hartsfield. This campaign should be waged on the merits of each candidate, not the color of their skin.”

One more point: There is an assertion below that both Norwood and another candidate, Atlanta attorney Jesse Spikes, are Republican. The councilwoman maintains she is neither Democrat nor Republican. Spikes’ communication director says that Spikes is a Democrat, and his voting record reflects that.

Here’s the document at issue:

Introduction

The debate over the best strategic option for black leadership and the African American community as we approach the Mayoral election in Atlanta has become critical based on the fact that for the last 25 years Atlanta has represented the breakthrough for black political empowerment in the South.

It is debatable to what extent the objective socio-economic and political position of the African American community has improved. At the same time, most would agree that the Jackson breakthrough represented an unprecedented opportunity for black political representation nationwide.

A passionate argument has been made for us to develop a unity of purpose and position, and for that to be defined immediately, given the short amount of time remaining between now and November 2009 election day (two and ½ months from now).

There are unstated assumptions that need to be examined. Perhaps the most critical factor is the lack of an agenda against which to evaluate candidates. An agenda, beyond just electing a Black Mayor, would allow us to move from the margins of the debate to controlling the expectations associated with gaining our support.


Three basic assertions have been made. They are as follows:

1. There is a chance for the first time in 25 years that African Americans could lose the Mayoral seat in Atlanta, Georgia, especially if there is a run-off;

2. Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is a significant Black turnout in the general election;

3. The reasons support should be given to Lisa Borders is: 1) she is the best black candidate in the race who has a chance to win the election because she can attract downtown white support; and 2) based on polling data drawn from a host of sources between May 2009 and July 2009, the numbers suggest Borders is growing stronger as we move closer to the election, while the most recent polling data suggests that the other black candidates are falling further behind over the same period.

There are also at least three unstated assumptions that should be further explored:

Unstated Assumption

1. With the “Black Mayor first” approach there is an unstated assumption that having a black mayor in Atlanta is equal to having a black social, economic and political agenda or at least someone in office who would be sensitive to that agenda if not a full promoter of that agenda;

2. By coming out for Borders now would eliminate Reed, Spikes and Thomas as viable candidates. Some would argue that if the polling data is correct then those candidates who are only polling at 8%, 2% and 1% respectfully, are already effectively out of the race; and

3. It is unlikely that there will be a unified preference among existing black leadership and in the African American community for one candidate prior to the general election.

The Missing Factors in the Current Approach

There are at least seven real world common knowledge factors that must be taken into consideration as we debate how best to manifest our support in the run-up to the November elections. They are as follows:

1. The impact of current alienation among Black Atlantans from the political establishment;

2. The imperiled state of the Jackson Machine, (in part because of the displacement of close to 100,000 black residents over the past few years) and the effect operation of the NPU system by whites;

3. Shirley Franklin’s perceived poor performance;

4. The changing demographics in the city, the potential role of new city voters and the diminished role of religious and labor leaders in mobilizing the black vote;

5. The importance of the City Council races (which to date seems to have been ignored);

6. The persistent poverty in the city, the educational crisis in the schools; the human security/public safety concerns; the type of economic development policies being pursued; and the city’s awful financial management issues;

7. A Black Agenda that any candidate should be evaluated against.

What’s At Stake?

Determining what’s at stake depends on perspective:

1. The view that the times are too serious to stand on the sidelines is absolutely correct from the perspective of a black mayor at all cost. In fact, if a white candidate were to win the 2009 mayoral race, it would be just as significant in political terms as Maynard Jackson’s victory in 1973.

2. Therefore, the question becomes, if that were the case, how would African American interests be addressed; thus, the need for a comprehensive agenda. At the same time, just having a black mayor doesn’t guarantee that African American issues and concerns would be effectively addressed either (as the current administration’s relationship to the African American community clearly demonstrates). In other words, are we simply providing votes without any expectations of the candidate that would enjoy our support?;

3. While some may think that Franklin represents the last link to the Jackson Machine, it is not widely known that both Borders and Reed are directly connected to Franklin; or that Spikes and Thomas are Republicans, as is Norwood. Additionally, it should not be overlooked that whoever is Mayor of Atlanta will be in position to play an important role in the upcoming 2010 Georgia Governor’s race;

4. The changing demographics which show a more rapid growth in the city’s white population (faster and a higher percentage than anywhere else in the country) requires that we critically evaluate all candidates;

5. To ignore the alienation that exists among black voters towards the Franklin Administration’s performance is naive at best and dishonest at worse; and finally,

6. We need an overall governance strategy and a definition of who really governs in Atlanta. In other words, in 2009 we have arrived at a place in time where we can no longer afford to just look at race in the Mayor’s race or individual council races.

At the end of the day, “when the morning comes,” a black agenda would better enable us to have our interests respected by and our influence realized in any administration.

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430 comments Add your comment

Wow, Just Wow

August 27th, 2009
12:53 pm

This stuff stinks.

John Doe

August 27th, 2009
12:54 pm

Norwood is the best candidate, and will win the election. Too much crime and corruption, Atlantans are tired of both…
Also, Atlanta is a diverse city, why should race still play a factor?

DW

August 27th, 2009
1:01 pm

As a black man, I’m disgusted by such a memo. We’re not a monolith. it’s healthy for a true democracy to have different candidates with different ideas. Not one candidate has all of the answers. Let everyone who’s eligible run and present their ideas, and may the best PERSON win.

Dash Riptide

August 27th, 2009
1:03 pm

To be fair, putting race and charisma above all else works just fine. Why, just look at Clayton County.

Gildo the Cracker

August 27th, 2009
1:03 pm

Aaron looks like me!!!

Insulted

August 27th, 2009
1:08 pm

I reject the premise that blacks must unite behind one black candidate in order to defeat whites who will all vote for a white candidate. That kind of thinking just keeps us more segregated and divided on lines of color. Besides, I seem to recall an African American candidate that was recently elected to some position in national politics even with a white majority . . . can’t put my finger on his name.

good grief

August 27th, 2009
1:09 pm

That is truly sickening stuff.

I am so sick of race. So few people are truly color blind.

Natalie

August 27th, 2009
1:12 pm

I’m black, live in the city and am completely offended by this ignorant diatribe of a memo. The “Black Agenda” is never really defined and even at the best of times has been no more than a nebulous concept in Atlanta.

The main issues that will drive my vote center around safety, taxes and managed growth. Education is another bucket of trouble and while i am being taxed to the gills, there has been a record of improvement in the school over the long run.

The Old Timers who think that the black vote is an homogeneous bloc are the same ones who don’t understand why the youth, such as myself, have moved beyond this type of rhetoric and no longer regard the old leadership as relevant in today’s society.

Move on!

[...] The Political Insider has more. [...]

good grief

August 27th, 2009
1:17 pm

BTW, I have never even heard of Aaron Turpeau.

Shar

August 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

This may be vicious, pitiful, racist filth, but it is, at least, honest.

As repulsive as the racist assertions are – flip the races and you could use this as a KKK agenda – the absolute worst statement, in my opinion, is “It is debatable to what extent the objective socio-economic and political position of the African American community has improved.” The comprehensive failings of the most recent mayoral administrations, detailed by the writer as his/her sixth most important considerations, are: “The persistent poverty in the city, the educational crisis in the schools; the human security/public safety concerns; the type of economic development policies being pursued; and the city’s awful financial management issues”. However, it is clear that addressing these disasters is not uppermost in the writer’s selection criteria. Suffering, whether among the black or the white population, is immaterial. The color of the skin of the next mayor is all that matters.

Tolerating racism, much less encouraging is as this piece does, is to accept it towards all. This writer goes farther: Duping black voters in Atlanta into supporting a candidate and a “machine” that has repeatedly and admittedly failed them is warranted and appropriate in order to elect “a black mayor at all cost.”

The writer should be fitted for one of those stylish robes and hoods so charmingly modelled by the likes of David Dukes and Edgar Ray Killen. Or else taken out with the other filthy trash.

This is useless

August 27th, 2009
1:21 pm

Let’s keep in mind this is one individual who I doubt anyone knows who circulated this memo and not the group’s way of thinking nor the black community as a whole..This memo is as good as someone saying I’m not voting for Lisa Borders because she is not attractive, you should do the same.

David S

August 27th, 2009
1:24 pm

Scumbag Bill Campbell’s last election was between two african-americans and they were BOTH LOSERS. The blatant racism that plagues the black community in this country is a sad testament to the failure of everything MLK stood for. The assumption that anyone, just because they are black, can do a good job as mayor (or president for that matter) is about as absurd as believing that anyone who is white can do the same. The same would hold true about anyone who is a republican, a democrat, a man, or a woman. Evidence will show that most everyone who aspires to political office is more deserving of jail than the job they seek. We ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan because of blind faith and party loyalty. We got the first and second bailouts for the same reasons. We may get saddled with a horrible government controlled healthcare system for the same reasons.

It is high time that every voter started thinking for themselves, and stop allowing self-interested racist or political groups to do their thinking for them. Altanta’s next mayor will have to face serious challenges and make tough and economically responsible decisions if this city is to survive the ever-worsening depression this country is now in. Gender, color, or political affiliation are certainly no guarantee of common sense or good judgement. If the past 2 decades of Atlanta history (or american history for that matter) haven’t proven that, nothing will.

Intownwriter

August 27th, 2009
1:32 pm

Ach, already? I honestly didn’t expect the race card to be played until the last desperate moments of the campaign. I live in South Atlanta, and I can’t see what Bill and Shirley, et.al. have done to help the traditionally African American communities down here (or anyone much, anywhere). I’m all for a regime change, black, white, whatever, as long as the focus is making life better for citizens of the City of Atlanta, for a change.

moderation

August 27th, 2009
1:33 pm

Congratulations Aaron Turpeau. You are now the # 1 racist in Georgia.

Shar

August 27th, 2009
1:35 pm

Aaron Turpeau claimsto be “the premier African American Counselor in Atlanta” and the author of “The Harmonious Way”. He must be a proponent of the atonal scale.

good grief

August 27th, 2009
1:43 pm

Every once in a while I will hear someone make the argument that a black person cannot be racist. They base this argument on that a person must have power over another in order to be racist. Nevermind that the definition of “Racism” is a “Belief” and anyone can hold any belief. However, I have found this argument to have some validity to it.

I would like to know from those who espouse this idea that black people cannot be racist due to a power issue about local power. Certainly, no one could look at Dekalb County GA and argue that there is a White Power Structure in place.

Sorry, no cute name

August 27th, 2009
1:46 pm

This ain’t about race, it’s about controlling the purse strings.
That Turpeau thinks Borders is the best one to provide continuing political coverage over Reed is interesting, but i’m sure he’s been reading pollings numbers very, very carefully.
There is a saying “Never attribute to malice that which can be readily explained by stupidity.”
The second one: “Never attribute to race that which can be explained by loss of political connections, coverage, and financial gain.”

If you have any questions, please refer to the AJC article about the lawsuit over the airport contracts being rigged for political favor, and thus money.

If you don’t have the Mayor’s Nod Squad on Council, then you have no political lackies to turn the other way regarding dubious methods to address sewer problems, bad bond issuances to provide taxpayer gimmies to developers, preferential contracting methods, tax hikes instead of firing political appointees, etc etc etc.

Money, money, money, hunney!!!!

Jen

August 27th, 2009
1:48 pm

Wow! I can’t imagine what would happen if it were the other way around. Racist Jackson and racist Sharpton would be downtown having their little protests. What the thugs don’t realize is that Atlanta used to be a nice, safe city before the first black mayor Jackson took office and “white flight” started. It just proves that black leadership does not work. The thugs would be SMART to elect a white mayor so that it could be cleaned up.

Truth Seeker

August 27th, 2009
1:48 pm

So much for the content of their character. If dey b black dey mus b gud.

Chief Wiggum

August 27th, 2009
1:53 pm

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.[Martin Luther King Jr.]

Sounds like the memo writer is still judging people by the color of their skin. Racism is still alive, and it isn’t always white folks.

Jrm

August 27th, 2009
1:54 pm

If this guy isn’t fired by the 6 o’clock news then this city hasn’t grown at all and a terrible double standard is painfully evident. Sub the word black for white throughout and see how racist this sounds.

Really?

August 27th, 2009
1:54 pm

Yeah, because judging someone on their skin color always makes for a good judge of character and ability, right? Awesome.

Get it right, mane

August 27th, 2009
1:55 pm

Revision: “….dey mus b goot.”

Glenn Thomas

August 27th, 2009
1:57 pm

For the record, Glenn Thomas is a known “Independent” who has never voted Republican; check it out. Thank you…btw, this memo is disgusting and I think that this is political chess.

AtlantaFan

August 27th, 2009
1:58 pm

As a black man. This memo makes me sick. I believe this may have been put out to stir up controversy. Stuff like this always happens. Chicago has a very large and strong African-American community, but every year they re-elect Mayor Richard Daley. But I guess race does play a part. Both L.A. and Miami both have a extremely large Hispanic populations and both of their mayors are of Hispanic. LA’s mayor is Mexican and Miami’s mayor is Cuban. So maybe it does play a part, but I believe this memo here is a plant to stir controversy. Black people do not have to be told who to vote for or to vote for one black candidate so the vote isn’t split up. Black people have sense, lots of common sense. If you were to go over to Peyton Forest, you would see LOTS of Norwood signs and we all know that’s a large African American community. So that just smashes a lot of ideologies.

Ashley

August 27th, 2009
1:59 pm

If the black folk want “equal rights” then why don’t they, and the morons Jackson, Sharpton, and other “black leaders” protest this and have the guy fired? Funny how they want everything equal but never support white people.

Native Atlantan

August 27th, 2009
1:59 pm

I think Atlanta needs some fresh blood in office, Reed reminds me of a younger Bill Campbell. Norwood would be a very good ambassador for Atlanta, and I beleive could turn around the mockery that is Atlanta City Government. And who cares if Norwoood is a Republican? We’ve all seen the shambles that Democratic Mayors have put Atlanta in!

Harriet

August 27th, 2009
1:59 pm

@ Jen and Truth Seeker, it happens the other way around because it isn’t spoken. When the choice is only ‘whites’, then no one has to say anything because that is what has always been for the most part. Whites or others, take that for granted, they don’t have to say it. Just like when whites describe someone, Whites tend to say, oh, he has blonde hair and blue eyes…well, there are other races with blonde hair and blue eyes including blacks but whites tend to think that ALL whould subscribe to, you must be talking about someone white, it never crosses their mind that it would be otherwise…it’s taken for granted that they are white. Not saying you should have to spell it out but I have natural red hair and I’m black and have freckles, or what blacks refer to red hair, sandy in color so if someone were to describe me to a white person and not mention my race, they would think I’m white. The same goes here…since we didn’t have the ‘choice’ before, why not?! If they are qualified, then yes (of course not if not qualified, I don’t vote for a non-qualified white person or anyone not qualified!) so why not help our own…we’ve not had a choice all along and we have been helping everyone else be uplifted and not always to our advantage and whites or others don’t even ‘have to’ consider it because it is a given for them and that is all that they know!

Missionary

August 27th, 2009
2:01 pm

Sounds like Lisa Boraders is tied to this. This race baiter is obviously tied to Boarders, she should have the knowledge enough to make sure a supporter of hers like this does not espew this kind of stuff, and she didn’t know well this is still the support she has. I am now going to start to look at the other candidates, white and black both, however no longer with Boarders.

reservoirDAWG

August 27th, 2009
2:02 pm

Wow. I think Reed about summed it up.

Chief Wiggum

August 27th, 2009
2:02 pm

Oh, a couple other things, missed the first time in the memo…

“the effect operation of the NPU system by whites

Can someone explain what the “NPU system” is? I either missed it, or I’m out of the loop.

“a more rapid growth in the city’s white population (faster and a higher percentage than anywhere else in the country) requires that we critically evaluate all candidates;”

If that were changed to say a growth in the city’s BLACK population, in a majority-white city, I can guarantee that every civil rights leader alive would be all over that city as a racist haven. It sounds like “We’ve gotta be careful, and entrench NOW, as the white people are coming back”

White flight of the 60s and 70s has been replaced by gentrification of the 00s.

Cedric E. Arle

August 27th, 2009
2:03 pm

Racism, black or white, is not pretty.

BiteMe

August 27th, 2009
2:04 pm

This is just pathetic. There will never be harmony amongst us in the South because certain people will NEVER let it happen, and trust me when I say the media THRIVES on that!

V.R. Lincoln

August 27th, 2009
2:08 pm

I am African-American. Regardless of this article, I certainly hope and pray African Americans will ultimately vote for whom they beleive to be the best candidate. Even if it’s a Caucasion candidate. Borders is obviously the most popular candidate but not neccessary the best and most qualified. Many believe, with her it will be as if Franklin never left the office. We need someone that can shake this city up, turn it around and point Atlanta in the right direction.

John

August 27th, 2009
2:08 pm

I guess all of us white people should run downtown and have riots and protests like the black people do over everything right? Pretty funny how you never see that. Why? Because we are calm, rational people.

Radioblitzer!

August 27th, 2009
2:08 pm

Dr. Turpeau just cost Lisa Borders any chance to win this election.

Hamad Meander

August 27th, 2009
2:09 pm

CWILLI

August 27th, 2009
2:10 pm

Truly if Ms. Borders said something like this and it is a “trial baloon” it just got busted. I wouldn’t even consider her for a candidate to say something like that in the year of 2009 is really sad if this was 1959 I could understand.

ryanv

August 27th, 2009
2:11 pm

Did anyone else not know Lisa Borders was black until today? Just sort of a ‘huh’ moment I wanted to share. :)

Blindone

August 27th, 2009
2:13 pm

Who is he and what gives him the right to say what should be done. Let the candidates build their election machine see who wins. I am not for blind voting.

Roger

August 27th, 2009
2:15 pm

If a white political person would have the said the same thing for a pro white candidate, it would be front page national news. When it is said by a black person, it gets the back page of the editorial section of the AJC. The race card for blacks seems will never lose its value.

Travis

August 27th, 2009
2:16 pm

Is this a joke??? WTF is wrong with black people these days?? Talk about double standards! They will never have ‘equality’ as long as the refuse to treat others as such. Makes me sick.

Jason

August 27th, 2009
2:16 pm

Jen, how could white flight start after Jackson was elected? That would have required the white majority to elect a black mayor, something that would have been impossible during that time period. White flight started long before African-Americans started to get elected to office and is the primary force that allowed it to happen.

The silly thing about the whole race issue is that there isn’t really a racial divide anymore but rather an economic one. African-American yuppies will vote for a candidate of any race that will keep their interests in mind. Those interests are pretty much the same as those of yuppies of any race. An African-American CEO living in Buckhead is more likely to vote for a business minded candidate of any race rather than someone of their own race who is only interested in racial politics.

The racial makeup of the City of Atlanta is rapidly changing but more importantly the economic makeup is changing even faster. The old political machine is seriously miscalculating if it believes that African-Americans outside of the poverty class are going to continue to blindly give them support. If a candidate wants to win, African-American or not, they’re going to have to remove the race issue completely. Reed seems to understand this as Kwanzaa Hall on the City Council has long understood. It remains to be seen if this is true of the other candidates, including Mary Norwood.

billy bob from cobb

August 27th, 2009
2:16 pm

Atlanta = planet of the apes. Just watch that show housewives of the atl.

sickwitit

August 27th, 2009
2:17 pm

This is why so many larger city governments are so currupt. Large voting blocks simply vote based on race and spend absolutely no time investigating the candidates. Cities end up being governed by people Like Kilpatric in Detroit, Barry in DC, and Campbell in Atlanta. These thugs simply bring in their minions and befor too long most of the departments are infested with the currupt cancer. Until the simple minded voters start educating themselves and investigating the players in their cities, the goons and thugs will continue to rule the city because voting based simply on race.

Truth Seeker

August 27th, 2009
2:17 pm

Sorry Get it Right…..I had a moment of grammar correctness. My bad.

poo to u

August 27th, 2009
2:18 pm

Why is it that politicians and media are trying to start a race war? We the people are long over this. I dont think most blacks want to vote for someone based on the color of their skin. What does skin color have to do with qualifications and fixing problems that atlanta has. Maybe, just maybe it has been the black unqualified officials running Atlanta, Marta and other high positions that is the problem here. I am sick of the race war. Vote for someone who will bring strength and loyalty and committment to the office requardless of color and we will do well. Forget about the color because its only skin deep. Go for brains and business approach and lets fix Atlanta once and for all. We are all Gods children. Stop trying to split us up and put us against each other.

Can you see it

August 27th, 2009
2:20 pm

I would like to see Americans, Atlantans standing side by side, white, black, white, black, white holding hands in unity in front of whoever wrote this article. Stop trying to insite a race war. Im sick of it.

Truth Seeker

August 27th, 2009
2:20 pm

Is the AJC gonna charge for the political that RACIST Turpeau just posted???