“You’re always trying to establish trust. And when trust has been broken, at so many levels of government, it’s a difficult thing to do,” said Karen Weaver, former mayor of Flint, Mich and interim executive director of the African American Mayors Association, the national organizing body of Black mayors. “As a Black person, and let me just add as a female, you’re always having to prove yourself a little bit harder, a little bit stronger.”
“The anger that I was seeing in the streets of Atlanta, I was seeing it in my kitchen, ” Bottoms said. “I was getting all of this at home and then getting it outside the door too, so I could never run or hide from that.”
Earlier this month, Bottoms announced she’d decided not to seek a second term. Her decision shocked many in Georgia’s political circles, who see the city as the heartbeat of a state that has become the center of the political universe. After all, she was one of Biden’s earliest Black endorsers, a move that landed her on his short list to be his running mate. She’s been featured in magazines ranging from Ebony to Glamour, signs of her growing national influence. Vogue magazine declared her “America’s frontline mayor.”
But amid all the national attention, Bottoms has been blamed for the city’s escalating violent crime rate — an issue she said her predecessor will need to prioritize upon taking office. In January, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, who sat alongside Bottoms on the council, announced she was running against Bottoms for mayor.
Atlanta’s citizens “all feel neglected,” said Moore, a five-term veteran of the City Council. “There may be differences in what people want. But what people need is pretty much the same.”
Bottoms did not rule out running for office in the future. When pressed about her decision, she wouldn’t say exactly why she exited the race. But, she said, she wanted to “pass the baton” to another leader in the city.
Her allies and fellow Black mayors sympathized with her decision, their understanding informed by their own experiences leading cities while navigating the past year as Black Americans.
“I can totally understand how she might just say after one term, ‘I’m done,’” Jones said, adding that she texted Bottoms, who is also her sorority sister, to say, “I support you in whatever you decide to do.”
She and Bottoms are both members of the African American Mayors Association. But they also make frequent use of the informal network of current and former Black municipal leaders, which has grown to be hundreds strong via group chats and offline phone calls. And among Black women, the mayoral circle is even closer knit.
“I know how they’re feeling. I know those challenges,” Weaver, the former Flint mayor, said. “I know how tired they are physically, mentally, emotionally. And yet they keep going. You keep going.”
“The agenda is clear”
Like Bottoms, Bowser oversees a city with a rising crime rate and systemic inequities rooted in race. And like Bottoms — and most mayors for that matter — Bowser inherited most of those problems. But as the pandemic exacerbated the inequities, Bowser, who is up for reelection next year, was tasked with fixing them at their worst.
In the rapidly gentrifying District of Columbia, for example, the longevity gap between white and Black residents has grown even as the national gap has shrunk. As of 2016, Black men could expect to live 17 years less, and Black women, 12 years less, than their white counterparts.
Bowser’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In an interview with The Washington Post on May 6, Bowser said she was “quite proud of the district’s response to Covid,” citing its aggressive mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings, entertainment and restaurants.
This content was originally published here.