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ATL hits pause on legacy for Mayor Bottoms: Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

(Photo by formulanone via wikimedia.org)

By David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ legacy may not include a permanent cabinet-level office to regulate city policies related to LBGTQ+, immigrants, sustainability, youth and more.

All aspects of the management of Atlanta’s airport would be under the purview of the proposed Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. (Photo by formulanone via wikimedia.org)

A proposal to establish in the city code, and fund, the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was tabled indefinitely Wednesday by the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee.

The office is to consolidate authority of several departments under direct control of the mayor’s office. The office would have purview over virtually every aspect of city procurement, policy and hiring, plus housing, transportation, arts and criminal justice. Atlanta’s airport would fall under the office’s purview.

The specific charge of the proposed office includes governmental efforts to:

  • “[E]liminate gender identity discrimination, and social and racial inequities by evaluating institutional and structural government systems, policies, and practices…”, and
  • “[T]he Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion leverages the combined power of government, private and non-profit partners, and communities to dismantle systemic inequities and barriers to opportunity….”

Finance Committee Chair Jennifer Ide made the motion to hold the paper. Ide did not comment on the paper’s objectives. Ide said the concern was the lack of public discussion over a proposal with expansive ramifications for the city government.

Ide observed:

Jennifer Ide

  • “I have gotten, in the last 48 hours, a flurry of outreach from outside groups that work with the city in many of these areas, whether in sustainability or immigration or LGBTQ, that just want a chance to engage in this. This caught them off guard, this reorganization. They want to understand how the work they do will continue.
  • “People didn’t feel they were given a chance to engage and be heard on this. By the time several of these groups found out, the chance for public comment had passed.”

Ide’s motion to “hold for further engagement” was seconded by Councilmember Matt Westmoreland. The motion passed unanimously. No date certain was set for reconsideration. No plans for a public hearing were discussed.

Passage would have set the paper on course for likely approval by the full council at its Sept. 20 meeting. The council has five more meetings scheduled this year, after the one on Sept. 20.

No one from Bottoms’ administration spoke during the virtual Finance Committee meeting. The paper was presented by outgoing Councilmember Carla Smith. She did not attempt to speak after Ide made her motion to hold the matter in committee. Smith cosponsored the paper, along with ouncilmember Andrea Boone.

After taking office, Bottoms announced with great fanfare her intentions to steer the city toward a new era of equity and diversity. Within her first 100 days, Bottoms established an Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In her 2018 State of the City Address, Bottoms called the office One Atlanta and said, according to prepared remarks:

  • “One Atlanta will work to ensure equitable, open and inclusive practices across all city departments and functions.
  • “This office is also working to shine light on our forgotten communities and build a bridge towards inclusiveness.”

Within Bottoms last 100 days, plus a few, the office would have been embedded in the city’s code. According to the legislation, the proposed span of control is to include:

  • “LGBTQ affairs;
  • “Youth engagement;
  • “Health;
  • “Immigrant affairs;
  • “Sustainability; and
  • “Strategic partnerships.”

The legislation states:

  • “Within the areas of focus of each division, the functions and duties of the office of equity, diversity, and inclusion shall be to:
  • “(1) Establish and implement policies, programs, regulations, and initiatives related to and related to gender identity, social and racial equity;
  • “(2) Lead efforts to eliminate gender identity discrimination, and social and racial inequities by evaluating institutional and structural government systems, policies, and practices; and
  • “(3) Promote social equity, fairness, and justice in systems and public policy that intersect with health, housing, transportation, criminal justice, sustainability, arts and culture, and in populations adversely impacted by inequities.”
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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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