By David Pendered
The $100,000 that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms provided in the city budget for HIV program resources is the latest indication she is on track to fulfill campaign promises to support the city’s LGBTQ community.
These efforts have been overwhelmed by the din of other issues at City Hall. But the $100,000 is a significant statement, as are three other developments related to her campaign platform on LGBTQ issues:
- During the last week of June, the mayor’s LGBTQ affairs coordinator, Malik Brown, hosted an event with city employees to commemorate Pride Month. Through this process, the city is preparing an employee resource group for the city’s LGBTQ employees.
- Next week, the mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board is to convene its first meeting. Among other responsibilities, the board is to help determine how the $100,000 in HIV funds are to be spent.
- The board is affiliated with the new One Atlanta Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Bottoms created the office, staffed it, attached it to the mayor’s office, funded it in her first budget, and charged it with addressing LGBTQ affairs, among topics including homelessness and criminal justice reform.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality and member of the mayor’s advisory board, said Monday that he’ll have a better sense of the mayor’s depth of commitment to LGBTQ issues after the board meeting.
To date, he said, the trend line is positive.
“In her first budget, she included $100,000 for HIV prevention,” Graham said. “While that’s not a significant amount of money, it does represent a significant change in priorities. The City of Atlanta has never – to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve been working on these issues 32 years – had direct funding for HIV services.
“That is a strong indication the mayor wants to be forward thinking on these issues and use the bully pulpit of her office to fill gaps where they exist,” Graham said.
The mayor announced the formation of One Atlanta on May 23. Bottoms observed in a statement:
- “My administration is committed to working towards a more affordable, resilient and equitable city. That’s why I’m proud to announce the establishment of the city’s first-ever fully staffed Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Also known as One Atlanta, this office is charged to ensure equitable, open and inclusive practices across all city departments and functions. This office will also shine light on our forgotten communities and build a bridge towards greater inclusiveness across the entire city.”
Graham said a major challenge facing Bottoms is the city’s management of federal funds that help provide housing for people with AIDS, the HOPWA program. Atlanta manages the money distributed in and beyond metro Atlanta.
“Last year, it hit some crisis points when we were afraid the city owed so much to agencies that people might lose housing,” Graham said. “Those are structural issues she needs to address.”
Atlanta received $23.1 million in HOPWA funds in the federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. The money is to help provide housing to very low income, low income and moderate income individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Atlanta was to have distributed funds to 22 project sponsors including:
- AID Atlanta;
- AID Gwinnett;
- AIDS Alliance of Northwest Georgia;
- AIDS Athens, Inc.
- Cobb and Douglas Public Health Department.
Bottoms has joined the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2016, in response to the adoption of anti-LGBTQ legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi.
Georgia is represented by six members. Four are current mayors – Bottoms and the mayors of Clarkston, Decatur and Pine Lake. Two are former mayors – Kasim Reed and the former mayor of East Point.