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Atlanta’s mayor: Discussions of the power of office, and legacy of Maynard Jackson

Credit: facebook.com/cityofatlanta. David Pendered

By David Pendered

The potential and the power of the Atlanta mayor’s office was on display Wednesday at two venues – a forum for five mayoral candidates, and a book talk on Atlanta’s 1996 Summer Olympic Games that highlights then-Mayor Maynard Jackson’s vision for Atlanta during and after the games.

In a demonstration of mayoral power, then-Mayor Maynard Jackson (at podium) selected Leon Eplan (left) to design an urban renewal program that would fulfill Jackson’s ‘Twin Peaks’ approach to hosting the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Special: Leon Eplan’s family

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin sent a note during the book event, hosted by the Atlanta History Center, to commend the authors for highlighting Jackson’s “Twin Peaks” vision for Atlanta’s Olympic games:

  • “Thank you for your research and hard work on the leadership of Mayor Jackson. There’s so much to learn from Jackson’s leadership.”

The Twin Peaks vision, incidentally, was this: Atlanta will be a great host city, and Atlanta will not squander the opportunity to leverage the games to make lasting improvements for residents who will remain long after crowds have left.

Jackson’s mantra is a central point in the book, “Atlanta’s Olympic Resurgence: How the 1996 Games Revived a Struggling City.” Two authors, Mike Dobbins and Randy Roark, led the virtual conversation – Dobbins was named Atlanta planning commissioner in 1996; Roark served as director of planning and design for the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta for the 1996 Games. The third author, Leon Eplan, was recruited by Jackson to serve as planning commissioner in the years leading up to the games. Eplan died April 15, just as the book was released.

Jackson’s Olympics legacy clearly has resonance as Atlanta voters prepare to elect a successor to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms chose to not seek reelection to a second term in the Nov. 2 election.

The Atlanta History Center hosted a book event with authors Mike Dobbins (left) and Randall Roark (right), moderated by Claire Haley. Credit: zoom.us

The issues that faced Jackson’s administration as it prepared for the games are similar to some that were discussed at the mayoral forum – transit and transportation, public safety, parks and greenspace, and decent housing that’s affordable to wages paid teachers and firefighters.

Five candidates stepped onto the podium to describe how they would administer the power of the mayor’s office if elected on Nov. 2, or in a likely runoff election. The venue of the Upper Westside Atlanta Mayoral Candidates Forum 2021 was a room in The Works, one of the new social destinations in the emerging Upper Westside, located northwest of Atlantic Station.

The candidates who participated were Antonio Brown, Andre Dickens, Sharon Gay, Felicia Moore, and Kasim Reed. Seven declared candidates did not participate.

Candidates have not yet had to pay the qualifying fee to become an official candidate for mayor. The qualifying fee of $5,529 must be paid during the qualifying period, which runs from 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 17 to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 20.

The Atlanta History Center hosted a book event with authors Mike Dobbins (left) and Randall Roark (right), moderated by Claire Haley. Credit: zoom.us

The forum was co-sponsored by the Upper Westside CID and the Northwest Community Alliance at The Works, one of the final projects initiated by the late Scott Selig, president of the Selig Development, an arm of Atlanta-based Selig Enterprises.

Steve Selig, a longtime community volunteer and head of the business, delivered an opening remark that helped set a foundation for the discussion. It reminds of a truism of local governance – potholes need to be fixed, no matter which party is in office.

Please, Selig asked the candidates, fix the troubled intersection of Chattahoochee Avenue and Howell Mill Road. This intersection is a gateway to the Selig-owned venue for the forum, The Works, and the intersection still looks – and functions – as its original role as a truck route to the nearby railroad yards, instead of serving as an easy-to-navigate entrance to an emerging district of residences, restaurants and retailers.

The seal of Atlanta represents the mayor’s stature and influence. Credit: facebook.com/cityofatlanta. David Pendered

Jackson’s Twin Peaks vision remains relevant in the modern-day exercise of mayoral power, as Dobbins described in his opening remarks:

  • “Maynard Jackson’s Twin Peaks, and his direction to Leon, was, ‘If this event is happening in Atlanta, we have to do everything to benefit the neighborhoods, particularly the core neighborhoods where this is going to happen. Connectivity, collaboration, development, funding, planning – it all has to come together to carry this thing off.’”

Note to readers: The Atlanta History Center expects to post a video of the book event no later than July 26 on the center’s website. WABE-FM has posted a video of the mayor’s forum here.


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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