‘Cop City’ Vote Coalition calls for transparency from city officials as the referendum campaign continues

"Stop Cop City" protesters march near the Fulton County courthouse in Downtown Atlanta on August 14, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Organizers hoping to put Atlanta’s planned public safety training center on the ballot announced Monday that they have already collected over 100,000 signatures – and will continue their campaign due to concerns over city officials’ plans for signature verification.

Close to 60,000 valid signatures need to be accepted before voters could decide whether to cancel a lease the Atlanta City Council approved with the Atlanta Police Foundation for the center’s construction.

On this special edition of “Closer Look,” host Rose Scott speaks with local reporters about the key stories that led up to the referendum campaign, along with two of the coalition’s legal advisors on their next steps.

WABE’s Emily Wu Pearson, one of our reporters following training center developments, shares a timeline from the start of the city council’s land lease through the awaited reopening of nearby Intrenchment Creek Park.

Then, Saporta Report columnist and reporter John Ruch talks about his feature on a Cox family member helping to fund the referendum campaign, alongside his ongoing reporting of the city’s two committees tasked with recommendations for the center.

Ruch also reflected on what it’s been like to watch the referendum campaign take shape, and noted similarities to his time in Boston as the city failed to gain support for an Olympic bid.

“It’s interesting to see this moment arrive here. It is a really historic watershed moment in civic culture,” Ruch said.

Two legal advisors for the vote coalition also joined “Closer Look” to talk about the campaign’s next steps, including their concerns with the city’s plans for signature verification.

General counsel Kurt Kastorf says one of the steps outlined in a city press release implies the potential use of exact signature matching. A city spokesperson told “Closer Look” they have no plans to do so, but Kastorf said clarity is still needed.

He was also joined by legal advisor Anne Oredeko, who agreed that more information is needed as the coalition prepares to submit its petition signatures.

“Even the fact that people are questioning or unclear is a hallmark of how unfair this process is,” she said. “I really hope that the city takes its time now to articulate clarity in this process.”