Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms likens the close of her first year in office to a movie scene that became a meme: the actress Angela Bassett strutting away from a burning car.
“Have you all seen that meme of Angela Bassett?” Bottoms said Tuesday at the Atlanta Press Club. “That’s how I felt coming into 2019.”
Even before she became mayor, federal authorities were investigating corruption at City Hall. That investigation continued throughout her first year and is still ongoing. Five people have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison including two high-ranking officials from the previous administration.
The new mayor faced a cyberattack on the city’s computer network less than three months after taking office, and her city appeared on the global stage when it hosted the Super Bowl earlier this year.
Sometimes, Bottoms said, she waits “for the other shoe to drop.”
Bottoms spoke about what Atlanta needs to improve itself and its reputation. She issued a plea to journalists to be mindful of how their reporting affects the city’s reputation and those who aim to serve it well, and she encouraged news leaders to balance coverage of positive and negative stories.
The narrative “has to be more than ‘We are a city of corrupt people with corrupt motives intent on doing wrong,'” Bottoms said.
Responding to a question about income inequality, Bottoms said it will require many small initiatives to address the problem. She mentioned launching My Brother’s Keeper in Atlanta, a mentoring program created under former President Barack Obama’s administration that pairs boys with mentors. The city has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta and issued the 100 Men to Mentors Challenge.
Bottoms also said some funds remaining from the Super Bowl will go toward opening a homeless resource center, and she emphasized that big sporting events can benefit the city.
Hearing about the homeless resource center piqued Sharon Roberts’ interest. Roberts attended the luncheon to learn more about volunteering for Bottoms’ initiatives and said she thinks Bottoms has successfully separated herself from her predecessors.
Atlanta Press Club member Drewnell Thomas, an Atlanta resident for nearly 50 years, said she hopes the city and its reputation improve with Bottoms’ leadership.
“I think she is concerned, like I, as to what is the national reputation of Atlanta,” Thomas said.