America’s cities are coming back, says former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Washington — “We are better than this.”

That was the message, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. delivered On May 29, 2020, cities across the country were engulfed in protest and unrest over the murder of George Floyd. Atlanta was famous as the black woman who ruled the most progressive city in the South. “Too busy to hate” 1960s — Votoms couldn’t forget who she was and what her voters wanted.

In her remarks that day, she embraced the tension in unusually direct language. “I wear this every day and I pray for my children every day,” she said of the racism the killing of Floyd made such a grotesque display. We didn’t do this to our city when the doctor was assassinated,” he added.

A year later, with the coronavirus pandemic appearing to have subsided and Donald Trump no longer fanning racism in the White House or on Twitter, Votoms announced he would not be seeking a second term. It surprised Atlanta and the Democratic establishment. “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it” she said at the time.

Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Keisha Lance Bottoms in 2021.

Her next job was in Washington, where earlier this year Votoms, now 52, ​​was appointed senior adviser to the White House on foreign affairs. Today, he joins an administration that includes a number of former mayors, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Indiana), Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (Boston), and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. (Warrensville Heights, suburb of Cleveland).

Speaking to Yahoo News earlier this month, Votoms reflected on how far American cities have come in 2020 and beyond, and how far they must go. “We know recovery will take time,” she said, adding that after two years of restrictions, lockdowns and shortages of supplies, patience is hard to come by in a restless country. , a reflection of where we are as a country.”

A quick survey of the crowds in New York City’s Times Square and Washington’s National Mall confirms the return of tourists. Office workers are not. There are also thriving restaurants. There are 159,000 eateries, some less. closed nationwide Alone in 2020.This includes famous spots such as The Plum Tree Inna mainstay in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles, and iconic city tavern In Philadelphia, let alone the downtown casual eateries that have been unable to compete with the corporate chains or veer deftly towards a delivery-first flavor.

“People are very eager to go out and get back to some sort of normalcy,” says Bottoms. This is undoubtedly true, but inflation is raising the price of many social experiences, and staycations in 2022 could be as expensive as travel. For example, the innocent pastime of enjoying a baseball game Average cost for a family of four in 2022 is $204 — There are even more possibilities in major markets like Boston and Chicago. Cities were out of reach long before the pandemic, but the pandemic and all the economic problems that came with it have greatly eased that affordability.

Then there is the fear of crime, which, combined with lingering fears about the coronavirus, contributes to an exaggerated but reality-based sense of rampant lawlessness.of The latest report from the Association of Mayors of Major Cities Large US cities show a decline in homicides and rapes in the first six months of 2022 compared to 2021, although both frequencies are well above 2019 levels. Both robberies and aggravated assaults saw him surge in 2022 compared to 2021.

Unlike some other Democratic leaders, the politically astute Bottoms did not join the call to “defend police money.” Instead, it claimed Atlanta was already doing the job Criminal justice activists demanded. She keeps a cautious stance when talking about crime. So does President Biden. President Biden is caught between his longstanding support for law enforcement and Democratic supporters demanding reforms that moderates are likely to resist.

“We know the community wants safe interactions with the police, and we know the police generally want safe interactions with the community. At the end of the day, I want to go home safely,” the former mayor told Yahoo News.

Biden signed executive order restricting The flow of surplus military equipment to federal law enforcement agencies. But the militarization of the police — controversially pioneered in Los Angeles by William Parker and Darryl Gates — has always been a local issue, an issue that Congress had to deal with.

Bottoms points out that the president is calling for a ban on assault weapons.While such moves are symbolically important, military-style rifles make up a small portion of the guns used in crime in the United States.

Most often, violent crime affects poor people of color, especially young black men. But they are rarely reported crimes. Atlanta’s most famous murder in recent memory is that of Katie Janes. Caucasian woman stabbed while walking her dog in Piedmont ParkThe Buckhead district is terrified of crime— Citadel of White Man’s Wealth Standing as the gateway to Atlanta’s coveted northern suburbs – attempted segregation from the city in an effort echoing mid-century attempts to avoid school consolidation by creating immaculate suburban school districts.

The fall of 2022 will test the city’s resilience. And that resilience hinges on factors that remain part of the control of mayors, governors, and even presidents. A new strain of coronavirus could disrupt schooling. Soaring gas prices could derail plans to get back into the office, resulting in empty streets and public transit, while new pressures are being placed on small downtown businesses.

But for now, Votoms has hope. “We ended up on the other side,” she told her Yahoo News.”And we’re still standing.”