Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms today joined leading mayors from across the country to participate in the United States Conference of Mayors’ Winter Leadership Meeting. Mayor Bottoms delivered remarks during the DollarWise Campaign work session focused on economic mobility and removing barriers to economic opportunity through innovative, locally driven programs. As a model city for this campaign, Mayor Bottoms concentrated on strategic City initiatives such as the Preparing Adult Offenders for Transition through Therapy and Training (PAT3) reentry program and Welcoming Atlanta.
Included below are Mayor Bottoms’ prepared remarks. The USCM Winter Leadership Meeting is taking place in Miami, Florida, Friday, February 22, 2019.
Remarks as Prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Leadership Meeting
It is a pleasure to be back with my colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors to continue our discussion around improving economic mobility for all our residents.
I am proud to serve as the Chair of the Community Development and Housing Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. As a native of Atlanta’s Westside, I feel a deep responsibility to help the Conference define our strategy and policy regarding housing, affordability and economic development, which are some of the biggest factors in economic mobility.
My Administration has a vision for One Atlanta – an affordable, resilient and equitable city. We have made it a priority in everything we do to increase equity in Atlanta’s diverse communities – and to ensure that we provide a level playing field, so that everyone has an opportunity for success. This is an exciting time to showcase our work and offer it as a road map for other cities to follow. Just this week, we announced our plans to “Ban the Salary Box.” We are removing salary-history questions from the City’s hiring process, to help close the pay gap between men and women, particularly women of color.
Too often, salary history can trap employees in unfair pay cycles based on history rather than their skill set and qualifications. We are working across every sector and space to build equity and affordability in the City of Atlanta:
Cash Bail Reform
One of my first acts as Mayor last year was to introduce legislation to end the predatory practice of cash bond requirements for violation of city ordinances. All too often, this system has forced destitute and low-income people behind bars for extended periods of time for low-level offenses simply because of their inability to post cash bond. The enforcement of cash bail jeopardizes family unity and people’s employment. Poverty will no longer be criminalized in the City of Atlanta.
PAT3 Re-entry Program
Our groundbreaking re-entry program is a partnership with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
It selects non-violent detainees – men with children – who are near the end of their jail sentences and provides them with job skills and the financial-management tools necessary to rejoin society in a positive way. Upon their release, the program places them in jobs, with full health benefits, at the City of Atlanta, currently with our Department of Watershed Management. By providing employment experience and education in essential life skills — including parenting classes and workforce readiness — we can help repair lives, reunite families and reduce recidivism.
Atlanta continues to work closely with our immigrant communities to ensure that all our residents can join our economy, achieve their dreams, and help our city prosper. Through the Welcoming Atlanta initiative in my Office of Immigrant Affairs, we are building on Atlanta’s proud tradition of inclusion. As part of our expanded One Atlanta initiative, Welcoming Atlanta strives to build an inclusive city where all residents, regardless of language spoken or country of origin, are afforded equal access to civic life.
Welcoming Atlanta focuses on the following key areas: community engagement, economic mobility, public safety, and access to legal services. I have heard too many stories about Atlanta high school students having to drop out of school to support their family because a parent was detained for a nonviolent offense, such as driving without a driver’s license. No student should have to drop out of school and end their opportunity of breaking out of poverty. Through our criminal-justice reform efforts, we wanted to send a strong message that parents deserve to be with their children and children deserve to be with their parents. In Georgia, our immigrant residents receive hardly any public benefits. For them, every dollar counts. Through our “Access to Justice” program, a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the office of the Public Defender, we are providing free legal services to those at risk of deportation. It is senseless that hardworking parents must pay thousands of dollars in legal fees, just because they came to Atlanta to seek the American Dream.
ATL in Business (Welcoming Atlanta)
Our ATL in Business program is designed to make establishing a business within Atlanta as seamless as possible, with personalized roadmaps and business-development resources available in one location.
Studies show that immigrants are more likely than native-born Atlantans to start their own businesses. So, providing equitable access to City services and resources is pivotal to Atlanta’s growth and resiliency. ATL in Business features easy-to-use navigation and is available in many languages — to ensure that language is not a barrier to opening a business. We recognize the talent housed within these communities and continue to reinforce the City’s commitment to creating economic opportunity for everybody, regardless of language, or country of origin.
iSpeak ATL (Welcoming Atlanta)
Welcoming Atlanta created the iSpeakATL initiative to ensure that our Limited English Proficient (LEP) constituents can share in the city’s success, regardless of language spoken or national origin. Welcoming Atlanta has identified that city-wide language access procedures and policies are crucial to the advancement of equity, diversity and inclusion. By eliminating the barriers that language and culture may present, this initiative facilitates the entrepreneurial process for our LEP constituents, 46% of whom are more likely than native-born Atlantans to start their own businesses.
Public Service Internship (PSI) (Welcoming Atlanta)
Welcoming Atlanta hosts a year-round internship program with high school and college students from immigrant backgrounds called Public Service Internship (PSI).
Most of the PSI participants come from low-income families, so Welcoming Atlanta is proud to help them access career pathways in public service. The purpose of the program is to provide the social capital and skills training for under-represented youth to enter public service. It reduces the barriers to civic participation and helps direct vulnerable students to higher-earning jobs. Currently the program includes students who hail from Myanmar, Thailand, Mexico, Thailand, and Jamaica. We believe that a strong city must build on programs and policies that give working families opportunities to live and thrive in our neighborhoods. Our diversity and our reputation as an international Olympic city is a powerful magnet for businesses from around the world. We are grateful to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for continuing to count on Atlanta as a partner in the development and implementation of cutting-edge programs.
Workforce Innovation Center
With the CEOs of major Atlanta companies such as Delta Air Lines and The Home Depot, we recently established our new Workforce Innovation Center, which will utilize an employer-driven line of training to prepare young people at Atlanta Technical College for jobs in trades that we know are coming open at major Atlanta companies. The Center for Workforce Innovation will build a pipeline for the local talent needed to strengthen our business community and attract future economic investment to our city.
My Brother’s Keeper
Earlier this week, I was in California with the Obama Foundation and the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to emphasize Atlanta’s commitment in the fight to break down the economic, educational, and workforce disparities facing boys and young men of color.
Repurposing of Atlanta City Detention Center
I have gone on record saying Atlanta will “get out of the jail business.” This opens a great opportunity to repurpose the current ACDC facility into a potential Center for Equity. The Center would provide our most vulnerable residents with resources, education and support systems needed to break the cycles of intergenerational poverty.
Executive Order on ICE
Last year, I was proud to issue an executive order declaring that we would no longer hold federal ICE detainees in our jail. As Mayor — but more important, as a mother of four — I declared that we will not be complicit in the inhumane practice of separating families and caging children at the southern border.
Housing affordability and economic mobility are two sides of the same coin: Nothing is affordable without adequate income and wealth, and if most of your income goes into housing, you become cash- and asset-poor.
Last year, I appointed our first-ever Chief Housing Officer to coordinate and drive the execution of our affordable-housing efforts. Our goal is to produce and preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. Much of this work will be outlined in Atlanta’s first Housing Affordability Action Plan to be released this spring. It will include actions to increase the supply of housing to match demand; produce and preserve affordable units; strengthen tenant rights; and dedicate public funding to leverage private financing. We will prioritize growth without displacement, so residents can live and stay in the communities they choose, with equitable access to high quality schools, public services and amenities.
In December we announced a new career apprenticeship program for survivors of Human Trafficking. This program will provide economic mobility and a road to self-sufficiency for young women who have difficulty landing living-wage employment due to poverty, sexual abuse and trafficking. It establishes a formal partnership with Wellspring Living Women’s Academy to provide survivors with ten weeks of career training, followed by a 12-week paid apprenticeship.
Human Trafficking Senior Fellow
I also established a Senior Human Trafficking Fellow position in my cabinet tasked with developing and implementing Citywide blueprint policy for anti-trafficking programs.
Last November, through a public-private partnership, the City of Atlanta announced plans to provide resources and housing for 140 homeless families in 2019. $200,000 from Wells Fargo is being matched with $200,000 from HomeFirst and paired with a $1.1 million from the State Department of Family and Children Services and other sources. The City of Atlanta is using public-private partnerships to tackle homelessness on a broad scale. We are ending the warehousing of homeless people (Peachtree/Pine) and transitioning them to smaller facilities with wraparound services and programming that can help them break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.