Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: Anybody but Mary Norwood for Atlanta mayor

Mary Norwood is nothing. That is not (entirely) shade, but the image the city councilmember has crafted while running for mayor of Atlanta for the past 10 years: a political outsider who has been in public office since the turn of the century, a populist from the Buckheadiest enclave of Buckhead, Tuxedo Park.

Norwood insists she has no ideology, neither liberal nor conservative, Republican or Democrat. The only thing she believes in is better neighborhoods.

Some folks might consider non-partisanship refreshing during these fiery times, but Norwood’s born-again independence is her only hope of becoming leader of a city as progressive as Atlanta. Prior to running for mayor in 2009, Norwood served as a delegate to the National Republican Convention, and after losing that race was a Republican representative on the Fulton County board of registrations and elections.

Her campaign treasurer, Jamie Ensley, is the immediate past chair of the national Log Cabin Republicans, and is as enthusiastic about President Trump as he is the possibility of Mayor Norwood. As cities form the backbone of resistance to the madness of the current administration, it is inconceivable we would put control of Atlanta in the hands of a closeted Republican.

Norwood’s eyes are as vacant as her beliefs. She prides herself on being so colorblind she wouldn’t have even realized she could be the first non-black mayor of Atlanta in four decades if someone hadn’t told her she was white.

“[Race] hasn’t come into play at any event I have attended,” Norwood told the AJC. Norwood is notorious for popping up wherever there are potential voters, but being present means nothing if you aren’t paying attention to the unique experiences and concerns of diverse groups, and her exposure to all parts of Atlanta have not prevented her from voting how you expect a Buckhead Republican to vote on city council.

No honest or serious leader is irresponsible enough to ignore the dynamics that bind our society, and when you naively pretend skin color and sexual orientation are non-factors in our culture, you default to a system that has never valued black or LGBT lives. Nowhere is Norwood’s conservatism more conspicuous than her assumption that the system is fundamentally fair.

Following the illegal Atlanta Police Department raid on the Atlanta Eagle in 2009, Norwood encouraged citizens to have faith in law enforcement, and had three questions she wanted answered before rendering judgment, the first being: “Were there crimes being committed at the bar?” No, Mary, there were no crimes, but even if someone had been caught giving a blow job in a darkroom, it wouldn’t have justified police berating patrons as cockroaches and faggots, and violating their civil liberties.

Norwood was equally deferential to APD last month when officers swarmed Black Gay Pride and closed bars two hours before the city’s last call, saying she accepted the police chief’s explanation that the raid was the result of “miscommunication,” rather than the recidivist targeting of Black Gay Pride.

Indeed, the only progressive position Norwood has trumpeted was on an issue that was outside the responsibility, and accountability, of mayor. And LGBT Atlanta fell for her con in 2009, dumping an ally who had fought for hate crime protections in favor of someone who had refused to vote for expanded domestic partner benefits.

We must not be duped again. The next mayor of Atlanta should be anybody but Mary Norwood.