Training site opponents push to take the issue to voters in November

It would be a long shot – the movement would need to garner thousands of signatures in just about a two-month span.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 7:37 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - At least one member of the Atlanta City Council is explaining their vote on a contentious round of funding for the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a project opponents refer to as Cop City.

Hundreds of people waited in line for a marathon public comment session that began at 1 p.m. Monday and ended around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. The vote ended up being 11-4 to pour $67 million into the controversial site, and Keisha Sean Waites was one of the no votes.

“My ‘no’ vote last night was not a vote against our law enforcement community. It did not reflect a lack of support for them and the work that they do and the sacrifice they make every day,” said Waites, speaking to Atlanta News First from City Hall on Tuesday. “Last night was not reflective of good government. I think last night was not reflective of good sound policy and we can have a disagreement, but I do believe we’re charged with being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We’re charged with making sure that we’re transparent.”

Waites called the process of approval for the training center “clandestine” at times and called for more openness from the mayor and commissioners. She also suggested that the money would be better spent on mental health and housing resources, pay raises for police and fire personnel, and things that “directly impact the root causes of Crime, which policing does not.”

“When you look at the nearly thousand people that showed up at this building las night, I think I heard three people who said that they were for this project. The other thousand said they were not,” said Waites. “I want to be respectful and fair to my colleagues, I believe they love this city just like I do. I think it’s just a philosophical, fundamental disagreement in terms of policy. I respect the mayor and his administration, I just don’t believe this was the right decision.”

Alex Joseph was one of the hundreds who came out to comment Monday evening. She’s a former federal prosecutor who now works at a private law practice, handling cases against cities and counties.

Joseph is now one of many leading calls for the project to go to a referendum on the upcoming November ballot. It would be a long shot – the movement would need to garner thousands of signatures in just about a two-month span, but Joseph thinks it’s the best bet people opposed to the project have of getting it nixed.

“I think I would have been depressed, disheartened, really had no more will to fight in me if that was the note we ended on,” said Joseph. “But knowing that we have been in works for months to build momentum and build the organizational structure for this referendum has kept me going.”