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Watson Responds to “White Paper” Video, Isn’t Progressive

(APN) ATLANTA -- On October 03, 2013, Atlanta Progressive News revealed that Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large) in November 2012 accused Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean (District 8) of racism for requesting a “white paper” from a City employee.  Watson also accused Adrean of only being satisfied with testimony from White city officials.

Watson is currently in a tight reelection contest with former Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post-2-at-large).

The video was later reported on by the website of the Reporter Newspapers, which publishes the Buckhead Reporter, on October 04; as well as WSBTV Channel 2 on October 10, 2013.  The Channel 2 coverage prompted a response from Councilman Watson on his Facebook page.

“Today, you may see and hear a news story about me that speaks to both the political games that people play and the nuances of being a public servant,” Watson wrote.

“Last year, I had a public exchange with my friend and Council colleague, Yolanda Adrean, in which I expressed my belief that a city employee was being treated unfairly because of his race.  My comments were harshly expressed.  However, I immediately discussed the situation with her following the meeting and we promptly resolved the matter,” Watson said.

“For those of you who know me, you unequivocally know that I am a progressive-minded individual and have a deep understanding of being an African American,” Watson said.

However, Watson is not progressive: He is currently the least progressive Member on the Atlanta City Council, according to the APN City Council Scorecard, which includes dozens of specific votes.  

Prior to his resignation from the City employees’ pension board, he supported, and then vigorously defended, an unethical pension investment using City workers’ funds.  That pension investment is now being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Watson not only voted in favor of the investment, into a fund owned by the pension board’s own consultant, Larry Gray, but, as previously reported by APN, Watson introduced a resolution to disavow the SEC complaint filed by board member Angela Green.

Even before his term on the Council, he supported the mass demolition of public housing communities and senior highrises, leading, among other things, to the apparent premature deaths of many Atlanta seniors; and a drastic reduction in Atlanta’s affordable housing stock.

As for the Scorecard, Watson was recently in second-to-last place, behind Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11).  On yesterday, APN removed an item from the Scorecard--approval of the Sunday alcohol referendum in Atlanta--upon consideration of community concerns that the appropriate procedure for creating referendums was not followed.  When this item was removed, Watson fell to last place on the Scorecard, because Bottoms had not voted on the Sunday alcohol referendum.

As previously reported by APN, Watson has supported: limiting public comment, in several different votes in 2010 and 2013; the sale of City Hall East for well below its market value in 2010; the waiver of affordability requirements for the City Hall East redevelopment in 2010; the Yolanda Adrean pension reform proposal which would have shifted even current employees away from a defined benefit plan in 2011; the airport concessions contracts in 2011; the new Falcons stadium in 2012; the panhandling legislation allowing up to 180 days in jail for first offenders in 2012; the sole source contract with Fog Fuels in 2012; the Lindbergh rezoning for a new Walmart in 2012; the Cheshire Bridge rezoning to get rid of existing adult entertainment establishments in 2013; and a slush fund for the Atlanta Development Authority in 2013.

Meanwhile, Watson opposed a three percent pay increase for City employees in 2013; opposed protecting elephants from circuses that visit Atlanta and use bullhooks to torture elephants in 2012; and opposed extending bar closure hours back to 4am in 2011.

Watson received several “likes” on Facebook for his recent response to the “white paper” video, but at least one of his Facebook friends did not agree with his position.

“But you know what, when you called asking for a ‘White Paper’ racist I knew something was not right.  Everyone knows what a white paper is and I am skeptical of anybody who calls racism at the slightest issue,” Lynn Brown McKinney, who last year ran against State Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead), wrote.

At the end of his post, Watson finally resorted to a tactic of attacking the messenger: in this case, the Atlanta Progressive News.

“While I think the topic of unconscious bias is worthy of serious discussion, it is quite clear and unfortunate that someone is attempting to use a one-off, year old exchange to discredit my life-long public record.  I refuse to give into political games.  Rather, I will continue to focus on being a Council member who provides sound and courageous leadership on behalf of the citizens of this great city,” Watson wrote.

The fact is, APN did not know about the video at the time the incident occurred, which was in November 2012.  As our readers will appreciate, if APN had known about the incident at the time, it is certain that APN would have covered it immediately.

APN learned about the incident in recent weeks and then invested significant time into finding the video.  APN believes that the behavior of Councilman Watson in baselessly accusing a colleague of racism, has news value and is important for our readers, many of whom are Atlanta voters, to know about.

As for why an individual brought the video to APN’s attention only recently, it is probably because Mr. Watson did not have a serious challenger until Norwood entered the race.

Earlier today, Norwood had a spot for a car-sized float in the 2013 Atlanta Gay Pride Parade.  Watson also marched with supporters.

Saba Long, who is part of the Watson camp, made a technically true, but misleading claim, in a Facebook post.  Watson later "liked" the post.

“Walking in the Atlanta Pride Parade with Aaron Watson.  He's the only person in the Post 2 citywide race to have voted in favor of marriage equality,” Long wrote.

However, seeing as how only one Councilmember serves a District at a time, and the only vote on same-sex marriage occurred during Watson’s term, the fact that he’s the only person in the race to have voted in favor of marriage equality isn’t saying anything meaningful, other than that he voted yes.

The post appears to seek to imply that Norwood does not support marriage equality.  Yet, Norwood has been openly in support of same-sex marriage at least since her run for Mayor in 2009.  In the 2009 Runoff with Kasim Reed, she, in fact, was the only candidate to support same-sex marriage as part of their platform.


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