In a contentious and marathon city council meeting that lasted over 14 hours, a $67 million proposal to fund a new public safety training center, known as “Cop City,” was passed by an 11-4 vote. Among the dissenters was Council Member Keisha Sean Waites, reflecting a deep-seated opposition among a significant portion of the Atlanta population.
The debate over “Cop City” has been a hot topic in Atlanta politics for the past two years. Supporters argue that the training center will provide enhanced training for police officers.
However, the project has been met with intense criticism from social justice and environmental activists, who view it as a symbol of police militarization and a threat to a large urban forest.
Waites released a statement on the heels of the vote, explaining her reasons for rejecting Cop City. Below is her statement in its entirety.
“Let me be clear, my ‘no’ vote is in no way a reflection of my lack of support for the law enforcement community. The people have spoken, and their messages are clear. They do not want their tax dollars used to fund the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known as ‘Cop City.’ My vote reflects the will of the people. The citizens elected me to represent their interests and from the thousands who have come to City Hall to make public comment, constituent meetings, phone calls, emails, and text messages that I have received regarding this vote, the charge that I have received from the residents of Atlanta was to vote ‘no.’
“As elected officials, we are stewards of taxpayer dollars and spending. There has been such a lack of transparency regarding the City’s relationship to this project. The actual taxpayer cost will be closer to $67 million, which is considered by constituents irresponsible and disrespectful.
I have received thousands of phone calls, text messages, office visits and emails from citizens, including Fulton County Commissioner Khadijah Abdur Rahman, Dr. Bernice King, and U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The comments imploring me to vote ‘no,’ arguments that there has been a failure to deliver on promises for affordable housing, public transparency, parks and green spaces, environmental justice, and cries that this project is simply too costly.
“The City of Atlanta has only one level one trauma center. The $67 million in taxpayer’s money would be better spent on affordable housing, resources for the homeless and unsheltered, infrastructure improvements, mental health services, health care for the uninsured, rental and mortgage assistance, including providing housing and salary increasing for our first responders and law enforcement officers. These resources directly impact the root causes of crime, which policing does not.
“My ‘no’ vote represents the voice of the people.”