ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Five of the major candidates vying to become Atlanta’s 61st mayor participated in a forum on Wednesday.

The forum, hosted by Upper Westside Community Improvement District, The Works and Northwest Community Alliance, included former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Felicia Moore, Councilmen Antonio Brown and Andre Dickens and attorney Sharon Gay.

The five candidates had three minutes each to introduce themselves, many used their opening remarks to address current and future problems of the city; some even took jabs at their opponents.

“Our city government needs to catch up,” Gay said, referencing the collaborative spirit of Westside businesses and leaders. “It needs to be run effectively, efficiently and ethically and equitably.”

“We have to restore the fractured relationship between where we are tonight and a large part of our population because they are our brothers and sisters, and if Atlanta breaks apart our reputation as a ‘city that is too busy to hate’ falls apart with it,” Reed said, addressing calls for the annexation of Buckhead.

“We can’t have a mayor that can fight crime when they are facing federal investigations,” Dickens added. “So right now, I think it’s time for us to look at how we make opportunities for everyone.”

“We have to create an inclusive and thriving ecosystem that doesn’t leave Atlantans behind,” Brown said. “A system in which everyone can thrive and prosper in the city of Atlanta.”

“The people who serve you, elected officials are going to be accountable for what they do and don’t do,” Moore expressed. “That is what we’re going to have at City Hall.”

Topics discussed during the two-hour forum ranged from affordable housing, to funding transportation projects, to utilizing and preserving green space in the city. However, most pressing was addressing the increasing crime rate.

Reed suggested more officers are key, adding that hiring officers should be the responsibility of the Atlanta Police Department and not City Hall.

“I think we need to hire 500-750 officers,” he said. “I think in addition to those steps we need to move officers who are on the desk out into the street until we push back the surge of crime in violence.”

Moore agreed but added morale is down, which is why she promised to attend every roll call during her first 100 days in office.

“I’m going to open the line of communication with my officers because I talk with some but not all,” she said. “There is a culture change that needs to happen within the department, and I want to know those issues so I can address them.”

Gay said she believes reform in APD is a “central component” to improving community trust.

“They’re our resources, our partners, our protectors but we’ve also got to be clear about the type of policing we want in this city,” she said. “We measure that, reward that and for people who can’t perform in that way, they would have to do something else.”

Meanwhile, Brown and Dickens were asked about defunding the police after both voted last June to temporarily withhold $73 million from APD’s budget amid the George Floyd protests. The measure failed by one voted.

“We said let’s look at all the training, procedures, police of our police force,” Dickens explained. “We want to be ahead of the game to do community-based policing to be able to learn how to de-escalate situations to work in a way that has conflict-resolution.”

Dickens and Brown said they do not support defunding the police. Instead, Brown suggested “reimagining public safety.”

“The reality is if we’re going to address crime in this city, it’s not going to be based on how many officers we put on the streets,” Brown said. “It’s going to be based on us addressing the root cause of generational poverty that is leading to the crime we’re seeing in this city.”

All the candidates, except for Brown, said they do not support closing the city jail, which the current administration has proposed.

You can watch the full forum here.

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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