Vincent Fort vows to decriminalize marijuana in Atlanta mayor race

Sen. Vincent Fort holds a press conference in his office in the Capitol. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Sen. Vincent Fort holds a press conference in his office in the Capitol. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

No one can accuse Vincent Fort of playing it safe with his campaign for Atlanta mayor.

In his formal campaign announcement over the weekend, the Democratic state senator vowed to decriminalize marijuana in Atlanta city limits and said the city would pay for two years of community college or technical school tuition on his watch.

He also said “predatory” for-profit parking enforcement will end – he promised to oust Park Atlanta and “anything that looks like” it – and said the city government would help launch a “community schools” program offering extended hours, meals and healthcare for needy children and their families.

“There are some, even some who want to be our mayor, who tell us everything is going in the right direction in Atlanta. And it might be for them,” Fort said Saturday, mentioning a litany of long-blighted areas. “How long do we have to be neglected like this while the resources of government benefit the rich and the well off?”

Fort did not specify how he would pay for the tuition-free program or the schools initiative if elected, but he suggested he would target tax breaks and other incentives for developers, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Falcons stadium deals, to raise some of the revenue.

“If someone tells you we can’t afford it,” he said, “ask them why we’re spending close to half a billion dollars on subsidizing billionaire businessmen with stadium projects, but we can’t make sure our kids have a chance to get the education they’ll need to succeed.

Fort is leaning on the same insurgency that powered Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also promised free college tuition and sponsored a measure to end the federal marijuana prohibition. He is betting a progressive backlash to Donald Trump’s election in Atlanta will power him to a runoff in a crowded race.

The No. 2 Democrat in the state Senate, Fort has joined a race that’s already well underway.

Atlanta city councilmembers Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mary Norwood, Kwanza Hall, Ceasar Mitchell, former City Councilwoman Cathy Woolard, ex- city chief operating officer Peter Aman and Reed aide Michael Sterling are among the contenders or likely contenders.

Read more about the fallout of last week’s election:

Amendment 1 defeat is threat to the governor’s agenda

Trump victory scrambles the field for 2018 Georgia governor’s race

A presidential campaign that turned on what we refused to see

Top Georgia Democrats prepare for era of Trump

Clinton supporters in Georgia struggle: “How can they not see what I see?”

In Georgia, Glascock County is the heart of Trump Country


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