Opinion: An example for Atlanta’s new mayor to follow

Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, in an August 2017 file photo. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

A departing administration stained by corruption charges. Campaign issues such as inadequate infrastructure, police shortages, and gentrification’s effect on housing prices. A candidate who’s cozy — maybe too cozy — with the city’s political establishment; who’s dogged by questions about personal tax liens in her personal life; who resorts to accusing her opponent of being a Republican and worse; and who ultimately prevails by less than a thousand votes.

Of course, I’m talking about Atlanta’s mayoral election. In 2001.

This is a city of transplants and, sometimes, short memories. So it’s worth recalling how history unfolded once before, and worked out generally for the better. There’s an opportunity here for the apparent mayor-elect, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and for Atlantans.

In late 2001, the mayor about to leave City Hall was Bill Campbell, and the victorious candidate was Shirley Franklin. Then, as now, the feds were hauling people out of City Hall on corruption charges — though, to be clear, there’s a difference in that Campbell himself was accused of wrongdoing.

There are differences, too, between Franklin then and Bottoms now. For one, Franklin had more experience in city government, having served in the administrations of both Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, under whom she was chief administrative officer. For another, she wasn’t endorsed by the mayor she sought to succeed, as Bottoms was by Kasim Reed.

But, reading through the AJC’s archived stories about that 2001 race, some similarities between that campaign and this one are striking.

Two days before the 2001 election, a Metro column described a “shameful” Franklin radio ad that portrayed her closest rival, Robb Pitts, who is black, as “the tool of white racists.” In one of her mailers, the column continued, “Franklin appears as the ‘Democrat’ in the legally nonpartisan race and Pitts as the ‘Republican.’” An Opinion column on Election Day itself bemoaned the narrative that “Pitts’ apparent tolerance toward Republicans makes him a closet knuckle-dragger.”

All of which must sound awfully familiar to Bottoms’ run-off opponent, Mary Norwood.

(The world does come full circle: On Tuesday, Franklin backed Norwood, and Pitts was elected chairman of the Fulton County Commission.)

If none of this jibes with your perception of Franklin today, that’s because she deserves credit for how she actually governed. Therein lies the opportunity for Bottoms, and for us.

If Bottoms doesn’t want to be tainted by the corruption that precedes her, which prosecutors have called “prolific” and which surely isn’t fully exposed at this point, she will move swiftly and decisively to separate herself from the current regime. That may mean changes in staff, procedure, policy, and contracts already under bid.

She must also develop policies that are more concrete — literally and figuratively. Atlantans remember Franklin fondly in part because of her “pothole posse” early in her administration. Motorists who today must dodge the city’s many holes, bumps and dreaded steel road plates might wonder if this hasn’t become the City Too Busy to Pave.

And Bottoms can no longer get by with “proposals” such as a pledge for a $1 billion boost for affordable housing. That one was really just an idea to figure out: how much spare land various public agencies in Atlanta hold; whether that land is worth the $500 million in public investment she’s promised; whether it would be suitable for affordable housing projects; whether it would interest private developers if it came with affordability requirements; and whether their efforts would amount to the other $500 million.

That’s not a plan. It’s barely an aspiration. It’s time to get real.

Franklin didn’t follow Reed’s lead in backing Bottoms. But the new mayor can find success by following Franklin’s example.

Reader Comments 0

100 comments
Robert1959
Robert1959

Kyle, the past is the past.  You can not measure 20th century politics with 21st century politics.  In case you have not noticed Atlanta is competing with other cities (Charlotte, etc.) for new businesses to relocate (Amazon, etc.).  The 21st century Mayor of Atlanta needs to work in collaboration with the surrounding Counties (Fulton, Cobb, Henry etc.) and create an atmosphere that encourages and attracts businesses to work, live and play in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.  Without collaboration it does not matter who the Mayor of Atlanta is.  
At the end of the day a racially divided greater Atlanta metropolitan area can not compete with other cities in the 21st century.  

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Unproven accusations of 40 years ago and a party of no agenda with only a hope that a duly elected president will be found guilty of something just anything to help their party of no ideas to somehow regain power. Time for that party to disband and only reconstitute itself when it has a vision and an agenda that can truly help this country to move forward. Thus far Trump has that vision and agenda while his opposition party offers nothing to the American people.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit We're moving backward, not forward. Back to the 1890s, by jingo!

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Starik @SGTGrit And that's literal. To wit - from an LA Times story back in September: 


"In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” -- Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”



At the same event, Moore referred to Native Americans and Asian Americans as “reds and yellows,” and earlier this year he suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were divine punishment."


LMAO. 


I think at this point I'd vote for him. Let's get nutty. Keeping someone like that in the limelight can only help. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Never knew touching and fondling someone who did not consent or wanted it was not molestation . Whether they were of age means nothing.

Starik
Starik

Mob rule? As opposed to the rule of "quality folk?" Like the wealthy? 

Starik
Starik

Couldn't a city as big as Atlanta produce better candidates? 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Starik Well, there's that. 


I think in general though, people who are well qualified and/or very capable would not want to deal with the kinds of things that you typically have to do to get into those positions. 


They can make more money, have less stress, spend more time with family, etc... in the private sector. 

Starik
Starik

@DeepStateDawg @Starik Or the public sector. There's also the old fashioned concept of doing good in a public sector job for a few years. You know, giving a little back to the community. I'm sure there's some private sector talent in the city that could spare a few years. 

Doomy
Doomy

And in other news that pig Conyers retired and now that pig Al Franken is about to resign under pressure. Seems like just the other day that the progs were defending Al Franken. What is it- 8 women now accusing him of groping and or sexual harassment? Interestingly, it wasn't until about the 7th accuser that the Dims finally seemed to turn against him. Better late than never, I suppose.

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Doomy When will Trump resign and Moore drop out? 


Oh yeah. They're you're pigs, so they're ok. This issue is limited to just the people you don't like. 

Doomy
Doomy

@DeepStateDawg @Doomy


Lemme help you out there. Moore has one allegation of consensual fondling with a 14 year old. And that allegation is from nearly 40 years ago and is a he said/she said which he absolutely denies. Big difference. The other girls that he was kissing were of the age of legal consent. And the one accuser who claimed he signed her yearbook refuses to turn over the yearbook to an independent forensics expert to test the date of the ink as well as the signature. So her claim is not credible. 


As for Trump he is a pig when it comes to women. But none of his issues occurred while he was working in govt. Furthermore, unless I'm mistaken I think all or almost all of the women accusing him never had a working relationship with him. These are women who mostly are saying things like he made a piggish pass at them at a bar or nightclub or something like that. I'm not sure if any of them were actual employees of his. One is a porn star for Pete's sake. Not much credibility there. 

Doomy
Doomy

@DeepStateDawg @Doomy


And I'm sure you were loudly proclaiming all along that Bill Clinton should resign over serious rape and harassment allegations. Yep. I'm jest certain of it! 

Doomy
Doomy

@Mister Smithwick @Doomy @DeepStateDawg


The most consistent thing about the progs is their inconsistency and hypocrisy. 


The same Dims that once viciously attacked Clinton's accusers did a 180 when the Roy Moore allegation came to light, then sat idly by as the allegations against Conyers and Franken mounted, and then finally turned on Franken only when the 7th accuser came out and only then finally turned on Conyers after several accusers came out. Their hypocrisy boggles the mind. 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Doomy @Mister Smithwick @DeepStateDawg


Thanks for reminding me what I thought about all that. A clairvoyant lot here. 


But you forgot to mention Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, and the Bork/Thomas hearings. Oh... and the teapot dome scandal! 


How did I feel about those? I forget.  

Starik
Starik

@Doomy @Mister Smithwick @DeepStateDawg Yes, Clinton should have been removed from office. Today he would be. Times have changed. Would Clarence Thomas be confirmed today? Likely not. Franken is gone, Conyers has gone, and Moore shouldn't get elected. 

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit @DeepStateDawg @Doomy Epiphany? No. Discovery of an opportunity to "win" by manipulating the ignorant and desperate, and catering to the  religious nuts. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @SGTGrit @DeepStateDawg 

Doomy 

Well then I sure do love  those ignorant and desperate voters along with the religious nuts. We have an economy with a GDP over 3% once again. Strong consumer confidence and revived confidence in the business private sector and tax reform on the way. BTW... what is the Democrats agenda?

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit @Starik @DeepStateDawg Who's defending the Democrats? Not I. I don't blame you for supporting Trump because of your (nutty) religious views. Trump caters to your beliefs. Does he really believe? Naw, God moves in VERY mysterious ways, right? 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit @Starik @DeepStateDawg We had 5% growth all of 2014 under Obama.  I'd put all that bragging away.


The Democrats led the economy out of the last Republican crash.  Trump is doing exactly the same thing as Bush.  It will yield the same results.  More inequality and a crash.   Be happy now while you can.



SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @SGTGrit @DeepStateDawg 

Nope Trump caters to my shared policies. And he's one of the few politicians in recent times to actually aggressively pursue the agenda he espoused during his campaign. Maybe he did so because he's not a politician.


BTW... from above my question about the Democrat's agenda. I know that was a hard one because the Democrats have no agenda.

Doomy
Doomy

"Bottoms is qualified."


A politician who has a tax lien against her is qualified? Now THASS funny!


"Reed was competent, fixed a lot of problems, and kept the city moving forward."


Sir, if Reed was so competent then how come we have yet another disastrous corruption case going on down in city hall? And have you forgotten about other events such as the Snowmageddon mismanagement and the disaster that befell the Atlanta public school system with the widespread cheating scandal?  The APS is a joke. Sheesh. 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Doomy  From the same reply,  "In the same way a certain segment will never credit Obama for doing a good job, they will never credit Reed or Bottoms.  We all know why."

Doomy
Doomy

@JFMcNamara @Doomy


Hard to have faith in a mayor who has a tax lien against her and who simply does not pay her bills. If you can't or simply won't pay your own bills then how can you reasonably be expected to manage the finances of a major U.S. city. Geez. 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Doomy @JFMcNamara Trump has 6 bankruptcies in his past and numerous vendors hate him for not paying them even when he had the money.  I guess a failed businessman who doesn't pay his bills isn't qualified to be President either, right?

Starik
Starik

@JFMcNamara @Doomy Yes, that's obvious. The skills of a salesman and hustler don't transfer well to executive positions. 

Mister Smithwick
Mister Smithwick

The disease that cities with large black populations have seen in recent times is a direct result of what white Southerners much feared as on the horizon back in the 1960s.  It has all come to pass.

Starik
Starik

@McGarnagle @Mister Smithwick No, it's a subject that needs discussion, regardless of your position on the performance of black politicians. We also need to discuss the state of the schools. 

Mister Smithwick
Mister Smithwick

Expect More of the Same.  Doesn't pay her water bills or taxes but buys Million $ house and a best bud of Kissemmeeeee.   Need any more clues?

Doomy
Doomy

@Mister Smithwick


Didn't pay her water bills? How in the hell does someone not pay a $30 or $40 water bill? 

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Without the military and the City of Atlanta, Georgia would be just like Alabama and Mississippi.