In close call, Norwood gets my vote

I was taught to give thanks before all else. So as Atlantans elect a new mayor, let’s begin with gratitude that three solid, capable candidates lead the field.

One must look only to last year’s presidential race — or perhaps to next year’s gubernatorial campaign — to see that this isn’t always the case. Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed: Put their names in a hat, draw any of them as the winner, and we should be in good hands.

But “all of the above” isn’t an option on the ballot. My colleague Jay Bookman came to one conclusion based on the AJC’s meetings with these three candidates. Here’s how I chose the one who will get my vote.

First I needed to eliminate one of the three, and Reed made the job easy. Not because I don’t like him or find him a good candidate. On the contrary, I think his experience at the Legislature could greatly benefit Atlanta if he were mayor. Despite his line about not being “cuddly,” he is a genuinely likable guy.

And I appreciate his honesty in telling us that “leading is choosing,” that you can’t promise everything to everyone. Not all politicians are so forthright.

Reed chooses public safety as his priority, the goal for which he’d sacrifice elsewhere. That’s where I part company with him.

No doubt, crime is a big issue in Atlanta and therefore in this election. No doubt, it is probably a bigger issue for some Atlantans than it has been for me. (I did have a car window busted out a few months back — and was advised by a police officer just to leave the doors unlocked at night and save myself the trouble of replacing windows.)

But it’s not the issue for me in a city so cash-strapped that it can’t afford the 750 new officers Reed says he would add within four years. Those officers would cost some $58 million a year plus recruitment and training costs, a daunting figure considering Atlanta raised taxes this year by $56 million just to end furloughs and fund its pension liabilities.

Focusing on public safety above all else will win Reed some votes. Bookman wrote that Reed will get his vote, and Reed might get mine in a future race. But not this time.

That leaves me with Borders and Norwood.

Fixing the city’s finances is a prerequisite for addressing public safety and all other concerns. As big a problem as dollars and cents are, it’s a bigger problem than just that.

There is a trust gap between Atlanta’s citizens and its civil servants, not to mention between Atlanta and our state government. Both Borders and Norwood acknowledge this gap.

Both women talk about the need to enforce city code better and clean up neighborhoods wracked by mortgage fraud. Borders, worryingly, puts a bigger emphasis on eminent domain and making it easier for the city to seize such properties.

Both women talk about collecting more of the fines and other monies already owed to the city. Neither has ruled out variations on a commuter tax — so either one as mayor would need to be talked out of what I’ll call the Business Relocation Tax Credit.

Both women acknowledge the need to get a handle on who does what in the city, and to make sure the work force is lean and efficient.

This is a long-standing problem in Atlanta. One recent example I encountered: My water meter is buried in my yard, with no marker at ground level. I asked the Water Department to send a worker to locate it. One man came to mark the water main; someone else, he said, would have to find and unearth the meter. I finally did it myself.

These tasks will require the next mayor to challenge city employees, particularly those outside the Police Department and Fire Department.

Borders has the endorsement of the union for nonpublic safety workers, who will expect forbearance in return. Norwood has the support of those who lodged the complaints. In a close call, I’ll take the candidate who is more free to change the status quo. In a close call, I’ll take Norwood.

Editor’s note: Given the impending Atlanta mayoral election, instant commenting has been closed for this post. Readers are invited to submit comments on this post, which will be published as soon as possible after review.

52 comments Add your comment


October 28th, 2009
10:08 pm

Absolutely agree with your analysis.

I mailed in my early ballot today.

City Employee

October 28th, 2009
11:08 pm

So the candidate that has been in city hall the longest isn’t the status quo? I’m not fond of any of the candidates as they all carry some type of baggage, but Norwood is the least favorable. 8 years on the council and she accomplished what? She requested an audit of watershed management AFTER voting in favor of the department’s water rate increase to the highest level in the country. She is by no means a leader, and failed to show up to many committee meetings until the election year rolled around.

How can you lead when you fail to get the financial information that keeps you from making informed decisions? The council voted to spend millions to audit the Finance dept. Either she failed to get the memo the other councilmembers got, or she’s lying.

Again I ask, what has she done in 8 years to show her leadership? Showing up at the Beautiful or Roselle Fann Rec Center does not make a leader. What developers did she beat back? They get their phone calls returned by her now. Who do you think is contributing to her campaign? Whites have a legitimate gripe about the direction of the city under black leadership the last few years, as a black man I’m disappointed. But for that to be the reason to vote for Mary Norwood is penny-wise and pound foolish. She hasn’t done anything in 8 years, and I challenge anyone to refute that with facts and not rhetoric. I would vote for Kyle Keyser before Norwood, at least he stands for something.

Upset Staff

October 29th, 2009
2:41 am

I have been reading all of the comments on the blogs about the candidates and it’s disgusting. But I want to let you know that it is the city services overall that require more attention, technology and a caring person at the helm. This is not what has been happening in the city and as someone who works on City Council, I will tell you that Mary Norwood does not fix those problems as an At-Large Councilmember. She is the face of the result because she has more time on her hands than actual Councilmembers and goes to mtgs with residents, listens to their issues and then hurries back to the respective Councilmember to see if something has been done. 9 times out of 10, it’s an issue that has been recieved via phone call or email to the Councilmember. The Councilmember’s staff, then sends on the City Departments for attention. The City departments get back to the Councilmember or their staff, the Councilmember or their staff informs the resident and Mary Norwood (because she is now in the loop of the issue) of the result or repair time. Mary Norwood then goes back to the residents and claims the victory on their behalf. You obviously don’t know the low scale customer service that is being offered at the city. The frustration of Council staff and residents. For the staff, it is a very difficult job to hear sad, angry or confused residents on the other end of that phone or in your face. It is even more difficult to hear Mary Norwood get the credit for the work that we Council staff persons do. I don’t want to loose my job over her but I had to let you know that you are wrong sir. Please call staff members, constituent services or anyone that is on the ground working in the City and they will tell you the chain of how this works and who actually does the work, Not Mary Norwood sir. The City Departments are understaffed possibly or ill managed, so the Council staff has to focus on the residents as opposed to the legislation or lack there of, members like Mary Norwood are responsible for.

I would support Mary, if I didn’t know the truth about the level of work that goes into what we do and the level of frustration we get from residents, like yourself each day. I do not believe in Councilwoman Norwood’s ability to lead because she is really nuts on the Council floor (just come and observe). It is scary to believe that she would play with the future of Atlanta, knowing that there are REAL problems here by running for Mayor. She is a good organizer and would be good practicing more on how to “organize her colleagues” as oppose to confusing the City of Atlanta for the next 4 years. Please stop putting us at risk over a water meter. This is an issue but not enough to decide who should be Mayor. If you still have issues with the meter, call Linda at the front desk (404) 330-6030, ask for any of the staff from any office, they will help you, really they will. Don’t do this to us inside City Hall or the residents in the City. You really don’t realize the lack of knowledge she has.

I am not trying to be a campaigner. I am just about the burst with this idea of Mary as our Mayor, it’s wrong beyond compare.

Churchill's MOM

October 29th, 2009
7:21 am

The best thing about living in Athens is not having to pick from these 3 losers. Atlanta needs to cuts its employees by 1/3 and end the Maynard Jackson era corruption. To an outsider this race looks like it will end with 4 more years of the current mess.


October 29th, 2009
8:06 am

Kyle, as always a very well thought out plan and idea on the race this year. I’m sure there are those out ther who will rip this to shreds, but if only we could get all voters to think this way, we would be ahead of the game. Do a pro/con list on each canidate and vote from there, but most would rather go with what they know verses what might be best for the city and those types shouldn’t bother voting at all. If you do the same thing over and over and expect changes that is the definition of insanity.

Let’s vote and hope for the best.

El Jefe

October 29th, 2009
8:30 am

Hmm, Logic and common sense in making decision. Why the heck are you with this fish wrapper?

The only common sense the AJC did was send Tucker to D.C.. She is more at home there in la-la land than here.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
8:31 am

There is no hope for the crooked city, it is going down, down, down regardless of which crook calls itself Mayor. I recall the joy with which Bill-the-crook-Campbell’s first election was greeted….finally an honest man as Mayor. How wrong we were! I strongly suspect that regardless of which one is elected, all three will turn out to be a disaster for the crooked city. Oh yeah Kyle, here in Cobb County, the police advise keeping our car doors locked, as here in East Cobb at least, the crooks are afraid to break car windows. The noise alerts the armed and dangerous home owners, who come out shooting. Is that how the poster who calls itself GayBlackCripple earn itself the cripple handle?


October 29th, 2009
9:31 am

I disagree with the decision. I believe Reed is the most competent candidate by far…


October 29th, 2009
9:46 am

Wow. First the Mayor disses Norwood, and now a city employee on the blog says (s)he doesn’t like Norwood?

That re-affirms my decision to vote for Norwood.

David Axelfraud

October 29th, 2009
9:49 am

But Kyle, supporting a white person is racist. At least that’s what every single black mayor has told us.


October 29th, 2009
9:58 am

Norwood doesn’t “recall” whom she voted for president. How can that be? It can’t. She’s a liar.

[...] Some opinion: Kyle Wingfield says that, in close call, Mary Norwood will get his vote. [...]

BS Aplenty

October 29th, 2009
10:15 am

Interesting to hear from graduates of the ‘Shirley Franklin School of Political Hitmen’. New faces in city government are always unsettling to those with special deals to protect. It’s not difficult to understand why some city employees would want to maintain the type of political arrangements they currently enjoy.

Lack of leadership is the problem with the City of Atlanta today. The City’s unfunded pension liabilities, a result of political ineptness, will be a burden on city residents for years to come. Little genuine effort has been made to find an alternative pension option for city employees except to bow to demands by employee unions. It reminds one of the problems in the auto industry with the ultimate collapse of City finances or municipal bankruptcy just ahead.
Then there’s the crime rate in the City, the failure to attract business to the City, and the simple problem of trust. All of these issues stem from the lack of genuine leadership in the current administration.

It’s interesting to see which candidate the Franklin administration has attacked. There’s no better endorsement.


October 29th, 2009
10:27 am

If anyone needs further proof of Mary’s GOP leanings, this endorsement is it.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs – Thanks for your comment! It tells more about you than you even know and that is just sad. Shame on you.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
10:30 am

The Break Away Republics, like Sandy Springs, are doing very well indeed. The former Soviet Union also known as Fulton County is not doing so well, ROFLOL. Imagine, those rich folks in Sandy Springs wanting to keep their tax dollars at home building infrastructure in the Sandy Springs, and not provide welfare and graft for South Fulton, or the criminal city of atlanta.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
10:32 am

Shrill Shirley should be running scared because once Mary is Mayor, her administration will investigate all the thievery that has gone on lo these long 8 years. I am so sick of seeing those big ugly flowers on what passes for her chest that I have recently sprayed roundup on all the flowers in my yard. die flowers die


October 29th, 2009
10:36 am

Yeah, I agree Kyle. I picked them in that order too.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
11:18 am

Urinal Scooped Again:

Birmingham, Ala., mayor convicted of taking bribes

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and wife Melva speak to the media after being convicted, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 at the Tuscaloosa Federal Courthouse Building in Tuscaloosa, Ala. A federal jury convicted Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford on Wednesday on all charges of accepting bribes in exchange for funneling $7.1 million in bond business to a prominent investment banker. (AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton) (Dusty Compton – AP)

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
11:23 am

Did I mention the convicted thief mayor of Birmingham, Ala. is BLACK and so is the crook who bribed him. The cost to Jefferson County, Alabama is in the BILLIONS of dollars for over priced sewer and water work. Just like Atlanta water and sewer rates, sky high and going UP monthly. Hmm, what do these people have in common: Bill Campbell and Larry Langford: both were mayors of southern cities, both were BLACK, and both are now convicted felons. The criminal city is getting what it deserves, and I WILL NOT PAY TO BAIL IT OUT.

That just doesn't make any sense...

October 29th, 2009
11:28 am

Mary has literally no legislative achievements in 8 years on City Council, Voted for a Pension Plan that has destroyed the city’s budget, voted against public safety twice and has stated that she doesn’t understand many of the complicated financial transactions that dictate the city but you think she’s qualified to be mayor? Am I missing something?

She has spent 8 years on the campaign trail and has been endorsed by persons and groups with no idealogical connection to her platform and you think she doesn’t have political debts to pay?

The only outsider candidate in this race is Jesse Spikes. The fact is the media doesn’t want to recognize his campaign because he might bring real change to Atlanta. I’m just sad that the AJC has moved to more propaganda than news.

Ray Pugh

October 29th, 2009
11:31 am

Wingnut this might be the first entry you’ve written that I’ve agreed with :) Uh oh–what is happening to meeeeeeeeee . . .

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
11:33 am

Outside the courtroom, Langford and his wife, Melva, blamed the conviction on race.

“They struck as many blacks off that jury as they could,” he said.

Three of the 12 jurors were black.


October 29th, 2009
12:04 pm

I NEVER agree with Kyle! Wait… uh… can I change that to I FINALLY agree with Kyle! GREAT ANALYSIS.

David Axelfraud

October 29th, 2009
12:09 pm

Well well well, the community organizer with no experience has just been caught cooking the numbers on the stimulus package. MMM MMMM MMMM

Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands

WASHINGTON (AP) – An early progress report on President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports.

The government’s first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced.

For example:

- A company working with the Federal Communications Commission reported that stimulus money paid for 4,231 jobs, when about 1,000 were produced.

- A Georgia community college reported creating 280 jobs with recovery money, but none was created from stimulus spending.

- A Florida child care center said its stimulus money saved 129 jobs but used the money on raises for existing employees.

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2009
1:22 pm

Axelfraud: Everyone’s comments are being moderated for now, not just yours.

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2009
1:43 pm

(Sigh.) Repukes, government corruption transcends race, political party, geography, etc…as you can see from the long list of white politicians who also have been convicted of corruption, including half the governors of Illinois over the past 50 years (more than half if Blagojevich is ever found guilty of anything). Here’s one partial list:

Any government of humans is in danger of corruption, one of the best arguments for limited government.

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2009
1:46 pm

That just doesn’t…: I wrote an entire column about Jesse Spikes back in August:

The problem is that his campaign didn’t make any headway in the two months since then. And he’s had every chance, having been included in every article of ours that I’ve seen, as well as most of the mayoral forums and debates (including those that didn’t include other candidates with low polling numbers).

Ray Pugh

October 29th, 2009
2:16 pm

Repukes please stop making those left-of-center look stupid…


October 29th, 2009
2:32 pm

Just because you are on the council does it mean you can create wonderful legislation. If you are conservative with a liberal panel you are not going to accomplish very much at all. If your present leader does not permit your actions to go forward, you are not going to accomplish very much at all.

Those in Atlanta keep voting the same Labor commissioner into office and he has done nothing but spent billions of dollars and millions cannot be accounted for. Dont take my word for it just do some investigation. It will turn black to white.

Former Council member

October 29th, 2009
3:00 pm

Kyle, you are pretty much on the money as far as I’m concerned. I trust you are aware that when the city raised our taxes to end the furloughs they did not just end furloughs for police and fire-fighters, which is what it was sold as, but rather for EVERY employee of the city. As for Mary’s lack of legislative activity, that’s a good thing. She knows that we already have enough laws on the books — we just ought to enforce them once in a while!


October 29th, 2009
3:03 pm

Very good, Kyle. An intelligent way of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Both women talk about the need to enforce city code better and clean up neighborhoods wracked by mortgage fraud.

Rudy Giuliani’s “Broken Windows Program”. The taxpayers will need to be proactive in such an endeavor. Down my way, the county takes no initiative in informing residents what measures they can take. If there’s an empty house/building…chances are it’s bank owned. Contact the bank — many of them have the resources and maintenance personnel on retainer. If they fail in their responsibility to the community, then you go to county enforcement. Of course, their response will require time — gotta follow policies set by the government bureacracy.

Borders, worryingly, puts a bigger emphasis on eminent domain and making it easier for the city to seize such properties.

No doubt. The government always takes the easy route. If they can own it, they will…everything except the responsibility, that is.

This is a long-standing problem in Atlanta. One recent example I encountered: My water meter is buried in my yard, with no marker at ground level. I asked the Water Department to send a worker to locate it. One man came to mark the water main; someone else, he said, would have to find and unearth the meter. I finally did it myself.

Don’tcha just luv it? Especially those teams of 6 to 10 government workers required to dig one big hole.

I’m impressed, Kyle.

Politics At Its Finest

October 29th, 2009
3:11 pm

You got one thing right.

“Both women talk….”

I would have personally ended the statement at ‘talk’. In 8 (Norwood) or 5 (Borders) years, both women have done nothing substantial to help the deficit or prevent it. An ineffective leader is not a leader at all.

Sen Reed has written and pushed legislation that have equaled COST SAVINGS to the city of Atlanta. He has worked with both sides of the aisle to get real results.

He is far from perfect… but he has been very effective at the State and also has relationships at the Federal level. I put my vote in Reed because he, although not cuddly, has a real record of doing things for the city ALREADY.

Talk is cheap. Anyone can say they will do anything. Borders and Norwood have nothing to stand on except their words.


October 29th, 2009
3:53 pm

I am glad I don’t live in Atlanta. Forsyth County is a nice place to live with decent politicians.


October 29th, 2009
4:26 pm

Kyle, this is one of the best columns I have read from a conservative writer on the subject of Atlanta. No code words. No put downs. No arrogance. Good work.

W. Ross

October 29th, 2009
6:26 pm

Great powers of deduction, Mr. Wingfield.

Well worth considering.

Thank you.

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs

October 29th, 2009
6:32 pm

All true Kyle, but the black mayors are in a league by themselves…Mario Barry in DC, Bill Campbell in Atlanta, Langford in Birmingham, just to name a few. Can you name a few recent white mayors of major cities who have been convicted of felonies? We all better hope that Barak does not turn out to be a glorified mayor with sticky fingers.

Yankee in Gooberville

October 29th, 2009
6:41 pm

GOP-talkingpoints-parrot-idiot here is going for the white candidate and closet republican. Knock me over with a feather!

R Pitts

October 29th, 2009
7:53 pm

Wow, I agree with you. Plus, the airport vendors own Reed, so that alone knocks him off my list.

Reed supporter

October 29th, 2009
8:35 pm

Repukes ALL Suck Eggs, Mayor Langford can continue to claim race is the problem with comments like your’s. Being a black Southern mayor = corruption? Oh wait, why don’t you stick to commenting on Kyle’s post?

I'm Voting for Jesse Spikes

October 30th, 2009
12:57 am

Seems the AJC has cut Spikes out of the conversation, even though he has proved again and again in the debates to have the best grasp on the issues facing our city and the solutions to bring about change in Atlanta.

Please give him a look before you cast your vote —


October 30th, 2009
11:41 am

From one who lives outside Atlanta and indeed outstide the Metro Area I found DannyX’s comments about the op-ed’s conservative author to be true and refreshing. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of many of the commenters who revel in denigration, generalizations, and sarcastic putdowns. They contribute nothing constructive to an exchange of ideas. In fact they have NO ideas, other than to denigrate liberals and Blacks. I also think that the couple of city employeess commenting deserve a hearing. These civil servaants are trying to do what they believe is right by the city and it’s citizens. Their comments were the most credible and from the viewpoint of an outsider, they persuaded me.

Chris Broe

October 30th, 2009
11:59 am

Who wants to bet Clyde R. is using confederates and stooges on this blog comment chat room?


October 30th, 2009
12:24 pm

So let me get this straight…the answer to building cooperation between the, predominately, Democratic City of Atlanta and the staunch Republican State of Georgia, is to elect a Republican (Mary Norwood) Mayor. Perfect. Why didn’t I think of that?


October 30th, 2009
3:48 pm

how many years of black leadership has gotten atlanta no where…?

John Q. Atlantan

October 30th, 2009
9:48 pm

Kasim Reed is forty and has never married?
Mary Norwood “can’t remember” whether she voted for her cousin George W. Bush?

Lisa Borders has demonstrated character and grace and won’t be an embarrassment to Atlanta.

City Worker

November 1st, 2009
3:02 pm

Borders has the endorsement of the union for nonpublic safety workers, who will expect forbearance in return.

Lisa Borders is not endorsed by the City Employees Union which is AFSME. Lisa Borders is supported by PACE. PACE is the union for managers and supervisors with the city of Atlanta.

Watershed management has recenty updated the ticketing system regarding customers calls. The number to call regarding your water meter concerns is 404-658-6500.

Mary Norwood has continually complained about the current state of affairs whithin the City of Atlanta. She has been on City Council for 8yrs and done nothing. Lisa Borders has is the current president. These 2 individuals are already on City Council and have proved to be incompetent.

Kasim Reed has been endorsed by the City workers of Atlanta. Lisa Borders is lying.

New Leadership New Direction KASIM REED!


November 1st, 2009
5:12 pm

the truth be known, After seeing Mary Norwood during the debates I am afraid she is incapable of being a coherent leader. You can tell that she lacks the intelligence on the issues. Both Reed and Borders are very knowledgable.

Norwood Serves Atlanta

November 1st, 2009
5:41 pm

Norwood has worked very hard to present solutions to the City Council for budget and deficit problems.

As another City executive commented, “You can give them (City Hall) the detailed information and proposed solutions, but you can’t make them read it”.

The qualified, competent executives in City Hall are fed up with the rudderless ship that Mayor Franklin ran aground. A single leader on the City Council does not have the power to sway the cronies of Mayor Franklin.

Mayor Franklin is posturing for her legacy. Cover-up is at hand to hide the incompetence that swamped the City of Atlanta for past years.

ULTIMATELY, THE BLAME FALLS ON MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN. Her cabinet, executives, multiple CFOs, and various departments hid unpaid statements, failed to collect water payments, invoice citizens for taxes, etc.

Scared to death

November 4th, 2009
6:02 pm

Dear City Worker and Upset Staff..

I don’t know too many city workers who want Kasim for Mayor or least they won’t admit it. Didn’t he say he wanted to hire 750 police? How? The academy can only hold 120? 150? Not 750? How you plan on paying for it Kasim? Lay-off and fire all of the non-public safety (fire and police) employees? Well, I can tell you from experience and attending community meetings, Mary has done more to knock on doors, go to community meetings (on a regular basis, years)and listen to people than quite a few Council members combined… Seems to me that ONLY WHEN IT’S TIME TO VOTE or highly publicized that Council persons appear at community meetings. In getting “credit”, have you heard of “teamwork” and when does the City give out merit badges? Can’t imagine what it’s like to work at City Hall right about now. Must be MAJOR cut throatville!

Folks need to start realizing and giving true thanks on having a job and doing the very best to assist the public.

Ain’t nothing like trying to get help from a frustrated, under paid, doing somebody else’s job City employee.

Shirley laid off, furlouged, ruined whatever you want to call it, over 1,000 people..she endorsed Kasim. Better hope he doesn’t get in…

Your job maybe next. To pay for the 750 police.


November 14th, 2009
8:41 pm

We are down to two choices:

Kasim Reed- Numerous ethical violations as senator….had paid fines.
Late on property taxes for three different properties
Ties to the current administration
Just moved to the city within the past two years after living in unincorporated fulton for many years
Mary Norwood- councilwoman for 8 years…Mary knows all the neighborhood…comes rushing to disasters like the tornadoe in Vine City when local councilman are at krispy creme. Pays her taxes on time. Resolves problems for residents and does not have any ties to the current administration. SEEMS LIKE A REALLY EASY DECISION HERE FOLKS!!!