Your morning jolt: In front of ATL cops and firefighters, mayoral hopefuls debate cuts and furloughs

With property crimes up in Atlanta and its fire department enduring significant budget cuts, last night’s debate sponsored by the unions representing cops and firefighters was considered critical for mayoral candidates.

Two leading candidates — Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders and state Sen. Kasim Reed — threw jabs at each other over who was responsible for these problems. And my AJC colleague Eric Stirgus was ringside.

Only four candidates were invited to the fray: Borders, Reed, City Councilwoman Mary Norwood and Atlanta attorney Jesse Spikes.

Borders accused Reed of using fuzzy math when he dwelled on the city’s inability to pay for its public safety needs.

Reed then said Borders’ unwillingness to support a property tax increase in 2008 hurt operations and caused furloughs in the police and fire departments.

“The crisis that required a [property tax increase this year] was generated by not giving any relief for police and fire [last year],” Reed said during the two-hour debate at Georgia State University.

Borders countered that last year’s budget process removed many inefficiencies in city government, making City Hall “leaner and more efficient.”

Norwood briefly jumped into the fray, saying Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office “never followed through” on giving her information she requested before last year’s budget vote.

The candidates said they’d work to increase pay for cops and firefighters and would give greater consideration to supervisors in both departments when they hire a new police and fire chief.

Some acknowledged that money is tight at City Hall and that some promises may take a while to deliver on.

Reed and Spikes said they’d be reluctant to show the public performance reviews of the police chief, citing legal concerns.

Norwood said a fire tax district to increase pay for personnel “could be very helpful to us.”

Some in the audience of about 75 people, like southwest Atlanta resident and community activist Joel Alvarado, said he wanted to hear the candidates talk more about how they’d attack the root causes of crime, noting Atlanta’s poverty rate is about 25 percent.

The unions will likely decide which candidate they’ll endorse in August.

Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) has gotten a good ride out of his idea to use the Georgia-Florida as leverage in negotiations over water. His idea, to move the grudge match to Georgia every other year, even made USA Today this morning:

Douglas, a 25-year Georgia season ticket holder who chairs the Senate veterans committee, said the Peach State should use the annual game as a bargaining chip as part of any discussion with Florida over water rights.

“We need the tax revenue kept in Georgia that’s generated from the game,” he said. “The state of Florida has shown clearly that they’re not concerned with the well-being of Georgia and I don’t think that those of us in government should encourage Georgians to spend their hard earned money in Florida.”

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • Gwinnett, Forsyth counties to furlough teachers, but Cobb won’t.
  • Will water ruling dry up growth?
  • Perdue forms team to fight water ruling.
  • Alabama, Florida see water wars differently.
  • Georgia’s 2nd largest banking company suffers another quarterly loss.
  • Troutman Sanders announces salary cuts.
  • Town of 500 pays price for suing developers.
  • HUD allots $1.9 million for housing vouchers in Georgia.
  • New trees coming to UGA campus.
  • Surgeon general nominee’s weight questioned.
  • Some opinion:

  • Your Luckovich fix.
  • Jim Wooten says to thank Sonny we’re not California.
  • What’s a disabled, homeless ex-con to do?
  • And from elsewhere in Georgia:

  • InsiderAdvantage: In column, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle declares state leaders rising to budget challenge.
  • And beyond:

  • NYT: Memoirs of British spy offer no apology.
  • WP: Palin Favorability Rating dips as she nears exits, poll finds.
  • WSJ: Chinese scientists reprogram cells to create mice.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    3 comments Add your comment

    AH

    July 24th, 2009
    1:42 pm

    The sad think is how little people seem to care. Sure the election isn’t for another 4 months, but people need to start paying attention.

    newA

    July 25th, 2009
    1:04 am

    The media does not appear to be fully engaged either…

    lizzie

    August 1st, 2009
    8:06 am

    How could Reed be responsible for furloughs a year ago, since he serves in the GA Senate not on the City Council? Don’t know much about Council politics but doesn’t the Council President run things?