Your morning jolt: Judge Thrash warns others to steer clear of Atlanta’s water

Update at 10:55 a.m.: This post originally misidentified the federal judge in the transcript below. He is U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash.

Water is the essential ingredient to the establishment of any new city. And in recent years, efforts in the Legislature have been aimed at putting two new entities in the water-delivery business.

In 2007, S.B. 306 would have permitted Sandy Springs and other areas of north Fulton County to create a water and sewer authority. This year, H.B. 406 would pave the way for a reservoir in south Fulton County.

Both measures have stalled, over the city of Atlanta’s objections that the projects would erode the financial underpinnings of a court-mandated overhaul of its water-and-sewer system.

Renewed attempts at both are expected in the Legislature next year. But during a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash had a warning for state lawmakers in general and north Fulton in particular. A kind soul sent us a partial transcript:

Thrash: Well, since nobody is asking me to do anything today, I’m not sure what I should say or what is expected of me today, but I’m not going to let that stop me from saying something as I have done in the past, when outside events have threatened the city’s ability to comply with the consent decrees.

I have been responsible for this case for 12 years, since the first day I was sworn in as a federal judge. At that time, the city of Atlanta’s sewer system was an environmental disaster, not just for Atlanta but for the whole region and the nation.

When I held that the city was in violation of the Clean Water Act and the United States and the state of Georgia shortly thereafter filed suit against Atlanta, there was a real possibility that I was going to be asked to and would completely halt all development – commercial, residential, whatever – not just in the city of Atlanta but in all areas served by its sewer system, which would have included Sandy Springs, East Point, College Park, and I believe areas in Clayton and DeKalb counties.

Ultimately I was asked not to do that, and I didn’t do that. But only because the city of Atlanta agreed to two very specific and detailed consent decrees that provided what it would do to fix its sewer system, how it would do it, and when it would do it.

Despite numerous obstacles, those consent decrees have been complied with. One of them has been completely fulfilled. That’s the CSO consent decree. Somewhat to my astonishment, on time, under budget – which I have said and will say again I consider to be a remarkable achievement by the [Shirley] Franklin administration.

But I will say again as I have said in the past. If I have the power to prevent something from interfering with the city of Atlanta’s ability to comply with the consent decrees, I’m going to exercise that power. Whether it’s by way of contempt, enjoining legislation, including the Georgia Service Delivery Act, appoint a receiver for the city’s water and sewer facilities and assets, whatever I’m authorized to do, I’m going to do it, and Mr. Hennelly, you can convey that message to the municipalities that are involved in the ongoing mediation.

I will not permit them to interfere in the completion of what the city has promised to do to fix its sewer system, period. It’s just as simple as that.

I can understand people’s desire to control their own destiny, to provide their own services to their residents. I’m not unsympathetic to that. But I will say again, I will not allow anything to be done that interferes with the city’s ability to comply with the consent decress. That is simply not an option.

Can I make that any plainer?

Accusations of Republicanism can be deadly in an Atlanta mayoral race, and Lisa Borders has endured her share. But Borders may have disproved any GOP sympathies with this article by my AJC colleague Eric Stirgus:

Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders says she’ll use eminent domain powers to take land from owners who poorly maintain their property.

“We need to take it from them,” said Borders, the City Council president.

No true Republican would dare say that.

Stirgus also reports that Councilwoman Mary Norwood has achieved her own endorsement from Atlanta cops.

This summer, Borders argued that she had won that battle, when a union of 1,100 Atlanta police officers decided to back her.

But on Wednesday, the Atlanta police chapter of the Police Benevolent Association endorsed Norwood. The PBA has close to 500 members. Some of them are also members of the union that endorsed Borders, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 623.

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s

Mayoral hopefuls try social media to reach, organize and persuade.

  • Reed pushes Norwood to remove TV ad.
  • Georgia Democrats target Republican ‘corruption.’
  • Eagle supporters, patrons protest in their underwear.
  • Board abandons plan for regional libraries in Gwinnett.
  • Cobb estimates flood damage.
  • Another ex-Home Depot buyer indicted in kickback scheme.
  • NTSB: Medical emergency forced taxiway landing.
  • FAA: Some parts of new Delta lease “anticompetitive.”
  • Some opinion:

    Kyle Wingfield says Atlanta needs to look beyond I-285.

  • Delta employees in limbo as unions vie to change the rules.
  • Pro & Con: Do Americans have a basic human right to health care?
  • And from beyond:

  • WP: New focus on Maine’s other centrist Republican senator.
  • NYT: A reporter’s account of his escape from Taliban.
  • Reuters: Obama administration open to extending housing tax credit.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    9 comments Add your comment


    October 22nd, 2009
    10:17 am

    Judge Shoob sounds like he means it.

    Krooked Kasim

    October 22nd, 2009
    10:23 am

    Mary Mary Quite Contrary

    October 22nd, 2009
    10:30 am

    Mary Norwood is a true Republican. She voted in the 1998, 2000, and 2004 Republican primaries. For her to say anything about being a democrat is a bold faced lie!

    Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

    October 22nd, 2009
    10:31 am

    Judge Shoob demonstrated his probity when he refused to be a party to the JFK-assassin Bush1’s administration’s BNL prosecution which sent a lowly yuppie to incarceration and an early grave after five-generation-Bush-overlord-and-Vatican-banker David Rockefeller and his lapdog Henry Kissinger were discovered on the board of directors of the largest bank in Italy: BNL.

    One man can only do so much in the pursuit of Justice. Georgians, and particularly true Atlantans, would do well to pay attention.


    October 22nd, 2009
    11:56 am

    “Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders says she’ll use eminent domain powers to take land from owners who poorly maintain their property. We need to take it from them,” said Borders, the City Council president.”

    LOL! So what is she going to do: condemn Vine City, Pittsburgh, Mechanicsville, etc due to ‘poorly maintained property’?

    Sounds dumb politically but if that’s the case then she definitely has my vote.


    October 22nd, 2009
    11:57 am

    Judge Thrash has worked this case a long time. He forced the city to invest in their sewers even if it is an expensive proposition. I believe the judge will take drastic action to keep the city’s sewer fix up on track. We do need clean water and Atlanta has a big role to play in making the Chattahoochee River clean. This is one to watch.


    October 22nd, 2009
    12:14 pm

    Lisa Borders is a Republican! Oh wait, she’s not a Republican. Now I’m all confused… See what happens when journalism takes a left turn instead of going right? Sakes alive.

    So that harpy Norwood got an endorsement from the Police “Benevolent” Association. How droll. I wonder if she sent them slices of cake a la Marie Antoinette. I already heard through the grapevine about her buying the Black vote by cramming high-cholesterol, high-fat foods down their gullets at their favorite eateries. What’s next, a round of margaritas at Blake’s to get the gay vote? Or maybe dim sum in North Fulton to curry the favor of the Asians. How does Norwood get AWAY with these tactics?


    October 22nd, 2009
    1:21 pm

    The next campaign expense for Norwood is Able Mable’s pride. Price tag = $10,000

    Texas Fight!

    October 22nd, 2009
    6:03 pm

    Lisa Borders is an idiot. Take land from people that don’t maintain it to her standards? This is a freaking URBAN city. This isn’t a suburb with HOA dues and HOA restrictions. If you don’t like the fact I don’t mow my lawn but once a month, TOUGH LUCK! It is MY property. Why does government feel the need to intervene in EVERYTHING these days. I am a taxpaying citizen. I should be able to do whatever the heck I feel like doing on my land so long as it isn’t hurting anyone. I don’t care if you don’t find it aesthetically pleasing, no where in my title does it say my neighbors have to be able to enjoy high tea while gazing at my front lawn. Goodness