Mayor Shirley Franklin isn’t going quietly.
On Sunday, in a closing statement that finished the last televised debate, Mary Norwood sought to polish her credentials as a City Hall outsider:
“Many of y’all remember that, when I first got on City Council, there was a proposal to take your water bills to $360 a month [including] seniors on fixed incomes. I would not go along with that.
“I was the vote they didn’t expect, that I would stand firm with you and not let you be bankrupted. Yes, the administration went to the state of Georgia, but after I refused to give in. I’ve stood tall with you.”
Franklin has challenged Norwood before. But not on City Hall (albeit) digital stationery. The following was posted on the mayor’s official Web site hours after the debate:
In fact, no such rate increases were ever contemplated by the Franklin administration or the City’s Department of Watershed Management. The current monthly water and sewer bill for an average residential customer is approximately $120.
“Once again, exaggeration reigns in the political race for mayor,” said Mayor Shirley Franklin. “Councilmember Norwood repeatedly ignores public documents to misstate facts. Atlanta deserves a mayor who tells the truth all the time.”
The statement also quotes Watershed Commission Rob Hunter, who earlier this month took on Norwood over her contention that the city had purchased 150,000 ill-fitting lids for water meters.
There was never any proposal to raise the average monthly water bill to $360, Hunter is quoted as saying, so no one could have stood up against it.
The nuts and bolts, as offered by the mayor’s office:
In 2003, the Franklin administration proposed a five-year series of rate increases to fund improvements in the wastewater and drinking water systems. The City Council passed a package of significantly lower rates. Mayor Franklin vetoed that legislation and informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the City would be forced to default on its federal consent decrees. Bond rating agencies downgraded the City’s water and sewer fund bond rating.
Rate negotiations between the Administration and City Council in December 2003 resulted in a rate package substantially equivalent to the Administration’s original proposal. The Municipal Option Sales Tax (MOST) was authorized by the General Assembly and approved by public referendum in 2004. The sales tax revenue was used to offset rate increases, resulting in the 30 percent lower bills.
The paragraphs above lead to a mention of the fellow that Franklin voted for on Nov. 3:
State Senator Kasim Reed was the sponsor of the MOST sales tax legislation in the General Assembly.
Here’s a snippet from an AJC article from July 2004, just before the sales tax legislation was put before city voters:
Sewage rates rose 45 percent for some at the beginning of this year. They are expected to jump again next year. But Mayor Shirley Franklin wrote in a June 24 letter to the citizens’ advisory board that if the sales tax passes, the rate increase for next year will be reduced from 43 percent to about 13 percent.
On Monday afternoon, Roman Levit, the Norwood campaign manager, conceded that his candidate was citing an example and not a statistic. “She remembers somebody showing her a water bill during the time period for that debate, and that’s what stuck in her mind as an example of a real person being hurt by this six years ago,” he said in one e-mail.
In another, Levit said:
In 2003 Kasim Reed’s strongest supporter proposed a water rate increase that would have tripled a [note the singular article] monthly water bill of $120, and turned it into $360.
Mary Norwood knows perfectly well that Atlantans pay too much for water and sewer services already and she was there fighting the fight to keep water rates as low as possible.
The Watershed Department has a long record of getting numbers wrong for ratepayers all over Atlanta, perhaps if Rob Hunter and his bosses at City Hall spent more time focusing on getting billing right, instead of spending taxpayer money to help their favorite son’s campaign, people all over Atlanta wouldn’t be suing the city after falling through water meter covers that don’t fit and paying bills that are calculated incorrectly.
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