Citizens ask, can we talk?

The group might be called “I love my city, but I’m sick of my government.”

Both are true.

Sitting around the breakfast table, Lynn Irvin and other members of a group called Campaign for Atlanta discuss their frustration with a government that doesn’t work.

Like any Atlantan who has phoned City Hall or one of its agencies, they recount a litany of failure and frustration.
The Southwest Atlanta woman offers an account of a garbage truck emptying foul-smelling “Jerry curl juice” in the streets, something she was convinced would never have been allowed in Buckhead.

No, replies the Buckhead woman, the same thoughtless service extends there, too. She offers an account of having to clean up after them on her street.

Both are convinced, as are others from Midtown and Ormwood Park, that, as Irvin says, “by keeping blacks and whites separated, the city gets by with providing no services to anybody.”

It’s not that one side of town’s getting care and attention and the other’s not, the suspicion of both. Nobody is. And what’s more, City Hall’s constantly demanding a greater and greater share of its residents’ income.

As they say: “I love my city, but I’m sick of my government.” The time to start doing something about it, they think, is now. A new mayor will be elected Nov. 3.
They have no intentions of endorsing anybody. And, they swear, not one of them has political ambitions or will run for public office.

They want, simply, for the city to have a serious conversation with the top four candidates seeking to replace Mayor Shirley Franklin: Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, Councilwoman Mary Norwood, state Sen. Kasim Reed, and attorney Jesse Spikes. A dozen or more other candidates may enter the race, but the intent is to engage those who actually have a real chance of getting elected.

This is not a group assembled to vent election-year anger or to extract sound-bite promises. It’s looking for a deeper, more substantive conversation about Atlanta’s future.
The group has a Web site. It’s www.Campaignforatlanta.com. The particulars of who’s involved and what they’re trying to do are contained there.

They’ve identified three challenges the city faces. Those are its financial solvency, public safety and other basic services, and the quality of those who serve, defined broadly as “competence and good government.”

As the first priority, their aim is to have the next mayor recognize that fiscal soundness isthe city’s top priority. That would mean hiring and supporting a competent and tough chief financial officer of high integrity. It would mean seeking independent review of the options for water-sewer needs and for public pensions, high-dollar issues all. It would mean contracting out services where there are savings, eliminating public relations and patronage positions.

And it would mean operating the city without a tax increase.
As for safety and services, it seeks general competence and better police and fire services, with a long-term strategy for fixing infrastructure.

The final challenge it sees as generally building a motivated, efficient and ethical bureaucracy whose performance is checked by independent program audits. It wants, too, an independent city attorney and better relationships with the state and feds and other governments in the region.

Love Atlanta, sick of its government.

That’s a sentiment shared by the majority of this city’s taxpayers and homeowners.

107 comments Add your comment

Get Real

May 15th, 2009
7:59 pm

I finally agree (for the most part) with you Wooten. However, there is no way the city can get from under its financial debt without raising debt. It simply doesn’t have enough employees to cut without further reducing the quality of services. This is Atlanta, not Marietta. I know you like to spout low taxes, but to have what you’re asking for there is no other choice. Any candidate for Mayor that says you can have the world AND have your taxes cut is a liar. Just the way it is.

booger

May 15th, 2009
8:48 pm

Shirley had everyone fooled for a while, but incompetance can’t be masked forever.

In fact it brings to mind another much larger but similar situation playing itself out on the national stage right now.

Jackie

May 15th, 2009
10:07 pm

@ booger

The incompetence you cite gives you insight into what the solutions to the problems are.

When will you put your name in for election as mayor?

Look forward to your profound competence.

clyde

May 16th, 2009
5:19 am

Jim,
A person of high integrity would not go to work for the government.

Curious

May 16th, 2009
5:35 am

When will the Maynard Jackson family stop stealing from the City of Atlanta? They surely are the gift that keeps on taking.

Andy the Traitor

May 16th, 2009
6:30 am

Booger there was a typo in your post, I fixed it:

“In fact it brings to mind another much larger but similar situation that played itself out on the national stage over the last 8 years.”

When wingbutternuts can coherently explain why W was given the second 4 years, then they begin to restore a small bit of credibility, but not until…

lwwmm7

May 16th, 2009
8:45 am

I am deeply offended by the “Jerry Curl Juice” reference. I admit I have no idea of the context, but am offended nevertheless, and hereby demand some kind of apology from somebody or other about something. Thank you. Signed, Community Activist

Diogenes

May 16th, 2009
9:04 am

Good morning, Jim,

Your comments should be the goal of all politicians in Georgia:

They’ve identified three challenges the city faces. Those are its financial solvency, public safety and other basic services, and the quality of those who serve, defined broadly as “competence and good government.”

Sound, well-run government, providing the services the people need are extremely liberal concepts and are in stark contrast to the conservative approach of “let’s whack another billion out of the revenue and complain about ineffective government.” I hope you will repeat those goals constantly while assessing the gang of conservatives aspiring to dismantle Georgia’s government in order to prevent it from serving the people. Thank you for affirming liberal values when it comes to the people’s need for effective government.

AmVet

May 16th, 2009
9:06 am

Atlanta’s problems in many ways mirror those seen at the national level.

But with an unfortunate kicker.

A long history of xenophobic and brutal racists and bigots, elements of which are alive and well today. And like the fraud conservatives in Washington, too many misguided, reactionary, war-first, exclusionary, intransigent and intellectually vacuous religious nut jobs and neo-conned. Who never tire of violence and bloodlust. And stopping the wheels of rational progress and positive change at any and all costs.

Throw in the equally racist pandering to the uneducated, unmotivated self-proclaimed victims and poor black trash element and voila – the perfect mix for the ever worsening concept called Georgia governance.

Both seem unchangeable and the outlook for Atlanta and, by proxy Georgia, looks correspondingly dismal…

lwwmm7

May 16th, 2009
9:34 am

Now see here, Mr. Redneck, this blog is not the place for such blatant bigotry and unmitigated gall. How dare you offend me by speaking the truth and calling out the villains? I plan to organize and activate my community to quell this unwelcome attitude of truthiness. Be warned, sir, we will not rest until you are safely locked away in a reeducation camp for Those Who Dare Speak The Truth.

lwwmm7

May 16th, 2009
9:36 am

Oh yeah, sorry I forgot, have a good weekend everybody.If nobody’s told you they love you today, let me be the first.

booger

May 16th, 2009
9:46 am

Andy the traitor,

Sorry son, but there was no typo in my message. Why don’t you try to think of something to say on your on.

AmVet

May 16th, 2009
10:43 am

“When wingbutternuts can coherently explain why W was given the second 4 years, then they begin to restore a small bit of credibility, but not until…”

Not surprisingly, I concur.

Anybody who would and did willingly vote for those political abortions that lived is beyond me.

Knowing what they now know, many, many, many of the more lucid Americans have sworn off the Republiconned Party. Perhaps for life. Lets hope so.

But most here have much more predictable and pussified regrets along the lines of, “Well, Bush didn’t do everything right” or “I didn’t like some of the things Bush did”.

???

Because, unless and until they can get their collective shiite together and ditch these miscreants and deadly bunglers, there is no redemption ahead for them…

And given that the chances for them to pull their heads out of certain cavities, are slim and none, I see no reason why there will not be a third consecutive electoral slaughter for the Party of No a year from November…

Dusty

May 16th, 2009
10:58 am

Well, let’s see. Jim Wooten tells us about a group that ernestly wishes to improve the somewhat sad state of Atlanta, so-called the Campaign for Atlanta. They would like financial solvency, public safety and basic services improved, and competence and good government. It sounds like the goals that every city might express.

Along comes RedNeck Convert who tries to spread his liberal undercover work as Southern ignorance. He blames any deficiences on the skin color of the majority running Atlanta, insulting the honest. ethical and productive black citizens of this city. I really do not care for rabble rousing even in the “humorous” incitements of this socalled “redneck”.

Many cities are having troubles in these difficult economic times whether they are run by blacks, whites, or any other color. Does anyone know the status of NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA or Houston?

I live in DeKalb County and have no complaints about the Sanitation Department. That seems to be one measure of discord in the city of Atlanta.

All I can say is I hope things get better. Maybe the Campaign for Atlanta will help. If citizens get involved, something usually gets better. There’s HOPE!!

Dusty

May 16th, 2009
11:06 am

Attention: today’s subject is ATLANTA. If you are still trying to smear President Bush, find another blog. We know your political feelings already and don’t need a rehash every day.

Kenneth

May 16th, 2009
11:22 am

Can we disagree on things without racist undertones. The fact that the AJC allows such small minded comments to be posted, tells a lot about the quality of the News Paper. If these folks died today I am sure our God would care very little why they made such mean spirited comments about people. We should all be careful of our words as they may be the last ones we express before we face our judgement. Blessings and peace to all no matter what your political views are.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
11:23 am

Good luck with discussing anything govenrment-related in the future. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a “diversity” panel that is only skin deep that has all 31 members that are ideologically to the left. These people are being used by interim FCC chair Martin Copps, a former cheif of staff to retired Senator Fitz Hollings (D-SC), as a backdoor attempt to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine”.

This includes having a local “communications commission” coming to your area. This means it will nt only affect talk radio, but all of radio. What this means is you could have a person on the board who like rap music but depises country music. That board person could easily get rid of all of the country stations in your area while greatly expanding all of the rap stations.

They could also apply to your cable television and Internet usage as well.

Welcom to “1984″, “Atlas Shrugged”, and “Brave New World” all at once.

booger

May 16th, 2009
11:40 am

I think Clark Howard said it best. Atlanta lost its way financially when they adopted social change as their primary objective. The primary goal of any government is to provide basic services at the best price.

Atlantans pay considerably more for most services than many other cities due to their inflexible affirmative policies. I have no problem with the concept of affirmative action and the sensible application, but when a white male cannot even bid on a contract without an african american or female partner, its over the line. Oh yeah! if you don’t have a partner, we’ll be happy to give you a list of acceptable partners, all of whom expect to be paid handsomely. They are paid by the taxpayer of course.

Atlanta has not recently had competant financial leadership. The last Financial director was an embarrasment. Bill Campbell,s financial director was also a joke. A twenty something with a background in wall street. Managing a cities financies is a complicated and crucial job. Mayor Franklin should have immediately set out to find the best possible person for the job regardless of race, creed, or color.

Finally, Atlanta needs to grow up and stop using the city as a jobs program for connected people and families. Although I sure there are many hard working and dedicated employees, there are alo far too many incompetant and unwilling people out there. Atlanta needs to get away from their archaic union inspired personnel policies and adopt a system which allows them to get rid of “bad” employees. And I don’t mean suspension with full pay, sometimes for years.

All Knowing

May 16th, 2009
12:21 pm

Question: How would a Liberal define a racist, homophobe, redneck or bigot?
Answer: Any Conservative

They’re a bright bunch on this blog, aren’t they? Such great, inspiring words like “cracker” and “redneck.” Wow. We should all strive to be just like these open-minded and balanced and “true center of the USA” Liberals, shouldn’t we?

I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out why they are still so full of hate and still so full of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Oh, that’s right, they have liars like Nancy Pelosi representing them who said the CIA lied to her, and a president who daily is backpedaling on campaign promises and proposals and even – Gasp! – continuing a few Bush policies that they themselves and this president said were bad business.

I suppose I’d be miserable too.

@@

May 16th, 2009
12:44 pm

Well Jim, democrats must distinguish/separate by race.

It’s how they maintain the upper-hand while they, themselves palm the peoples’ money.

To them, at least, cost is irrelevant.

Jackie

May 16th, 2009
1:30 pm

@ booger

You continue to rant about what Atlanta DOES NOT…, yet you offer NO PROOF about what your ideal city DOES!

As stated previously, since your ideas and methods are profound, when do you plan to submit your application for the mayoral race?

Secondly, your racist undertones about affirmative action does not merit anything but disdain.

Tell us what city you know that is administered better than Atlanta?

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
1:59 pm

Too true, that for Democratic politicians “cost is irrevelant” as long as there’s plenty of money in play, be it begged, borrowed or stolen.

Also, GA Republicans certainly are not immune from playing divide-and-conquer politics with race. (Vote for the ones, for example, who kept MARTA from bringing the “wrong element” into Cobb County.)

On a brighter note, this Campaign for Atlanta sounds like classic civic action. There’s an almost ancient history of such ad hoc organizations forming in American cities fallen onto hard times. In the past, though, these groups usually have been blue-ribbon efforts by prominent citizens, or “town fathers”. Sometimes, however, they have been more grassroots. It’s encouraging to see the apparent diversity and spontaneity of this effort, which should be worth watching and even joining.

Perhaps it’s worth observing that within the fiscal strictures discussed in this column there should be equal room for both Democrats and Republicans to maneuver. The Democratic Party used to be much more pay-as-you go. Both parties ought to return to fiscal discipline as a prerequisite, the Democrats in practice and principle and the Republicans in principle and then practice.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
2:09 pm

Booger: you do realize that you cannot say ANYTHING about our former corrupt mayor without being labeled a racist, don’t you? Jackie and other left wing emoticons of liberalism proved it to ya.

Personally, I didn’t see any subtle racism in your post at all – except that the former Atlanta corrupt mayor is black.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
2:30 pm

I’ll stun the cosmos and say that Wooten is largely correct in today’s column. ATL has become one of the most poorly managed cities in the country. At one time a lovely place to live and raise a family, it is now a place I am relieved to call my ex-hometown.

One caveat to my praise (so as to keep the Earth firmly seated on its axis): Wooten calls for contracting out (read: privatization) of city services as part of the solution. Please recall that Campbell the Crook spearheaded the privatization of the water works during his term, and the result was higher prices, greater mismanagement, and even worse customer service that the city-run water works provided. “Contracting out” government services serves only one purpose — to enrich the favored few who are rewarded with the license to a monopoly.

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
3:00 pm

@Munch,

The sharing of this responsibility, for Atlanta’s stupidity, surprises me. In general, compared to other states, Georgia is in good shape despite Atlanta. Were Atlanta to get with the game, then, just imagine what could happen.

Thank you for your precaution about hasty privatization. That kind of immaturity, or prematurity, happened with an energy co-op in north metro, and nothing but criminality ensued, so that now the residents have to foot the bill for expensive and increasingly losing litigation to cover the arses of the hyperannuated Georgia teenagers who tried to fast and hard to get their own.

Jackie

May 16th, 2009
3:01 pm

@ Chris

You have a right a say anything you choose, I have merely pointed out that Atlanta is one of best administered cities in the USA. With that being said, why don’t YOU help Booger out and provide some information relative to the claim he made.

Secondly, you should read what is posted. I did not claim that Booger was a racist, merely stated that his reference to affirmative action expressed a racist undertone as he provided no supporting information concerning his claim about Atlanta not being a well run city.

Would YOU care to expound?

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
3:04 pm

…Republicans, I might add, whose mantra of fiscal constringency unto privatization just feathered their own beds, somewhat gloriously.

As I say, the Democrats, local and federal, must regain the practice of fiscal discipline first as a practice, while their Republicans must regain it as a positive principle.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
3:25 pm

“I have merely pointed out that Atlanta is one of best administered cities in the USA”

Sure Jackie. Misery loves company. A failed Olympics where allowing vendor sales of fraudulent goods was more important than transportation, a city run airport where concession establishments that are only given to certain groups, a 100+ year old sewer/water system that fails constantly causing streets to be closed, a failed plan to bring in suburbanite dollars, crime, aggressive homeless panhandlers, a corrupt police department where the failures get to patrol Hartsfield-Jackson and yank rich women out of their SUVs and body slam them, and of course, failed and corrupt mayors.

What in heaven’s name is there not to just LOVE about Atlanta?

Kenneth

May 16th, 2009
3:28 pm

The real shift is toward an Independent Party. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservitives……are all words used to devide. Most people are tired of the hateful rhetoric. Can we disagree without being small minded and bigoted. Hateful, bigoted words are usually brought into a debate when a person feels like the merits of their argument is compromised. All, please just be the people you profess to be each sunday when you go to church. Blessings to all. God truley is not interested in any political party.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
3:35 pm

Jackie, while I usually agree with your comments, I disagree with your assertion that ATL is one of the best administered cities in the US. Up until about 1988 or so, I would have agreed, but the degradation of services coupled with the increasing tax/fee burden upon those who live in the city drove us away. I lived intown for 20 years, and watched a city that was very livable become a place that I would never move back to.

I don’t entirely blame Franklin, as I think she inherited an near-impossible mess. She was superb in her role in the Jackson administrations, and had she been dealt a better hand, would have likely been a solid mayor. But her predecessor screwed the pooch, and she was left holding the bag. (As an equal-opportunity thrasher, I would place Bill Campbell in the company of Dubya as one of the most inept and essentially corrupt politicians of recent memory.) Unfortunately, she was unable to overcome the challenges, though I can’t imagine who would have done better.

I grew up in ATL, and began raising a family there. When I look at it now, I see a place where the infrastructure is crumbling, crime is pervasive, and traffic and pollution have all but destroyed the quality of life. Somewhere along the growth curve, very serious mistakes were made, and it is not far-fetched to suggest that ATL will suffer a decline akin to some of the rust belt metros like Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh. With solid leadership, ATL may rebound a la Pittsburgh. Otherwise, Newark south. With many family and friends still living there, I hope for the rebound.

Ga Values

May 16th, 2009
3:38 pm

Jackie 3:01 pm

Atlanta has significantly more employees than any simular size city in the USA. As for well managed look at the unbidded contracts given to the Jackson and friends families. Financial controls do NOT exist in the City or School system. We have a mess on our hands. I grew up on Club Drive and come from a large family that were here before the war. I have 1 aunt out of over 100 living family members who still live in Atlanta.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
3:40 pm

One more thing, then out into the garden….

The state government has been irresponsible unto criminally negligent in the way they have treated the problems of ATL. The bass-ackwards peckerwoods in the Gen Assly and the bubba gump governors have used ATL as a cash cow and then treated the problems of the city as not their concern. Face it…Georgia without ATL is just a hillier Mississippi. ATL made this state an economic player, and unless the rural nose pickers get that fact and fast, the whole state is destined to decline.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
3:42 pm

Looks like my followup post was filtered…in short, the state gummit bears a heaping load of blame for ignoring the city that keeps Georgia from being just another Mississippi or West Virginia. Nuff said for now.

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
3:44 pm

Yeah, Ga Values,

There’s hell to pay for both sides: for Democrats on the education side; for Republicans on any other given side–especially in the energy co-ops.

We’re screwed either way.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
3:55 pm

Liar liar pants on fire.

“Rebuffed by the Democratic head of the CIA and left hanging by a Democratic White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backpedaled Friday on her claims that the CIA lied to her about water-boarding. Pelosi issued a statement late Friday shifting her criticism to the Bush administration – hours after CIA Director Leon Panetta defended his agency against Pelosi’s charges.”

Chris

May 16th, 2009
3:58 pm

“The real shift is toward an Independent Party. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives……are all words used to devide. Most people are tired of the hateful rhetoric. Can we disagree without being small minded and bigoted.”

Look around this forum Kenneth and see who does all the name calling and trashing of others here. Clue: it’s not the Conservatives.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
3:59 pm

“Face it…Georgia without ATL is just a hillier Mississippi.”

Tell that to Alpharetta, Cumming, Valdosta, Macon, Savannah, Augusta, …..

Ga Values

May 16th, 2009
4:00 pm

Munch 3:40 pm

I don’t see that it is the state’s responsibility, to run the jail, police, fire, school system, water works, trash pick up, or any other service that a city is responsible for. As much as people don’t like Redneck is dead on in what’s wrong with Atlanta and more money will not solve the problem. That said our state government is not very well run either.

booger

May 16th, 2009
4:00 pm

Jackie,

Charlotte, Birmingham, Charleston SC, Dallas, Houston, Austen, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City………It would probably be easier to name a few run more poorly….Detroit, Baltimore, Washington DC.

As far as racist undertones, these are purley observations. While Mayor Franklin brags to the world about how diverse Atlanta’s leadership is, I look at the reality, and there is very little diversity. Almost no Latino, White or Asian faces to be seen.

Although I realise we live in a world where admitting conservative leanings is grounds for a charge of racism, I feel to ignore facts and not discuss issues for fear of this label is cowardice.

As for you, if you think things are hunkey dorey, then good for you.

Judge

May 16th, 2009
4:01 pm

Chris

Care to tell where you found that piece of spin, ya morals-free wanker? Panetta offered the flimsiest of objections, barely even defending the agencies claims. And Pelosi, Rockefeller and Graham have all corroborated that the CIA is peddling a line of bovine scat. But in your world, that counts as Panetta defending and Pelosi backpedaling. Priceless wingnuttia.

But, hey, nice try! Can’t wait for your post that paints Pelosi as the one who actually wrote the legal memos that authorized the torture.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
4:04 pm

Atlanta is the lighthouse that leads the way. Once people “get to shore” here, they realize that living *outside* of Atlanta is the best bet. That goes for corporations too. Think, work, and play outside the perimeter. Atlanta has nothing but crime and the Varsity. I heard they had a few professional sports teams however. Somewhere.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
4:04 pm

Alpharetta and Cumming have prospered BECAUSE of their proximity to ATL. Of the rest, only Savannah rises above the level of a Hattiesburg.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
4:06 pm

Right Chris…Smyrna is a powerhouse of office parks by virtue of their hard work and inherent crunchy goodness. Proximity to ATL had nothing to do with it.

Face it, pal. Without ATL, the surrounding ring towns are as bleak as Columbus.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
4:08 pm

Munch: don’t think too hard. Alpharetta and Cumming are self-sufficient and don’t need ATL. Same for every other city/town in Georgia. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Are you still in denial about Johns Creek, Milton, and Sandy Springs not needing Fulton County?

Chris

May 16th, 2009
4:11 pm

Judge: Try Politico dot com. You sure won’t be seeing it on CNN. Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for these idiots running Washington now.

Chris

May 16th, 2009
4:13 pm

Why are liberals so angry? Life is too short for this nonsense. You people have your people in power. Why the hate?

Good day.

Munch

May 16th, 2009
4:26 pm

Chris,

Why the lies? Can’t you handle reality?

Never mind, stupid question.

@@

May 16th, 2009
4:38 pm

Poultry:

I must protest your stereotyping.

Also, GA Republicans certainly are not immune from playing divide-and-conquer politics with race. (Vote for the ones, for example, who kept MARTA from bringing the “wrong element” into Cobb County.)

There could be any number of reasons why Cobb voters rejected MARTA.

Alls I know is down here in Clayton where the demographic makeup is somewheres around 75% black and 25% white, MARTA has been rejected by the voters time and again. Don’t believe me?

WIKI this: Neighboring counties (Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton) have refused to support MARTA service in their counties, and each one of these counties now has its own independent transit system consisting of local and express bus routes, some of which connect to the MARTA system. Clayton County, however, currently contracts MARTA to operate its county-wide bus system.

Now if my recollection serves me right, the county-wide bus system was put in place before the demographics changed. Still….hardly anyone down here rides the bus be they white or black. In other words, we’re paying for something that few have need of.

Shutting up now.

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
4:41 pm

But Munch,

By your definition Atlanta is either our upbuild or else our downfall. How long can a great state suffer the lunacy of its capital city?

Georgia will become important only when it ceases to be the case that, “As goes Atlanta, so goes the State of Georgia.”

Poultry

May 16th, 2009
4:45 pm

@@:

Not just buses, but the whole notion of interconnectivity to rail. A reactionary isolation.

Don’t take my word for it; look at the maps. They are a Civil War in themselves: “If we can’t get from here to there, then you can’t get from there to here.”

It’s Game Theory, at its ugliest and simplest.