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.