Mike Klein Online

The Scramble to Lead Atlanta

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2Less than nine weeks remain before Atlanta voters select the successor to two-term Mayor Shirley Franklin.    That’s not a long time in politics, but it’s still plenty of time for candidates to define how they are different.  And they need to do that.   Four leading candidates appeared together Wednesday at The Commerce Club.  They did little to separate themselves from each other.

Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed and Jesse Spikes seemed to agree on nearly everything in a discussion that had more friendly moments than contentious ones.   It was a day of courteous conversation in a dignified environment.

There was plenty of agreement that City Hall needs better financial processes.  Public safety is a priority.   Panhandling and homeless issues must be addressed.  City executives and department heads who do not do their jobs should be gone. There must be more attention to fire and police personnel and their legitimate needs. The city must create a business friendly downtown environment.  The Beltline is a big deal.   Education is important.  Why can’t anyone get a straight answer about how the city spends money?

When a luncheon guest asked the entire panel to grade outgoing Mayor Franklin, the panel gave the mayor one “A”, two “B’s” and one “strong B.” They said as much while emphasizing Atlanta needs more mayoral leadership and executive attention to city detail.  The general consensus was Franklin did a good job, especially managing the water and sewer project without promised state and federal assistance.

All this agreement on significant issues creates a challenge for voters who traditionally come to off-year elections late in the game.  Many will not pay attention almost until Tuesday November 3rd, if they pay attention at all.  WSB-TV anchor Monica Pearson moderated.  Her second question asked each candidate to identify a top priority.

Norwood said about public safety, “There is no more important priority.”  Almost exactly the same words about public safety came next from Reed who said, “There is nothing more important.”  From Spikes a change in direction: “The number one priority is to get our financial house in order.”  And from Borders: “Atlanta’s best days lie ahead,” but those days will require a new financial model beyond the current model of sales and property tax revenue.

That’s two votes for public safety.  Two votes for financial priorities.

Interesting: none of the panelists mentioned transportation.  It was left to a luncheon guest on the final question to suggest that the reason people won’t come downtown, and don’t want to come downtown, is because of poor transportation options.  Borders said transportation has often been a topic at other candidate appearances.

Atlanta voters are fortunate they can choose from several well-qualified individuals.  Also, this is a much better political environment than what Shirley Franklin inherited when she replaced the disgraced eventual felon Bill Campbell.  Regardless of who prevails, the three eventual losers seem like the kind of people who will help the eventual winner turn Atlanta toward the future.  It’s easy to like these people.

The choice may come down to who knows the system, who’s been an insider, who’s been an outsider, and what is best for Atlanta … an insider (Borders, Norwood, Reed) or an outsider (Spikes)?

Borders is president of City Council and the Henry W. Grady Health System Foundation; she was an executive with Cousins Properties and worked several years in health care.  Norwood serves on the City Council and has a long communications career.  Reed is an attorney who served eleven years in the General Assembly and he managed both Franklin campaigns.    Spikes has the most unique background with no previous elected experience, but a long record in senior legal positions with national and international economic assignments.

Check out the candidate positions on their websites and watch for more debates.  There will be several.  Sooner or later one of these campaigns will figure out how to separate the field.  The first one who gets it right becomes the best bet to win on Tuesday, November 3.  And should that not happen, well, there’s always the runoff in December.

Websites:

http://www.bordersforatlanta.com

http://www.maryhorwoodformayor.com

http://www.kasimreed.com

http://www.jessespikesformayor.com

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September 2, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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