Taking care of your friends

And other tidbits from the forgotten mayoral race

Bill Campbell may not be Atlanta's mayor much longer, but he's seeing to it that his presence will be felt long after he goes.

In an executive session Sept. 5, the Atlanta Development Authority board voted to offer Kevin Hanna a two-year extension as president of the Authority. Campbell spokeswoman Glenda Blum Minkin says the mayor initiated the contract extension.

"The issue is clearly continuity," Minkin says.

Traditionally, in election years, re-appointments such as Hanna's are postponed until a new administration takes over. But in Hanna's case, the ADA board apparently felt the need to sign him up just weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

Mayoral candidate Shirley Franklin says she expects essential city government decisions to be made to keep Atlanta functioning, but "anything that is not essential this close to the election should be deferred."

It's not clear that Hanna's extension was essential. Gloria Bromell-Tinubu says that if the board could have waited on the appointment until after the elections, then Campbell "is not acting responsibly" in pushing for Hanna's extension.

Besides the two-year extension, the ADA board also included in Hanna's contract a clause that promises one year's pay if he's fired.

Such re-appointments preclude a new mayor from putting in their choices for the job.

"That's what I disagree with, that philosophy," says Robb Pitts, the current City Council president and a candidate for mayor. "I understand that there was some lively discussion on the board about the matter." Pitts says some members wanted to grant a four-year extension and that two years was a compromise.

The ADA is a quasi-governmental agency that acts as the city's economic development arm. Hanna, a banker before he came to the ADA, has been running it since 1997.

Certainly, there's a case for keeping Hanna on the job. But his re-appointment makes you wonder how many of Campbell's appointees the mayor will try to protect as he leaves office.

Green, but not with envy

Under Georgia law, there are two ways to get on the ballot for Atlanta's mayor: pay a $3,000 qualifying fee, or collect 5,000 signatures to support a pauper's petition. The idea is that money, or lack of it, shouldn't preclude qualified candidates from getting on the ballot.

So when members of the Green Party learned that frontrunner Franklin, who's raised more than $2 million so far, was circulating a pauper's petition, they were miffed.

"This puts her integrity into serious doubt and mocks those of us for whom poverty is a daily reality," the party said in a statement. (The Green Party, by the way, is endorsing Gloria Bromell-Tinubu for mayor, a candidate who truly could use some extra cash.)

While Franklin's camp admits it was circulating a petition, Imara Canady, Franklin's press secretary, says the campaign had always intended to pay the qualifying fee. The petition was simply a way to show a base of support for Franklin within the community.

Franklin says the campaign meant to offend no one.

A big gun and a big silence As expected, Shirley Franklin picked up arguably her most important endorsement Sept. 19 when former Mayor Maynard Jackson announced his support for her candidacy.

Given the city's shifting demographics since Jackson was last in office in 1993, there's been debate about how much Jackson's endorsement will matter. But his backing still carries enormous weight within the city's black political establishment and among voters who remember when Jackson became the first black mayor of a major Southern city.

The strangest part of the endorsement scramble is that Robb Pitts has spent more than 20 years in office and has yet to line up a major endorsement. While some endorsements are nothing more than symbolic gestures, they can mean bodies, bodies that go to work for a campaign — getting out the vote or manning phone banks. And that will be extremely important this year with the city's attention diverted to international matters in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

"The election is going to come down to who can turn out their people," says William Boone, a political science professor with Clark Atlanta University.

Pitts keeps saying that endorsements don't matter, that he's going after average voters. That may be true, but with his power and financial base among white, wealthy northside supporters and no significant endorsements as of yet, the "little people" line is a hard one to swallow.

As for Jackson, he called on women voters to break what he calls a "glass ceiling" in Atlanta politics by electing Franklin. Expect people like Jackson and Congressman John Lewis, who also has endorsed Franklin, to take the shots at Franklin's opponents so she can stay above the fray. And expect Jackson to start showing up at Franklin campaign events, especially in southwest Atlanta, the foundation of his political strength.

But Jackson, one of the top guns in the Democratic National Committee, downplays any possibility that he'll be able to bring to bear national resources that come with his position as the DNC national development chairman.

It's an understatement that's a little hard to believe.??