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The empty ballot

What We're For

Is anyone else bothered that Atlanta's pretty much a dynasty? No matter how much you like Mayor Shirley Franklin, that is a bad thing.

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On the Nov. 8 ballot, Franklin faces only sacrificial lambs. So her honor will cruise to another term with a Mubarak-like majority. City Council President Lisa Borders, who actually seemed vulnerable, faces similarly hapless competition.

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There's a slim chance that council, which pretty much gives the mayor what she wants, will get one or two more contrarian voices. But only eight of 14 incumbents have opponents, often of the nonthreatening type.

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That is bad for democracy. Atlanta-based civic affairs guru Otis White notes that municipal elections serve at least two purposes: They challenge elected officials to explain themselves periodically and they engage ordinary citizens in civic life. That's not happening in Atlanta this year.

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Even nice folks such as Franklin and Borders occasionally need reminding that they're our public servants — not the other way around. So this campaign season, help us search for ways to challenge candidates, whether they face opposition or not. (You may also want to check out Creative Loafing's Political Party, 8 p.m., Wed., Oct. 12, at Dad's Garage Theatre, which will feature candidates from three hot races.)

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Short of a real citywide election, however, there's one more meaningful way for regular folks to hold city government accountable: Get deeply involved in neighborhood and civic groups. You could push the city to make a better decision on a hot issue coming down the pike. And who knows? Four years from now, you may even work your way up to becoming a candidate — of the threatening type.