Our pick for City Council president: Clair Muller

Muller, the city's reigning technocrat, has an unparalleled knowledge of virtually every aspect of city operations

Pity the candidates for City Council president. As a non-voting cat herder whose only mandated duties are running Council meetings and making committee appointments, the job of Council prez hardly seems worth the time, effort and expense it takes to win it.

Still, we have a hard-fought race between two councilmembers — one young and ambitious, the other a veteran who sees the post as way to leverage her accumulated experience.

An at-large councilman for the past eight years, Ceasar Mitchell is bursting with ideas. He wants the city to adopt zero-based budgeting. He’d like to allow private sanitation companies to compete with city trash collectors. Mitchell even suggests that pumping desalinated water in from the coast might be a way to solve the region’s water issues.

Just taking the time to study all of his suggestions would require the next Council president to be a whirlwind multitasker. But the nature of the job is not to initiate reams of legislation; it’s to help guide city policy by building consensus among councilmembers with competing interests.

Mitchell, an affable and thoughtful attorney, could be perfectly fine in that role — but Clair Muller was arguably born for it.

Muller, a former neighborhood activist with a background in transportation issues, has become, over the years, the city’s reigning technocrat, with an unparalleled knowledge of virtually every aspect of city operations. A Council workhorse, she’s served on every committee and chaired one or another for 17 of her 20 years in office. She’s the architect of both the citywide recycling program and Mayor Franklin’s sewer repair plan. And Muller has served 14 years as the city’s emissary to the Atlanta Regional Commission, where she gained invaluable expertise with transportation issues.

Muller wants to dedicate her next few years to solving the city’s transportation woes — regionalizing MARTA, developing the Beltline, implementing the Connect Atlanta plan developed with her oversight — and there’s no one better qualified to do so.

And Muller’s two-decades-long public record is spotless. Although she’s consistently voted against all tax increases, she’s put our money where her mouth is; she’s been frugal with her office expenses and this year returned more than $240,000 in unused administrative funds. Mitchell, on the other hand, has shown questionable judgment in hiring his brother to do work for his Council office, an ethics violation for which he was recently fined $15,000.

We’ll be the first to warn you: Muller isn’t an exciting politician or a stirring speaker. She’s a policy wonk who’s managed to keep the respect of her fellow councilmembers. She won’t lead by force of personality, but through a combination of solid reasoning and hard work. That’s fine by us.

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