Mayor’s race: Desperately seeking substance

The Buckhead Coalition cornered the top two mayoral candidates for a rapid-fire Q&A session last week.

Many of the 22 questions were predictably lame. Which candidate is going to say potholes and police vacancies shouldn’t be filled? Who would oppose Buckhead’s privately financed transportation plan?

But the coalition did manage to nail the candidates down on a few issues. Robb Pitts supported consolidation of Fulton and Atlanta government services, a task he says could be accomplished only by the Legislature because neither government would risk the wrath of its employees by agreeing. The Atlanta Labor Council is already behind Shirley Clarke Franklin, anyway, and his plans to trim the city’s 7,000-employee workforce won’t help much there, either.

Pitts also supports reducing the 15-member City Council to nine citywide seats — a highly unlikely occurrence, since any such initiative would effectively limit black political strength in a city that’s 57 percent black.

The council president also endorsed creating smaller districts for development impact fees, to ensure that such fees are spent where the development occurs. Atlanta’s underdeveloped south side traditionally has been an impact-fee-free zone, but Mayor Bill Campbell has used, so the complaint goes, northside money on southside projects. Pitts’ plan would limit that practice, benefiting wealthier areas where development is heavy, which could provide ammo for critics who call him a “black Republican.”

But, whatever his positions, at least he took a stand. If Franklin is eventually elected, her first job may be creating a new department to perform all the audits she’s proposed: She’s planned audits for Atlanta’s sewers and reviews of each city department. She skirted the question about the size of city government by invoking the latter audit, added Atlanta’s Code of Ordinances to the audit list and, when asked about changing the way council is elected, said she would rather review the city’s charter.

As for impact fees, Franklin said she would support spending most of the money where development occurs.

She does seem to have hit her stride as a public speaker, while Pitts sounded downright whiny at times.

He complained about the interview format. He kvetched about being labeled a Republican, saying he’s supported candidates from Jesse Jackson to George Bush. Pitts also said he is being disparaged for having a white wife, though Pitts is the only person CL has heard raise the issue.??

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