2002 -- It was a very good year (we hope) 

Taking a look back at a year that hasn't happened yet

Typically, the end of a year offers a chance for reflection on recent events, milestones and lessons learned. But you'll have to excuse us in the news business for not being eager to relive 2001. Just the thought of Bill Campbell riding out his final days as mayor on a tsunami of civic contempt, or a sullen Sidney Dorsey busted for a murder scheme the Corleones wouldn't have risked, or the Atlanta and Fulton County budgets stretched thinner than the plot of an Adam Sandler flick, or rumors of a certain beloved pituitary case entering the Gold Club with the shout, "Who will sex Mutumbo?" -- not to mention Sept. 11, for God's sake! -- are enough to make even the most cockeyed optimist add a quart jug of Prozac to his Christmas list.

So we're taking the occasion of CL's Year in Review issue not to look back, but rather take a glimpse into the future at what could happen on Atlanta's political and social scene over the next 12 months. Decide for yourself which is more likely. Trust us; it's better this way.

January
Franklin and Woolard size each other up

During her campaign for city council president, Cathy Woolard joked that if she won, she'd definitely see eye to eye with new Mayor Shirley Franklin. (Both women aren't much over 5 feet tall.)

Well, she won, and now, just days after being sworn in, the two leaders find they're the perfect height for something else: butting heads -- in this case, over a Campbell-proposed city budget that cuts more than 200 vacant police positions and 75 other jobs after Franklin told voters she could avoid layoffs and still balance the budget.

Still, Woolard chooses her battles wisely. This discretion, combined with Franklin's honeymoon period, mean that the Atlanta city government, after years of bloated patronage, almost seems to be working.

Meanwhile, police Chief Beverly Harvard is in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from faxing out resumes. Busy local accountants, on the other hand, are feeling no pinch from the economic downtown, thanks to an audit-happy Franklin administration.

Clean air tied to foreign terrorism

The Cheney administration tricks Congress into repealing the Clean Air Act in favor of its "Pollution = Patriotism Act of 2002." In a subsequent congressional hearing, four Southern Co. lobbyists deny telling members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee that greenhouse gases have been proven to repel terrorists.

MARTA is 'dumba'

After a year in which MARTA increased fares from $1.50 to $1.75, laid off 50 rider aides and dropped scores of popular bus routes, a group of social scientists concludes that contrary to the public transportation authority's one-time slogan, MARTA is no longer "smarta." In fact, it's dumber than walking, riding a bike and, in some cases, even driving.

The jury is still out, however, on the relative IQ of the Segway Human Transporter, the futuristic scooters that are popping up on downtown sidewalks.

February
Tucker suffers writer's block

Superman had Lex Luthor. Bush the Elder had Saddam Hussein. And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker had Bill Campbell. Now, with HizDisHonor gone from the public stage, she's left with no arch-villain to kick around in print.

At various times, she's called Campbell a "master demagogue," whose "pettiness and ego-mongering know no bounds" and wondered who else could be "determined to do enough damage to City Hall to last well beyond his scandalous eight years"?

After all, Tucker noted "it would be difficult for any sitting mayor to aim for a lower ethical standard than Campbell's." She laments whether there's anyone left worthy of her poisonous pen.

Even race-baiting ex-Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey is no longer a potential target, having been unceremoniously dumped by voters. Fortunately for Tucker, Dorsey's hubby is still very much in the news.

March
Let 'em eat pork

After grappling with the recession and a state budget crunch, state lawmakers at the tail end of 2002 Legislative session pass a budget that cuts teacher training programs by $20 million, health programs for the mentally impaired by $17 million and after-school reading programs for the learning disabled by $13 million.

Not without coincidence, the same budget gives the city of Bremen $20 million for the Tom Murphy Memorial Golf Course, the city of Perry $17 million for the Larry Walker Football Training Camp, and the city of Mableton $13 million for flashy new high school band uniforms, eye-catchingly designed by Tommy Hilfiger.

However, reform advocates cheer when lawmakers also earmark $21 million for 1,000 new voting machines as part of Secretary of State Cathy Cox's push to get all of Georgia on a reliable electronic voting system by the next presidential election in 2004 -- perfect timing for Gov. Roy Barnes if he decides to make a run for the White House.

April
Hunt still on for racist dogs

Larry Wallace, friend of Bill Campbell and the city's former chief operating officer, made a small splash after he was indicted last December when he publicly called federal prosecutors in the City Hall corruption case "racist dogs." So far, though, Wallace has had trouble tracking down his bigoted canine persecutors. What he's finding instead is an investigation led primarily by African-Americans, including Ted Jackson of the FBI, Andre Martin of the IRS and Richard Deane, who headed the U.S. Attorney's Office through the bulk of the long investigation until being replaced in November by admittedly Caucasoid G-man Bill Duffey.

Indeed, as this courtroom drama shapes up, it's looking to be less about black and white and more about green. Meaning, defendants such as Wallace -- and Spectronics Corp. vice president Vertis McManus -- are banking that their big-ticket lawyers, with their extensive connections and trial resources, will give them a better chance at skating.

May
MARTA tracks make comeback

Just in time for smog season, the tracks on the now-defunct MARTA rail system have been replaced with asphalt lanes for the region's seven Segway drivers, all of whom are white, near-sighted traffic engineers who work for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

June
Teachers vs. education reformers

Both teacher unions hold a joint press conference on the steps of the Capitol to announce their support for any gubernatorial candidate other than Roy Barnes or state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko, in order to spare themselves further headaches from ham-fisted reform edicts.

July
Atlantans stunned to meet cable guy

When the notoriously customer-unfriendly AT&T Broadband merged its operations with Comcast in December 2001, it did a huge favor to all Atlanta TV viewers without a satellite dish. Atlanta residents who report a problem with their cable now are astonished to have an actual repairman show up to their door, rather than cable cops ready to bust them for stealing Cinemax.

Closing the Barnes door

Gov. Roy Barnes' campaign disclosure forms reveal a war chest of $13 million, a full $10 million more than his closest competitor. Barnes also unveils a new corporate sponsorship fund-raising strategy in which he sells the naming rights to his campaign -- it changes from "Barnes for Georgia" to "Friends of the Northern Arc Presents Barnes for Georgia."

In the Republican gubernatorial primaries, former state Sen. Sonny Perdue edges out a pair of loose-cannons with steamer trunks of political baggage -- state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko and Cobb County Commission Chairman Bill Byrne.

August
Actual cop count revealed

During the 2001 mayoral campaign, candidates routinely groused that no one seemed to know how many police officers are on the Atlanta force, with vacancy estimates ranging between 400 and 600 officers, and openly questioned how a vital city agency can't keep track of the people it employs.

After completing yet another audit, Mayor Franklin announces there actually are only 100 cops on the street. The other 1,500 are hanging out at Manuel's Tavern and Daddy D'z Bar-B-Q. Crime rates remain unchanged.

October
Atlanta No. 1 in U.S.

After being dissed in 2001 by Bicycling Magazine as one of the worst cities in America in which to ride a bike and generally derided by environmentalists as a breeding ground for sewer overflows and asthma attacks, Atlanta lands a "Best City" citation from the American Bar Association.

It takes oodles of unsavories to keep a city's lawyers in Armani suits, and this litigation wonderland certainly doesn't disappoint. While the Gold Club case sputtered to a close in the summer of 2001, the next gravy trains are up and running in 2002: the City Hall corruption scandal, Sidney Dorsey's murder trial, the Jamil Al-Amin trial.

Still no word about whether the Chamber of Commerce will include the distinction in it brochures.

First real clean air commute

After signing legislation designating the metro area as the first Segway Safe Zone in the country, Barnes takes his life into his hands to produce the ultimate photo op, riding a candy-apple red scooter around the entire Perimeter.

November
Survivor: Election Day edition

Because his flag-change sleight-of-hand turned out to be a savvy political move -- snaring votes from black Georgians and campaign money from the rich, white business community -- Barnes handily defeats former state Sen. Sonny Perdue to win a second term as king, er, governor.

Republicans who campaigned for a statewide referendum to change the flag back to what it was in 2001 defeat 17 rural Democrat state representatives and senatorial incumbents. Defeated are some of the Gold Dome's most powerful good ol' boys, including House Speaker Thomas Murphy, D-Bremen; Larry Walker, D-Perry; Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga; Jimmy Skipper, D-Americus; and Bob Hanner, D-Parrott.

Democratic Sen. Max Cleland barely defeats former Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss.

Voters in 35 percent of Georgia's precincts cast their votes on ATM-style machines. The transition seems a success until, in an unforeseen complication, voters find a $3 service charge on their next bank statement.

December
Out with old ...

After state House Speaker Tom Murphy crashes his Segway into a group of cheerleaders during an exhibition event in the Bremen High School gym, Barnes, Murphy and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor hold a press conference announcing that their No. 1 priority for the 2003 legislative session will be to outlaw Segways in Georgia.

Staff writers Kevin Griffis, Michael Wall and Scott Henry contributed to this story.

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