The insider 

You may not know the name Shirley Franklin, but get used to it. She may very well be Atlanta's next mayor.

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Her ex-husband credits Franklin, with whom he remains good friends, with achieving by the grace of God what others couldn't if they spent their days toadying up to fat cats and attending every luncheon from Buckhead to Hartsfield.

"Shirley and Andrew Young are two of the only people I know who are truly blessed," he says. "Things just come to both of them. They don't go after the things they get. They just come to them."

Lomax, a former Fulton County Commission Chairman who is now president of Dillard University in New Orleans, explains in more secular terms how first-time candidate Franklin has secured her favored position: "There is most definitely a black political establishment in Atlanta and Shirley is certainly a card-carrying member of that establishment. She's worked for, or with, every mayoral administration for the last 30 years and now she has the support of the icons of the African-American community. At least with the black voters, I don't think that's a negative."

More of the same might not be so bad if you like the status quo, but there are residents who aren't happy with Campbell's administration which they consider the scion of Jackson and Young's administrations.

During the last mayoral campaign the 7th and 8th Council districts overwhelmingly supported Marvin Arrington, a conservative alternative to Campbell. Many people in affluent, mostly white areas on the north side feel under-served by city government. They were disappointed to see Campbell elected for a second term. Their concerns range from having adequate police protection to City Hall's lack of a nurturing attitude toward Buckhead businesses.

Toby Watts, a Buckhead attorney who wants to make it clear that he is speaking for himself and not Neighborhood Planning Unit B, of which he is president, doesn't want more of the same.

"The rumor is that she's sort of had the magic wand waved over her by Young and Jackson and Campbell," says Watts. "I think the Campbell administration has been marked by ineptitude. It would concern me if her campaign promised to carry out the policies of former administrations."

Watts' city councilman, Lee Morris, explains what is meant by "ineptitude." He points to city policies that spend taxpayers' money on social causes rather than the basics that he says should be the sole concern of local government: public safety, police, fire-fighters, well-maintained streets and water systems, a healthy infrastructure.

"While Shirley Franklin was in high, appointed offices, she helped forge the present policies and procedures and she put people in charge who are still in place," says Morris, who adds his belief that if Franklin is backed by Jackson, Young and Campbell, their support will be her kiss of death in the 7th District.

When Franklin lists her achievements, they do, in fact, come down a little more heavily on the social side of things: she was a key planner in the city's arts support programs, her planning resulted in the founding of the Nexus Contemporary Art Center ( since renamed the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center), she pushed for free symphony concerts in city parks and public art at the airport.

"Only New York City was funding the arts more than Atlanta at that time," says Franklin.

It was Franklin who conceived of a revamped city employees' health insurance program that would expand coverage to include mammograms, dental care and newborn care. Under her administration the city instituted a one-percent sales tax that she explains is a more fair way — rather than relying on property taxes — to raise money for capital improvements. The one-time windfall of that particular tax, she says, provided partial funding for the Georgia Dome.

She also instituted an internal audit team that monitored the city's finances. That team has since disbanded.

But Morris views some of Franklin's experience — like her stint with ACOG — as a negative.

"Although Atlantans are proud of the Olympics, people are now aware of the flow of money and favors it takes for a city to obtain the Olympics, and they don't want that in their city government," says Morris.

Franklin has never, in any way, been connected with allegations of bribery surrounding Atlanta's Olympic bid.

She also managed to come out of ACOG's altercation with Olympics Out of Cobb, the gay rights group formed in response to Cobb County's anti-gay resolution, unsmudged.

"She was the finest example of integrity and willingness to converse on a civil level of the whole bunch at the Olympic committee," says Larry Pelligrini a gay rights activist. "We feel that she understood the underlying issues."

Pelligrini believes that Franklin was at least instrumental in having Olympic events moved to new venues outside of Cobb County.



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