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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Atlanta's version of Bilderberg?

Reporters get suspicious when we're denied access to meetings where extremely powerful and wealthy people get together with elected officials to discuss issues of great public importance.

That's what will happen this Monday morning when the Atlanta Committee for Progress (PDF) and Mayor Shirley Franklin go behind closed doors to talk about … well, who knows what. The APC is composed of the city's pre-eminent CEOs – we're talking the top dogs here, no VPs or community-relations folks allowed.

The group's chairman is Neville Isdell of Coke – see what we mean? – and other members include Richard Anderson of Delta, Mike Garrett of Georgia Power, developer Herman Russell, Tom Bell of Cousins, James Kennedy of Cox, Phil Kent of Turner, and the list goes on and on.

The APC was created in 2003 as the lynchpin of Franklin's efforts to win the business community's support for City Hall initiatives after eight disastrous years in which Bill Campbell had bitten the hands of and otherwise alienated the city's corporate honchos.

We're not criticizing the formation of such a group – it's a great achievement from both a civic and a political viewpoint. But we would like to know what these ridiculously influential people talk about with our mayor.

Are they advising her on what the Beltline should look like? Are they cutting secret land deals? Are they asking her to fix their kids' parking tickets? There's no way to know.

John Ahmann, a consultant to the mayor who acts as executive director of the group, says Monday's agenda has Franklin briefing the Star Chamber about the Beltline, the city budget, this fall's statewide TAD referendum and the city's upcoming legislative wish list.

Sounds harmless enough. But remember: These are the guys who talked the mayor into launching Brand Atlanta.

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