Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shirley snaps back at cop union head

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Mayor Franklin continues to remind everyone that she has a thin skin. This time, it comes in the form of open letter released minutes ago and addressed to Sgt. Scott Kreher, president of the Atlanta police union, who had publicly scoffed at her proposal to raise taxes to hire more cops.

"Can the mayor be any more full of hot air on that one?" Kreher was quoted as saying in today's AJC.

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Kreher dismissed Franklin's proposal to add 400 officers to the APD by the end of the year as so much empty political rhetoric. Even if the city had the money, Kreher told the newspaper, the mayor knows it would take longer than that to recruit, train and certify so many new officers.

Here are some excerpts from Shirley's fairly lengthy reply:

I have your public comments and I faithfully appreciate the frustration you must feel as you advocate for the officers and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers members in recent weeks. In spite of the divisive comments you have made about me I believe we share a common goal, which is a safe city. I think we both recognize the essential role our police officers contribute to achieving this goal.

Yesterday I spoke at the Atlanta Press Club and in answering a question I mused that perhaps in my last year in office that I should push harder to reach the city's longstanding goal of 2,000 officers. To my surprise you chose to make fun of the idea and not give serious consideration to the changes we've implemented in the last seven years. Your comments may lead the public to believe you don't think the goal is laudable whether it is achieved partially this year or next year.

She ends, however, on a conciliatory note:

I am writing this letter to request your full support for a tax increase to fund 200 additional police officers in the FY 2010 General Fund budget. Working together I am certain we can be successful.

I'm guessing the full letter will be posted soon on the city's website. That seems to be the way Shirley rolls.

To be fair, I understand where the mayor is coming from. Last year, she proposed a $40 million property tax increase with the stated goal of avoiding man-hour cuts to the police and fire departments. The Council rejected the plan and sent her back to the drawing board to make more cuts to city programs and payroll, which she did. Only in December, in the fourth round of an ongoing series of personnel cuts, did she announce that employee furloughs would also apply to police and firefighters.

Scarcely a month later, following the murder of Standard bartender John Henderson, Council member and mayoral hopeful Mary Norwood publicly implied that the killing was somehow a consequence of Franklin's cuts to the police department. So I'm not surprised that Shirley, in reaction to community-wide criticism, is again pushing the idea of a tax hike to beef up the APD.

If the Council and the mayor agree that the reduction to police patrols is not acceptable, they need to work together to find — and fund — a solution. It can't be much fun to be the one who always gets passed the buck.

(CL file photo by Joeff Davis)

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