On only a couple of hours' notice, Mayor Shirley Franklin called a surprise press conference Thursday to "discuss the current state of the city."
After a cryptic opening statement in which she invoked Shakespeare and the "Ides of March," Herronor told the assembled print, radio and TV reporters: "I came here today for no other reason than to answer your questions."
And with that, she opened the floor for a no-holds-barred Q&A session. One guy asked about an Atlanta Police Foundation report comparing the size of the APD to other cities' police forces. Someone else wanted to know the schedule for paying back funds borrowed from the Watershed cash reserves.
But the question that seemed to set Franklin off came from this reporter. I observed that some Council members (cough, cough, Mary Norwood, cough) had publicly blamed the mayor for the current police furloughs, while she has criticized the Council for rejecting her suggestion to raise property taxes a move she says made the furloughs necessary. My question had something to do with what it might take to break this stalemate, but I never quite got to finish asking it.
Instead, the mayor embarked on an explanation of how the furloughs came to be that falling revenues, combined with the Council's unwillingness to approve a small tax hike, ultimately made them necessary. Council members have complained about the furloughs, but none have been willing to go on the record to suggest other city services or departments that could be cut to free up money to pay police.
"I understand why they didn't want to make the cuts," Franklin said. "They're hard cuts to make."
And she revealed an interesting tidbit I hadn't heard before: During the spring budget process, the city revenue projections submitted by Council members were so irrationally optimistic, the mayor refused to sign them. Franklin said she believes it's the first time a mayor has taken that step.
And, of course, the rosy projections proved to be way off-base, the mayor has been forced to take a hatchet ever since and the Council has been all too willing to let her take the heat for the tough decisions.
Still, my question got answered, if indirectly. Franklin maintains the city doesn't have the money to allow her to end the furloughs. She's not going to back down. And a Council facing an upcoming elections is unlikely to muster the political courage to find a solution for the furloughs.
That leaves only one possible salvation: Obama-bucks! Stay tuned
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