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Monday, March 24, 2014

Shirley Franklin: 'I regret that I didn't do more' to tackle Atlanta's economic inequality woes

"I regret that I didn't do more. What I could have done is been a stronger advocate. The first and easiest thing to do would have been to use the bully pulpit to talk about the importance of reaching back and helping people at the lowest end. I know that I offered alternatives in city government. For instance, we increased the minimum wage that was being paid to city employees. That seems like a small thing, but there were city employees who were earning less than $20,000 a year working 40 hours a week when I came into office. As soon as there was money, we raised that, and we took seasonal employees and moved them into full-time positions. That was an effort to raise the level of income for working men and women who were doing a good job, but who were vastly underpaid. We raised the floor, but I should have been talking to everyone and making the wage rate in the state of Georgia and in the city of Atlanta, beyond City Hall, an issue.

"The second idea is that I really didn't do much around education when I was in office. I'm an advocate for education and some alternatives like charter schools, but I could have done more. I could have brought more people together to force the discussion about how our children were continuing to fall behind, and I didn't do that. I did initiate a program through the city to assist some 4,000 students with summer jobs over six years. We raised $6 million to pay the difference between their costs and their scholarships. I thought that was pretty good, but the 4,000 needs to be 40,000."

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin responds to a question on what she would've done differently in hindsight to combat the city's economic inequality problem during her time in office. (via National Journal)

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