Atlanta Out Loud

Politics and rantings and just stuff that catches my attention.

Friday, December 05, 2003

|| 3:19:23 PM
The Battle Rages On

Yesterday the City's Department of Watershed Management notified the EPA that the City would be unable to comply with the consent decree(s) mandating repairs in the City's sewer and water system.

You can read the letter from Watershed Commissioner Jack Raven here. There are a couple of issues with this letter...

1. Franklin's administration, and this letter, makes an erroneous assumption that the $25 Million in cost savings necessitated by the Council's actions needs to come exclusively from Watershed Management. Not true... those budge cuts can be spread citywide. But, after hearing Councilman Derrick Boazman read the salaries of every person in the Department, I would agree that it is as good a place as any to start. Administrative assistants making $150,000 per year, accountants making $300,000, etc.

2. Remember, prior to the Franklin administration we didn't even have a Department of Watershed Management. We lived for years without it (granted that may have led to some of our current problems), but now this overblown bureaucracy with overpaid politicos in its current form is absolutely essential to the operation of this city. It's another example of the administration's "all-or-none" mentality.

3. The letter states, "One immediate consequence of the ordinances passed by City Council is the inability of the City to issue new bonds in 2004." Not true. We may be splitting hairs here, but the recent downgrade in the City's bond ratings affect only water and sewer bonds. Other bonds -- general obligation, airport, etc. -- remain stable and highly rated. Plus, the City can still issue new bonds; they're just going to have to pay a higher rate of interest to service the debt. I know what the Commission meant, but it just seems to be another example of the administration stretching the truth like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling. This statement is even more ironic given this clarification that the City's credit is not on the ropes, which appeared on the Mayor's website only one day before the Commissioner's letter was sent.

4. The letter later states, "A specific failure is the West Area Tunnel project." There is significant debate among well-qualified engineers over whether the West Area Tunnel project is even necessary to comply with the consent decree. There are other alternatives, which again, the administration refuses to even consider.

The Mayor's management team seems to enjoy airing our dirty laundry, pointing fingers at the City Council and raising a ruckus everywhere they can. Yes, this notification was necessary... what was not necessary is the hell-fire-damnation tone of it. It is required within 15 days of any obstacle becoming apparent to the city. A lot can happen around here in 15 days. Instead, the Commissioner decided to fuel the flames in this fight without delay.

Another example of this mentality involves the City Attorney, Linda DiSantis. She represents the City, the Mayor and the City Council as clients. But, she marched over to the federal judge's office without consent or knowledge of her "clients" to ask, "What if the City Council doesn't rubber stamp the mayor's plan?" That was the first official on-the record signal to outsiders that there was trouble in paradise. The next day, the first of three rating agencies downgraded Atlanta's water and sewer bond rating. Coincidence? Could that have possibly been a warning shot to the City Council? This lead Council member C.T. Martin to remind Ms. DiSantis that he is "the only Council member to ever move for the firing of a City Attorney." Ms. DiSantis quickly left the meeting after that comment.


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