James May-June 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 36
law and wildly unusual statistics (such as the absentee
rejection rate versus past elections) were enough to
likely make a principled case that Georgia’s election
process was in need of securing. Yet trying to fit that
information and belief into a legal cause of action to
quantify the number of “ill-gotten” votes in a short time
span was all but impossible.
What Republican legislators lacked in their attempt
to pass subsequent changes in election law was a coherent and repeatable message that listed the indisputable
issues that arose last November. For example, the public
still doesn’t know and the press won’t report that Fulton
County purchased expensive software to validate signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. There was just one
problem. They never used it. That left an elections staff,
criticized by its own leadership post-November, to verify
some 145,000 signatures by hand. Uh huh!
That is just one example.
Just as importantly, there should be a uniform set of
talking points for the legislation that passed. They should
include ones like:
“Why did Colorado kick thousands of voters off the
rolls when they implemented their universal mail-in system?” Answer: faulty photo IDs or lack thereof.
“Why is it so hard to vote absentee in New York?”
Answer: New York has a very narrow set of excuses to
qualify to vote absentee.
M AY/JUNE 2021
“Why the ban on third parties giving food and water in line?” Answer: Because lines in some areas of the
state were turned into mini block parties designed to
campaign, persuade, and “hold that place in line.” (By the
way, when is the last time you witnessed anyone asking
for food and water while voting in Georgia?)
But aside from the muddled message, it was destroyed with stupid moves like the arrest of a Democrat
legislator/gadfly just as the media were recording and
snapping photos of Governor Kemp signing the election
bill (surrounded by a gang of what looked like “the good
ole boys”). Whether the print on the wall behind Kemp
in the photo was an antebellum mansion matters not. It
looked like one.
For gosh sakes, get these folks some sophisticated,
professional consulting assistance! Because of unsophisticated messaging, Georgia and its legislators have been
unfairly painted with a broad bush from a paint can full
of corporate political ignorance. That ignorance is being based on selective national press coverage that took
advantage of a Republican message that lacked consistent talking points and that was capped off by a signing
ceremony right out of a “Saturday Night Live” TV skit.
The whole GOP presentation of the new election
reform law was the equivalent of that cheap, flimsy welcome sign at the state line. The only question now: Whose
name will hang from it come January of 2023?
om Menino was mayor of Boston for 21 years from
1993 to 2014. Unlike most of his predecessors and
successors, he didn’t want to use the office as a
steppingstone to some higher office. All he wanted was
to be mayor of Boston. He wasn’t in it for himself, politically or financially; he just wanted to do what he thought
was right for his city. He wanted it to be safe, prosperous, and beautiful.
Along the way, he embraced progressive causes
like LGBTQ rights, green technology and gun control.
He played politics with these and other issues, so you
might think conservatives wouldn’t have liked him. But
they did. So did liberals.
Boston thrived. He worked
hard— and became unbeatable. He probably would
still be mayor today if he
hadn’t died of cancer.
You might call this kind
of mayor a “caregiver mayor”— one who only cares for
his or her city, in both senses
of the word “care.” This is
the kind of mayor Atlanta
desperately needs: one who wants to be mayor just in order to care for the city— and doesn’t want to get elected
or appointed to anything else.
Atlanta used to have this kind of mayor. Shirley Franklin was the last one with the right instincts. At first she
called herself “the pothole mayor.” But she was elected 20
years ago. By contrast, three of our last four mayors— Bill
Campbell, Kasim Reed, Keisha Lance Bottoms— have
cared mainly for themselves and their own personal
futures, either politically or financially or both. This focus
produces bad outcomes for the city. For example, many
people believe that Bottoms’ mishandling of the riots and
the police force last summer was guided by her ambition to be President Biden’s vice president or secretary
of HUD, rather than by what was good for the city. The
current crime wave is the result.
Other cities have had caregiver mayors too. They’re
not perfect. Some have been accused of being dictators,
or bullies, or crooks, or all three. Sometimes they were. But
they cared about their cities and pretty much nothing else.
They worked hard, and as a result they achieved good outcomes for their cities and, perhaps ironically, for themselves
too. They came to City Hall every day thinking about what
their own cities needed, not what they themselves needed.
It wasn’t that they didn’t have opinions about their state
or their country. They did. But they realized that they were
elected to take care of their own city, full stop, period.
Ed Lee in San Francisco was an example, and so was
Richie Daley in Chicago.
Daley lasted 22 years. Lee
would still be mayor if he
hadn’t died of a sudden
heart attack in 2017, and
San Francisco today would
be much the better for it.
Michael Bloomberg was
this kind of mayor of New
York for 12 years. Atlanta
suburbs have had examples
too: Max Bacon in Smyrna,
and both Pug Mabry and Jere Wood in Roswell. So have
other Georgia cities: John Rousakis in Savannah, and
Lace Futch in Willacoochee, for instance. (All served for 20
or so years, and some a lot longer.)
A caregiver mayor doesn’t have to be a non-politician.
Indeed, most of them are politicians to the core. They are
very ambitious to be mayor, and to get re-elected. But it is
city politics they care about, not other politics.
This is the kind of mayor we need in Atlanta. Will we get
one this year, to save our city? Time, and the electorate, will
tell. If we do, we should change the two-term limit so we can
keep him or her for a long time. A mayor like this, even no
doubt with some drawbacks, is a precious asset for a city.
Bob Irvin served 15 years in the Georgia General Assembly and
was a board member of Common Cause Georgia.
MAY/ J UN E 2 0 2 1