The Atlanta City Council Monday approved a $567 million spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1st. Revenues are up due to the recovering economy so residents need not worry about a tax hike.
Instead, the city is looking to bolster services – an issue that sparked some rare disagreement between Mayor Kasim Reed and some of his traditional allies on Council.
As Council debated the mayor’s proposed budget into the evening, Reed felt the need to add some perspective.
“I’ve heard other Council people say that this budget process has been one of the more smooth budget processes we’ve had. Ladies and gentleman, that’s because we’re not broke,” said Reed.
He directed most of his remarks specifically to Alex Wan, chair of the Council’s finance committee. Wan had proposed amending the budget so Reed’s administration would be pushed to fill vacant positions more rapidly.
“These are vacant positions that aren’t helping move the needle forward on our city services,” said Wan.
In years past, department heads have been known to keep positions vacant to give themselves more budget flexibility.
Reed strongly denied this was happening under his watch. He defended his administration’s stewardship and went after Wan.
“He didn’t even have the decency to have a conversation with me about his desire to pursue this approach. And I don’t know what we’ve done so wrong where we deserve this kind of micromanagement,” said Reed. “If you want to run for mayor, Mr. Wan, run for mayor.”
The Council ultimately rejected Wan’s proposal by an 11-4 vote. Wan, for his part, said he’s not interested in running for mayor.
Another dispute over new money involved Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, typically a Reed ally. She took issue with the mayor’s recommendation to allocate roughly $4 million extra for the municipal court. Bottoms, an attorney, wanted more strings attached so judges would be forced to open their courts five days a week as opposed to four.
“Frankly, there’s a concern that if we don’t exercise strength here, it’s not going to happen,” said Bottoms.
She was ultimately able to pass only a nonbinding resolution. Bottoms vowed to continue the fight this summer.
Council went on to approve Reed’s budget mostly intact by a 14-1 vote. Councilwoman Felicia Moore was the lone dissenter, which she attributed in large part to Reed’s reaction to Wan’s vacancy proposal.