Atlanta mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed dueled Sunday over endorsements, water meter lids, property taxes and the best way for the city to get more state funding.
The latest battle was over Reed’s suggestion that Norwood, a two-term city councilwoman, tried to avoid an important City Council vote on March 20, 2006. Reed noted during a hour-long debate aired live on Georgia Public Broadcasting that Norwood didn’t vote on an ordinance allowing gay and lesbian city workers to make their partners pension beneficiaries.
“She should have stood with the [gay and lesbian community],” said Reed, who gave up his state Senate seat to run for mayor.
Norwood said she might have left the City Council chamber when the vote occurred, but didn’t do so on purpose.
“I take responsibility for that [missing the vote],” she said.
Norwood campaign officials later noted the resolution was among many items on the agenda that were part of the council’s “consent agenda,” items that are voted upon at the same time with no discussion. Gays and lesbians are estimated to be at least 10 percent of Atlanta’s registered voters, and both campaigns see them as a vital swing vote to win the Dec. 1 runoff election.
Reed campaign officials weren’t buying the explanation.
“The one opportunity [Norwood] had to take a stand with the [gay and lesbian] community, she took a walk,” said Reed spokesman Reese McCranie.
Norwood went on the attack after Reed on his property taxes. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of six years’ worth of Reed’s taxes found Fulton County penalized him $837.41 for three late payments. A company that Reed is a minority holder in has been penalized about $3,500 for late payments. Norwood campaign officials say Reed is not being completely honest about the situation and argue the late payments show he should not be trusted to manage the city’s finances.
“It seems like you are part of the problem,” Norwood said at the debate, which was sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.
Reed questioned Norwood’s ability to lead the city, noting that only one elected official, state Rep. Ralph Long of Atlanta, has endorsed her candidacy. Norwood countered that some officials “quietly” want her to win and said many of Reed’s supporters are “cronies” who have run City Hall for years and will not bring the changes Atlanta needs.
The two candidates also battled over Norwood’s recent television ad that suggested there are 150,000 water meter lids in the city “that don’t fit.” Reed said the actual number of problem lids is about 5,000, and the ad is one of several Norwood ads that have been misleading. Norwood said she’s learned that about 30 percent of the meters need to be “exchanged out.”
Reed questioned Norwood’s idea of getting more state aid for cities that have an influx of people during business hours. Reed said state lawmakers wouldn’t support the proposal.
Both candidates said they would seek state and federal help for Atlanta to improve traffic and address the region’s water supply challenges. They both said they had reservations about extending “last call” for alcohol from 2:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.