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Atlanta’s Shirley Franklin reflects on her life and on her two terms as mayor

In a hastily-called, open-ended press briefing, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin Thursday was particularly reflective.

She answered numerous questions about public safety — police and fire — as well as possible future budget cuts. But in between the questions, she sprinkled some of her views of politics as well as her life lessons.

Here are a few:

“One of the reasons why I protect your right to have an opinion is because I can protect my right to have an opinion,” she told journalists.

When asked where she felt as though she had wanted to do more in her two terms as mayor, Franklin said: “I’ve accomplished a lot more than I thought I would get done.”

She then mentioned the progress on the BeltLine project, the reforms in city government, the building of the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson, the city’s water and sewer infrastructure and the Gateway Center to help the homeless.

Asked whether she was worried about anything, the mayor said: “I’m worried about everything.”

She painted the picture of Atlanta’s economic troubles — a high vacancy rate of homes, a higher than national average unemployment rate, and a high foreclosure rate.

Franklin said one of her major tasks in her last year in office is “succession,” getting the city prepared for the next mayor. Does she have any ideas about who that should be?

“I’ve got a lot of ideas, but none that I’m sharing, and maybe never,” Franklin said hinting that she might not endorse a mayoral candidate.

She also shared how she copes with life when things are difficult.

“When one is in tough times like this, I turn to music, the arts and literature,” the mayor said.

And then she talked about being an only child and how she had to learn to survive on her own.

When she was 13, she would travel one-and-a-hours on Philadelphia’s public transit to reach the school she wanted to attend, and retrace her journey back home.

“I had to decide I was going to be tough enough, confident enough to navigate myself through the city everyday,” Franklin said.

“I’ve always been one to say: ‘How bad can it get,’ and work my way to how good can it get,” she added. “We all respond to crisis based on our own human experiences.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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