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Mary Norwood falls short while Sustainable building ordinance advances

By Maria Saporta

Whose bright idea was it to hold city council committee meetings on run-off election day?

It took nearly four hours for the Atlanta City Council’s Committee for Human Resources and Community Development on Tuesday to finally take some kind of action on the proposed Sustainable Building Ordinance.

The ordinance, introduced to council in July, has been held in committee for months as environmentalists and developers have tried to find common ground in having more green building practices in the city of Atlanta.

In the end, the committee voted to forward the ordinance to the full council at its meeting on Monday with no recommendation. The committee also defeated an amendment that would have gutted the ordinance by making it voluntary rather than mandatory.

It was Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood who made the motion to defeat that amendment, and it was Norwood who made the motion to forward the ordinance to full council.

But at what cost?

As soon as that vote was cast, Norwood, and her colleague, Ceasar Mitchell, rushed out of the meeting. Norwood was in the last day of a brutal run-off for mayor against former state Sen. Kasim Reed. And Mitchell also was in a run-off in the City Council President race.

Both patiently had waited as about 20 members of the public went on and on about the merits or problems with the ordinance.

Norwood said she had been at City Hall since 11:30 that morning working on that ordinance as well as an important issue that had come up about the Beltline.

“If I lose by 500 votes, I’m going to be….mad,” Norwood said, catching herself before she used a word that might not be becoming.

But then she quickly added that she had no choice. If she were going to be a responsible public servant, she had to be present when important votes were to be cast. Otherwise, it would be hypocritical for her to run for mayor. If you’re an elected official, that’s what one does.

According to the latest Fulton County election results, Norwood came up 620 votes shy among 84,176 votes cast in the mayor’s race.

Did the fact that Norwood spent more than four precious hours at City Hall on Tuesday rather than being out in the streets getting people to the polls contribute to her coming up short?

That’s one of those questions that can never be answered. Obviously, it would have been wise for council to have rescheduled that meeting on another day so as not to put people running for office in that no-win situation of having to choose to campaign or to be at a committee meeting.

(Mitchell ended up winning his race handily, defeating City Councilwoman Clair Muller).

As to the sustainable building ordinance (which is actually an update of the city’s existing building code), the good news that this council will have an opportunity to vote for it on Monday at its last meeting of the year.

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.



  1. Looking Out December 2, 2009 3:25 pm

    Oh for Pete’s sake! The perosn whose “bright idea” it was to call a Council meeting on Run-off Day was Madam President, Lisa Borders, and I for one believe it was timed to assist the efforts of her candidate, Kasim Reed, who will no doubt repay her with some nice, cushy, high-profile, do-little job in the Mayor’s office. Call it what it is, Maria, please!Report

  2. Former City Person December 2, 2009 9:24 pm

    Oh come on! The only reason that Madam President called that meeting was to trip up Norwood. I wonder what sort of prize Kasim has promised Ms. Borders for her support? With any luck, we’ll never find out!Report

  3. Sick of Atlanta December 3, 2009 12:44 pm

    I agree with City Person. Kasim Reed is more of the same and you know Lisa Borders had an agenda by not rescheduling! I am sick of Atlanta City Hall and the “Good Ole Boy” network down there. Welcome to another four years of poor management and bad decisions and protecting your “own” at the expense of the real tax paying citizens!!!!! The only bright spot is that Shirley is finally gone!!!!Report

  4. Pericles December 4, 2009 6:37 am

    @City Person and Sick of Atlanta: You’re barking up the wrong tree. December 1 has been the announced and published date of the final meeting of the CD/HR Committee for over a year. If you’re looking for someone to blame, point your finger at Councilwoman Norwood. She’s the one that made the motion to reject the incentives amendment that kicked off the extensive debate and testimony.Report

  5. Sick of Atlanta December 4, 2009 9:22 am

    They still could have delayed the meeting. I certainly understand that the meeting was scheduled well in advance. Lisa Borders could have had the professional respect for Mary and Ceasar, but chose not to. Also, confirming what I said earlier, read today’s ABC headlines and it confirms what I was saying. The “machine” is still alive (but barely). This is the frustrating part of living in ATL. The “machine” equals kickbacks, corruption, incompetence, and more. Maybe the “machine” will breathe it’s last breath with our new Mayor.Report

  6. Pericles December 4, 2009 2:09 pm

    @Sick: You’re misinformed. The Council President had nothing to do with the scheduling of the meeting, nor does that office have the power to unilaterally change the meeting date or time. It was the CD/HR Committee that adopted a motion on November 10 to defer the ordinance “to the next meeting.” After that vote, it was brought to the committee’s attention that the next meeting was December 1. The committee discussed changing the meeting date to November 30, but adopted a subsequent motion to specifically defer the ordinance “until December 1.” Again, the only person to blame for this fiasco is Councilwoman Norwood.Report


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