Atlanta Mayor Honored by JFK Library Foundation

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was one of fourrecipients of the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her effortsin solving the city’s financial crisis, including addressing longtime problemswith the city’s sewer and water systems.

Franklin, former Texas StateSenator Bill Ratliff and U.S. Army Specialist Joseph M. Darby were presentedtheir awards by Caroline Kennedy and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)at a ceremonyat the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on May 16.Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko was presented with a 2005 Profile in CourageAward at a separate ceremony hosted by Ms. Kennedy and Sen. Kennedy in earlyApril.

Franklin is the first African-American woman to serve as mayor ofa major southern city. When Franklin took office in 2001, Atlanta was burdenedby an $82 million budget deficit, a festering sewer crisis, and the publicdistrust of an electorate that had grown weary of the deeds and misdeeds of itselected leadership.

Franklin responded to the city’s budget shortfall byslashing 1,000 city jobs and pressing the City Council into passing a 50 percentproperty tax increase. She also cut her own salary and staff, and implementedthe strictest ethics rules in.the state to counter the swelling officialcorruption that had plagued her predecessor.

In 2003, she requestedanother tax hike to meet city expenses and to pay for sewer repairs to anoutdated sewer system overflowing into local rivers. To address the century-oldneglected sewer system, Franklin formed an unprecedented alliance between stateand local officials, eventually negotiating a $500 million state loan that hadinitially been rejected by the Georgia Senate.
Although she has taken severalmeasures that many politicians would see as career-ending, Franklin has remainedremarkably popular among Atlanta voters, who find her candor andstraight-shooting calls for burden-sharing a welcome and refreshingchange.

“I do not think of myself as couraeous. I’m convinced that, atleast in Atlanta, if you’re honest with the public, and tell them what theoptions are, they’ll understand that you have to make tough decisionssometimes,” Franklin said. “This award is a reflection of the hard work of theemployees and the support of the residents of Atlanta.”

Many ofFranklin’s supporters also attended the event. Along with family and friends,several City of Atlanta employees, board members from various private/publicpartnerships and local news services attended to commemorate theoccasion.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presentedannually to public servants who have withstood strong opposition to follow whatthey believe is the right course of action. The award is named for PresidentKennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recountsthe stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers to fight for whatthey believed in.

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