The media came to bury Shirley, not praise her. She knew it even before they did.

In what was likely her last press conference as mayor, Shirley Franklin gave a performance that resembled her term. Fact-based. Not reporter-friendly.

In truth, Franklin has received a raw deal of sorts. Crime is down, but Atlanta residents insist it’s up. The sewers are better, but water rates have increased. Police officers are in the streets, but furloughs have captured the front page of the AJC. A few high-profile crimes can make all statistics seem false.

The answer to Franklin’s problem has always been one of public relations. When times were good- and Lord, they were good when she was re-elected with 90%- there wasn’t a need for good PR. A competent and successful administrator after the shame of Bill Campbell, a woman with an eccentric passion for flower pins, that was all that the city needed. Shirley was even listed in the phone book for gosh sakes! What a real humble woman we have!

Then the Kathryn Johnston fiasco. No matter how many sewer lines are updated, an 88-year-old innocent woman murdered in her home will always get the front page.

That was three years ago.

Since then, we have realized the full economic damage of the Bush recession. Like nearly every city in America, Atlanta is sprinting toward bankruptcy. The chocolates and sweets have ceased to fall in City Hall and the mayor didn’t adjust. It was her last year. Why would she?

Mayor Franklin tried to raise property taxes as the entire City Council was up for re-election. Is there a better example of management trumping politics?

Today, we saw Shirley as she has always been- a gifted administrator, a skilled and practical woman, a fine mayor, toiling away at the one thing she doesn’t do well.

Many years ago, the Atlanta Falcons has a gifted coach that we summarily ran out-of-town. The guy liked to wear cowboy hats and big-ass belt buckles and leave tickets for Elvis at the front gate just in case The King was still alive. It was fun and distracting, and it made the on-field nightmare of early 90’s Falcons football bearable.

But when the team kept losing, the cowboy shtick got old. Quickly.

She’ll be seen as a true reformer in time. She brought respectability back to our city leadership, and those that really know the true scope of it will cherish her work behind the scenes.

But her flower pin was much like Glanville’s hat. Engaging and cute until the team started to lose. A non-existent press strategy works in good times, and fails miserably when things turn south.

Franklin was a much better mayor than Glanville was a coach. It is a pity that in Franklin’s case, Atlanta actually got better.

Advertisements