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2002 -- It was a very good year (we hope)

Taking a look back at a year that hasn't happened yet

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Typically, the end of a year offers a chance for reflection on recent events, milestones and lessons learned. But you'll have to excuse us in the news business for not being eager to relive 2001. Just the thought of Bill Campbell riding out his final days as mayor on a tsunami of civic contempt, or a sullen Sidney Dorsey busted for a murder scheme the Corleones wouldn't have risked, or the Atlanta and Fulton County budgets stretched thinner than the plot of an Adam Sandler flick, or rumors of a certain beloved pituitary case entering the Gold Club with the shout, "Who will sex Mutumbo?" -- not to mention Sept. 11, for God's sake! -- are enough to make even the most cockeyed optimist add a quart jug of Prozac to his Christmas list.

So we're taking the occasion of CL's Year in Review issue not to look back, but rather take a glimpse into the future at what could happen on Atlanta's political and social scene over the next 12 months. Decide for yourself which is more likely. Trust us; it's better this way.

January
Franklin and Woolard size each other up

During her campaign for city council president, Cathy Woolard joked that if she won, she'd definitely see eye to eye with new Mayor Shirley Franklin. (Both women aren't much over 5 feet tall.)

Well, she won, and now, just days after being sworn in, the two leaders find they're the perfect height for something else: butting heads -- in this case, over a Campbell-proposed city budget that cuts more than 200 vacant police positions and 75 other jobs after Franklin told voters she could avoid layoffs and still balance the budget.

Still, Woolard chooses her battles wisely. This discretion, combined with Franklin's honeymoon period, mean that the Atlanta city government, after years of bloated patronage, almost seems to be working.

Meanwhile, police Chief Beverly Harvard is in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from faxing out resumes. Busy local accountants, on the other hand, are feeling no pinch from the economic downtown, thanks to an audit-happy Franklin administration.

Clean air tied to foreign terrorism

The Cheney administration tricks Congress into repealing the Clean Air Act in favor of its "Pollution = Patriotism Act of 2002." In a subsequent congressional hearing, four Southern Co. lobbyists deny telling members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee that greenhouse gases have been proven to repel terrorists.

MARTA is 'dumba'

After a year in which MARTA increased fares from $1.50 to $1.75, laid off 50 rider aides and dropped scores of popular bus routes, a group of social scientists concludes that contrary to the public transportation authority's one-time slogan, MARTA is no longer "smarta." In fact, it's dumber than walking, riding a bike and, in some cases, even driving.

The jury is still out, however, on the relative IQ of the Segway Human Transporter, the futuristic scooters that are popping up on downtown sidewalks.

February
Tucker suffers writer's block

Superman had Lex Luthor. Bush the Elder had Saddam Hussein. And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker had Bill Campbell. Now, with HizDisHonor gone from the public stage, she's left with no arch-villain to kick around in print.

At various times, she's called Campbell a "master demagogue," whose "pettiness and ego-mongering know no bounds" and wondered who else could be "determined to do enough damage to City Hall to last well beyond his scandalous eight years"?

After all, Tucker noted "it would be difficult for any sitting mayor to aim for a lower ethical standard than Campbell's." She laments whether there's anyone left worthy of her poisonous pen.

Even race-baiting ex-Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey is no longer a potential target, having been unceremoniously dumped by voters. Fortunately for Tucker, Dorsey's hubby is still very much in the news.

March
Let 'em eat pork

After grappling with the recession and a state budget crunch, state lawmakers at the tail end of 2002 Legislative session pass a budget that cuts teacher training programs by $20 million, health programs for the mentally impaired by $17 million and after-school reading programs for the learning disabled by $13 million.

Not without coincidence, the same budget gives the city of Bremen $20 million for the Tom Murphy Memorial Golf Course, the city of Perry $17 million for the Larry Walker Football Training Camp, and the city of Mableton $13 million for flashy new high school band uniforms, eye-catchingly designed by Tommy Hilfiger.

However, reform advocates cheer when lawmakers also earmark $21 million for 1,000 new voting machines as part of Secretary of State Cathy Cox's push to get all of Georgia on a reliable electronic voting system by the next presidential election in 2004 -- perfect timing for Gov. Roy Barnes if he decides to make a run for the White House.

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