THEN: After coming under heavy fire from the media and finding himself the target of a federal corruption probe, Mayor Bill Campbell stayed mostly under the radar during his last couple of years in office. It wasn’t uncommon for hizzoner to hop on a jet and disappear for a few days without telling anyone where he was headed. (Hint: Somewhere with a casino.) When the mayor did surface, it was often to paint his many critics as racists. As we would learn only after he left office, the city’s finances were a mess, but the soaring economy of the late ’90s helped conceal the bad bookkeeping. By the time Campbell’s second term was over in January 2002, several of his friends and underlings had already been indicted or had entered guilty pleas.
NOW: Mayor Shirley Franklin may not be the most popular person in Atlanta right now, but no one can say she’s a crook. Much of the current mayor’s PR troubles stem from her own combative relationship with local media. At her final press conference, she cavalierly invited reporters to “print what you want.” But Franklin’s image has likewise been scuffed by her administration’s budgetary blunders and a police chief who seems more interested in touting crime stats than in catching bad guys. And while Franklin launched the sewer program and other reforms, customer service remains a largely foreign concept in City Hall. Still, although city revenues have taken a pounding from the recession, Atlanta’s financial infrastructure is actually — finally — in pretty decent shape.
PROGNOSIS: Love Franklin or hate her, is there anyone who isn’t ready for a new mayor?