Council puts $200,000 toward reducing ’09 deficit

During its last meeting of 2008, the Atlanta City Council voted Dec. 1 to reduce the personnel costs of the offices of the municipal clerk, the director of council staff and council members by 10 percent, or $200,000, to help deal with a projected revenue shortfall of $50 million to $60 million in the city’s fiscal 2009 general fund budget.

“We are fortunate to have been frugal and accumulated cost savings over the years to be able to contribute back during this economic recession,” said City Council member Felicia Moore, who chairs the Committee on Council.

In a budget-related action, the council approved an ordinance amending the 2009 budgets of the Police, Fire and Rescue, and Watershed Management departments by adding $4,208,999.16 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness and Urban Areas Security Initiative to aid Atlanta’s efforts to protect itself from terrorist attacks.

The federal government provides the money to selected jurisdictions to address the equipment, training, planning and exercise needs of large, high-threat urban areas, including Atlanta.

City first to divest from Iran, Sudan energy

Citing the atrocities and genocide committed against the citizens of Sudan and the nuclear ambitions of Iran, Atlanta became the first major U.S. city to encourage divestment from companies that have business ties to the energy industries in Iran and Sudan.

The legislation, approved Dec. 1 by the Atlanta City Council, encourages the total disinvestment of all funds managed by, for and on behalf of Atlanta in any company with active business operations in those two countries. American-based companies are barred from doing business in Sudan and Iran.

“Both nations are on the State Department’s list of terror sponsors,” said City Council member Ceasar Mitchell, who took on the issue after a group of students from the Atlanta University Center approached him about sponsoring the legislation.

“It is the prerogative of state and municipal governments not to participate in ownership or capital-providing capacity with entities that provide significant practical support for genocide, including certain non-U.S. companies presently doing business in Sudan,” Mitchell said. More than 400,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced from Sudan’s western region of Darfur in what the United States has labeled genocide.

“This type of measure sends the signal that the actions of these nations are certainly not supported by the city of Atlanta, and I believe it leads us down a road of peaceful progress and promotes resolution without resorting to military tactics, violence or war,” Mitchell said.

The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation this year to divest all state funds from companies doing business in Iran but failed to act on a similar bill concerning Sudan.

Committee assignments announced for 2009

Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders has announced City Council committee assignments for the coming legislative year.

Buckhead council members Howard Shook (District 7) and Clair Muller (District 8) will remain chairs of the Finance/Executive Committee and the Transportation Committee, respectively, for 2009. Shook and Muller also will serve as members of the City Utilities Committee, and Muller will round out her three committee assignments as a member of Shook’s Finance/Executive Committee.

Shook will serve with Buckhead resident and at-large council member Mary Norwood on the Zoning Committee.

Norwood will serve as a member of the Community Development and Human Resources Committee and the Committee on Council.

The chairs of each standing committee will serve as members of the Finance/Executive Committee as the City Council continues to focus on Atlanta’s financial health and the needs of various agencies in the coming year.