Not missing Coffin at all

To the editor:

In several of your recent issues you have reported that “Buckhead residents long for the days” when fired arborist Tom Coffin was in charge of enforcing the city’s tree ordinances. Not true. I am a Buckhead resident, and I don’t long for those days. In fact, I think the tree ordinances are overly oppressive and a violation of basic property rights.

I love trees, but they should not come before humans, nor before my freedoms. All of us live in homes that were built where trees once stood. Yet some insist that no new homes be built, so as to save the trees. The fact is that most people, wanting to improve their properties, will make rational decisions on how best to manage trees. The tree ordinances are just another way for the Atlanta city government to exert control over its citizens and to collect additional revenue.

David Berger

This is efficiency?

To the editor:

On behalf of the taxpayers of Atlanta, I would like to respond to the article “Atlanta among the most efficient cities” (Dec. 26) by David Edwards, senior policy adviser in the Office of the Mayor.

Garbage pickup: According to the city’s own Turnaround Plan of 2002, 52 percent of American cities have outsourced residential solid-waste collection. In the Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2008, 68 percent of American cities have privatized residential solid-waste collection. The reputable private firms use one man per truck equipped with an automatic arm that picks up, empties and returns the garbage cans. That is why the Turnaround Plan indicates that the cost savings could be as high as 60 percent. The city’s proposed 2009 budget for solid-waste services is $42,240,000.

Fleet management: According to the Turnaround Plan of 2002, 38 percent of American cities have outsourced fleet management and maintenance. In the Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2008, 62 percent of American cities have outsourced fleet management and maintenance. The Turnaround Plan indicates that the cost savings could be as high as 38 percent. The city’s proposed 2009 budget for fleet services is $29,787,032.

The Turnaround Plan lists 12 city services, including solid waste, fleet management, fire services, parks and recreation, airport management and operations, and water and waste water, under the headline “Savings Vary but Can Be Significant.” The Taxpayers Foundation calculated the savings on those six city services mentioned based on the proposed 2009 budget and concluded that Atlanta taxpayers could save far more than $300 million annually.

Mr. Edwards opens his article with the sentence “The city of Atlanta is not bankrupt.” Recently, the city confirmed that the unfunded portion of the pension funds total $1.2 billion. Several months ago, the city verified the fact that the water and sewer infrastructure has increased in cost from $3.2 billion to $4 billion. Last month, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced a deficit in the 2009 budget of $50 million to $60 million; the Buckhead Reporter, in the same edition as Mr. Edwards’ article, reports that the “Water Department also sees $50 million deficit.”

Two weeks ago, before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Franklin submitted a list of “Capital Projects for 2009.” The list has 58 projects totaling $1,629,281,498.

The total of those current and potential obligations is almost $6.9 billion.

By an interesting coincidence, the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation is sponsoring a luncheon Feb. 11 at 103 West. The guest speaker will be Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform of the Reason Foundation, a highly respected, nonprofit think tank advancing free markets.

Mr. Gilroy, a certified urban planner (AICP), researches privatization, government reform, transportation, infrastructure and urban policy issues. He is also editor of the world’s most circulated newsletter on privatization, Privatization Watch, and is the editor of the widely read Annual Privatization Report. His speech before the Taxpayers Foundation is titled “Preventing the Bankruptcy of Atlanta.” The mayor, the City Council and Mr. Edwards are cordially invited as guests of the foundation.

John S. Sherman, president

Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation