Inside City Hall: Should Atlanta City Council members face term limits?

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

A weekly roundup of the most important things you need to know about Atlanta City Hall

Should there be a limit on how long an Atlanta City Council member serves? Officials are set to take up that question Monday, after Councilman Antonio Lewis introduced a proposal to institute limits for the city’s legislative body.

Currently, council members can remain in their post for as long as they want, if voters re-elect them every four years. (The mayor, on the other hand, can’t serve more than two consecutive terms.)

Lewis’ proposal would limit council members to five consecutive four-year terms (a total of 20 years), and would allow someone to run again after a four-year break.

The legislation wouldn’t be retroactive, Lewis’ office says, meaning current council members wouldn’t suddenly be limited based on terms they’ve already served.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

It’s not unheard of for officials to serve longer than two decades. Former councilwomen Cleta Winslow and Joyce Sheperd sought their seventh and fifth terms, respectively, last year, but both failed to win re-election. On the current council, Councilman Howard Shook is serving his sixth term, Councilman Michael Julian Bond is in his fourth.

However, we’re hearing the legislation may hit a snag over the legal question of whether the council has the ability to impose term limits on itself, or whether it’s something the state would have to approve.

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In case you missed it, the Department of Watershed Management wants to help single family residences with past due account balances. The city’s Flexible Levels, Options, & Affordable Terms (F.L.O.A.T.) Initiative Program can help residents resolve their water service challenges, be it due to billing errors or meter issues.

The program offers account adjustments, interest-free payment plans from six to 24 months, and one-time grants and credits. The assistance is available for single family residences with an account balance minimum of $300.

Residents can visit atlantawatershed.org/float/ to schedule an appointment, but walk-ins are accepted as well. To participate, residents can visit the following locations:

  • Buckhead Library: Sept. 26-30
  • Kirkwood Library: Oct. 3-7
  • Louise Watley Library: Oct. 10–13 and Oct. 15
  • City Hall – Old Council Chambers: Oct. 17-20

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Councilwoman Mary Norwood is raising eyebrows after she published an online opinion column that echoes the talking points of the Buckhead cityhood movement.

In the column, Norwood criticized the city government and said it is neglecting Buckhead. Her arguments focused mostly on traffic issues, pointing to a city study that showed her district has the second-highest percentage of roads in “fair” or “poor” condition. She said Buckhead “is not getting what we need and deserve,” a sentiment that was cheered by supporters of the controversial — and currently dormant — cityhood movement.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

It garnered a lengthy response from Mayor Andre Dickens’ office. In a letter to Norwood, one of Dickens’ top deputies said several of her points “lacked context or accuracy.” (You can read the full letter on AJC.com.) Norwood has largely avoided publicly criticizing Dickens’ administration, but this back-and-forth is sure to change their dynamic.

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Atlanta’s rappers were recently recognized for their impact on City Hall. Last Friday, Politico profiled how entertainment moguls like T.I., Ludacris, and Killer Mike have influence into city politics. The article notes, however, that some critics are comparing their involvement with the old dynamic of the rich meddling in city affairs to fulfill their own needs.

Send us tips and feedback at Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com and Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com.

WILBORN NOBLES III

Wilborn P. Nobles III covers the Atlanta mayor's policies for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wil (not "Willie" or "William") previously covered Baltimore County government at The Baltimore Sun, but he never finished "The Wire." He also covered education for the Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans, so he tries to avoid discussions about football. Wil used to play tuba for his high school marching band, but he eventually put down his horn to intern at The Washington Post. The Louisiana State University graduate enjoys gardening, comedy, and music.

Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com

J.D. CAPELOUTO

J.D. Capelouto is a local news reporter covering City Hall and all things intown Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His work focuses the City Council, neighborhood issues, public safety, housing and transportation. J.D. was born and raised in Atlanta and has lived in the city all his life, except for four years at Boston University, where he studied journalism and learned how to dress for cold weather. He’s been with the AJC since 2018, and has previously written for The Boston Globe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When he’s not reporting or scrolling through Twitter, J.D. enjoys pop culture podcasts, “Survivor” and visiting various pools around Atlanta.

Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com