Franklin: Extending "last call" hours a bad idea

The idea has been a hot topic since Councilman Kwanza Hall introduced legislation Monday requesting the city study the economic benefits of extending the hours, suggesting additional sales tax money could be used to fund Atlanta's  public safety needs. The council's finance/executive committee has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall on the matter.

The mayor said extending the hours would put a strain on police. She called the resolution "a publicity stunt, a gimmick."

"It may play well in some segments of the population, but it doesn't make sense for our city as there is greater demand for public safety services to patrol streets, save lives and prevent crime," Franklin wrote in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and some city officials. "Whether there is money to be made or not, the expansion of hours will stretch Atlanta's current public safety resources."

Hall said he simply wants information about the revenue opportunities, noting city officials project an austere financial forecast for the next 12 months.

"Regardless of how people feel about last call, most Atlantans who are not politicians seem genuinely engaged by the larger issues this study would explore: revenue generation that is not property tax driven, public safety and both quality of life and quality of nightlife," he said.

The council voted in December 2003 to push back "last call" to 2:30 a.m. after several shootings and violence outside Atlanta after-hours spots sparked calls from residents for change, particularly those who lived near Buckhead Village. Franklin supported those changes. Some council members involved in the acrimonious debate on that legislation say they do not want to grapple with the issue again. Hall, 38, joined the council in 2006 and is its youngest member.

One of those council members, Howard Shook of Buckhead, said he received information from the city that shows liquor by-the-drink revenue increased from about $3.4 million in 2003 to approximately $3.7 million in 2004. Shook, the finance/executive committee chairman, is awaiting additional data and details about crime near city nightspots since the hours were changed.

Hall voted against property tax increases in 2008 and 2009 that Franklin said were necessary to fund proper public safety.

"I don't like raising taxes," Hall said.

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