Reed urges end to furloughs

Mayoral candidate says he would reopen firehouse.

Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed pushed City Hall on Thursday to end furloughs for police officers and firefighters and took a verbal shot at another candidate who's said she won't vote for a tax increase.

"We've got a chance right now to do something. We can start by ending the furloughs that have cut the number of firefighters who are on duty and the number of police who patrol our streets every day," said Reed, a Democratic state senator, who is taking the unusual step of circulating a petition to gather support for his position. Reed is even promoting the petition through robocalls.

Mayor Shirley Franklin late last year ordered four-hour-a-week furloughs for city workers —- including herself —- to keep the city's books balanced. Many residents have pleaded for the city to end the furloughs amid a rise in burglaries and auto thefts, as well as some high-profile killings.

Reed's comments were made outside Fire Station No. 7, which Franklin closed in July to balance the budget. Reed said he wants to see the reopening of the station near the West End Mall.

The mayor is proposing a tax increase of 3 mills, which equates to about $240 for the average city homeowner, to end the furloughs. The City Council is scheduled to vote on Franklin's tax proposal June 29.

Candidate Mary Norwood, an at-large councilwoman, has said she will not vote in favor of the increase. Norwood says the city budget is a "shell game" and doesn't have confidence in the numbers.

"In the absence of good, solid numbers . . . any talk of a tax increase doesn't make sense," Norwood said earlier this week in response to questions about the city's finances.

Reed criticized Norwood's position.

"It is disingenuous to say that it is impossible to say in a general fund budget that you can't identify something to cut in order to make sure that every day that police and firefighters are on the street," he said.

Norwood is the only mayoral candidate who has a vote on the budget. Another candidate, City Council President Lisa Borders, says she would support the tax increase if it ends the furloughs. The council president only votes on items if there is a tie.