Two viewpoints on fixing Atlanta's budget

Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform, the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank

Atlanta's deficit was caused by poor fiscal management. The city needs a three-step budget makeover.

First, shift to outcome-based budgeting. Politicians and taxpayers must rank their budget priorities, funding the most important items at the top of the list. Then go down the list in order until you are out of money. This makes budgeting priorities transparent to everyone.

Second, more competition. Indianapolis and Charlotte reduced spending and improved services by requiring public employees and private companies to bid for contracts. Even when government employees win the contract, it is for much less than current costs — saving taxpayers millions.

Finally, lease infrastructure to private operators. Chicago has generated more than $3 billion recently by leasing roads, parking garages and more. The proceeds can build needed roads, pay long-term pension obligations and set up a rainy-day fund.

Tax increases aren't the answer. Atlanta's government can be better and cheaper.


Greg Streib, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University

Beware of politicians offering easy answers.

The current financial crisis demands tough decisions, but securing a bright future requires leaving the bunker mentality behind.

There is great drama in "going down gambling," but last chance thinking is not how great cities are built.

Our competitors build vast networks of eager supporters and they embrace the technologies and effective management practices that can help them achieve some level of foresight and initiative.

They build capacity by luring talented administrators who stay a bit and thrive, rather than serving as a revolving door.

Mayor Franklin put us on the right path, but we need rapidly accelerated professionalization and acceptance of the fact that decisions need to be driven by rigorous evidence.

Our new president and much of the nation have awakened to the fact that cities matter, and Atlanta should position itself to benefit from this new embrace of our urban places.