Perspectives on the election that propelled her into the Atlanta
mayors office made up the core of Shirley Franklins
appearance at Cox Hall, March 21.
When a door opens for one of us, said Franklin, Atlantas
first woman mayor, it opens for most [all] of us.
It was the opportunity to prove that a woman could handle the job
of mayor that eventually led Franklin in 1999 to declare her candidacy
for the position she won last year.
The mayors appearance was sponsored by the Residence Hall
Association, which tied the event to Emorys campuswide celebration
of Womens History Month. Given Franklins historical
significance, the association was appropriate.
Franklin told a crowd of about 150 that, prior to running, she
grappled with a range of issuesfrom a mayoral races
impact on her family, the difficulties of entering public life in
a post-Watergate world, and her own feelings about the possibilities
of longtime friends supporting her opponents or challenging her
publicly on issuesbefore deciding it was the right thing to
I love Atlanta and didnt want to see city government
continue to suffer, Franklin said.
She spoke of having to overcome a lack of name recognition (a microscopic
8 percent of people polled knew who she was when she declared her
candidacy) and the unique difficulties of having to run as a woman.
I knew I couldnt take anything for granted, she
said. Franklin added that many people were shocked that she understood
the inner workings of city governmentdespite the fact she
ran Atlantas day-to-day operations for more than 10 years
while serving with two different mayors: Andrew Young and Maynard
Now that she is mayor herself, Franklin said that the biggest problem
facing Atlanta is its citizens lack of trust in the city government.
To combat that, she said the citys leadersbeginning
with herselfmust be honest, straightforward, candid and accessible.
Franklin was all four of those things during her Emory appearance.
While she took the podium 15 minutes after the planned 7 p.m. start
time, she stayed more than 20 minutes past the planned 8 p.m. conclusion
of the event.
Following her 20-minute address, which she delivered smoothly without
the benefit of notes, Franklin answered more than 40 minutes of
questions from the audience, most of whom were students.
Franklin gave detailed answers (something she joked about several
times) but consistently held the audiences interest.
When asked about solutions to solve traffic problems in the city,
Franklin said she supported a combined public/private initiative
that involved a network of trains and express bus service. She then
detailed several other problems with Atlantas traffic infrastructure,
including its lack of sidewalks and proliferation of potholes.
We filled 2,600 potholes in eight weeks, Franklin said.
The city website said we had 500 potholes, she said.
In a riff that was greeted with laughter, Franklin said Atlanta
residents could call 1-800-POTHOLE to report their favorite
pothole so it could be filled.