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Ethnic Media Trade Ideas With Atlanta Mayor

New America Media, News report, David Stokes Posted: Jan 28, 2009

Editor’s Note: Mayor Shirley C. Franklin met with local ethnic media in Atlanta, where New America Media’s Ethnic Media Expo and Awards Conference will take place this summer. NAM contributor David Stokes is a writer for the Atlanta Inquirer-NNPA/Black Press Association.

atlanta expoAtlanta's first female African-American mayor continued to break ground recently when she dialogued with a group of diverse reporters, reflecting her promise nearly eight years ago: "You make me mayor, and I'll make you proud."

Speaking to local media comprised of Korean, Hispanic, Asian, African-American and other journalists of diverse backgrounds, Mayor Shirley C. Franklin encouraged open and ongoing dialogue between reporters, the public and government. The 63-year-old native Philadelphian called Atlanta a "city too busy to hate," and extolled the city's consistent growth during a time of economic volatility.

Atlanta, which Mayor Franklin called "the cradle of the civil rights movement," is faced with eliminating homelessness, seeking funds for 200 to 300 additional officers for its police force, and sustaining city employees following massive layoffs late last year. Many of its challenges stem from the city’s rapid population growth, which Franklin attributes to its "favorable" general proximity to entertainment, educational and employment venues that "enhance one's quality of life."

"We need infrastructure and public safety,” she added. “It's what (Atlanta does) well."

atlanta expoFranklin -- affectionately called "the sewer mayor" for her strong advocacy on behalf of clean water and her successful rehabilitation the city’s sewage system -- talked with reporters on how the city could improve its relationships with a booming minority population.

She noted that Atlanta is home to the nation's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. "With 80 million passengers, it's the (city's) single, most important economic stimulus."

When asked about increasing pedestrian areas, she suggested that "local governments need to build campaigns to protect pedestrians" with added parks and recreation.

atlanta expoOn homelessness, she declared, "We will keep investing money in transitional housing" for the 40,000-plus homeless people living in the city.

Regarding the police department’s low morale, she said, "It is very doable to increase (by) recruiting new cops" but noted that the real obstacle is finding new funds for law enforcement.

"The hard choices are made for public safety, education, clean air and quality healthcare," said the mayor, who was criticized earlier this month after decreasing police and fire personnel in an attempt to ease the city's financial strain. "It's never easy to cut money from any budget."

atlanta expoPertaining to immigration law and proposed state policies, Mayor Franklin said, "The federal government is more equipped to handle" immigration issues than local city governments. "Immigration law just cannot be managed" by local and state governments, she said. In addition, she stressed that promoting partnerships and investing in the "sister cities" initiative helps "strengthen international economies," which trickles down to U.S. cities and counties.

The conversation at Old City Hall in downtown Atlanta was sponsored by New America Media, which is hosting its National Ethnic Media Expo and Awards Conference June 4 and 5 in Atlanta.

“We can no longer afford to not communicate with ethnic media," stated Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media. "We need each other; we're the future of journalism."

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