Oct. 12, 2009
Contact: Renee DeGross Valdes
As the Atlanta mayoral campaign heats up, Georgia State's Harvey Newman is hoping to spark debate among the candidates.
In an Andrew Young School of Policy Studies partnership formed last summer with the Atlanta Committee for Progress, Newman, professor and chair of the department of public management and policy, led interviews with dozens of city, business and community officials including Mayor Shirley Franklin.
The project aims to assess the accomplishments and challenges of the last eight years and determine what it would take for Atlanta to become a best in class city business model. Another goal was to provide urban study tools - in the form of case studies - for teaching and research.
"We hope to inject informed policy discussion in the campaign for mayor and city council," Newman said. "We wanted to create a series of case studies that can be used in teaching and research. For the first time, Atlanta policy case studies will be available here in our city."
Newman credits former Andrew Young School graduate student Michael Halicki with the idea.
"Having worked on public affairs issues the past 15 years, I found myself frustrated that Atlanta didn't have case studies," said Halicki, a senior associate at Ahmann Inc., a small Atlanta public affairs firm with connections to the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
"I began floating the idea of developing a series of case studies," he added. "Getting Newman involved in the project - given the depth of his understanding of urban policy issues in Atlanta - was a find that has been central to the success of the project."
The topic areas that Newman and his team of graduate student assistants looked at include - ethics, city government talent, the city's business model, decreasing crime, economic development, watershed management, private sector engagement, and the city's new efficiencies. The final case study is on Franklin's legacy and the city's next mayor.
Each case study provides background information on issues Mayor Shirley Franklin faced, the process used to address the problem, the options considered, the implementation, and an assessment of the initiative.
With the help of several Andrew Young School graduate students, including former Los Angeles Times reporter Joy Woodson, the team began interviewing city officials to include: Atlanta Police Chief Richard J. Pennington, Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Greg Giornelli, and City Councilman Howard Shook. They also interviewed business leaders to include: Phil Humann, retired executive chairman of SunTrust Banks, Tom Bell, retired chairman and CEO of Cousins Properties, and Peter Aman of Bain & Co., which dedicated a team of consultants to the city for free for several years.
"One question that intrigued us is why business leaders give so much of their time to work with the city," Newman said. "That's not the case in every city and it's almost unique."
To ensure the success of the project, Newman added that he avoided supporting any candidates publicly since remaining non partisan is "necessary to inform the debate," he said.
The many months of interviews have resulted in some of the first case studies to be published both online at Georgia State's Andrew Young School Web site. The case studies have also sparked a series of editorials by Newman in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
"This was enormously time consuming but very rewarding," Newman said. "It's a great educational experience for our graduate students and a great learning experience for me as well."
An archive of the materials gathered by the GSU research team - including audio of all the interviews - will be archived in the university's library.
"Ultimately, we expect these case studies to be used to educate tomorrow's public administrators in the classroom at Georgia State and to educate citizens on some key issues," Halicki said. "Beyond the election, these case studies should be of great help to our next Mayor and City Council. The larger vision is that every 4 to 8 years, we'll find the support to add to these case studies and to see how the issues evolve and change over time."
Mayor Shirley Franklin discusses Atlanta becoming a first-tier city:
Phil Humann, retired chairman and CEO of SunTrust Banks, discusses building a bank with community support:
Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington discusses challenges and budgetary constraints: