Atlanta Mayor Responds to Criticism Over Pay Raise Proposal

May 30, 2013

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
Credit City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is responding to criticism over his plan to raise employee salaries next fiscal year.

Reed’s budget plan would raise salaries for some city workers making under $60,000 by three percent, but most employees, including police and firefighters, making under $60,000 would get one percent.

A group of first responders are especially upset and have put up billboards blasting city leaders.

Reed is now responding.

“I’m the guy you’re putting up billboards up on? And when you were getting kicked in your face and going without a pay increase for six years, I addressed all those issues and you pick me? You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said Reed.

He called the police and firefighters who put up the billboards selfish. He noted they received a 3.5 percent increase two years ago.

“The property tax digest has still dropped $15 million in year one that I was mayor, $10 million in year two, and $5 million this year. So we are doing extraordinary things to provide the increase to 85 percent of the workforce. Clearly we are trying.”

Reed said he’s taken greatest offense to the tone of his critics.

"What they're trying to do to me is, 90 days before qualifying and 180 days before an election, bully me into doing something that's bad for them, even though they don't recognize it, and terrible for the city of Atlanta."

Kliff Grimes, a union spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which represents about 1,200 Atlanta officers, said the billboards reflect real frustration among the rank-and-file over being shut out of budget negotiations.

“We tried to meet. We tried to, but when you say 'no, I’m not going to meet with you until after the decision is made' then those other people don’t want to hear that because they still have to feed their families.”

Grimes said the previous 3.5 percent pay increase has barely covered rises in cost-of-living, and doesn’t make up for the years of no raises.

Reed said he’s not budging on his proposal and we won’t be bullied.

"The public doesn’t think it’s right and I know because I tested it. The public doesn’t agree with what they’re doing, not one iota because the public isn’t getting a 4.5 percent pay raise.”

The mayor and union leaders have set up an informal meeting Wednesday. Grimes credits the billboards for forcing Reed to the table.

The budget must be passed by July.