Bill Torpy’s Audition for the Role of Mary Norwood’s Press Secretary, Take Two
Mayor’s Office of Communications
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 2500 • Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Anne Torres, Director
Jenna Garland, Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 8, 2017
Bill Torpy’s Audition for the Role of Mary Norwood’s Press Secretary, Take Two
Statement from Tom Sabulis
ATLANTA - "When the Mayor’s Office of Communications engages with the AJC’s Bill Torpy or any other columnist, we do so with facts and integrity. We know that our claims are held to the highest standards and we must be able to back them up. Torpy has no such obligation – case in point, when have any of Torpy’s statements been scrutinized by PolitiFact? Never, to our knowledge.
Torpy’s latest column, published online September 7, raises two important questions: When are facts recognized as facts and when, if ever, will he find them worth mentioning?
Fact: Mayor Reed took office in the throes of the Great Recession and the worst economy in 80 years.
Fact: Cash reserves at the City of Atlanta were $7.4 million when Mayor Reed took office. They are now approaching $200 million.
Fact: The City’s credit rating was hovering at near junk bond status when Mayor Reed walked into City Hall. Since then, the City has received seven consecutive credit-rating increases, putting our current credit rating at AA+, the second highest a City can attain.
Fact: The City of Atlanta is in its best financial shape in 40 years. It has gotten there under the direction of Mayor Reed, without once raising property taxes or water rates.
These are just the highlights of Mayor Reed’s tenure in office, and yes, will be part of his legacy. But you would never know it by reading Torpy. He has become so redundant in his bias against the Mayor and the City of Atlanta that you wonder where his editors are; you’d think they’d at least ask him to consider other topics from time to time.
When Torpy reached out to the Office of Communications for this piece, he made a joke about how the Mayor is now his assignment editor, and he needed to follow-up on questions raised by the statement issued by our office on Friday, September 1. Specifically, he was seeking records concerning Councilmember Norwood’s decision to hire her own robo-call firm for city business at an expense of $100,000 in City of Atlanta taxpayer dollars, as well as our sources for polling data. He could have started with records held by his own organization: in a live debate shown on WSB-TV during the run-off, then candidate Kasim Reed asked Ms. Norwood about the no-bid contract with her robo-call company. Secondly, polling data came from WSB-TV’s poll by Landmark Communications. Is this what constitutes journalism now?
It’s clear that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is struggling to cover the City of Atlanta and the mayoral race in a serious and credible way. Political coverage of elections has devolved into promoting click-happy stereotypes. Don’t forget, this is the newspaper that compared two smart, capable and accomplished women running to be the Democratic nominee for Governor to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift – feuding pop stars.
It’s no surprise that, in his quest to boost the Mayoral campaign of Mary Norwood, Bill Torpy has now produced at least 40 attack pieces against Mayor Reed, an unheard-of number targeting a single politician. One has to wonder about the amount of time and energy Torpy has spent on a person he has spoken with for less than half an hour over the course of several years.
What Torpy and his readers should know is this: Mary Norwood is an alleged 'independent' who has more ties to the Republican Party than Donald Trump. As Atlanta City Councilwoman, she voted twice to expand the city’s once-bloated and under-funded pension system, which put the city on a path to financial ruin, and pushed her own proposal to raise pay for senior police officers by cutting junior officers – all three votes came during election season.
They should also know that Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell has been fined more for ethics violations than every other candidate running for Mayor. Yet Mitchell recently put forth a proposal that would have effectively cut the Mayor of Atlanta’s term from eight years to 7.5 years. Mayor Reed challenged him to release ten years of tax returns, as he did when running for Mayor, yet according to WSB-TV’s Dave Huddleston, Mitchell has refused to provide these income tax returns. He also formed a Super PAC, but has repeatedly declined to reveal its donors, many of whom could benefit from the legislation he proposed.
With that background, it’s not difficult to understand Torpy’s goal: he desperately wants to see a runoff between Norwood and Mitchell, at which time the former will bludgeon the latter with the above facts, which are all true and easily verified.
Moreover, Mayor Reed has not yet formally endorsed any of the candidates running this year. As in the past, he has provided assistance to people who have helped turn this city around. This year’s election will be no different.
Mayor Reed has endorsed candidates for city council and school board who have helped his Administration accomplish the reforms that put the City of Atlanta on its best financial footing in 40 years and enabled the City to tackle its infrastructure maintenance backlog, expand greenspace and the Atlanta BeltLine, and win overwhelming voter support for the $2.6 billion expansion of MARTA, the largest in its history. During the last election cycle, Mayor Reed endorsed and/or financially supported 12 candidates for council and the school board. Nine won, and as Torpy points out, three lost. But Torpy fails to mention that Mayor Reed won substantially more votes than Councilmember Moore (District 9); that Mary Norwood started off with a near 40-point advantage against Aaron Watson, and then won by only two points; and that Lamar Willis lost by a razor-thin margin. As usual, Torpy fails to provide the full story, and he misses the point.
In his first campaign, Mayor Reed’s slogan was 'A New Direction for Atlanta.' In 2009, more than 65 percent of people believed the City was moving in the wrong direction. In 2017, it’s a complete turnaround: roughly 69 percent of voters think the city is on the right track. More than an individual politician’s approval rating, the right track/wrong track figure is arguably the most important measure of public opinion in our city.
This brings us to candidates John Eaves, Vincent Fort and Cathy Woolard; in each case, these individuals initiated an exchange with the Mayor, to which he responded. Eaves launched his campaign with a falsehood so brazen that a professional sports team felt compelled to issue a statement correcting the record. Torpy failed to include that point in his comments.
What Torpy never fails to mention is the fact that Mayor Reed defeated Mary Norwood in 2009 by only 714 votes. That’s correct – and the Mayor has never said otherwise. But consider this: Every time Torpy raises this point, he fails to mention that Mayor Reed won re-election with 84 percent of the vote four years later -- after Atlantans had seen with their own eyes the integrity, pragmatism and progress his Administration brought to City Hall.
Mayor Reed is committed to working for the City of Atlanta until the last hour of the last day of his term. At the same time, he will continue to respond to smears from Torpy, who is now acting as a political operative, doing the dirty work of a candidate who has demonstrated already that she will stop Atlanta’s progress in its tracks.
Today’s column is the 40th piece Torpy has written about the Mayor since he launched his column with the AJC. He is loath to admit it, but the Mayor is popular among Atlanta voters and makes for interesting reading, and in a shrinking newsroom, Torpy needs clicks and page views. It seems he will go to any length to ensure his caretakers at the AJC will keep him around through another round of layoffs.
If he doesn’t last at the AJC, perhaps he will consider launching ‘The Torpy Report’ so that he can blog about whatever he wishes, but it seems that lane is already taken by Maria Saporta. Go figure.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Torpy’s Pavlovian loyalty to Ms. Norwood suggests his Plan B is a spot in her press shop. But if that doesn’t work out, perhaps we’ll see the launch of ‘The Torpy Report’ after all."
For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit http://www.atlantaga.gov or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta. Follow Mayor Reed on Facebook and Twitter @Kasim Reed