Let's Set the Record Straight

The commentary "The Ethics Mandate" (Nov. 27) regarding the City Attorney's Office includes several inaccuracies. I would like to use this opportunity to clarify our role and priorities.

It is important to understand that the City Attorney's Office does not simply review contracts. It directs and supervises the legal affairs of the city (whether in state, federal, municipal or traffic court); provides efficient, effective and sound legal advice and assistance to the mayor, City Council, all departments, agencies, boards and commissions; prosecutes and enforces city ordinances, both civil and criminal; prepares and reviews contracts, CEAs, MOUs; protects the city's legal interests at all times; and performs all other duties required by the City Charter, the mayor or the Council, which include but are not limited to the following: eliminating the city's blighted and tax-delinquent properties; coordinating and overseeing the city's code enforcement activities; and conducting administrative hearings.

With that background, I would like to provide some accurate information regarding the City Attorney's budget proposal and correct some misunderstandings.

First of all, the increase of approximately $4 million proposed for the office's 2008 budget is mainly due to a payment for insurance for city properties (more than $3 million), without which the city will not be covered in the event of another natural disaster. This is an important use of funds and not one that directly benefits employees of that office.

Secondly, the City Attorney's budget request includes approximately $700,000 for positions that are either revenue generating or essential to the implementation of the city's recovery plans. Namely, the funding would provide for additional staff in the Risk Management and Municipal and Traffic Courts divisions, which have historically brought more money into the city's coffers than was spent on them. Additionally, the budget provides for increased staff in the Transactions Unit, a major function of which is to review contracts for form and legality, a function the Inspector General stated would not be performed by his office. Without the staff for this unit, the city will be greatly delayed in issuing contracts for professionals who will be needed as we invest more than $1 billion in recovery funds.

Thirdly, the City Attorney's Office is committed to doing what is both legal and in the best interest of the city. The idea that a 'conflict of interest" exists if the OIG uses the City Attorney's Office for legal assistance is not an accurate conclusion. Regardless, the issue of whether or not the OIG can obtain outside counsel has long since been resolved. As a matter of fact, the City Attorney's Office assisted the OIG in this endeavor by ensuring that the ordinance drafted to allow such was in accordance with the Home Rule Charter.

Finally, the City Attorney's Office serves the city and its citizens. It has, is and will always be the mission of the City Attorney's Office to protect the legal interests of the city and at all times act in a manner that is in the best interest of the city.

Penya Moses-Fields

City Attorney

Warmer May Not Be Bad

I wonder if I could enter the discussion on global warming ("We're Getting Warmer," Dec. 4) with some comments that I believe are quite unique and I'm fairly sure have not been discussed before. During my lifetime, I have seen the world population rise from about 1 or 2 billion to more than 6 billion people, and our country from 132 million to about 300 million.

I remember reading a scientific article about 50 years ago that noted that the amount of rain " that is, fresh water " falling on the Earth is finite. The author pointed out that in about 50 years at the then-current rate, we would need more rain than falls on us. His timing may not be accurate, but the prediction certainly is. We see this beginning to happen in the arid areas of the world, and now even a place like Atlanta.

What does this have to do with global warming? Rain comes from mainly water that is evaporated from the oceans. With more sunshine, more water will evaporate and more rain will fall. The melting ice in the world may also provide some additional fresh water for the short term. Therefore, global warming may be more beneficial than harmful. Tell this to Al Gore.

Elliott Raisen


A Good Call

Rick Barton is correct that the movie Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ('Ill Conceived," Balcony Seats, Nov. 27) only makes a 'feint" at objectivity. I find it almost totally contrived and designed only to convince the viewer of our lack of purpose or competence. Good review " not as sycophantic as many other reviews I have read.

Jerry Huffman