Will the Termination of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran Sour Mayor Reed’s Political Future?

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been in the headlines for his suspension, then firing, of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran over a book on leadership that Cochran published. A portion of the book condemns the homosexual lifestyle on religious grounds. The mayor says the firing was justified because Cochran did not follow proper procedures before releasing the book. Cochran claims that he did everything he was supposed to do prior to the book’s release, and that the mayor was given a copy of the book over a year ago.

The issue has become intertwined with the effort to pass a version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act during the current legislative session.

One can argue whether it was proper for a senior Reed administration official to publish a book with content that could be seen as offensive to a portion of the city’s population. It’s clearly possible to make an argument for freedom of speech. But, just as important is how the mayor’s handling of the incident is seen from a political point of view. The New York Times covered the issue in a Monday story that included this passage:

If Mr. Reed ever ventures beyond Atlanta and into a race for statewide office, the incident could end up hurting him among rural, Christian whites, who, as a rule, tend to be wary of Atlanta politicians. But the mayor said that he had no regrets.

“I think it’s more important that I’m able to look myself in the mirror,” he said, adding: “In any future campaign I’ll be happy to talk about my record in office — and I’d be happy to talk about my termination of Kelvin Cochran.

The mayor’s fan club may be shrinking, even among those who don’t call themselves rural. The mayor has received hundreds, if not thousands of emails opposing his decision. Others have taken to tweeting their opposition of the firing to the mayor’s Twitter account, which typically gets them blocked, prompting another tweet denouncing the blocking.

Previously the mayor earned the respect, if not the support, of many on the Republican side of the aisle for his willingness to act as a team player by supporting the 2012 TSPLOST, or working with the Obama White House and Governor Deal to get the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project underway. Of course, the many of Chamber of Commerce types that supported the TSPLOST are the same ones who fear that passage of a religious liberty bill will harm the Peach State’s ability to attract businesses.

The mayor has been counted as a potential frontrunner for the Democratic ticket to replace Governor Deal in 2018. Whether the case of Kelvin Cochran helps or hurts his cause remains to be seen.

40 comments

  1. Baker says:

    I have about a million problems with Mayor Reed. This is not one of them. I don’t know how far the guy went in the book about how bad gays are or whatever but he’s the fire chief, denouncing gays shouldn’t be okay. If were just a pastor, then alright. I’d think he’s confused but alright fine, he’s a private citizen.

      • MattMD says:

        From what I’ve listened to on Handel on the Law on WSB, one would have to prove damages of some sort and then one would have a case.

  2. georgiahack says:

    How much support would Reed have gotten from rural white Christians? Really.

    This move by Reed is more about making nice with the liberal donor base. From his reaction to the snow storm, standing with and financially supporting criminals in the city council elections, losing the braves, to public disdain for the top of the ticket this past year Reed has lost a lot of friends. He went from most folks hailing his bipartisan strategy to win over Gov. Deal to help Atlanta to his every public move being criticized.

    I truly doubt that he had one iota of concern for rural white Christians when he made this decision.

    • blakeage80 says:

      Good point, ghack. I’ll expand on that thought, if you don’t mind. I believe Reed’s real loss of support could be among free speech lovers and Christians in the metro area (not mutually exclusive groups) of all colors. He was goaded into this and should have been wiser in his course of action. Outside the metro? It’s just another scandal involving another Atlanta politician.

      • MattMD says:

        There really is no scandal at all here: Reed terminated a bigot. This isn’t a free speech issue at all and most Christians I know are not bigoted.

      • John Konop says:

        blake,

        …….free speech lovers and Christians in the metro area…….

        Huh? If your employer made similar comments about Christians, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, women in public like this, do you not think it would be a liability?

      • blakeage80 says:

        Let’s not pretend any of us know the whole story. We don’t, unless one of you is very close to the Mayor or former Fire Chief. Scandals can be real or perceived. Even if you agree 100% with Mayor Reed’s actions, you can’t deny a perceived scandal, which can damage any politician’s future prospects. The article was focusing on the Mayor’s political future. I’m just guessing at the effect it could have.

        • John Konop says:

          Would it not be a bigger scandal if the mayor faces civil labor rights disputes, because he did nothing? If Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran had made similar comments about blacks, hispanics, women, Jews….would you supported him being dismissed? If so what is the difference? If not do you not see the liabilities?

          • blakeage80 says:

            Everything isn’t a money argument, John. However, I am unclear why there is confusion on whether or not the Ethics Board approved the book to be published. Some sources say it was, others say it wasn’t. To me, if the guy followed the rules and guidelines, which he claims he did, then what’s the problem? If the ethics board wouldn’t have normally approved it and just screwed this one up, then why don’t they say so? Do the policies and procedures of the Ethics Board need reviewing? Also, why is this only coming a year after the thing was published? If this book was such a big deal, then trouble should have started just days or even hours after the first book was given out. To me, the fire chief is not the problem here.

            • John Konop says:

              1) ………Everything isn’t a money argument, John……..

              If you are a public official spending tax payer money, it should be first priority, but hey I am fiscally conservative.

              2) ……if the guy followed the rules and guidelines, which he claims he did, then what’s the problem?….

              Really did not think I had to answers this…..but if you make public discriminating comments, it is a huge HR issue especially as the boss….trust me fairly basic concept…..

              3) …….why is this only coming a year after the thing was published?……

              I have no idea, but the longer you wait, more than likely chances of tax payer liability increases…But hey I guess money does not matter to you…..

              • blakeage80 says:

                1. So giving engineers money to study and design a bridge is a waste of money, we should just tell the DOT to start building? Everything is not a money argument.

                2. My point here is, if the rules were followed and something that didn’t adhere to the cities guidelines got out, then the Ethics Board may need to look at it’s processes.

                3. You keep talking about taxpayer liability, but I don’t see any. What damages could be proven? The NYT editorial admits there was no evidence of anybody being treated unfairly.

                Money does matter to me. It matters that it is spent in the right places. If, in fact, the city did have to protect its interests in a lawsuit filed because of this book being written, then it’s a good use of money for the city to do so. The problem isn’t the author, it’s the person bringing the frivolous lawsuit and a system that allows it to get to court.

                • John Konop says:

                  1) ….You keep talking about taxpayer liability, but I don’t see any. What damages could be proven? The NYT editorial admits there was no evidence of anybody being treated unfairly….

                  Most companies would not take the risk….

                  2) ………The problem isn’t the author, it’s the person bringing the frivolous lawsuit and a system that allows it to get to court………

                  How do you know? If someone made comments like that in public you really think they would not discriminate that class of people via raises, promotions….? You have a right to your opinions, but business is business….

            • benevolus says:

              I think just publishing the book may have been an issue, but the real issue was that he was distributing it to his employees. Highly inappropriate.

              I don’t care if it’s an issue for Reed or not and apparently he doesn’t either. More of a concern is that it adds some momentum to the so-called “religious freedom” bill.

        • MattMD says:

          There is a difference between free speech and being held accountable. Free speech really only involves government interference.

  3. alpha male says:

    Absolutely will sour his statewide prospects. This was a bigtime unforced error by hizzoner. It’s not just that it will energize “rural white Christians”, of which by the way, there are probably many more than there are metro white progressives. But it will play right into the “Atlanta liberal” characterization that he will need to counter. This will negate any so called pro-business or pro chamber image Reed will attempt to portray.

    This has made what would have admittedly already been an uphill battle , into a pretty much untenable prospect now. I think this will haunt his statewide prospects for a decade.

    Of course, if he decides to pass on a statewide run for say a cabinet position in a Hillary administration, this will be probably enhance his prospects.

    • MattMD says:

      There is really no place for bigots in the Atlanta city government. The fire chief deserved to be canned; I guess now he will have more time to peddle his silly book.

      I think you are vastly overestimating the social conservative hick vote. Simply being black and a former mayor of Atlanta would stand out more than some forgettable incident with the fire chief. It is hilarious that you would even suggest that rural white religious people would have otherwise voted for him.

      • blakeage80 says:

        You level the charge of bigot in the first paragraph yet show yourself to have bigot tendencies in the second. A socially conservative, religious person that lives outside the city limits is not necessarily unsophisticated. Even those who are shouldn’t be looked at as second class citizens.

        • MattMD says:

          I don’t think you are a second class citizen and I didn’t call you a bigot. There are social conservatives and then there are social conservative hicks. If one were to hate blacks, jews, gays, etc I would put them in the later category.

          • blakeage80 says:

            Thank you for the clarification of ‘hick’. As I live inside the city limits and try to practice the biblical principle of attributing value to and loving everyone as a creation of God, I took no personal offence. 🙂

      • alpha male says:

        I never suggested rural white religious folks would vote for him. But with this action he will limit his appeal. This is going to reverberate far beyond the rural, or “hick” area as you call it. I notice the fire chuef is scheduled to speak this Sunday in one of the largest white churches in Columbia County, hardly rural or “hick”.

        I will say again, Reed will never be elected statewide now. He may well not have anyway, but this will devastate his chances in my opinion

        As for your charges of “bigotry”, I find them somewhat ironic considering your post.

  4. Will Durant says:

    Was Mr. Cochran’s motive in self-publishing the book without going through channels done to sweeten his political future?

  5. northside101 says:

    This story underlies the major gap that exists when it comes to voting—metro Atlanta versus the rest of the state. Metro Atlanta (now 29 counties) narrowly—very narrowly—favored Carter over Deal in last November’s general election—by about 5,000 votes (for all practical purposes, a 49-49% tie—or 48.6-49.0 if you want to get technical). Almost three-fifths of the state’s total votes come from the 29-county region. But in the other two-fifths of the state, Carter (and Nunn for that matter) got trounced by about 20-points, giving Deal (and Perdue) relatively comfortable 8-point wins—only slightly less than the 10-point win Deal had over Barnes in 2010. The portion of Georgia outside metro Atlanta overall (of course, there are some Democratic areas in the “other” Georgia, but I mean overall) bolted from the Democrats in 2002 (combination of the state flag change, redistricting and education reform) and has never looked back. Therein lies the problem for a Democrat attempting to win statewide—rural and smaller cities generally are more conservative on social issues than the big cities/suburbs (recall for instance in 1992, the rural areas voted heavily against the lottery, but the urban areas mostly favored it), and if Democrats continue to lose badly in the “other” Georgia, then the only way to overcome that is make metro Atlanta overwhelmingly Democratic to offset the more conservative rest of the state. But that won’t happen in the next cycle or two.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    At the current rate of change, Cochran supporters in the next decade will have the panache of Lester Maddox supporters in the 19080’s. Reed’s decision wasn’t especially difficult because it was the right thing and be proven so in the not so distant future.

  7. Joash Thomas says:

    I would like to think that his immature decision will cost him dearly with Christian voters, of all ethnicities and demographics. That was an incredibly diverse crowd we saw yesterday at the State Capitol to protest Fire Chief Cochran’s termination. I also personally know many Indian American Christians who are appalled by this decision as many of us left our home country due to religious persecution of this nature. This incident has brought back those bad memories for many of us.

    • John Konop says:

      If a Pakastania Muslim wrote a book about hatred of Indian people who do not follow the Muslim faith…..this person was your boss at your goverment job…..you would be ok with him giving you the book about hating Indian non Muslims at work during your job review? You would be ok with him handing out the book non solicited at work? You think this is religious freedom to promote hatred of another group? Would you support signs at businesses not allowing indian people service?

        • benevolus says:

          He called being gay a “perversion” and compared being LGBT to bestiality and pedophilia.

          Does that count?

        • John Konop says:

          I get it you think calling someone ” vile and vulgar” for bring gay is not hate speech….You think if a Muslim boss at your goverment job gave you a book calling you vile and vulgar for being a Christian in your job review, you think that is protected via freedom of religion act…? Do you really think that is what believing in Jesus is all about? I will pray for you….

          • blakeage80 says:

            John, debating you is very frustrating because you start constructing an alternate reality to better reflect your argument. I don’t think it is right to steal. Does that mean I hate thieves? Certainly not.

            Benevolus, Calling an act a perversion is not the same as hating the person committing that act.

            • John Konop says:

              I reflect the reality of how you want the law to work…..I realize the concept of unintended consequences may be beyound your ability to understand but it is a reality….The Irronic part of this is how far what you want reflects what Jesus was all about…one of the key parables in the bible you have a new bizarre spin…..Imagine a gay is hurt and needs water….it seems you would be ok with the store and doctor having a sign no gays allowed under religious tolerance and calling the person vial, vulgar……rather Irronic postion from a Christian….think about it…..rather famous part of the bible really flys in the face of your logic….

  8. Corvid says:

    Maybe he is positioning himself to succeed John Lewis in Congress. Endearing himself to the gay vote would help him secure some midtown support in a future Democratic primary.

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