Mayor Kasim Reed silenced one of his administration’s biggest critics – and an aggressive Atlanta police watchdog — on Tuesday by creating a job for her at City Hall. Reed announced the hiring of journalist and blogger Stephanie Ramage in a press release touting her record as a reporter.
“Stephanie Ramage’s track record as a reporter shows that she says what she thinks and she’s not afraid to critique anyone,” Reed says. “As Citizen Advocate, I am certain she will work tirelessly on behalf of our residents and business owners and help make the city address problems in a manner that leads to better, faster and more efficient service.”
Reed (top photo) should know. Ramage (bottom photo), who endorsed Reed during the 2009 mayoral campaign, later turned into his loudest critic, first through her columns in the Sunday Paper and later on her independent blog, the Ramage Report. The gay-friendly Ramage spun her hiring as the city’s newly-created Citizen Advocate as a way to continue her work investigating problems citizens encounter with city government.
“I think that it would be very disingenuous of me not to take the job,” Ramage wrote on Tuesday. “After all, what kind of person would I be if I continue to offer criticism of the city, but I am not willing to do what I can to help solve its problems when given a perfect opportunity to do so?”
Reed, in the announcement, also takes a swipe at reporters with this line: “Mayor Reed invited Ramage to work on behalf of taxpayers in a manner that will have a more tangible impact on their lives than in her role as an investigative reporter and columnist.” Given the sometimes contentious relationship he and his communications team enjoys with local media, it’s no surprise.
In bringing Ramage to City Hall, Reed puts an end to Ramage’s reporting, which since the creation of the Ramage Report in January has included extensive coverage of Atlanta police misdeeds, including the DUI arrest of the lead investigator of the Eagle raid and its troubled process to rename Red Dog. In November, she leveled criticism at Reed for his blue ribbon Eagle lawsuit commission, which was never established before the mayor and city reached a settlement in the federal lawsuit the commission was supposed to help mediate an end to.
It’s not the first time Reed has embraced his critics. He added lesbian attorney and longtime LGBT activist Lawrie Demorest to the Eagle commission, despite her role in criticizing his record on same-sex marriage during the campaign. He also added former mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kyle Keyser, who is gay, to search committees as he assembled his cabinet last year.
Will Dan Grossman be next? He’s the gay attorney who led the federal lawsuit against the city for its botched Eagle raid. Since that was settled last December, Grossman’s created a cottage industry out of pricking the city over alleged abuses by Red Dog, the now-disbanded paramilitary unit involved in the bar raid in 2009. After all, Ramage did name Grossman as Atlanta’s “face of gay civil rights.”
With the AJC’s retrenchment to the suburbs and now the end of Ramage’s journalism, Atlanta residents lose yet another watchdog over Reed’s administration, City Hall and Atlanta police.