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    Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin wants the city to go green.

    In her annual State of the City speech, Franklin told city council members Monday she wants to pursue several ideas she believes will improve Atlanta's air and water quality and reduce energy.

    The projects, she said, aren't "sexy" to most folks. But Franklin said they're important to increase the city's "competitive edge" and draw more business to Atlanta.

    Franklin mentioned initiatives such as the city's ongoing effort to switch traffic signals from traditional incandescent light bulbs to LED lights, which manufacturers say are 85 percent more efficient and last five times longer. The city has switched about 200 of its 924 traffic signals to the LED lights, according to Atlanta Public Works department spokeswoman Tenee Hawkins. The city is looking for a permanent funding source for the new lights, which cost about $18,000 per intersection, Hawkins said.

    "These are not projects we do to get credit," Franklin said. "These are projects we do because it is the right thing to do."

    Franklin did not discuss details about her plans. A spokeswoman for Franklin said more information may come Thursday, when she is scheduled to give a similar annual speech to business leaders.

    As the region's population has grown, Atlanta has become synonymous with smog. The 20-county metro area does not meet the federal guidelines for ground-level ozone. And as Franklin mentioned in her speech, Atlanta has a high level of asthma incidents. In 2006, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Atlanta as the nation's fourth-worst city for asthma.

    Nancy Wylie, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's Atlanta group, said the Franklin administration has done well with environmental efforts, such as a recent pilot program giving some homeowners recycling bins five times larger than what they previously used. Wylie, however, wondered how the city can measure whether it is reducing carbon emissions because of the size of the city and the all of the buildings it must study.

    "It's just a very complicated issue," she said.

    Franklin's 30-minute speech trumpeted other highlights. The mayor noted a 26 percent reduction in overall crime since 2002, said the average time it takes builders to get a permit during her tenure has been cut from 83 days to 28 days and said annual sewer spills have declined from about 1,000 in 2000 to less than 300 last year.

    She also sounded the alarm about some ongoing challenges, saying the city will audit its past financial practices and will do multi-year budgeting to ensure Atlanta is on strong financial footing.

    With two years left in her term, Franklin said she will be engaged.

    "I won't duck," she said.

    In other matters Monday, the council approved a contract with Fulton County to hold a referendum Feb. 5 for city residents to decide whether they want to extend a 1 percent sales tax on most items for the next five years. The money is being used to help fund sewer system improvements.


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