Mitchell Avenue in front of Atlanta City Hall was arguably the safest place to be Saturday morning.
That’s where some 50 Atlanta cops and family members gathered for a march to the State Capitol aimed at highlighting their concerns about low pay.
“Police and firefighters at any moment are willing to give their lives for anyone in this city,” said Joe Layman, an APD officer since 2005. “We’re not trying to be greedy. We’re saying, ‘Be fair with us.’”
The police union has advocated for cost-of-living pay increases, which union officials say were promised when the city reformed its pension system two years ago. Officers now pay more for their retirement and health benefits. But as the city has grappled with recession-wrecked budgets over the past few years, cost-of-living raises for city employees have been frozen.
In December, Atlanta City Council members voted $20,000 raises for the council that will be seated after this year’s election. That pay hike — roughly 50 percent — provided a big bullseye at the march, which Kelly Uhlis, wife of an APD sergeant, helped organize via email and Facebook.
“Our slogan is, ‘First to Respond, Last to Get Paid,’” said Uhlis.
Atlanta City Council likely will finalize next year’s budget at the end of June. . Raises could be included in the final draft of that budget, which will fund the city from July until June 30, 2014.
The marchers aren’t waiting until then. After reaching the Capitol Saturday, they began discussing plans to plaster their message across a billboard space downtown next week.