Mayor Reed in 2014 may try to trigger up to $250 million in public works construction projects across city

By David Pendered

The stars may be aligning for a vote in Atlanta in 2014 to raise money from taxpayers to hasten repairs of the city’s broken sidewalks, streets, bridges and other public infrastructure.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

The bond referendum to which Mayor Kasim Reed recommitted himself Friday could be called in a year large numbers likely will turn out to vote for a U.S. senator and state governor. The timing has pros and cons.

In addition, calling the referendum in 2014 would capitalize on a public awareness campaign on pedestrian safety the state is paying PEDS to conduct in metro Atlanta. The $67,000 grant announced Dec. 12 also is to enable the pedestrian safety advocacy organization to provide technical assistance to governments.

The favorable column for a 2014 vote includes the benefits a new council and second-term mayor could reap from their efforts to repair Atlanta’s public space. Such improvements would address concerns expressed by some residents that the city was ignoring their neighborhoods, even as Atlanta negotiated over civic improvements around the future Falcons stadium.

Another item in the favorable column is that, in a previous big election, more than 85 percent of Atlanta voters approved in 2012 the extension of the 1 percent sales tax that helps pay to improve the water and sewer system. The other issue on the ballot was the presidential preference primary.

The unfavorable column includes potential political wrangling that could accompany the creation of a project list. The shine of newly elected, or reelected, members of the Atlanta City Council could be dimmed as they took the necessary steps in the political arena to ensure that their districts benefit from the first major new investment in public infrastructure since Bill Campbell was mayor in the 1990s.

Atlanta's backlog

Atlanta is chasing repairs estimated by Mayor Kasim Reed at more than $900 million, which is significantly higher than the estimate in this report by the previous administration. Credit: City of Atlanta

Two significant issues yet to be addressed are:

  • The fate of Turner Field and its environs and, importantly, a committee created by the council that has to be set up and staffed in order to consider the area’s redevelopment. This process will be competing for attention as the debate begins over infrastructure repair.
  • Uncertainties created by a federal court order released in July that set election dates for federal offices – meaning the state legislature has some scheduling issues to consider when it convenes the 2014 session.

Atlanta city officials have a good handle on the repairs that need to be made. City reports provide specific details on improvements needed to particular roads, sidewalks, streetlights, traffic signals and buildings.

Consequently, the challenge is not the determination of what needs to be fixed. The challenge is which projects to put on the list.

Reed first floated the idea of a bond-financed infrastructure program in September 2012. At that time, Reed said the city could afford a bond issuance of $250 million. The conversation did not contemplate a tax hike to cover that payment.

Reed said the current range is based on estimates of the amount of bond payments Atlanta could afford without a tax hike.

Reed said the priority of his second term is to win approval to borrow from $150 million to $250 million to pay for improvements to the city’s public infrastructure.

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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7 comments
Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The City has admitted to an almost $1billion backlog of public works remedial and restoration projects. A $250million bond issue would address at most only 1/4 of the backlog; what about the other 75%?

I'll bet that a portion of this $250million will pay for infrastructure improvements related to the new Falcons stadium.

To channel the late Erma Bombeck, the new stadium is the gift that goes on giving.

drhillis21
drhillis21

So that 2008, almost 6 year old study, is the last thing the city has done to look at these issues? I know a lot of the problems pointed out by that report have been remedied. For example, in my neighborhood alone, we have a new fire station/police precinct, a new bridge, a revamped city park, and new sidewalks (still need more sidewalks though!).

Guest
Guest

This issue has been brooding for several years, well back into the Franklin administration. For Reed to raise this now, after promising to give Arthur Blank over $500 million, is the height of irresponsibility. Reed may be the worst Mayor this City has ever seen.

Guest
Guest

"The stars may be aligning for a vote in Atlanta in 2014 to raise money from taxpayers to hasten repairs of the city’s broken sidewalks, streets, bridges and other public infrastructure."

"Reed said the current range is based on estimates of the amount of bond payments Atlanta could afford without a tax hike".

So, what is the message here a tax hike that isn't or a policy decision that many voters have been challenging the COA to make?



moliere
moliere

@Burroughston Broch You're just bitter that the city isn't losing the Falcons like they lost the Braves. Would the city losing the Falcons have made you happy? If so, why? It is amazing ... where are all the people complaining about Cobb County building their stadium while their public school students are in trailers and teachers are being furloughed? If you are going to be consistent that is one thing. But bashing the city for paying to keep the Falcons while cheering Cobb for paying MUCH MUCH MORE to get the Braves just reveals one to be one who hates ITP. Plain and simple. At least the Tea Party Patriots are being consistent. Everybody else is just blatantly playing favorites.



ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@GuestLast I checked it was 200 million from a dedicated stream (hotel/motel tax) not the general fund, so you should get your stories straight.  You obviously dont remember Bill Campbell if you think Mayor Reed is bad (which he isnt)

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

@moliere 

"You're just bitter that the city isn't losing the Falcons like they lost the Braves."

No, I am not a sports fan and I don't have to pay for either.

"Would the city losing the Falcons have made you happy?"

I think the City of Atlanta would be better off without subsidizing professional sports teams. Seeing the City of Atlanta in a better financial position would make me happy.

"But bashing the city for paying to keep the Falcons while cheering Cobb for paying MUCH MUCH MORE to get the Braves just reveals one to be one who hates ITP."

Exactly when and where did I cheer Cobb for paying for the Braves? Be exact.

I think providing welfare for the Braves is just like providing welfare for the Falcons. What has me laughing up my sleeve is 1. How inept the City of Atlanta was in dealing with the Braves, and 2. How the City of Atlanta is willing to let the rest of the City's infrastructure rot while focusing its attention around the new Falcons stadium.

BTW, I don't hate ITP. I live just outside I285 and, left to my own devices, would prefer to live ITP since I spend a portion of my business hours ITP. One thing that bothers me about ITP is the smug, condescending attitude of ITP boosters - similar to NYC residents who believe the edge of civilization is the west bank of the Hudson River. Another thing that bothers me about ITP is watching the decline of the City of Atlanta since 1970, with no end in sight.