By Maria Saporta
Just hours after qualifying for re-election, Mayor Kasim Reed delivered an upbeat talk to the Rotary Club of Atlanta saying the city was reclaiming its place as the capital of the Southeast.
Reed acknowledged that Atlanta had been particularly hard hit during the Great Recession, because of the city’s reliance on development and construction industries — two sectors that were particularly hard hit in the past few years.
“We are going to become one of the most successful cities in the United States, and we have reasserted our dominance in the Southeast,” Reed said. “You haven’t heard much about Charlotte recently, have you?”
Reed also took a swipe at the New York Times for writing an article recently that was a bit critical of Atlanta.
“I live in a world of comparison and contrast, Reed said, adding that he challenged the New York Times by asking a rhetorical question. “For a region that’s so challenged, there sure are a lot of people from New York who are moving here.”
Reed went on to explain that nationally, the population is moving either to the South and to the West. Atlanta is well-positioned to benefit from that shifting population.
It was important that Atlanta “not miss the moment,” that it continue to work with the state to invest in the future, such as the deepening of the Savannah Port.
Atlanta’s future is tied to the urbanization of the United States.
“In America, cities are ascendant,” Reed said, adding that 75 percent of the gross national product comes from cities. In the world, 50 percent of population now lives in cities. By 2030, it will be 60 percent. And in 2050, it will be 70 percent.
Atlanta stands to benefit as more people choose to live in cities.
“While Atlanta today is definitely an international city, the place I’m asking you to come along with me and help Atlanta become one of the leading cities in the world,” Reed said. “In the teeth of the worst economy, we are building the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. College Football Hall of Fame and a new football stadium.”
No one asked Reed about the status of the stadium and the status of negotiations with Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, which would need to be acquired if the new facility were to be build on the site south of the Georgia Dome. The city has reached a tentative agreement to buy Friendship for $19.5 million. Negotiations with Mount Vernon are still underway.
On Friday, Aug. 16, Reed said Mount Vernon had lowered its asking price to $15.5 million from $20.3 million. At that time, the mayor said there was an urgency to complete the deal in the next five to 10 days.
So after his Rotary talk on Monday, I asked him about the status of negotiations with Mount Vernon.
“I do recognize that this has to be closed out prior to Labor Day,” said Reed, who added that he has not yet met with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank to brief him about his talks with the churches. “We need to come to negotiations with Mount Vernon and they need to be concrete. We have to avoid the urge to do something (before the deal is ready). It’s got to come together.”
Reed said he continues to push for the stadium to be built on the south site, but he said that what’s most important is that the facility will be built in downtown Atlanta.
Reed also told Rotarians that it’s time for Atlanta to make an attitude adjustment.
“I want everybody to cheer up,” Reed told Rotarians. “The state of this city is strong, and it’s only going to get stronger because of the relationships we are creating. We are making the critical investments to make Atlanta great.”
Speaking just two days before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Reed also said reminded everyone of Atlanta’s “wins.”
He said there are few cities that were able to peacefully work their way out of segregation, develop good race relations and find ways to integrate both their political and economic power structure as well as Atlanta has been able to.
“Candidly our city needs a therapist,” Reed said jokingly about the need for the city to appreciate its qualities rather than just focusing on its weaknesses.
Reed closed his speech by saying: “You have got a mayor who gets it; a mayor who deeply appreciates what you do for the City of Atlanta. You are part of a city that is ascending — a city that is going to comfortably assume its place as one of the leading cities in the world.”