Atlanta Committee for Progress lines up its leaders, discusses pension reform
By Maria Saporta
The Atlanta Committee for Progress will have continuity of leadership for one more year.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was able to convince Phil Kent, CEO of Turner Broadcasting, to continue serving as chairman of the business advisory group through the end of 2011.
For the first time, the ACP board also identified a vice chairman who will chair the organization in 2012. That person will be Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific LLC. Hannan recently chaired the mayor’s search committee for a new chief financial officer for the city.
“I’m happy to do it,” Kent said. “The mayor and I have a great working relationship.”
Kent also said having a vice chairman “will set the course for the future. Now we will know a year in advance who will be chairman.”
The Atlanta Committee for Progress was founded by former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin with the strong involvement of Peter Aman, then with the Bain & Co. consulting firm.
Reed pledged to continue working with the group of metro area executives in his administration, and he hired Aman to serve as his chief operating officer for a year. Aman recently agreed to serve another year in that position.
“Working with the mayor and Peter, we have a lot of momentum, and we’re involved in a lot of fronts,” Kent said in an interview Monday morning after the ACP’s regular quarterly meeting at CNN Center.
ACP has agreed to try to raise $2 million to pay for professional services to help the city through its pension liability issues. Kent said it became apparent that the city needed help from actuaries, lawyers, financial managers as it tries to reduce the amount of the city’s budget that goes to paying pensions. Although the work will not be pro-bono, Kent said they hope firms will offer the city a discounted price.
“We want to get the best minds working on this, so we wanted to pay for the experts,” Kent said.
Reed compared his effort to get a handle on the city’s pension crisis to Franklin’s work on fixing the city’s sewer system. He said the pension crisis is the most single issue that threatens the city’s financial stability.
“At the end of the day, we are spending one out of five dollars on pension-related issues,” Reed said. “A path to solving the pension problem will really bring to light a lot of the major challenges facing the city.”
The Pension Reform Task Force, chaired by John Mellott, the former publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is now embarking on the second phase of its agenda. Reed said he expects that there will be a series of five options presented on how to address the problems — from doing nothing to “the fifth being the most radical” solution.
“We will get to that (final) option by having robust conversation about it,” Reed said, pledging transparency through that whole process. “What we know right now is that the city is funding about 53 percent of its pension liability.”
By comparison, a generally accepted standard for municipalities and local governments is to fund at least 80 percent of their pension liabilities.
In addition, the Pension Reform Task Force is contracting with an Emory professor — Charles Shanor — to serve as the “pay master” for the professional services that will be needed.