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Atlanta Mayor Reed details green agenda to Sustainable Roundtable

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed reasserted his commitment to making the city as green as it can be during the monthly Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable meeting Friday morning.

Reed said his goal for Atlanta is consistent — he wants it to be in the Top 10 sustainable cities in the United States. In the last national ranking, Atlanta was No. 18.

Reed credited his predecessor, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, for improving the city’s sustainable ranking from No. 38 to No. 18. (Since then, the entity that ranked U.S. cities has discontinued its listing, but there are other efforts underway to be able to compare cities).

“Mayor Franklin did an incredible job in starting this,” Reed said at the SART meeting Friday morning. “The next place to go is from No. 18 to being in the Top 10.”

Reed also included Denise Quarles, the city’s new director of sustainability, on the stage to be able to answer questions from the audience.

One person asked about whether the state was going to be a partner in the city’s sustainability efforts.

Reed acknowledged that he wasn’t counting on the state to enact policies to help Atlanta become a Top 10 city.

“I’m really focused on speed,” Reed said. “I really don’t have time to persuade a big entity to do that…. I would rather work in partnership with people who understand this, people in this room. If you don’t believe in sustainability, I don’t think you believe in modernity.”

Specifically, the mayor mentioned several efforts that the city has underway to help it become more sustainable. A big initiative is the Better Buildings Challenge — an effort to get building owners to retrofit their properties and make them more energy efficient. It’s part a national effort where different cities have taken the challenge.

In his introduction of the mayor, environmentalist Rutherford Seydel said the Better Buildings Challenge was an opportunity for Atlanta to shine, saying the city could beat environmental leaders such as Seattle and Portland.

Reed said the Better Buildings Challenge was a way to get local construction employees back to work by making the structures more energy efficient. He also said the city has included the Atlanta Civic Center, a 150,000-square-foot structure, as part of that challenge.

Reed also said he’s exploring ways to get the private sector to help provide loans to property owners that want to green their buildings. He said he already has been talking to private equity funds, some backed with union funds, about setting up as much as a $1 billion fund for major cities to implement green building programs that would hire skilled labor.

“The place for us to be is a leading city in the world,” Reed said. “We really can’t be a leading city without a full-steam commitment to sustainability.”

Reed said the city also is planning to implement “a robust pilot” bicycle program for Atlanta, which will be announced in the near future. He said Atlanta has been looking at bicycle programs in London, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. for ideas. It sounds as though the city is considering a bicycle-sharing program similar to the ones that exist in those cities as well as Paris.

“We are working on a funding model to implement it,” Reed said. “You will be able to walk out and get a bike…and return it anywhere. We are not designed in a way that’s as bike-friendly as other places. I think I’m very close on the funding for it. Then we will be working on the smart part of it (safety).”

The mayor also shared with the 140 people in attendance his dreams to blocking off spaces in the city and turning them into “pedestrian zones” to help people be able to use alternatives from the automobile.

“I have to figure out how to do it politically,” Reed said. “I’m just being honest. I think we ought to have big pedestrian zones.”

The mayor said he is exploring several financial options to help improve the city’s infrastructure, such as funding that exists in tax allocation districts and possibly issuing infrastructure bonds.

At the end of the program, the audience gave the mayor a standing ovation.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Burroughston Broch June 1, 2012 3:52 pm

    So, the Mayor wants someone else (anyone other than the City) to pay for the agenda while he takes the political credit.
    Sounds like a plan.
    And the sheeple gave him a standing ovation for telling them what they wanted to hear.Report

  2. NigelJones June 1, 2012 6:18 pm

    The mayor wants to improve the city and have private businesses and donors pay for it instead of raising taxes. Sounds like a good idea to me.Report

    1. Burroughston Broch June 1, 2012 8:14 pm

       @NigelJones I agree, and the Mayor will take all the kudos. However, there will be quid pro quos behind the curtains, as there always are. At the end of the day, the taxpayers will pay.Report

  3. guest June 1, 2012 11:07 pm

    Talk about a catch-22. The city spends money, it’s wasting tax dollars (ie. private money reallocated). If it solicits private funding, it’s using other people’s money. Absurd. So since no other entity has of it’s own volition created these solutions, then what would you propose? Of course, you don’t actually have a constructive concept. You’re just putting on a show BB…and frankly, a bad one.  Report

  4. Burroughston Broch June 2, 2012 2:15 am

    The Mayor addressing this group is like a minister preaching to the choir, except that the message is inconsistent and trite. Let’s look at a few pieces.
    1. “I’m really focused on speed. I don’t really have the time to persuade a big entity to do that…”
    “He said that he has already been talking to private equity funds, some backed with union funds about setting up as much as a $1billion fund for major cities to implement green building funds that would require skilled labor.”
    He doesn’t have time to talk to big entities, but he’s talking to big entities.
    He is dangling a carrot of having the projects locked down to union labor. A quid pro quo for the unions.
    2. “He shared …his dreams of blocking off spaces in the city and turning them into pedestrian zones…”
    He could do that tomorrow with very little money required.
    3. “…he’s exploring ways to get the private sector to help provide loans to property owners that want to green their buildings.”
    Loans and tax incentives are available now for this purpose, and many owners “green” their buildings where it makes financial sense.
    Many popular “greening” strategies when implemented don’t make financial sense.
    4. “… the city has included that Atlanta Civic Center … as part of that (the Better Buildings) challenge.
    I don’t care how much green lipstick the City puts on it, it’s still a pig that no one wants to use.

    1. return to pragmatism June 5, 2012 10:38 pm

      Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if the mayor wants to sugarcoat his response about partnering with the state.  The reality the state has never been a willing partner with the city on any number of critical issues, so there’s no reason to expect it to partner with this one.  I have no problem with the mayor – a politician – putting a nice spin on this, because everyone already knows the truth, and blatantly stating it as such won’t help move this agenda forward. 
      Are you critical of what Reed is proposing, or just how he’s verbalizing it?  Some of the initiatives he is talking about are a welcome refreshing wave of progress in a state that hasn’t seen much progress in the last 30 years.Report

      1. Burroughston Broch June 8, 2012 7:50 pm

         @return to pragmatism Where in the original post do you find any mention of the Mayor wanting to partner with the state?
        And why is it that you think that sugar coating a situation is better than acknowledging the truth?Report


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