By Maria Saporta
It’s time for Atlanta to lead again.
That was the message that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed delivered Monday at a Commerce Club speech. The mayor thanked the audience of mostly Commerce Club members for their support of the city, but he clearly was trying to re-energize Atlantans to believe in the city once again.
Reed acknowledged that times have been tough for the city, the region and the state. But he said it was important to not overlook the real accomplishments that have occurred.
He went through a laundry list of his achievements:
1. The city’s audited cash reserves total about $70 million compared to $7 million when he took office. Reed said he anticipates that reserves will reach $90 million in the next 60 days, and he is optimistic that there will be $108 million in reserves — or 20 percent of the city’s budget — at the end of his first term.
2. The city was able to successfully enact pension reform. “City of Atlanta employees have really stepped up,” Reed said , adding that they are now covering 13 percent of the costs compared to 8 percent — which was placing a costly obligation on the city’s books.
3. During his term, the city has hired an additional 350 officers, and Reed said the city is on its way to adding 750 officers that would give it a total force of 2,000 officers — a goal that has eluded the city in the past.
4. Crime is down. For example, up to this moment, there have been fewer than 75 people killed in Atlanta so far this year. It is only the fifth time since Lyndon Baines Johnson was president that there have been fewer than 100 people murdered in one year.
5. The state and the city are working together on projects important to overall economy — including the deepening of the Port of Savannah and securing federal dollars for a major transportation project in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
6. The Atlanta region passed a $6.14 billion list of transportation projects — heralding a new day of regional cooperation. Now it is critical that voters go to the polls and pass a one-penny sales tax referendum on July 31, 2012.
Just the fact that the project list passed unanimously was a major accomplishment. “Things are so hard right now that we are not even looking up when we do incredible things,” Reed said.
Reed said passing the transportation sales tax would pump billions of dollars in the regional economy, and it would let Atlanta’s competitors know that the city is still in the game.
“It’s time for Atlanta to be leading again,” Reed said repeatedly at the lunch. “It’s time for us to choose to be first again.”
Reed, who had convened the high-powered business and civic cabinet — the Atlanta Committee for Progress — Monday morning, also spoke quite favorably about Atlanta Public Schools interim Superintendent Erroll Davis, who had made a presentation to the group.
People attending the ACP meeting were supportive of Davis remaining as superintendent for as long as possible — maybe through the 2013 city elections.
While the mayor did not discuss the particulars of Davis’ tenure at APS, Reed said after his talk: “I think he has earned the confidence of families and the private sector and the NGO (non-governmental organizations) community. That what we heard from the private sector today.”
In thanking to Commerce Club members, Reed said he was grateful for their commitment to the city and that “the choir needs to be sung to sometimes.”
“We are beginning to see signs that we are coming out of it,” Reed said. “Let’s come out of it strong. Let’s come out of this as leaders. Let’s come out of it as the dominant city in the South.”
A side note:
During his introduction of the mayor, Jeff Haidet, chairman of the McKenna, Long & Aldridge law firm, said the Reed had been asked during lunch if he missed practicing law.
“I like having a limited number of problems to solve,” the mayor said about being a lawyer, adding with a smile: “And I like being well paid to solve them.”