Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed wants the city to regain its dominance in the Southeast

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.”

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.

14 replies
  1. James R. Oxendine says:

    ”We are seeing signs that we are coming out of it………Let’s come out as the dominant city in the South”

    It is very encouraging to see Mayor Reed take to the bully pulpit and challenge our community to aspire to the leadership position in the 21st Century South, the 13 state region which will become an even more significant part of the global economy in the next 20 years. I believe that is what great leaders must do: set goals high but achievable.Report

    Reply
  2. NicholasJohnathanMulkey says:

    I dont personally believe that Atlanta ever stopped leading the south. Have we faced rising competition most definately,(Houston, Charlotte, Miami, Dallas etc) but no one has taken our place. But it is encouraging to hear Mayor Reed say these things in sort of a “just in case you forgot” kind of situation. He’s doing a great job as mayor and I trust his leadership which is saying ALOT.Report

    Reply
    • Ken1962 says:

      @NicholasJohnathanMulkey Well as someone who has lived in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas and visited Charlotte,and Miami, ATL is the most prominent area in the southeast but not in the southern tier of states. Dallas/FW has that title because:

      1. growing faster;

      2. no state income tax

      3. Two major airlines based in Dallas

      4. More Fortune 500 countries, especially in IT and retail (Penney’s, Neiman Marcus, Fossil, Pier 1, Radio Shack, Dickies, to name a few based in Dallas)

      5. More centrally located;

      6. Better infrastructure and already upgrading. For example, ATL has spoke for 20 of building a northern arc highway. In that time, Dallas has almost finished its second loop and built a second major tollway.

      7. Falcons talk of building a new stadium, Jerry Jones found a way to build the best.

      Report

      Reply
    • Ken1962 says:

      @NicholasJohnathanMulkey Well as someone who has lived in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas and visited Charlotte,and Miami, ATL is the most prominent area in the southeast but not in the southern tier of states. Dallas/FW has that title because:

      1. growing faster;

      2. no state income tax

      3. Two major airlines based in Dallas

      4. More Fortune 500 countries, especially in IT and retail (Penney’s, Neiman Marcus, Fossil, Pier 1, Radio Shack, Dickies, to name a few based in Dallas)

      5. More centrally located;

      6. Better infrastructure and already upgrading. For example, ATL has spoke for 20 of building a northern arc highway. In that time, Dallas has almost finished its second loop and built a second major tollway.

      7. Falcons talk of building a new stadium, Jerry Jones found a way to build the best.

      Report

      Reply
      • NicholasJohnathanMulkey says:

        @Ken1962 I definately agree Dallas is a larger, more productive city and region. Ill give you all but 7 in the sense that the Falcons have been throwing the idea around for only a short period of time and its really picking up steam. It not like the Falcons have been talking about it for years so give them a little cushion. But the thing that gets in the way of Atlanta growing faster and stepping up to being the best city in the south period is all this fragmentation within the region. Everyone obviously arent on the same accord and have forgotten exactly who leads around here. This proxy cities and counties act as if they are the growth generator or central city and are so stubborn to adopt pro-Atlanta policies, not realizing that what ever economic prosperity Atlanta has usually spills over to them. They dont think of the region as a whole. Thats the problem.

        Report

        Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          @[email protected]

          That balkanized mindset is a vestige of the erstwhile County Unit System, a political system which was used by rural and agricultural interests to dominate state government until Metro Atlanta began to grow and overshadow the rest of the state with its explosive population growth of the last four decades.Report

          Reply
      • NicholasJohnathanMulkey says:

        @Ken1962 Also Id love to see the day when 2 million people actually live IN Atlanta, and 4 million live in the suburbs. That would definately give the city so much more weight, liveliness, and culture. Downtown could actually be a lively place at night then.Report

        Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        @[email protected]

        You make some very, very, VERY GOOD points about why Dallas has more prominence across the entire Sunbelt and southern tier of states than Atlanta.

        The Texas cities are on their own “plain” (no pun intended to the Southern Plains) in many different ways because of a different climate, political structure, topography, location, etc. People compare Georgia against Texas all of the time and I agree that cities like Dallas and Houston can be a very good measuring stick for Atlanta to examine itself, especially because of Texas’ much larger and increasing investments in infrastructure (road, rail, water and energy) and their much larger investments in education than Georgia has been making as of late, important investments from Georgia that seem to be shrinking as the population has been growing. Report

        Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        @[email protected]

        But Georgia and Texas are so much different from each other, politically and geographically in that Texas is a much larger state, population-wise, physically and politically, that dwafts any other state in the Central third of the nation between the Mississippi River and the Rockies and tends to dominate the political climate in the way that its sheer physical and demographic size allows it to. On the other hand, Georgia, while it has just cracked the Top 10 in population and has the largest land area of any state East of the Mississippi, is a much smaller state in population and land size that is surrounded by states that are either similar in size and or population (or are larger in the case of Florida) that compete almost equally with Georgia for the exact same political and economic resources.Report

        Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        @[email protected]

        It’s interesting that you mention the Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter. The reality that that very unpopular road will likely never be built because of the staunch and unwavering opposition of those who live close to or in the path of where the road was proposed to run (the proposed road was killed for good in 2003) means that the Atlanta Region will have no choice but to become a very transit-heavy city in the same mold and fashion of its Northeastern peers, especially with the coming expansion of the Port of Savannah which promises to at least double or maybe even triple, the amount of already exceptionally heavy truck traffic on the freeways in the Atlanta Region.Report

        Reply
    • Ken1962 says:

      @NicholasJohnathanMulkey Well as someone who has lived in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas and visited Charlotte,and Miami, ATL is the most prominent area in the southeast but not in the southern tier of states. Dallas/FW has that title because:

      1. growing faster;

      2. no state income tax

      3. Two major airlines based in Dallas

      4. More Fortune 500 countries, especially in IT and retail (Penney’s, Neiman Marcus, Fossil, Pier 1, Radio Shack, Dickies, to name a few based in Dallas)

      5. More centrally located;

      6. Better infrastructure and already upgrading. For example, ATL has spoke for 20 of building a northern arc highway. In that time, Dallas has almost finished its second loop and built a second major tollway.

      7. Falcons talk of building a new stadium, Jerry Jones found a way to build the best.

      Report

      Reply
  3. Lev says:

    I am deeply disturbed by the Mayor’s implicit insult to his predecessor, who held the increases in our water and sewer rates to 400%, even if that did mean that she wasn’t able to add any police to the force despite repeated promises to do so.

    Report

    Reply

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