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Speaker Ralston reassures Metro Atlanta Chamber board

By Maria Saporta

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston was the special guest at today’s board meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

And from the folks who attended the meeting, the word was that he impressed business leaders with his interest in moving beyond the dysfunctional (my word) politics of the last couple of years.

“He gave us a very nice overview of their agenda,” said Bill Linginfelter, this year’s Metro Atlanta Chamber chairman and Regions Bank’s area president for Georgia and South Carolina. “He seemed excited about the prospect for a transportation bill (coming out of this year’s legislative session).”

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Old Spaghetti Factory on Ponce set to close on Sunday

By Maria Saporta

Sometimes restaurants become friends of the family.

So when one of those restaurants goes out of business, it closes a chapter of memories.

That’s the way it is with the Old Spaghetti Factory on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Yesterday, I got a call from my best friend, Francie, saying that the Spaghetti Factory was going to closing its doors at the end of the week.

It just so happens that her children’s grandparents — Joyce and Candler Lasseter — have been going to the Spaghetti Factory every week for years.

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During Atlanta visit, General Petraeus shows he’s clearly in command

By Maria Saporta

When General David Petraeus came to speak today at the Atlanta Press Club/Commerce Club luncheon, he came with star power.

About a dozen photographers and television stations were on hand to hear his every word on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan — all among the 20 countries under his purview in the U.S. Central Command.

Petraeus impressed the 600 people attending the lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead with the depth of his knowledge and analysis of one of the most complicated regions

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Highlights from Huckabee, Perdue, Reed and a wise rabbi

By Maria Saporta

A whirlwind of activities surround the opening of the legislative session and the annual events of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Since our esteemed media outlets will provide the straight-forward news, I thought I would share with you some of the highlights of these last couple of days (at least from my point of view).

First, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (and a former Republican presidential candidate) gave a mostly non-partisan speech as the keynoter on Monday evening at the Georgia Chamber’s annual meeting.

Huckabee, a hold-over from the days of

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Sam Olens delivers his last state of the county talk to Cobb Chamber of Commerce

By Maria Saporta

It was the last “State of the County” address that Cobb Chairman Sam Olens would ever give to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.

But folks attending the breakfast Monday morning would not have known that from just hearing Olens’ speech.

Olens played it straight — giving Cobb Chamber members a rundown of the county’s operations and progress in public safety, infrastructure, education, the county’s budget, its quality of life as well as acquisition of parks and green space.

The only indication that this would be his last “State of the County” breakfast was

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And just who will be sitting on stage at Eggs & Issues?

By Maria Saporta

Georgia’s unusual politics this year is forcing the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to be more flexible than in previous years.

Traditionally, the Georgia Chamber holds its annual meeting on the Monday that marks the convening of the General Assembly. The annual meeting is tonight at the Georgia World Congress Center.

But where it gets tricky is that early the next morning, the Georgia Chamber hosts the annual “Eggs & Issues” breakfast when the state’s business leaders get to hear from the state’s top elected officials.

So on Tuesday morning, the Georgia Chamber will have Gov. Sonny Perdue

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Mother Nature Network celebrates one year birthday

By Maria Saporta

It’s been exactly a year since the environmental website — Mother Nature Network — was launched.

Founder Joel Babbit celebrated MNN’s one-year anniversary on Jan. 6 by talking to a group of Central Atlanta Progress meeting at the Il Mulino restaurant in the lobby of the 191 Tower — a building that has been integral to the website’s inception and operation.

What a year it’s been.

“We have about one million people coming to our site each month from 200 different countries,” Babbit said.

The major ratings firm for websites — Alexa — follows 6,200 websites in the environmental space. Of those, Mother

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By Maria Saporta

After decades in the real estate business, Hal Barry took time Wednesday to reflect on his career and the state of the industry in a talk to the Atlanta chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

He has seen the ups and downs of Atlanta real estate economy, and what he has seen is that “the playing field has changed and it’s changed again and again.”

Barry has not been immune from the downturn in the economy, but he has seen other real estate recessions in Atlanta.

“I have no idea where 2010 is going to take us, but I feel it’s going to be better than 2009,” Barry said.

Up until 2007, there was a range of

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New Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed shared priorities while he charmed the Kiwanis Club

By Maria Saporta

In his first public address after being sworn in as mayor, Kasim Reed charmed the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta today at lunch.

He was greeted by a standing ovation. And the audience of longtime Atlantans, many of whom probably had not voted for Reed, interrupted his speech several times with applause.

At the end, Reed received another standing ovation and Kiwanians seemed dutifully impressed.

During his talk, Reed told the Kiwanis Club that he woke up at 5:30 a.m. on his first full day as mayor “with a broad smile on my face.” He then declared his love for Atlanta, and told Kiwanians that

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President Ceasar Mitchell names his Atlanta city council committee chairs

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell released his committee assignments today, and it appears as though the legislative body will be undergoing some changes.

Interestingly enough, to of the committee chairs are brand new council members.

Aaron Watson, an at-large councilmember, will chair the zoning committee. He also will serve on city utilities and the finance/executive committee.

Newcomer Yolanda Adrean, who represents the Buckhead area, will chair the finance and executive committee. She also will serve on city utilities and public safety.

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Linginfelter tells Rotary about New Economy Report

By Maria Saporta

Last summer, the Metro Atlanta Chamber released its New Economy Task Force report on what the region needs to do to remain competitive in growing and attracting new jobs.

So the Rotary Club of Atlanta thought it would be a good idea to have David Ratcliffe, who chaired the New Economy Task Force, give a talk on the report’s findings.

Ratcliffe was invited to speak at the Nov. 9 Rotary meeting.

But when Ratcliffe came, instead of speaking about the New Economy Task Force, he spoke about the Southern Co., the energy industry and proposed global warming legislation.

As Atlanta Federal Reserve President

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After taking time off, it’s time to get back to work

Dear Readers,

I took off a couple of weeks from SaportaReport to enjoy the holidays and prepare for a new year and a new decade. I hope you missed me.

But now that the weekend is coming to a close, the world of work and news and commentary beckons.

Starting tomorrow, you can expect regular updates from me on what’s going on in our town, our region and our state.

Let’s hope common sense and enlightened progress will greet us in the new year.

Thanks for visiting SaportaReport. Please come back often.

Maria Saporta

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Southface celebrates Winter Solstice with special awards

By Maria Saporta

Today is the winter solstice.

But Southface, a non-profit that promotes green building practices, decided to celebrate the winter solstice six days early by highlighting some “outstanding energy-efficiency contributors in our community,” according to Judy Knight, who handles communications for the organization.

Although I attended Southface’s Winter Solstice party, I had to leave early before the awards were handed out.

So Knight graciously agreed to send me a recap of what happened.

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Rep. John Lewis says MARTA needs region, state support

By Maria Saporta

U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) made one thing perfectly clear Friday evening — MARTA is near and dear to his heart.

Lewis was the honorary host of MARTA’s celebration of its 30th anniversary of providing rail transit in addition to buses. Lewis was interviewed by public affairs and policy consultant Jeff Dickerson about the past, present and future of transit in the region.

Lewis proclaimed his love for MARTA in the following ways:

“MARTA is a shining example of what can be done,” Lewis said. “We wouldn’t be

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MARTA celebrates 30 years of bus and rail in Atlanta region

By Maria Saporta

Thirty years ago, Atlanta was riding high. MARTA had just opened the first leg of its rail transit system on the east line.

Atlanta was the envy of the nation in its ability to have won federal transit dollars to build one of the few modern rail systems in the country (San Francisco and Washington D.C. were the other two cities on the move).

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, metro Atlanta lost its way when it came to expanding and operating its rail transit system. The reasons are multi-dimensional and complex.

So now we are a metro area with a

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Ivan Allen family shines on — now at chamber’s front door

By Maria Saporta

Two historic gas lights now bookend the entrance of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Both gas lights stand in honor of two Atlanta legends — Ivan Allen Sr. and Ivan Allen Jr.

They were just moved from the backside of the chamber’s headquarters to the much more prominent location along Andrew Young International Boulevard at Centennial Olympic Park.

Chamber officials on Monday celebrated the move along with members of the Allen family and executives of Atlanta Gas Light, and its parent company, AGL Resources.

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Environmentalists cautiously optimistic on water plan

By Maria Saporta

Environmentalists feared Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Water Contingency Planning Task Force would end up recommending sprawling reservoirs and inter-basin water transfers.

But at the task force’s meeting today, inter-basin water transfers did not fare well, according to a survey of its members. And developing water reservoirs was viewed as a long term solution at best.

Instead, conserving water bubbled to the top as the most popular solution, especially in the short-term.

“From what I’m able to tell at the

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Encouraging words from Mayor-elect Kasim Reed

By Maria Saporta

In light of my Maria’s Metro column this week, I thought it would be good to run the full statement that Atlanta Mayor-elect Kasim Reed sent out on Wednesday following the recount of votes cast in the run-off election.

This statement was made after City Councilwoman Mary Norwood conceded to Reed that she had lost the election.

It sounds as though our next mayor is saying all the right things. What do you think?

Kasim Reed’s statement:

“Earlier this afternoon, I received a call

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Atlanta Committee for Progress to continue in Kasim Reed’s administration

By Maria Saporta

Mayor-elect Kasim Reed reached out to the Atlanta business community Monday morning at the quarterly meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a blue-ribbon advisory group set up six years ago by outgoing Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Reed, accompanied by City Council President Lisa Borders, had to leave directly after the meeting at SunTrust Plaza and wasn’t available to answer questions.

But ACP Chairman Jim Wells, CEO of SunTrust Banks, said the meeting between the business leaders and the

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Georgia and Atlanta moving towards transit, inch by inch

By Jeanne Bonner

Hope tinged with realism marked Friday’s Sustainable Roundtable on the future of transit in Atlanta held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Midtown.

Or was it realism softened ever so slightly by a bit of a hope?

Speakers Erik Steavens, director of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Intermodal Programs, and Lee Biola, president of Citizens For Progressive Transit, sketched out the current status of transit in Atlanta and Georgia.

They both made a case for why one