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Column: Atlanta Committee for Progress develops blueprint for next mayor

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on October 13, 2017

The high-powered Atlanta Committee for Progress has developed a blueprint for the city as a way to help provide a smooth transition for the next mayor.

Duriya Farooqui John Dyer

Duriya Farooqui meets with John Dyer after the March 2016 ACP meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta)

ACP, which was created in 2003 by then-Mayor Shirley Franklin, includes many of the top business and civic leaders in the Atlanta region. It has helped launch a host of initiatives, including the Atlanta Beltline, acquisition of the Martin Luther King Jr. papers, pension reform and the Westside Future Fund.

“We engaged an outside consulting firm to really look objectively on how Atlanta compares to peer cities,” said Duriya Farooqui, ACP executive director and former chief operating officer for the City of Atlanta. “The data was shared with the ACP, and there was a lot of discussion of where the ACP, in partnership with the city, could move the needle.”

The recommendations of the report are being released Oct. 13, less than a month before the Atlanta mayoral election.

“It’s agnostic as to who is going to be the next mayor,” said Farooqui, who has met with all the major candidates to make sure they fully appreciate how ACP can help make their administration a success. “Every candidate running for mayor has the opportunity to benefit from the work ACP has done and adopt what he or she thinks is appropriate.”

ACP came up with five “Go Forward” priorities and goals:

  1. Maintain a financially strong city. Goal: Maintain the city’s general fund reserves about 20 percent of its operating budget;
  2. Expand opportunity for all. Goal: Increase access to jobs through workforce development and thriving affordable neighborhoods;
  3. Strengthen student achievement. Goal: Improve the college graduation rate and career readiness of students in the Atlanta Public Schools;
  4. Improve transit connectivity. Goal: Build infrastructure for sustainable growth, density and last-mile connectivity;
  5. Keep Atlanta safe. Goal: Reduce crime by 15 percent with a focus on technology, youth and repeat offenders.

“We think we can work cooperatively with the new mayor,” said Larry Gellerstedt, CEO of Cousins Properties who will be the 2018 chair of ACP’s board. “I look forward to working with the new mayor, no matter who that may be.”

John Dyer, CEO of Cox Enterprises who is the 2017 ACP chair, said the purpose of the “Go Forward” report is to figure out “what would cause someone to come here, and what would cause someone to stay here.”

Farooqui said ACP’s strength has been in executing the mayor’s vision. During the administrations of Franklin and Reed, ACP’s members provided the city with expertise and horsepower to realize their goals.

“We are at a critical moment in time in Atlanta’s growth and development,” she said, adding the city has enjoyed tremendous growth since ACP was formed. “We must build on that momentum so Atlanta can continue to thrive over the next decade and beyond.”

Parallel lives

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Wonya Lucas, president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, have been living parallel lives.

They met during their freshman year at Georgia Tech in 1979, a university with students who were predominantly white and male.

Wonya Lucas and Valerie Montgomery Rice

College room-mates at Georgia Tech – Valerie Montgomery Rice on the left and Wonya Lucas on the right. A friend Janet stands in the middle (Special)

“We were roommates, and we’ve been close friends ever since,” Rice said of Lucas.

Both ended up taking the helm at their respective Atlanta-based institutions around the same time, which has further cemented their bond.

Now they share something else in common. Both have recently been named to the boards of important corporations.

Lucas has joined the board of J.C. Penney Co. Marvin Ellison, CEO of JCPenney, credited Lucas for helping create some of television’s most highly-acclaimed viewer programing.

“Her distinguished background brings tremendous value to our board as JCPenney continues to build mindshare in a media landscape saturated with news and information,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Rice has joined the board of UnitedHealth Group. Richard Burke, UnitedHealth’s chairman, said Rice brings us in-depth knowledge and understanding of the specific health-care needs of a wide range of communities, and how to better prepare the next generation of health-care leaders to address those needs.”

When asked about becoming a director of UnitedHealth, Rice said: “I am happy to serve on a board where my expertise will add value to addressing the complex issues in health care today.”

Ed Bastian and Paul Bowers

The Georgia Historical Society has selected Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, and Paul Bowers, chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power, as its newest trustees. Bastian and Bowers will be inducted by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Historical Society on Feb. 17 in Savannah.

“Ed Bastian and Paul Bowers exemplify in their lives and careers the highest standard of ‘Not for Self, but for Others’ set by the founding Trustees of Georgia,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the society. “The impact of their remarkable leadership is felt daily not only here in Georgia but around the world.”

New CARE board members

Atlanta-based CARE recently added three new directors, increasing its board to 19 members. They are Everett Harper, Tessa Lyons-Laing and Richard Stengel.

Harper is the CEO and co-founder of Truss: Infrastructuralists, a San Francisco-based technology company that builds software infrastructure to solve complex challenges of growth and transformation. His expertise is in customer development, combining behavior research and ethnography to define winning products and services.

Lyons-Laing is a product manager at Facebook. She previously served as business lead to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Lyons-Laing started her career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co., where she focused on technology and media.

Stengel is a strategic advisor at Snapchat. He previously served in President Barack Obama’s administration as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

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.

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