By Maria Saporta

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk came to Atlanta for a meeting Tuesday afternoon with business leaders at the Metro Atlanta Chamber hoping to galvanize support for a bi-partisan solution to prevent the nation falling off the fiscal cliff by the end of the year.

But it was the comments that the former mayor of Dallas said about Atlanta that really captured the attention of the business leaders.

Kirk was the first black mayor of Dallas, but in reality he should have been the fifth. “We exported all of our talent,” Kirk said.

Ron Kirk

The late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson was born in Dallas. Tom Bradley, the late mayor of Los Angeles, actually came from Calvert, Texas just outside of Dallas. Flamboyant Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, was born in Mineola, Texas, just outside of Dallas. And Emanuel Cleaver, the former mayor of Kansas City who currently is serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, also came from Dallas.

Back in 1999, a group of Atlanta leaders went to Dallas on the annual LINK trip, when they met with Kirk. And during that trip, Kirk lamented the fact that Maynard Jackson had left Dallas.

Why? To attend Morehouse College. At the time, Dallas did not have a four-year college within its city limits to educate the best and the brightest in the third largest city in Texas. That was still the case in 1999.

“You have an educational infrastructure that rivals any other city in the country,” Kirk said. “Having the educational cluster you have makes you the envy of most of the mayors in the country, if they’re being honest.”

Kirk explained how it was sometimes difficult for Dallas to compete against Atlanta because business leaders would become aware of the antics on the Dallas City Council. By comparison, Atlanta appeared much more together — playing off its reputation of being a “city too busy to hate.”

When comparing African-Americans in Dallas to those in Atlanta, Kirk remembered some business leaders complaining: “Why can’t we be more like Atlanta.”

To that Kirk would answer: “Because you don’t have five historically-black colleges.” Kirk went on to rapidly list the many colleges and universities in the City of Atlanta — Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark-Atlanta and Emory, which actually is not in the city limits.

Then directing his comments to the people at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Kirk said: “Everybody in this room has a degree.”

Partly because of his efforts when he was mayor of Dallas, there is now a University of North Texas in Dallas, which began in 2000. Currently, it only has about 2,000 students, but Kirk hopes it will grow to having a student body of 20,000.

“Education is the name of the game,” Kirk said. “You have one of the most educated work-force in the country.”

Kirk went on to describe Atlanta’s institutions of higher learning as “jewels.”

But both Atlanta and Dallas are facing the same issues when it comes to K through12 education. “We are competing against the most talented young people in the world,” Kirk said. “We better get serious about education. Our kids are dropping out of school because they can’t read.”

When talking about the danger of going off the fiscal cliff, Kirk said he was “so proud” of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) and his willingness to work on a bi-partisan solution to the debt crisis.

Kirk also applauded two business-led efforts — Fix the Debt and No Labels — for working on efforts to reduce the nation’s debt. He added that President Barack Obama’s administration also has been trying to get the U.S. Chamber of Commerce more engaged on the issue.

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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  1. An article about how an ex-mayor of Dallas is envious of Atlanta’s multiple universities is very appropriate seeing as though the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex really is envious of Atlanta as a whole. 
    As Ms. Saporta stated in the article, Dallas officially has only one four-year university within its city limits in a small, but growing, commuter school at the University of North Texas at Dallas (Dallas unofficially has a second four-year university in the 12,000-student Southern Methodist University which is within the close environs of Dallas’ near-Northside, but is officially within the corporate limits of the small city of University Park, Texas).
    Because of the city’s very noticeable dearth of four-year universities and the resulting lack of educational prestige and a youth-driven college town-like culture, Dallas is not only envious of Atlanta’s many universities (some of which, like the Atlanta University Center, Georgia Tech, Emory, Agnes Scott, the relatively-nearby University of Georgia and the up-and-coming Georgia State, combine with Kennesaw State, SPSU, Life University, Clayton State, the University of West Georgia and Georgia Gwinnett College to give Atlanta and its environs a somewhat very prestigious reputation when it comes to higher education compared to many other major metros).
    But Dallas is also very envious of the historical role that some of the prestigious universities in and around the Atlanta area have had in driving the overall social and cultural dynamic of Atlanta.  
    The Dallas establishment is very envious of the role that the institutions of the Atlanta University Center have had in fostering the advances of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing role that those institutions have had in helping to foster the musical, entertainment and social cultural dynamic that Atlanta has become known for.
    Dallas is very envious of a major up-and-coming university like Georgia State University being located directly in the heart of the city in Downtown Atlanta and the role that GSU plays in helping to bring roughly 30,000 college-aged students to Atlanta’s Central Business District to learn, shop and, increasingly, live.
    Dallas is very envious of Atlanta having a prestigious niche institution like Georgia Tech on its very near-Northside/Midtown area.  Dallas is also very envious of Georgia Tech’s membership in what people in other parts consider to be a very-prestigious East Coast-based athletic conference in the Atlantic Coast Conference (the historically basketball-obsessed ACC).
    Dallas is very envious of Atlanta having a very-prestigious institution that many around the country have traditionally considered to be of Ivy League-caliber in Emory University.
    Dallas is very envious of Atlanta having its state’s flagship university, the University of Georgia, so relatively close nearby only about 70 miles or so away in Athens. 
    Dallas is extremely envious of UGA’s membership in what is by far the nation’s premiere and most-dominant conference for the nation’s most profitable and visible college sport in the college football-dominating Southeastern Conference (the SEC).
    Dallas is ESPECIALLY envious of Atlanta’s central location and ultra-important role at the epicenter of the world of college athletics as the annual host of the Southeastern Conference’s Championship Game in football, the frequent host of the SEC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and the occasional host of the highly-prestigious ACC Men’s Basketball Tournaments.
    Dallas is also somewhat envious of Atlanta’s status as a fertile breeding ground for college athletic talent and prime recruiting area for college athletics, particularly for college football, men’s and women’s college basketball and baseball.
    Dallas is also very envious of Atlanta’s prime and scenic location at the southern end of the Southern Appalachian Mountains on the Eastern Seaboard of North American continent and the scenic topography of heavily-wooded hills, lakes and mountains that location provides. 
    Dallas is also very envious of the social and cultural connections and virtual logistical direct connection that Atlanta’s location on the Eastern Seaboard provides it to the centers of government and culture and the economic markets of the entire East Coast (Florida, South Atlantic, Mid Atlantic, Northeastern U.S., etc).
    Dallas is also very envious of the prime logistical assets that Atlanta possesses in having the world’s busiest airport at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the virtually direct access that Atlanta has to one North America’s busiest and one of the world’s fastest-growing seaports at the Port of Savannah.
    Dallas is also very envious at how all of the logistical, educational, cultural and athletic assets combine to provide Atlanta almost unparalleled access to and stature in the Trans-Atlantic and International spheres of influence.

  2. Ron Kirk is a total crook scumbag.  That guy took massive bribes from everybody when he was Mayor of Dallas.  He should be in jail with everyone that has ever been on Dallas City Council and DISD Board of Trustees.

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