Keisha Lance Bottoms thanks her supporters on Tuesday night. Credit: Maria Saporta

An open letter to Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms

Dear Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms,

Congratulations on being elected Atlanta’s 60th mayor!

I begin this letter with an outstretched hand to let you know I want you to be a successful mayor.

My hope is you will appreciate the role of the press – to question, to inform, to probe, to be skeptical, and yes, to be critical when necessary.

This hope is not limited to me. Ideally you will embrace people who think differently than you do, that you will treat the press and fellow public servants with respect, and that you will seek mutually-beneficial solutions while governing our city.

Mayor rejects claims by rec authority executive director over firing, ‘political slush fund’

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration said Monday evening it’s a “complete fabrication” by the head of an influential city-backed sports authority that he sought to oust her. For her part, the executive director says she was fired for refusing to run a “political slush fund.” The point/counter-point was delivered on the eve of the mayoral run-off election.

Dan Cathy Kasim Reed

Mayor Kasim Reed may award key employment contracts before leaving office

With less than six months remaining before he leaves office, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is working on all cylinders trying to accomplish as much as he can in the precious time he has left.

But all this activity has a downside.

The next mayor of Atlanta could inherit a City Hall where major policy moves, government contracts and personnel decisions will have been decided before he or she takes office.


Mayor Reed and key city council folks are at odds over closing Eastside TAD

Invest Atlanta provided financing to a record number of developments at its board meeting July 21 – projects that will add a total of 493 units of affordable and workforce housing – a top priority of Mayor Kasim Reed.

But a reason there was such a rush of projects was due to the possible closing of the Eastside TAD (Tax Allocation District). And Mayor Kasim Reed supports closing the TAD.

George Berry Elaine Alexander

Recent firings by Mayor Reed a contrast to Atlanta City Hall under Maynard Jackson

After the news broke of the Friday firings of two key officials from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, once again I was struck by how much City Hall has changed over the years.

On May 20, Reed parted ways with Miguel Southwell, aviation general manager who was in charge of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; and Jo Ann Macrina, commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management.

Kasim Reed Richard Anderson

An emotional Mayor Kasim Reed signs lease to keep Delta here for 20 years

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was overcome with emotion during the public signing of the city’s 20-year lease agreement with Delta Air Lines – a lease that also includes a 10-year optional extension.

The mayor’s voice quivered as he fought back tears talking about one of his closest confidants and friends in Atlanta’s business community – Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

Kasim Reed

Mayor Kasim Reed talks about being a family man and his post mayoral plans

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta Tuesday, got personal –talking about how becoming a family man had changed him.

In a moment of candor, the mayor admitted that at home he does not call the shots. For example, he said he wanted his daughter, Maria, to become a student in Atlanta’s public schools. But his wife was a student at the Pace Academy and went to the Suzuki school, a Montessori pre-school. So his daughter is going to the Suzuki School.

Mayor Reed to work to keep city ‘equitable’ in 2016

By Maria Saporta and Amy Wenk
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 5, 2016

Building an equitable Atlanta will be a central theme of Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in 2016.

Reed disclosed his commitment to making “sure Atlanta is a place for all us,” during an editorial board meeting with Atlanta Business Chronicle on Feb. 2.

“It’s not going to be just a traditional race conversation,” Reed said. “It’s going to be about the future conversation. How do millennials afford to live in the city of Atlanta? How does anybody afford to live in the city of Atlanta? How do you learn from London, New York, San Francisco … that are dealing with real issues around equity?”

Adair school

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed agrees to transfer 10 property deeds to APS

Given the new spirit of cooperation between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Public Schools, Mayor Kasim Reed said he is willing to transfer 10 property deeds to the school system.

Reed, speaking at the State of the City business breakfast Thursday morning at the Georgia World Congress Center, said he would ask the Atlanta City Council to transfer those deeds “right away.”

Bobby Jones

Mayor Kasim Reed seeks to remove mystery on Bobby Jones land swap deal

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called the possibility of the State of Georgia getting ownership of the Bobby Jones Golf Course in Buckhead as the “biggest false crisis that I’ve seen.”

In an editorial board meeting with the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Tuesday morning, Reed said he wanted to remove the mystery around the possible land swap between a state-owned parking facility at Underground Atlanta and the city-owned Bobby Jones course. The swap has been tied to the closing of the sale of Underground to WRS Realty.

Commentary: Atlanta must keep New Year’s Eve tradition alive

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

The Peach Drop – the New Year’s Eve celebration at Underground Atlanta – almost didn’t happen this year because the property is being sold.

Peach Drop celebration (Photo by Amy Wenk)

Maria believes Atlanta needs to keep an annual New Year’s celebration for the public. (Photo by Amy Wenk)

It was not clear who should put on the Peach Drop – the city or the developer who is buying the property. At the 11th hour, the city decided to take it on, and thousands of people showed up, as they have for years.

Over the years, Atlanta has held a variety of public New Year’s Eve celebrations. We used to welcome the New Year at the Coca-Cola sign next to what is now the Georgia Pacific Building, until the sign came down in the early 1980s.

In the 90s, the Midtown Alliance organized the family-oriented First Night with a number of arts and cultural events along with a fireworks display at midnight.

Then came the Peach Drop – a gathering place where Atlanta’s diverse population could enjoy the uplifting feeling of starting a new year.

With redevelopment plans for Underground, it’s unclear if the Peach Drop will continue.

But Atlanta needs to keep an annual celebration for the public.

We could ring in the new year at the new neon Coca-Cola sign, overlooking Woodruff Park.

Centennial Olympic Park would be a good place to bid farewell to one year, while ushering in a new one.

Or we could recreate First Night in downtown or Midtown – closing off Peachtree – and creating an Atlanta Streets Alive experience.

A New Year’s Eve celebration is important, because it’s the one day of the year when we can remove our fears and reach out to people we do not know – to simply wish them well.

We also can show off our hospitality to out-of-town football fans here for the Chick-fil-A bowl.

It’s moments like these that bring out the best in us.

Happy New Year Atlanta.

MARTA train

Commentary: Time for region to be MARTA smart

Originaly Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

MARTA train

MARTA, which hasn’t had a major expansion plan in decades, would like a 40-year, half-penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties. (credit Wikipedia)

Here we go again. Another year. Another transportation debate.

This time, Fulton County wants a five-year penny sales tax for transportation.

The idea is gaining steam among the mayors of the various Fulton cities who want new funding — primarily for roads.

The exception is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who wants funding to expand the city’s streetcar network — especially along the Atlanta BeltLine.

Meanwhile, MARTA, which hasn’t had a major expansion plan in decades, would like a 40-year, half-penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb.  It would help expand rail to Alpharetta, the Clifton Corridor, high-capacity transit to South DeKalb and possible investments in the BeltLine.

Both proposals have valid arguments. But both proposals are headed to a head-on collision where everyone could lose. Even Reed says voters are unlikely to pass both taxes.

There are few options to fund transit since the state constitution restricts gas tax revenues to roads and bridges.

Yet year after year, whenever new taxes are passed, roads get funded and transit gets left behind. One official described it as being “stuck on stupid.”

Let’s be MARTA smart for a change.

Commentary: Underground Atlanta sale is a deal city can't miss

T. Scott Smith

Developer T. Scott Smith is willing to invest up to $400 million to revitalize Underground Atlanta and its surrounding area. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Intro: The city of Atlanta’s sale of Underground Atlanta to a developer from South Carolina for $25.75 million was supposed to have closed on Sept. 30. Instead, both parties delayed the closing until Jan. 15 because the complicated real estate deal has run into some hurdles.Mayor Kasim Reed describes them as “solvable.”

Developer T. Scott Smith is willing to invest up to $400 million to revitalize Underground Atlanta and its surrounding area.

And he is anxious to take ownership of the property. Right now his company is managing the Underground retail center for the city but receiving no fees for the work. That’s only one reason he wants the deal to close.

Smith also wants to begin developing high-rise residential towers, a grocery store and other retail on the above ground area while revitalizing the historic storefronts and old city that we know as Underground.

But the state of Georgia owns a parking lot that sits between Underground and Georgia State University ─ a key bridge for the project. The city promised it would acquire the parking lot from the state so it could be incorporated in the overall development.

But securing that parking lot has proven to be more difficult than the mayor originally thought.

Underground is one of several signature projects that Mayor Reed wants to get completed during his term.

It should be the first to get done. The retail and entertainment complex has been a drag on the city’s books for years. And it sits at what is the most significant intersection in Atlanta ─ where MARTA’s two main lines cross. It is the heart of Atlanta.

Because of long-held perceptions by Atlantans against the Five Points MARTA Station and Underground Atlanta, it took an out-of-town developer to see the opportunity of this nexus.

If this deal were to fall through, there’s no telling how long that would set us back as a city or as a downtown.

Mayor Reed does have a lot on his plate, with redevelopment of Turner Field and the Atlanta Civic Center. But the city would be well-served if he focused on solving the problems related to the Underground deal before he moves on to anything else.

This one is too important to let slip away.