23 Aug 2014
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Atlanta Mayor: 'I Believe that We Must be a Region'

Even as the Atlanta Braves prepare to leave his city, Mayor Kasim Reed champions a need for regional cooperation to solve state transportation problems and bolster Georgia's economy.

Atlanta Mayor: 'I Believe that We Must be a Region'
On the same day this week that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed took the oath of office for a second term, Georgia Trend named Reed it’s “2014 Georgia of the Year.”

In the magazine, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal lauds Reed, a Democrat with significant ties to the Barack Obama Administration.

Deal says Reed’s “interests extend far beyond parochial concerns, and that’s how our personal and professional relationship developed. He gets that what’s good for Georgia is also good for Atlanta – and every other city and town in this great state for that matter.”

A Commitment to the Port of Savannah

Reed, who could make a run for the governor’s office in four years, invoked his pro-regionalism spirit during his inauguration speech Monday afternoon when he said his “commitment to deepening the Port of Savannah has been unwavering and unshakeable.”

“There is no economic development effort that is more important to this region and this state, and a bipartisan approach with Governor Deal, Senator [Saxby] Chambliss & Senator [Johnny] Isakson has moved this project along faster in three years, than it had moved in the previous ten years,” Reed said. “When we get this done, and we will get it done, our city and our state will be well positioned to be the dominant economy in the southeast. That must be our goal and we’re going to achieve it.”

A Commitment to Transportation

In his speech, Reed rattled off a list of accomplishments during his first four years, but said the failure of the 2012 transportation referendum was his biggest failure.

“There was an extraordinary amount of good, honorable work done by many across party lines," the mayor said. "But in the shadow of that failure, eighteen elected officials, black and white, Democrat and Republican, rural and urban voted unanimously on a plan, and although that plan failed, it was a very special moment in the life of that region. There hadn’t been cooperation at that level before.”

But in the end, voters in the 10-county metro region voted down, by almost two-to-one, the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) measure that would have resulted in more than $8 billion in new transit and road projects. As Reed said Monday, “folks are still sitting in traffic” and he’s not done with the transportation issue because, “I believe in the region.”

“I said (it then), and I will say it today, that campaign is not over yet because the problem of traffic has not been solved yet. The bottom is that we have to get back at it because the voters’ rejection of our approach does not absolve us from having the responsibility, indeed the obligation to solve a problem that represents one of the most grave threats to all of our economic destinies. So will a future solution have to be smaller, more modest? Perhaps so, but doing nothing must not be the option."

A Commitment to Georgia

The mayor told those at the Atlanta Civic Center Monday that Georgia's residents must decide, "Either we are going to be a region or we are not."

He added, "I believe that we must be a region, and I need you to help win that argument. If we choose not to be we are choosing to enter a period of decline, because declining markets get declining investment and we understand that capital goes where it is needed and stays where it is well cared for.”

And to again accent his commitment to regionalism, the mayor invoked the subject matter of what some consider his greatest failure – the impending loss of the city’s Major League Baseball franchise to Cobb County.

“So while I may wish the Atlanta Braves had made a different decision, I will be at the game on opening day rooting for the Braves and rooting for the region,” Reed said.

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