Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had some fun this morning at his annual "State of the City Business Breakfast" because he had good news to tell.
"For the first time (since I've been mayor) I can state proudly and confidently that the state of the city is strong," Mayor Reed told a room of nearly 1,000 business and civic leaders on Wednesday morning at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
He smiled, teased and glowed as he listed the many accomplishments of his administration, particularly the financial health of the city compared to where it was when he first took office in January 2010.
Blessed with one of the most beautiful smiles on the planet, it was a pleasure to watch him enjoy himself as he ticked off the list of "promises made and promises kept."
In the area of public safety, the mayor reported that the city has nearly reached its goal of 2,000 police officers, a longstanding aim of several mayors. He noted that felony crime is the lowest it's been since 1969.
He's proud of his efforts to transform the city's recreation centers into "Centers of Hope." He gave a shout out to Wells Fargo for its donation of $1.5 million for the recently upgraded Center of Hope in Thomasville.
He said next on the list for Centers are Pittman and Ben Hill. Besides Wells Fargo, strong corporate partners in this effort include The Coca-Cola Company and Turner
Broadcasting who all together have contributed more than $4 million to this initiative.
Besides the business community, the mayor acknowledged the Atlanta City Council members who were also present. "None of these things would be possible without a strong partnership with the Atlanta City Council."
The city's financial health has been revived, he declared. He said cash reserves have gone from $7 million in 2010 to more than $126 million. Unemployment has gone from 10.2 percent to 8 percent. He also thinks the plunge in property values may have finally ended. He said his first year, the property tax digest dropped $15 million, then $10 million the following year and then $5 million this year.
He pointed to the new Maynard Jackson International Terminal at the airport. He's excited about the development of the Atlanta Beltline. He's proud of the groundbreaking for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame being connected by the planned street car leading to the city's other big attraction: The King Center on Auburn Ave.
"We have to move out of this posture of merely surviving," he said.
And he's got big plans. He wants to tackle some $900 million in infrastructure needs. After his trip to China last year, he plans a trade mission to Brazil this year. And without naming it outright he kept up his drumbeat to help the Atlanta Falcons build a new stadium.
Saying that he follows a proud tradition of Atlanta mayors doing big things, he added, "I want to always be in the posture of choosing the future.... I want to make the right decisions at the right time."
And he couldn't resist having some political fun, too. He gave a slow build up to the visit of President Obama to Atlanta this week, suggesting that this prompted him to make a major
announcement. As the room waited with bated breath, he said, "I'm here to announce ...I am ... running for re-election." He let out a big "whew!"
I'm glad we got that straight. And just in case it wasn't clear, he reminded the crowd, "I am living my dream."
Congratulations, Mr. Mayor. You're the right person for the right time in the right job for our dear city.
M. Alexis Scott is publisher of Atlanta Daily World.