Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed predicts another run at a regional transit effort sometime next year, saying leaders shouldn’t be discouraged by the 2012 failed T-SPLOST referendum.
Speaking at a forum in Washington sponsored by Politico Magazine, Reed also said he plans to make early childhood education a priority for 2015.
The mayor was among several public officials, nonprofit, business and educational leaders invited to speak at Politico’s “What Works” summit. Reed spoke on panels geared towards education, cities and transit.
Reed said Atlanta is thriving with an influx of millennials and baby boomers, adding that businesses are following the migration into the heart of the city.
“Suburbs are continuing to have an appropriate place, but cities are the center of where the action is,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a greater blend of the population because I think that smart people, wherever they are, talented people, wherever they are… are moving increasingly to cities.”
He anticipates this growth will lead to what he called mega-regions: “When we look at the country, we’ll be looking at which regions dominate, and how those regions perform, and that’s going to be driven by cities.”
The mayor spoke about failed T-SPLOST penny sales tax referendum, noting boosters had their “heads handed to them at the ballot” when voters shot down the effort in 2012. But Reed said it takes time to persuade voters and believes regional leaders will begin working on a similar project sometime in 2015.
Reed has previously said he expects that a smaller number of governments will pair up to pursue regional transportation projects. The 2012 metro Atlanta vote involved a penny sales tax for a 10 county region.
“We’ve just got to stop being so soft. Doing hard things is hard,” he said. “When you’re trying to bring together a community that’s multi-racial, multi-generational and multi-party…and persuade people you’re better off having a big vibrant economy, it takes time to persuade people and win those arguments.”
Speaking on a panel about education with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Reed said Atlanta was like a “nuclear site” following what he called the “worst cheating scandal” in U.S. history.
“The most talented people in education didn’t want to be in the city of Atlanta,” he said.
The mayor recounted that in 2011 he contacted Erroll Davis, then chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and asked him to lead the embattled schools system.
Reed, who sparred with Davis and other school leaders earlier this year over debt the Atlanta Beltline owes Atlanta Public Schools, said Davis is a man of “unquestionable integrity.”
Davis retired as APS superintendent earlier this year.
Reed also said opening several Centers of Hope recreation centers has reduced teen crime, and that he plans to make early childhood education a priority next year.
Reed did not elaborate on what that could entail.
Speaking about his philosophy on influencing young people, Reed said “you can’t just be tough with kids all of the time.”
Reed said he believes leaders should be available to meet with students: “Young people want to talk to leaders, they want to talk to elders directly and you’ve got to meet them and engage them where they are.”