Six months into Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's first term, and with one duly approved budget now in the can, it seems an appropriate moment to take stock of his — and the city's — progress.
We hope it's not too noncommittal to say, "So far, so good."
Since there hasn't been enough time for Reed to have fulfilled his campaign promises, per se, we can only look at where those promises stand on the road to fulfillment. Central to his campaign for mayor were three major pledges:
• Reforming a ruinous pension system that now costs the city $125 million annually
• Giving police a 3.5 percent raise and hiring 700 new officers by the end of his first term
• Turning two dozen shuttered neighborhood recreation centers into activity centers that provide inner-city youth a meaningful alternative to street crime
While the success of any proposal must ultimately be judged on whether it delivers the desired outcome, at this early stage, we can only comment on how far down the field Reed has moved the ball. And, during an intense final week of lobbying and debate before the city's June 30 budget deadline, he managed to persuade City Council to approve the requested funding for most of his initiatives. Now, as the city has learned in years past, wanting to hire a mess of new cops and actually doing it can be two different things. But at least the money is in place.
Reed had initially hoped to roll back pension benefits for new hires and employees who aren't yet vested. In the end, a wary Council made the change only for future workers. But pension reform is a long-term project, so we're hopeful he keeps up the pressure.
Reed promised to increase police salaries, and Council proved its old, fiscally irresponsible self by also awarding firefighters a matching raise and handing out an insulting $450 "bonus" to other city workers. But that shouldn't reflect poorly on the mayor.
Council also green-lighted Reed's "centers of hope." We look forward to seeing how he spends the $13 million to overhaul rec centers.
Two projects the mayor had fast-tracked — selling City Hall East to private developers and unloading the city jail to Fulton County — haven't gone through yet, but he managed to tweak his proposed budget to make up the difference.
Even before the 2011 budget was OK'd, Reed was able to bring last year's budget in for a landing with a few million left over, primarily through strategic layoffs. One clear difference between the Shirley Franklin administration and Reed's is that he and Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman aren't afraid to sack people — department heads included — who don't seem to be getting the job done.
On the other hand, the mayor has been slower than expected in filling some important posts. We may have a new police chief by the time you read this, but that appointment should have been made a few weeks ago. Finally, Reed has offered lip service to working closely with Council, but we haven't seen strong evidence that he's done much to build those relationships. That omission could come back to bite him at a later date.
All said, we're still bullish on the mayor.
I'm glad these guys are getting their deserved hype but seriously.... 'Is art the new…
No X 2
More recently I've talked to people who know more about the Kell building than me…
yeah, TW, why'd you make the space so small?