Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mayor gets love from the House

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Our man Kasim is riding high these days. He gets lauded by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. He's publicly touted around town by new Gov. Nathan Deal for using his clout with the Obama Administration to try to win federal funding for the Port of Savannah dredging project. And just this morning, he received one of the grander introductions I've heard for a local politician while making his annual visit to the state House.

"He's not only a great mayor," intoned House Speaker David Ralston, "but he's one of the great political leaders in our country."

Wow. That's high praise, indeed, but not a big surprise when you consider that Reed has maintained strong ties with the guys (and gals) under the Gold Dome. He began his political career in the House, then moved to the Senate, and was adept at forging respectful working relationships in both venues. When Ralston was elected Speaker last January (as the mayor had predicted), Reed made a point of crossing the street to be among the first to congratulate him. In other words, over at the Statehouse, they love some Kasim.

And, he made it clear, the feeling is mutual. Reed is not the most natural public speaker I've encountered — Roy Barnes may take that prize — but he has an enviable ability to speak in terms his audience will understand and appreciate. In this case, he subtly offered the message, "We're all in this together," by sympathizing with the House members tasked to deal with the state budget crisis:

"I remember my time over here, there were times when people don't have any idea how hard you work in the House and in the Senate and in the governor's office and in the lieutenant governor's office. You know, solving a one-and-a-half-billion-dollar budget crisis looks real easy from the cheap seats, when you don't have to get in this room and make the decisions and the hard choices that people don't see. So I just want you to know that there's some folks out here who are rooting for you, who have some appreciation of how important the decisions that you make are."

Then, Reed reinforced the image of the state and its capital city working in tandem:

"I want you to know we're gonna cooperate as the city of Atlanta with the leadership of this House, this exceptional Speaker, in an unprecedented way. And we've got some surprises for folks. You know, last year, working in partnership, we took on transportation. This year, you all are gonna be working on water and education. I just want you to know that I'm ready to help in any way that I can. And there's a funny thing that happens when we cooperate in Georgia. Folks who are competing against us don't see that play coming. I don't think they saw that play coming when we worked together to solve transportation. I don't think that folks saw the play coming when I was sitting in Washington asking for money for the Savannah Port. What folks need to know is we plan to compete and we plan to win."

What's so remarkable about the notion of cooperation between Atlanta and the rest of Georgia? Nothing, theoretically, but that never stopped the Legislature — both under rural Democrats and suburban Republicans — from beating up on the city every chance they got.

Reed, the first state lawmaker elected mayor of Atlanta, has managed to earn the city an unprecedented amount of goodwill from the General Assembly largely through his own personal relationships. Last year's break-through bill on transportation funding was the first big sign of that turn-around. Here's hoping there are more where that came from.

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