To Mayor Kasim Reed, these discussions lose sight of the regional transportation tax's real potential and purpose - specifically, metro Atlanta's economy and future.
"I think the conversation around the [regional transportation tax] is too esoteric, too fancy," Reed told reporters at Siemens' Alpharetta factory after showcasing the propulsion system that will power the downtown streetcar. The facility just off Ga. 400 houses 700 workers who assemble the complex machinery that powers transit and drilling machinery around the world - and will build the downtown line's system.
"The bottom line is the state lost 200,000 jobs between 2007 and today," the mayor said. "This is an opportunity to grow those well paying jobs back while solving a problem that's significantly damagaing not Atlanta's competitiveness, but our region's competitiveness. If we don't start taking this on right now, we're going to cost our folks well-paying jobs, like those taking place right here."
He added: "This is more than about economic development, this is about us being in the future business. Either we want to be small and in decline, or you want to be betting on the future and in the future business. I'm championing a bet on the future, putting folks back to work in well-paying jobs and helping our state recover from the worst economy we've had in 80 years. "
When asked by CL later to elaborate, and if by "too esoteric" he meant critics and supporters might be getting caught up in specific projects or projected numbers, he agreed.
"You've got to do more than explain, do more than focus on general terms like 'traffic' and 'bricks and mortar' and all the rest, and pair that with the vision of the city you want to spend the rest of your life in," the mayor said as he walked to a car that would shuttle him to a 1 p.m. budget meeting with Atlanta City Councilmembers. "You've got to do more than have present conversations. This has to be about Atlanta being in the future business. Either we're in the future business or we're not."
The mayor hammered the "future business" phrase throughout his visit to the Siemens facility. This - to us, at least - is a relatively new pitch and vision by Reed. It seems he took a liking to the concept while reading Bill Clinton's recent book "Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy," which devotes many pages to the phrase. We haven't read the former president's tome - we're still sifting through John Grisham's early works - but from quick reads of reviews, it appears to be Clinton's how-to manual on reviving the economy, rebuilding the country's middle class, and restoring Americans' faith in government.
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