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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mayor talks transportation, Hillary Clinton, and filmmaking at Atlanta Press Club

Mayor Kasim Reed answers questions at the Atlanta Press Club.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Mayor Kasim Reed spoke at the Commerce Club, but dodged answering questions about his political ambitions beyond his mayorship.
Mayor Kasim Reed spoke to the Atlanta Press Club this afternoon at an event held at the Commerce Club downtown. Over the course of approximately 40 minutes he recapped some of the past year's highlights and shed light on some potential initiatives in 2013.

His recent accomplishments are well-documented, but in brief the mayor emphasized economic development and the expansion of the Atlanta Police force, among other achievements. He also touched on the city's sound fiscal state, amassing $126 million in its reserves, including $107 million in "unencumbered" funds that can be invested back into the city.

"You can't help other people when you're broke yourself," the mayor told the audience of journalists and other media professionals.

Reed touched on several plans throughout his speech that could materialize in 2013. Now that Atlanta has been given an extension by the federal government to complete the $4 billion overhaul of its sewer system, Reed said, the city will focus on making as much as $300 million dollars in improvements "above the ground" that would include "roads, bridges, [and] streetscape." Funding for the projects would come from a bond package and not require raising taxes.

"How a city looks and feels, the experience of a city, and the beauty of a city matters a great deal," Reed said. "So that's what we're going to do next. We're going to have the largest capital investment above ground we've had in modern times."

One of the highlights from the Q&A portion was a wry comment that alluded to the AJC Politifact's report calling Reed a "full flop" on the issue of same-sex marriage. The mayor didn't specifically address the article, but when one person incorrectly asked Reed about his time as a boy scout, he responded that it was actually his brother that participated in the organization. Before the man could apologize, Reed chimed in: "It's no problem, but you've got to watch these facts these days."

When asked about the future of Atlanta's entertainment industry, Reed said that more than "$1 billion in TV and motion pictures" had been produced in the city. That's up from $300 million six years ago, he said, thanks to a "solidified" motion picture tax credit that will be around for another four years.

"I think Atlanta will be no. 3 in the United States of America within the next two years in terms of where television and motion picture entertainment is created," Reed said. "We're in the top five right now."

Regarding Georgia's political future, the mayor predicted that Hillary Clinton would run as a presidential candidate in 2016 - and, thanks in part to a potential demographic shift, would contend for the state's electoral votes.

"I think Georgia is on a irreversible path to a democratic majority," Reed told the audience. "It's going to be bipartisan because of the way the districts are shaped."

On his own political ambitions, Reed repeatedly stated that he would be around as mayor for "five more years." He did clearly sidestep a barrage of questions directly asking if he would run for a statewide office.

"I want to finish being mayor and then I've got some other plans for myself," Reed said. "I do want be a part of building... you're really making me blush. I'm under the weather [laughs]. I want to help build a party though...It's a good thing that when I blush, you can't tell [laughs]."

Reed discussed a slew of other issues as well, including the Savannah Port, the new stadium - he thinks a deal will happen - and potentially a Major League Soccer team. You can see more of his comments on my Twitter feed. We recorded his entire talk for your listening pleasure. Check out the mayor's entire speech and Q&A via the embedded player below.

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