Mayor Kasim Reed has penned the foreword to the latest city-themed edition of the "Harvard Law & Policy Review."
Reed's intro to the biannual academic publication teases to numerous articles in its latest installment, titled "Progressive Cities: Innovative Solutions to Urban Problems." But he also tries to make case about how Atlanta is a city where those solutions are being tested. Beneath the academic journal's wonkish jargon, Reed gets real honest about the current state of Atlanta through both commonly known factoids about the city and some striking tidbits that are less known:
Atlanta is a key example of urban growth and renewal over the past decade. The city is home to approximately 422,000 residents, with a population of almost 5.3 million in the twenty-eight-county metropolitan area. We have the world's busiest passenger airport with more than 95 million passengers per year and an annual economic impact of $32 billion; the nation's fourth largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies; and more than fifty-seven colleges and universities in Atlanta and the surrounding area. Our future is bright in many regards: per capita income in the city increased by one percent over the past decade, even though it declined by a dramatic twelve percent statewide. Among young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, sixty percent are enrolled in college. However, we also must address areas of concern. Atlanta has the highest income inequality of any city in America. The city's high-school graduation rate is a dismal fifty-two percent. Nearly twenty percent of our children grow up in extreme poverty.
Upon entering office, Reed said that he needed to earn the public's confidence by providing basic services, fixing the city's finances, reducing crime, focusing on youth initiatives, and improving customer service. But first he needed to address other issues first:
When I was inaugurated three years ago, the unemployment rate in metropolitan Atlanta was 10.2%. Entire neighborhoods had been abandoned due to the foreclosure crisis. The city's sustainability plan was largely a white paper versus a proactive agenda with real goals and measurable results. State lawmakers, representing politically conservative legislative districts, enacted tough immigration policies. And several communities in the city's urban core lacked grocery stores, access to fresh produce, and healthy food options.
Now that he's addressed some of these problems, Reed says, he's turning his attention toward improving transportation infrastructure, fostering a more diverse workforce, improving sustainability, and helping Atlantans adopt a healthier lifestyle. He's worked on initiatives as big as the Atlanta Beltline and as small as CartAtlanta in hopes of delivering results both for today as well as down the road.
"Modern, progressive leaders must work along two tracks: now and the future," Reed write. "They must deliver today for the 'what have you done for me lately' crowd and also think ahead and plan for twenty, thirty, and fifty years ahead."
The full 11-page introduction, which delves into several other topics, can be read in the embed below:
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