Friday, January 31, 2014

Reed promises emergency weather plan, shares 2014 agenda with Atlanta press

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Mayor Kasim Reed gets attacked by Atlanta reporters microphones, recorders, and iPhones.
  • Max Blau
  • Mayor Kasim Reed gets attacked by Atlanta reporters' microphones, recorders, and iPhones.

Days after local and national media grilled, criticized, and mocked Atlanta and the state's response to this week's snowstorm, Mayor Kasim Reed stepped into a room filled with dozens of the city's press members.

Months ago, Reed agreed to keynote the Atlanta Press Club's newsmaker luncheon to discuss his plans for 2014. Before going into his agenda, the mayor directly addressed national media coverage and took particular issue with the New York Times' calling him an "unapologetic" mayor - reading verbatim an apologetic quote he told WSB-TV.

Following his defense, Reed announced how the city would respond to its lack of preparation. He first ordered a comprehensive review of "what worked and what did not work" and said he will be forming a working group - which would include assistance from The Weather Channel - to develop best practices for future severe weather responses (This plan was in the works before Jon Stewart's joke, Reed quickly said).

In addition, Reed's administration will hire an Atlanta Emergency Management Executive to implement the working group's ideas and ensure the city's readiness for all kinds of potential emergencies, weather-related or otherwise. The mayor also plans to ask Council to approve extra cash for additional pre-treating and de-icing capabilities in the city's forthcoming budget.

"[We] can't allow another snowstorm 2014 to happen. When that happened, no matter what region is responsible, no matter what leader is responsible, it weakens all of us. I understand that in no uncertain fashion."

After touching on the snow panic, the mayor finally started his original speech. He elaborated on already-discussed plans to tackle part of the city's $900 million infrastructure backlog, foster a better local startup community, continue pursuing funding to deepen the Port of Savannah, and address the city's economic inequality.

As he's previously mentioned, Reed's administration will spend 2014 preparing for an infrastructure bond worth between $150 and $200 million that he said would be the "largest above-the-ground investment that the city's seen in a very long time." Tom Weyandt, who before recently being promoted to deputy chief operating officer served as Reed's transportation advisor, will help select what projects are eligible for that funding. He also stressed that the city plans to take a close look at expanding the Atlanta Streetcar, which city officials consider the first segment of an intown transit network, to the Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline's long-term plan calls for transit along the project's eastern and western segments that connect with the proposed streetcar network.

Regarding entrepreneurship, he plans to meet with venture capitalists and major tech companies in Silicon Valley to learn how to keep Atlanta's startups in the city. He set a goal to retain 75 percent of the students after they graduate college. At the moment, he said only 50 percent remain in Atlanta after receiving their diplomas.

Reed also pledged to continue moving the Port of Savannah Port dredging project in a "positive direction" to help with Atlanta's economic development. The port, he said, contributes an estimated 100,000 jobs to the metro area including blue-collar, white-collar, coding, trucking, and loading jobs. He also added that efforts to turn Turner Field and Fort McPherson into affordable housing hubs would help make Atlanta a stronger, more vibrant city in years to come.

"Everything except for the Braves is moving toward the city" Reed said. "Atlanta is becoming more diverse. ... We're on an irreversible path. Folks are moving into the city. Businesses are moving into the city."

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