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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The New Yorker on Reed's snow daze and dorm days

Its Mayor Kasim Reed to you.
Among the post-mortems about Atlanta's response to Winter Storm Leon comes this from the New Yorker's Jelani Cobb. The former Spelman College professor, who's now at the University of Connecticut, looks at Mayor Kasim Reed's response to the disaster and gives him some advice:

Reed's star was rising fast enough to inspire the occasional gossipy blog post about the unmarried mayor's dating prospects, but his personality - unlike Booker's - has had little to do with his success. His political support is less a product of charisma than the perception that he embodied sharp, tough-minded competence, which makes last week's fiasco doubly damaging, even if his own culpability should come with an asterisk. The network of interstates and roads that ring the city has already come back to life, but Reed's future prospects may not be resuscitated so quickly.

If there is a lesson for the mayor, it may be that politics doesn't reward accuracy or nuance when the public perceives their deployment to be nothing more than self-interest. When a crisis hits, you can take the blame, or you can leap so acrobatically into what looks like an attempt to resolve it that voters forget that they were looking for a scapegoat to begin with. In either case, he would not be the first politician whose fortunes depended upon the adroit use of a shovel.

Cobb, a former classmate of Reed's at Howard University, also included an interesting tidbit about the mayor's college days in his piece. The professor says Reed repeatedly talked about his lifelong ambition to be Atlanta's mayor. According to one former classmate, this wasn't a goal he just dreamed about:

Reed's election as mayor was the culmination of a lifelong ambition. Twenty-six years ago, as a college freshman, Reed was given to introducing himself as the future mayor of Atlanta. (I lived one floor above him in a Howard University dorm and was the recipient of one such introduction.)

Around that time, Reed met former Mayor Andrew Young, who would later become his mentor and confidant, in college. He has since continued to call his City Hall gig a "dream job" despite the rumors about future statewide campaigns.

UPDATE, 9:38 a.m.: During an V-103 interview this morning, Reed said the New Yorker article, namely how the snowstorm could hurt his future political ambitions, was "stunning." article. He called Cobb's account of his college years was "a total lie."

"Another black man tells me because of a snow event my career is over?," he said. "All I have to say to him is, watch me. I live for people trying to count me out."

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