TheGrio’s 100: Kasim Reed, Atlanta mayor keeping his city in the black

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When Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed took office in January 2010, the city had only $7.4 million in reserves and was laying off firefighters, a last resort in municipal budget control. Reed has more than sextupled Atlanta’s reserves to $58 million, largely through pension reform, all while maintaining a 70 percent approval rating along the way.

Kasim Reed is making history … by pulling a hurting Atlanta into financial stability. Reed balanced the city’s budget by shifting pension standards for city workers, since pensions were draining more than 20 percent of the city’s tax revenues. When union picketers protested, Reed welcomed them into is office in small groups where he explained, with charts, that reform was necessary to keep any pensions in play. Reed’s cuts on pensions let him reopen 16 recreation centers and expand Atlanta’s police force.

Reed has been balancing budgets since he was 16, when he started a jewelry business that paid for his undergraduate years at Howard University. While at Howard, Reed instituted an optional student fee that has since added more than $10 million to Howard’s endowment.

What’s next for Kasim?

Kasim will continue to bring efficiency and quality community programs to Atlanta for the duration of his four-year term.

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In his own words …

“The bottom line is that for the country to do and to be what we have been … there must be a generation tough enough to stick out its chin and take the hit,” said Reed in a recent address. “It is time to begin having the types of mature and honest conversations necessary to deal effectively with the new economic realities we are facing as a nation. We simply cannot keep kicking the can down the road.”

On black history …

“The City of Atlanta is so rich with the culture and legacy of the African-American experience that I can’t help but to celebrate it in all that I do,” Reed told theGrio. “History shows that our city serves as the core of the Civil Rights Movement, where iconic individuals like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, and Rev. C.T. Vivian fought for justice and equality, and helped to change the hearts and minds of a generation.”

“Atlanta is a unique place because I am still able to talk with and receive advice from legends like Ambassador Young, who is my mentor and personal friend to this day,” Reed continued. “It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to live in Atlanta, where so many Civil Right leaders continue to inspire younger generations and shape the character of the city.”

A favorite quote …

“It’s something my father once said to me: ‘Passion is the enemy of fatigue.’” Reed told theGrio.

A little-known fact …

Maynard Jackson became Atlanta’s first black mayor in 1973, and the city has only elected black mayors since.