At a recent candidate forum in Atlanta’s mayoral race, John Eaves touted his credentials as a force for broad economic development. The former Fulton County chairman said he understands what the job requires.
“I’ve been there, done that,” Eaves said. “The current city mayor has been virtually absent in terms of regional cooperation the last eight years. As mayor of Atlanta, I’ll continue to work with regional partners.”
Term limits mean Mayor Kasim Reed’s tenure is ending after two terms. During his time in office, Atlanta proper has attracted new jobs. But did Reed aim to advance the city’s future without regard for the surrounding cities and counties?
A 2013 blog post faulted Reed for failing to attend many meetings of the Atlanta Regional Commission. Between 2010 and August 2013, he missed 24 meetings out of 36. Only one member of the commission board had a worse attendance record.
That is one yardstick, but there are others to measure Reed’s presence in regional issues.
One of Reed’s top priorities has been deepening the Port of Savannah, about 250 miles from the city. In 2015, the Georgia Port Authority said the port supported about 370,000 jobs across the state. Reed is credited for working with Republican lawmakers and the Republican governor to push the project forward. The Trump administration has included $50 million for the nearly $1 billion effort, far short of what state and local officials sought but a modest victory in a budget-cutting environment.
Reed has also promoted expansion of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, an anchor for economic development in the region. Reed struck an agreement with Delta Airlines to keep the company in Atlanta for the next two decades.
In the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Atlanta region led among the nation’s 12 largest metropolitan areas in the rate of job growth and ranked third overall for the number of jobs added in the past year.
Companies that have moved to the region include Mercedes-Benz and State Farm, both of which located just outside the city of Atlanta.
Reed touts his push for a half-cent increase in the Atlanta sales tax to finance a $2.6 billion expansion of the regional subway system, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. While the work would take place inside the city, the MARTA system extends out to the surrounding cities.
His work on regional transportation links to Eaves’ criticism of Reed. Eaves led a group of Fulton County mayors to craft a joint transportation investment plan. According to one news report, Reed chafed at having a vote that was equal to that of mayors from much smaller communities.
Through a spokeswoman, Eaves said, “Over the course of my tenure establishing the Mayors’ Council, Reed did not really play a role, giving off the general sense that he was more important than the other 14 mayors.”
But Reed did participate and remained open to a compromise approach the group hammered out.
There is some evidence that Reed failed to faithfully attend meetings of Atlanta’s Regional Commission. However, in terms of promoting major development activity that boosted jobs across the region, Reed was deeply involved and can take credit for playing a key role.
There’s a sliver of truth in Eaves’ charge. We rate this claim Mostly False.
“The current city mayor (Kasim Reed) has been virtually absent in terms of regional cooperation the last eight years.”
— John Eaves on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in an Atlanta mayoral candidate forum