Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

The mayor of Atlanta told Dunwoody and Sandy Springs business leaders the metro area needs to address its regional problems in order to compete with other Southeastern cities.

“The threat of traffic and congestion in our region without a plan is place is what our competitors are using against us,” Reed told more than 100 people attended the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts roundtable luncheon on Jan. 6.

“If we take on transportation right now and we take on [the issue of] water right now and we take on job creation, we’re going to be just fine.”

Reed argued that metro Atlanta’s future success in attracting business depended on regional cooperation.

“When Georgia was growing, … we could throw rocks at each other,” he said. “But they’re not throwing rocks at each other in Charlotte. Charlotte even has a sign that says ‘CharAtlanta.’ Just shameless.”

Reed said that boosting metro Atlanta’s growth was a reason he lobbied federal officials for the deepening of the port at Savannah. Deepening the port will mean it can handle larger ships that soon are expected to be navigating the Panama Canal, he said. That would mean cargo brought to Savannah could then be brought to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for air shipment across the country, he said.

“The Savannah port is my deal,” he said. “I care about it just as much as they do.”

Reed also asked the business and community leaders attending the luncheon at the Cox Enterprises headquarters building to rally support for the regional transportation sales tax, known widely as the T-SPLOST, when it appears on the ballot this year.

If approved by the voters, the penny tax, charged in a 10-county region, is expected to raise $7 billion over 10 years. Of that, $6 billion is designed for regional transportation projects.  Reed was a member of the group of elected officials that decided how the regional money would be spent.

“It’s the right thing to do for our region. It addresses a challenge to our region,” he said, “but it’s not going to be easy, folks.”

Reed’s speech appeared to be well received. He drew two standing ovations.

New Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis said he thought the transportation sales tax could find supporters in his community. “I think most people in Dunwoody may see that transportation is probably our number one problem, and we’re missing opportunities,” he said.

Sandy Springs City Councilman Chip Collins agreed Reed was an effective salesman for the tax. Still, he said he hadn’t decided how he would vote. “Right now, I’m on the fence, and still learning,” he said.