Atlanta business group proposes agenda for next mayor

A group of corporate and university leaders has issued a framework for improving Atlanta, hoping to get a head-start influencing policy under a new mayor.

While the outline released today by the Atlanta Committee for Progress contains few specifics, the group has called on the next mayor to follow policies that embrace five priorities:

• financial strength

• a more inclusive economy

• improved transit

• better student achievement

• public safety

The aim is to set an agenda that help shape the policies under whoever is elected to succeed Kasim Reed, said John Dyer, chief executive of Cox Enterprises, who is chairman of the ACP. "These are goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is a goal to makes Atlanta a good place to live and work."

Cox Enterprises owns the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The group, founded under Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2003, has been involved in a number of issues, including the creation of the Beltline, pension reform and advocacy for strengthening the city’s financial standing – arguing that the city’s general fund reserves should represent 20 percent of its operating budget.

ACP is comprised of about 40 people and include leaders of prominent Atlanta firms like Dan Cathy of Chik-fil-A, Andrew Evans of Southern Co. and Ryan Marshall of Pulte.

Also in the group are heads of local universities, like Mark Becker of Georgia State, Mary Schmidt Campbell of Spelman and Ronald Johnson of Clark Atlanta University.

“Once a quarter, these leaders come together,” said Duriya Farooqui, ACP’s executive director. “It’s an extraordinarily, extraordinarily unique thing about Atlanta. You don’t find that in any other city in the country.”

However, comparing Atlanta to other cities was a large part of preparing the agenda, she said.

The idea is to see how Atlanta stacks up, she said, as well as to identify its strengths and flaws.

Farooqui said she has spoken about the ACP agenda with a number of mayoral candidates and hopes for a meeting in December with whoever is elected to talk about policy in the next administration.

While most of the ultimate goals are not controversial, they will likely lead to some contention when it comes to methods, Farooqui said. “The big question is always about approach.”

No community or neighborhood organizations were part of the discussion or the drawing of the platform, Farooqui said. “We would let the new mayor drive that.”

But Larry Gellerstedt, CEO of Cousins Properties and vice chair of the ACP, said the group has worked in the past with local groups. He cited past efforts by the group, like the Westside Future Fund in which the group established a non-profit group to help revitalize a specific area of the city.

“We look to where we have expertise,” he said. “We are trying to stay in our lane.”

About the Author