Back in Atlanta after celebrating President Barack Obama’s re-election in Chicago, Mayor Kasim Reed sat down with reporters Thursday to discuss what the next four years could bring in the Washington-Atlanta relationship he has helped nurture.
Ignoring predictions of legislative gridlock, Reed said there could be a bipartisan deal to fund massive infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and tunnels. He hopes for more funding for the Beltline’s rail component. And despite crisscrossing Florida, Ohio and the Sunday talk shows as a reliable Obama surrogate, Reed insisted that the only job he wants is a second term as Atlanta’s mayor.
Q: Why did you push so hard for President Obama on the campaign trail?
A: The president and the administration stood by Atlanta and stood by Georgia. There’s the deepening of the [Savannah] port. The city of Atlanta has received more than $200 million in federal support. We’ve hired 50 new police officers through federal support, 75 new firefighters through federal support. … We negotiated the longest water and sewer consent decree extension in America, 13 years. Because of that, I won’t have to raise water and sewer rates.
So when you ask why it was so important to help this president, it’s really because he had helped Atlanta repeatedly for the entire three years I’ve been here.
I do believe our state and the city of Atlanta are well-positioned. I think we’ll have a very good four years with this president.
Q: You’ve been a conduit between red-state Georgia and the White House for a while now, working with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Is that going to get tougher in a second term?
A: It’s not going to be tougher for me. I respect Gov. Deal. On the issues that we should not have partisan positions about, we ought to work together. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. Everybody in Georgia agrees that the port needs to be deepened, for example. It’s the fastest growing port on the Eastern Seaboard.
I actually think that’s healthy. I don’t think Georgia should ever be locked out. We should not suffer because a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House.
Q: Speaking of the White House, would you consider making Washington your home, perhaps with a job in the Obama administration?
A: No way. My home’s in Atlanta. I’m going to offer myself for re-election as mayor. That’s the only job I want. And if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected, I’m going to serve out my term. I think it’s very important that I finish the job I started. Those folks that are close to me know I like being home. There’s no job in Washington that’s cooler than mine or that I feel better about. That’s the lane I’m in.
My life has played out about like I wanted it to. I feel good. I’m the mayor of my hometown. I don’t have any interest, I’m not going to seek any position, nor will I be responsive to any offer. I want to be a two-term mayor.
Q: What will be some of your main requests of the federal government?
A: My long-term efforts are going to be around, I would like to see additional funding for the Atlanta Beltline’s rail component, so we can do more of that without burdening taxpayers. I think the Atlanta Beltline remains a transformational project.
Also — this is only my thinking — but the only thing Atlanta lacks is access to water. It would be my dream to have high-speed rail that would allow you to get off work at 5 and be in Savannah by 6:15. We’ve got the fastest-growing port on the Eastern Seaboard, the dominant airport. I’m hopeful we could secure federal support for that. I think having high-speed rail would change the game for us.
I think it will change the entire economy. I believe there’s going to be funding for that. I don’t think there would be a large amount of grant money, with a check being written to the state. But you will get money at very low interest rates, maybe with infrastructure banks.
I happen to believe a lot will get done in the next year. You will see an infrastructure deal. The question is going to be, who gets it? Historically, Democrats and Republican have agreed that roads, bridges, tunnels and ports are things we need to be first on. I think you’re going to see a deal within 16 months, a big infrastructure deal. The question is, will Atlanta and Georgia be in the queue?
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