It’s no secret that Mayor Kasim Reed can get testy. On any given week, Hizzoner is giving someone the business in the pages of the AJC, on TV, on Twitter. If there’s a medium, he wields it like a cudgel.
Last week, it was Meria Carstarphen, Atlanta’s new school superintendent, getting a shard of mayoral mind. Reed informed her that she “doesn’t know what she’s talking about” when it comes to a dispute over school property.
Naturally, left unsaid is that Reed does know what he’s talking about. In fact, he almost always knows what he’s talking about. Otherwise, his mouth would not be moving.
Appreciation for mayor’s bellicose manner is national. The New York Times said the self-proclaimed “street fighter” came across as “peevish” after last year’s Snow Snarl.
Roll Call once called him “a pugnacious partisan” who knows — and respects — ornery cusses when he sees them. Reed’s take on the GOP: “When they come to fight, they have every knife, gun, nuclear weapon and all of the rest!”
This week, the mayor, a boxing fan, described his world view on WABE. “My dad told me that the dictionary definition of a person, place or thing that doesn’t respond when it’s attacked, when misinformation is spread, is: ‘Lunch.’”
Typically, Reed is neither breakfast nor lunch. Ask the school superintendent, the head of Fulton County, the head of Common Cause or take your pick of city council members. Heck, ask Al Roker, America’s beloved weatherman.
No perceived foe or irritant is too insignificant, no slight, too small. No perceived misstatement goes uncorrected. Last week, Reed found time to go back and forth half a dozen times with Dan Whisenhunt, an earnest fellow who runs a small news site called Decaturish.
“Little surprised at @KasimReed taking a swipe at the APS Super in a public forum. Aren’t y’all on the same team?”
Reed: “@DWhisenhunt You have to be kidding. Responding to a foolish assertion made in a public forum is not attacking anyone.”
I was going to make a list of Kasim Reed’s Top Ten Tirades. But that title wouldn’t be literally true, because the trained attorney and former legislator normally attacks in a slow, deliberate, “I’m not angry” voice.
Reed, who did not respond to my invitation to discuss the topic of this column, has said “angry” is a loaded racial term, derogatory toward black men. So we’ll call this list Ten Steaming Morsels from Kasim’s You’re-My-Lunch Box. (I also offer the observation that most of the targets are people of color).
- Supt. Carstarphen, who came to town last year, received her public lesson in local civics after she complained that the cash-strapped school district was unable to sell unused properties because Reed’s administration wouldn’t turn over the deeds. The two entities have feuded because the city owes the school district millions in a tax deal concerning the Beltline. Reed, sounding like a scolding teacher, added the superintendent should have “done her homework.” (Before Carstarphen arrived, Reed railed thusly at her predecessor, Erroll Davis: “Nobody’s going to negotiate at the end of a gun. So, if you’re going to take hostages, you’d better be ready to shoot the hostages.”)
- John Eaves, Fulton County’s soft-spoken chairman, was taken aback in 2013 when Reed said the county ran a “turnstile” justice system. Quoth Reed: “A responsible government would have at least come up with a proposal to build (a new jail) rather than releasing violent criminals back into the communities they were elected to serve.” Asked if a property tax freeze made it hard for Fulton to do its job, Reed responded, “The county doesn’t do anything anyway. They didn’t do anything when there wasn’t a freeze in place.”
- Common Cause felt the mayor’s wrath in 2012, when the City Council was set to approve an overhaul of concessionaires at the airport, a big win for the mayor. Instead of basking in success, he took the mic and unleashed a withering harangue at Common Cause’s leader, William Perry, for daring to call the bidding process “secretive.” Reed branded Perry a hypocrite and a “failed politician” who “talks like he is so pious, so noble.” He brought a stack of exhibits he claimed exposed Perry’s lies. “Enough is enough,” Reed growled as he left the lectern.
- Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran got the treatment last month. While firing Cochran, who had written a book that bashed the gay lifestyle, Reed went on a Grade A rant. He accused the chief of rallying an army of religious zealots against him: “I deeply resent the emails and phone calls to my wife, literally calling me an anti-Christ.”
- Council member Felicia Moore. She makes Reed angry by waking up each morning. There are too many instances to note here.
- State Sen. Vincent Fort incurred Reed’s displeasure in 2013, when the mayor talked about the process of moving two black churches to make way for the new Falcons stadium. Fort had accused Reed of taking advantage of Morris Brown, a historically black college that was in bankruptcy. The plan was to move one church to the property of the college where Fort once taught. “I’ve done more than Vincent Fort has ever done for Morris Brown,” Reed said. “The only thing he’s done is collect a check from them.”
- City Council President Ceasar Mitchell also regularly feels Reed’s ire. Last month Mitchell, who’d like to be mayor one day, wrote an op-ed saying the city should use 10 percent of its reserves to pay what is owed the schools. Reed was miffed. “We don’t pull political stunts like offering to pay $13.8 million to someone in the middle of a negotiation where you are the number two fiduciary in the city,” Reed fumed. “Where do they do that at?”
- Al Roker famously took off after Gov. Nathan Deal and Reed (neither by name) for “poor planning” in reacting to last year’s winter storm. Reed shot back that it was mostly the suburbs, not his city, that was clogged up. “I think Al Roker was very reckless. If he felt that way, he should have said it to me,” Reed said, on-air.
- The city’s cops elicited a gem last year from Reed. The mayor refused to consider pay raises for public safety employees because of an active lawsuit that accuses the city of squeezing their pensions. “You’re not going to rob the train and shoot the conductor in the head at the same time, and that’s what you’re trying to do here,” Reed said, conjuring up strange visions of cops dispatching railroad employees.
- Number 10, no doubt, is on its way.
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