Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he is confident that an agreement will be reached to build a new Falcons stadium in the city, despite widespread public opposition to using hotel-motel taxes to subsidize part of the proposed facility’s roughly $1 billion cost.
“I think we’ll get a deal done on the stadium and that we’ll have a world-class stadium in the city of Atlanta,” Reed said Thursday at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon.
The first-term mayor also said he believed a new stadium would help the city compete for a Major League Soccer team.
Asked whether hotel-motel tax revenue would be better spent on transportation projects or other priorities, Reed said that is a “false choice.”
Reed said that, under current Georgia law, the funds that may be allocated for the stadium cannot be used for other purposes. He said he doubted the General Assembly would be inclined to devote the money to other purposes.
Reed broke little new ground in a 38-minute speech and question-and-answer session. But he did indicate the city could issue between $250 million and $300 million in bonds for above-ground infrastructure projects “within the next year or shortly thereafter” — the most specific public indication so far of the city’s timing. The money would go toward roads, bridges and sidewalks, where the city faces a $922 million backlog that could rise well above $1 billion if left unchecked.
Reed also repeated a pledge not to raise property taxes this year, and said he wants that policy to continue for another four years.
“I’m hopeful that I will be able to keep that promise through my second term,” he said.
Reed’s campaign has about $1.23 million in cash for the November election, according to documents filed this week with state ethics officials. He has attracted few challengers, although local activist Elbert A. “Al” Bartell and chef Paul Luna say they are running against him.
On Thursday, Reed touted the city’s more than $126 million in reserves, of which $107 million is “unencumbered” cash it can use for a variety of needs. Pension reform in 2010 saved between $25 million and $32 million in cash annually, he said. Reed said belt-tightening has allowed the city to pursue priorities such as housing 300 homeless veterans, with plans for sheltering another 700.
“We are making hard decisions again and again that allow us to show compassion,” Reed said. “Because you can’t help other people if you’re broke yourself.”
Asked about his longer-term political ambitions, Reed said he is not interested in seeking statewide office. But he said that is unlikely to tamp down the speculation that he aims for a national stage.
“I want to finish being mayor, and then I have some other plans,” he said. “I want to help build the (Democratic) Party.”
Reed predicted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, and that Clinton would have a good shot at winning Georgia, which Bill Clinton captured in 1996.
“I think Georgia is on an irreversible path toward a Democratic majority,” Reed said. “What you need in Georgia is someone who really wants to win. The Clintons have a special affection for Georgia.”
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