Atlanta Forward / Another View: ‘We risk becoming satisfied with making do’

Recently, I spoke about Atlanta’s past and future greatness. I don’t hesitate to say Atlanta is the capital of the Southeast. We are.

Charlotte will host the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Atlanta had that honor in 1988. Dallas held a Super Bowl this month. Atlanta had it in 2000.

In 1996, we welcomed the Centennial Olympic Games. They fueled the growth of the city and region for more than a decade and pumped billions into the economy. People no longer chuckled when city leaders called Atlanta an “international city.”

Now it’s time for Atlanta to commence its second act.

The mortgage crisis, challenges in our real estate and construction sectors, job losses and sustained unemployment have sapped our spirit.

We risk becoming satisfied with making do and getting by. I believe that just surviving leads to just surviving.

If we lose optimism in our ability to compete successfully, we lose what made Atlanta the birthplace of the civil rights movement, the home of the world’s busiest airport, and a leading tourism and convention destination.

Nimble competitors such as Charlotte and Dallas aspire to accomplish what we already have achieved.

Fortunately, Atlanta still has its secret ingredients for achievement: Its people and civic pride.

We should salute folks and organizations who champion our city and region. Tom Bell, Michael Russell, Pete Correll and the Woodruff Foundation worked tirelessly to restore Grady Memorial Hospital by raising more than $200 million. Bernie Marcus gave $250 million to build the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest.

We should compete vigorously. That’s why I fought hard for the Atlanta Streetcar, which won a $47.6 million federal grant, the largest award in a field of 1,700 applications. Competition makes you stronger.

We also must partner with the state to invest in our future. The passage of the 2012 regional transportation sales tax vote is vital to enhancing our crumbling infrastructure and creating much-needed, well-paying jobs.  The expansion of the port of Savannah is critical to transforming the region and state into the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere.

Addressing the region’s water challenges also is essential to our long-term prosperity. And we must meet the current challenge facing Atlanta Public Schools in a manner that is worthy of the young people we seek to empower.

We will do all these things and do them well, continuing our steady progression to Atlanta’s next act: Becoming a world-class city.

Kasim Reed is Atlanta’s mayor.

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