Kasim Reed is running to be mayor of Atlanta.
Campaign website: https://kasimreed.com
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
Attorney. Lifelong member of NACCP.
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
Crime is the number one crisis facing our city. Right now, in every neighborhood across our city, Atlantans feel less safe. Crime impacts our personal and collective quality of life and the city’s reputation, creating a vicious cycle that undermines everything that makes our city vibrant. The fundamental truth is that until Atlanta feels safe again, nothing else will feel right.
Public safety reform starts at the top. During my eight years as Mayor, the city’s crime rate was at 40-year lows and the city employed 2,000 sworn police officers, the largest force in the city’s history.
More police working with communities will make our neighborhoods safer; more training on non-violent, community-based policing will ensure fair and impartial interactions; more cameras and other crime-reduction technologies will act as a force multiplier; and more transparency in officers’ interactions with the community will protect our officers and the people with whom they interact.
How do you define “affordability” in housing and what is a specific tactic you would use to improve it?
We need to better leverage current public real estate assets, particularly the properties owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority and MARTA, and leverage the federal dollars available to expand affordable, transit-oriented housing options. Density near MARTA stations is a key component. We need to layer the affordable units so that we have options to serve low-income households earning up to 60% of area median income, while also supporting middle-income households that earn up to 100% of median income.
We have to create more workforce housing that serves this middle-income market, allowing teachers, police, firefighters, and other city employees to live where they work. With a focus on public-private partnerships, we can help double the number of affordable units at or near MARTA stations from 1,500 completed, under construction or in planning to over 3,000.
Atlanta has taken solid steps to create and preserve long-term affordability, but we know we must do more.
City Hall has been dogged by an apparently ongoing federal investigation involving accusations of corruption in the previous mayoral administration. How would you help restore public trust on matters of staff spending and contract procurement?
If I have the privilege of serving as Mayor again, I will implement additional measures to ensure that ethics remain at the center of my administration. Those measures include: 1) no member of the administration will have a personal or business bankruptcy in their lifetime; 2) I, along with my all of my direct reports will file and make public our income tax returns on April 15 of every year; 3) I, along with my cabinet and senior team will have quarterly ethics training; 4) an ethics council will be in the office of the mayor; and 5) the city will require individuals lobbying the executive and/or legislative branch of government to register as a lobbyist.
In 2020, Atlanta and the nation experienced two historic events: the COVID-19 pandemic and protests about racial justice and police brutality. What is a public-policy lesson you learned from those events?
I believe one of the most important lessons we can take from the protests is that we must spend listening to the people who are closest to the problems our communities face. With COVID, we saw frontline workers at the lowest part of the financial spectrum carry the economy and keep our country moving during a 100-year pandemic. Similarly, there was a young woman with a video camera who had the courage to record a murder and through her bravery, the most dynamic Civil Rights Movement was launched in more than 40 years. The lesson here is that there should not have to be an emergency for people on the frontline to be heard and they need to have a seat at the table with a voice that is as powerful as government and business.
The debate about the location of a public safety training center is an example of longstanding tension over whether Atlanta’s urban planning should be more top-down from corporations and private groups or more bottom-up from communities and neighborhoods. What is your approach to planning processes and is there a specific change you would make?
Atlanta is the leading cultural and economic center of the Southeast precisely because of our legacy of inclusion. This is the planning approach that was established under my administration and ultimately passed through the Atlanta City Design. Our approach is centered on designing for people, public life, density, legibility – everyone. This approach requires planning from our communities and neighborhoods first and thoughtful discussion going forward.
Do you support the Atlanta public safety training center’s location on Key Road in DeKalb County? Why or why not?
I support the development of a best-in-class training facility for our police officers, but I have not made a judgement on where it should be located. I believe this decision should be made after a thoughtful and collaborative process that includes residents and community stakeholders. We should take every concern into consideration and make a concentrated effort to make a decision that is in the best interest of the future of our city.
Who is the main expert you turn to for information on understanding and addressing crime and what is an important fact you have learned from them?
While in office, I depended on his Chief of Police, George Turner, for information and understanding crime. Chief Turner was the leader of the APD when crime dropped to 40-year lows. Chief Turner grew up in public housing and was mentored by Ambassador Young, and he was exposed to his leadership style early on. He took that approach with him to lead the department and ran a department that was not only tough on crime, but smart on crime with compassion and humanity.
What are some areas of opportunity for the mayor’s office to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
We need to better leverage our current public real estate assets, particularly the properties owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority, MARTA and APS to expand affordable, transit-oriented housing options. We have to create more workforce housing that serves this middle-income market, allowing teachers, police, firefighters, and other city employees to live where they work. Mayor Reed strongly believes that one of the biggest partnerships the city can have with the Atlanta Public Schools is an initiative that creates affordable housing for residents. Working together to build high-quality affordable housing will allow education to be at the center of our village.
Describe how you envision Invest Atlanta operating under your administration. What changes, if any, would you implement?
During my administration, Invest Atlanta helped to create more than 33,000 jobs through economic development and community revitalization programs. Seventeen (17) major companies moved their regional headquarters to Atlanta or announced a headquarters expansion in the city, such as NCR, Porsche, Merchants e-Solutions, GE Digital and Global Payments. These major business relocations and expansions have created more than 10,000 new jobs. Invest Atlanta programs injected more than $5 billion into Atlanta’s economy, through direct and leveraged investments. More than $500 million have been invested into Atlanta’s 10 tax allocation districts through Invest Atlanta, creating over $3.3 billion of direct private invest in these designated development zones. If re-elected, Mayor Reed will review the current processes and work with the community to implement necessary improvements.
Explain your leadership style and how it would best serve the people of Atlanta.
I am a decisive leader who has delivered significant wins for Atlanta through cooperation with the City Council, trusted relationships with state and federal elected officials and meaningful engagement with Atlanta’s corporate, philanthropic, educational and community leaders. I value the insight provided by the Atlanta Committee for Progress and will work closely with them, as I did in my last two terms.
Public-private partnerships are fundamental to my governing philosophy and leadership style. A specific example, which was recognized as an “Operational Excellence in Government Project” by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University, is Atlanta’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Waste and Efficiency in Government which I created in 2014.
Learning from private-sector successes, taking a critical look at city data and operations and honed through transparent, intense public engagement, the Commission identified 56 specific recommendations worth $199 million in one-time or recurring savings.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
I am uniquely qualified to serve as Atlanta’s next mayor. After serving 11 years in the Georgia General Assembly, I was elected the 59th Mayor of Atlanta in 2009. During my eight years as Mayor, the city’s crime rate was at 40-year lows and we employed 2,000 sworn police officers, the largest force in the city’s history. In my first year, I tackled the looming pension fund crisis. I worked with City Council to pass a balanced budget every year, without raising taxes. During the worst recession in 80 years, I led a transformation in the city’s financial health.
I am running again because I love Atlanta and am committed to doing everything I can to make Atlanta safe and put our city on the right track. Being Mayor is the best job in the world; not because of the prestige of the office, but because of what you can accomplish for the city.
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