Mayor Kasim Reed Inaugurated

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(APN) ATLANTA — Former Democratic State Sen. Kasim Reed was sworn in as the 59th Mayor of Atlanta during a ceremony Monday, January 04, 2010, at The Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.

During his inaugural address, Reed thanked supporters and said his election as Atlanta’s mayor is “the single most important moment of my life.”

“I will use the office you have given me to make a positive difference in the lives of all I can,” he said to a crowd of about 4,000. “Stewardship of one of America’s greatest cities is now the mandate that has been bestowed upon me. I am deeply humbled by the call. And more than anything, I know that I cannot do it without you.”

During the month prior to taking office, Reed took steps to begin addressing key issues. He appointed Atlanta Police Deputy Chief George Turner as Acting Police Chief.

Reed told community safety advocates last month he wants to form a search committee and name a permanent chief within the first 120 days of his administration.

Mayor Reed said Monday he would work to eliminate gang violence and reduce “aggressive panhandling that frightens our citizens.” At the same time, Reed promised to pay police “a wage that allows them to support their families and to afford to live in the city they have sworn to protect.”

Activist Dave Walker criticized Reed’s recent comments about panhandling, including Reed’s statement to the convention bureau that he would use a “muscular” approach to solve what he called the panhandling problem.

“Mr. Mayor, Mayor Reed, as soon as you were elected, you ran down, drove down, or were driven to the Atlanta Visitors and Convention Bureau. What you said, or you’re quoted as saying, that beggars, panhandlers are gonna be dealt with rather muscularly in your Administration,” Walker said in public comment Monday at the City Council’s first meeting this Session.

“Mr. Mayor, I would like to know how did you get to the Civic Center, did somebody drive you? Did you walk? And by the way, did you look out the window?… Did you see any homeless people, did you see any beggars? And I would say to you, Mr. Mayor, you did,” Walker said.

“And for you to come out the shoot, in the beginning to say, that you’re gonna, my word now, crush the poor, the homeless, the panhandlers, is kind of irresponsible,” Walker said.

“The people I think you should deal with first, are people who commit murder, people who do blue collar crime,” Walker said. “And so I think you should come out and apologize.”

David Christian of the Open Door Community also criticized Reed’s remarks on panhandling on his Facebook page.

But Reed also pledged to provide better opportunities for citizens who are desperate enough to turn to crime.

“Please know this city will not simply be tough on crime, we will be smart on crime,” he said. “While I will be vigilant to stop crime and protect our citizens at every turn, I would not be satisfying my responsibility as your mayor without also addressing the root cause of crime – without creating hope and opportunity for all of our citizens.”

Reed’s pledge to improve public safety became a centerpiece of his campaign. To help youth avoid trouble, Reed announced plans to reopen the city’s recreational centers as “Centers of Hope.”

The Mayor revealed Monday that Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., CEO Phil Kent promised Sunday that his company would dedicate one dollar from every CNN Center tour ticket sold to reopening the remaining centers and keeping them open.

“I will keep my pledge to open every single recreation center in the city of Atlanta,” Reed said. “We will turn them into what they must be and that is centers of hope. That is what they must be for our children.”

Reed said he would also tackle Atlanta’s ailing pension system. The city paid $136 million to its employee pension plans as of June 30, 2009, nearly triple what it paid in 2002, according to an August 2009 report from an Atlanta City Council task force.

“The stark reality is that one out of every five tax dollars is currently going to fund a pension system that is strangling our city,” Reed said. “We need to face this challenge head on, being mindful of the responsibility to taxpayers who fund that pension system, without breaking the faith with the public servants who have dedicated their lives to Atlanta.”

John Mellott, former publisher of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, will head Atlanta’s Pension Reform Panel, a nine to 11-member group assigned to address the issue.

Within his first year, Reed said Monday he wants to reform the city’s permitting process in order to make it “more efficient and easy to use.”

Reed selected Bain & Co.’s Peter Aman last month to be the city’s Chief Operating Officer. Aman will be one of many in the new Administration tasked with improving city services and how those services are delivered.

“The city government has a responsibility to its citizens to perform the business of government in an open, ethical, and professional manner,” Reed said. “It is not enough to say we must do better, we must actually do better. Whether it is taking care of that pothole in your street or answering your questions when you call, every encounter with an employee or official of the City of Atlanta must be one that inspires confidence and gets results.”

Former Mayoral candidate Lisa Borders has served as Co-chair of Reed’s Transition Team, despite the fact that Reed’s campaign criticized Borders’s Republican ties during the General Election.

The Mayor emphasized that citizens are responsible for the well-being of each other, noting more unites the city than divides it.

“It is not a sign of weakness to be nice to each other and to treat each other well,” Reed said. “We cannot face our futures together if we are facing-off with one another.”

“I hope you will join me in the discussions we need to have and the actions we need to take to come together as a city to take responsibility for one another,” Reed said. “We need to be more than the City that is too busy to hate, we need to make sure that we are a City that isn’t too busy to love one another as well.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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