Atlanta is "fiscally constrained," and Georgia is in danger of "losing our position as capital of the South," Mayor Kasim Reed told a group gathered at the Atlanta Press Club, Thursday afternoon. The city's new leader said that the biggest challenge to the budget is the cost of pensions. "It is taking our future away from us," he said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed speaks about the challenges
to his new administration, in front of the Atlanta Press
Club luncheon, in downtown Atlanta, Jan. 28, 2010. (PBG)
Reed told his audience of press, politicians and community leaders, that the pensions cost the city one of every five dollars it spends. With the pension liability going up 14% a year, he warned that if nothing is done, the City of Atlanta government will only be able to afford providing public safety services and pensions. "[We will be] committing malpractice if we don't take a different path," he said.
The mayor said he was talking about the city's budget crisis publicly, and the pension issue in particular, because he wants citizens to know that he is not doing this to challenge unions or former city government employees. "I need you," he pleaded.
Several times during his presentation, Reed called out members of the Atlanta City Council, who were there, by name, exhorting them to help him move forward and repair City Hall's problems. "It's a new day in Atlanta," he declared, adding that the city has to do what it can "to match passion with talent at city hall."