Sun04202014

Reed Receives National Award

     “The future lies in the hands of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.”     That is the statement the Center for Political and Economic Studies sent when it named Reed as the recipient of the 2012 Louis E. Martin Great American Award, tapping him as one of the next great leaders of his time.     The award places Reed among the ranks of former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, all who previously received the honor.      Recognizing Reed’s more than 10 years in public office, his accomplishments in his first term as mayor of Atlanta, and as a rising political figure, the Joint Center said that it bestowed the prestigious award on Reed because of his “new and creative approach to leadership that is responding to the challenges of guiding large metropolitan areas toward renewed progress in the wake of the economic downturn.”      The Joint Center added that Reed represented “the organization’s determination to recognize and support an emerging generation of African-American leaders as they step into key public offices.”     Joint Center President and CEO Ralph B. Everett said that for more than 40 years the organization has supported and recognized trailblazers and those who have paved the way for leaders such as Kasim Reed. Everrett noted the center is also vigilant in looking ahead.     “We’ve always kept our eyes firmly on the future and on facilitating the passing of the torch from one generation of leaders to the next. Today, we have the future right here with us in Mayor Kasim Reed,” he said.      The Louis E. Martin Great American award is named after the Joint Center’s co-founder Louis E. Martin, who was a renowned journalist and presidential adviser to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. Martin was the former publisher and editor of the Michigan Chronicle and editor of the Chicago Defender. He is widely considered one of the most important Black political influencers of the 1960s and 70s.      Reed’s impressive record as mayor caught the attention of the Joint Center. Since taking office, he grew the city’s cash reserves from $7.4 million to $100 million.    Under Reed’s leadership, he and his team have balanced the city’s budget, masterminded a plan to rectify the city’s billon-dollar pension liability and added 500 police officers.

     “We had at $1.5 billion unfunded pension,” said Reed.  “Working with every single union in the city of Atlanta, working with every single council member, we reformed the entire pension system and we’re going to be able to pay that $1.5 billion liability. We balanced two budgets and we’ve done it all without raising taxes in the city of Atlanta. But we didn’t do it with a mean heart. We didn’t do it by criticizing or condemning working people.

      “We didn’t do it by trying to break the backs of unions,” he added. “We did it by sitting down at the table and having a conversation and just saying that we can’t maintain the current fiscal model that we have right now.”

     Reed underscored that balancing the city’s budget was about “having a heart for people” and ensuring that after city workers put in decades of service that they will receive 100 percent of their pension.

      In his acceptance, Reed spoke with pride of the work he’s accomplished for the city, but said he was still in shock from being chosen to receive the honor. “I’m so deeply grateful for this award,” said Reed. “I hope you all will give me a moment to take this in and say, ‘Wow.’” 

     Reed, who in his late 20’s was elected to the Georgia General Assembly, divulged that he’s “been a fan” of the Joint Center for years and offered indebtedness to the center for playing a role in helping develop his skills as a leader.

    He recalled getting numerous correspondences from the Joint Center soon after he was first elected. “I got put on the mailing list and they really do take you in and begin to educate you on a number of policy positions,” said Reed.

      The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is the only organization today whose mission is rooted in providing support, information and resources specifically to Black elected officials through scholarly research and policy analysis.

     Reed also revealed his affinity for the center and also Martin, who played a pivotal role in the selection of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.

     “Thurgood Marshall is the reason I went to get a degree at Howard University for undergraduate and law school. So, I do feel connectivity to the person for whom this award is named,” Reed said.

     Reed then turned the spotlight on the center for its distinguished policy research and support.  “I came today not only to receive an award from you but to thank you and to encourage you because we need you now more than ever,” said Reed.  “Tonight is really about not missing this moment. This is really you all’s moment. The Joint Center, since its founding in 1970, has been committed to the notion of taking advantage of all of America’s talent, particularly the talent of people of color and not leaving them behind.”

      Reed said the Joint Center needs more public recognition by prominent elected officials and that there needs to be an increased connection between the center and younger generations.

     “The world has caught up with the work of the Joint Center,” said Reed, as he explained how the Joint Center has consistently been ahead of its time. “Think of the things that I’m telling you now. You already know it because the Joint Center has been there.”

      Reed also suggested that the accomplishments achieved in his or other administrations could be used as a model for other cities.  He stressed developing the skills of working people and Latinos to help improve communities.

      The Joint Center’s CEO said that Reed’s continued “record of success” and his “efforts to bring everyone in his community together to solve their problems” is the core of what seats Reed at the forefront of leadership in years to come.

 


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