“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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