By Special to the Daily World
Calling Atlanta a city whose residents are not “too busy to love one another,” Mayor Kasim Reed on Tuesday, Nov. 1, unveiled a series of new initiatives designed to recruit veterans for city jobs, tackle chronic homelessness, improve code enforcement and offer pay increases to several hundred city employees.
Reed presented the new initiatives during the 66th Annual Hungry Club Forum at Dahlberg Hall on the campus of Georgia State University.
During his address, he said his job requires him to handle both “the hard and soft issues” that directly affect the lives of Atlanta residents in neighborhoods across the city. Reed said that over the next several months, his administration would focus more on issues such as unemployment, wage growth and neighborhood stabilization.
“I believe that we must come together as a city and take responsibility for what is happening here,” Reed said. “Because we need to be more than the city that is too busy to hate; we need to make sure that we are also a city that isn’t too busy to love one another.”
In a 40-minute speech that highlighted many of his administration’s accomplishments since his inauguration on Jan. 4, 2010, Reed outlined details of the new initiatives:
* Hiring a new Innovation Delivery Team Director, who will serve as the City of Atlanta’s Homelessness Czar. The appointment, expected to be announced soon, will be funded through a $3.1 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies.
* Recruiting more men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces as city employees. Reed plans to direct the Atlanta Workforce Development Authority to focus more on recruiting veterans for vital jobs in various city departments, especially the Atlanta Police Department, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, the Department of Corrections and the Office of Code Compliance.
* Creating partnerships with major banks in Atlanta to tap into the city’s foreclosed housing stock and sell those properties to the city’s first responders. Reed said such a program not only provides affordable housing for public safety employees and their families but creates more stability, safety and community pride in city neighborhoods.
* Clearing a backlog of code violations. When Reed took office in January 2010, the city reported a backlog of more than 5,000 code violations. His administration has successfully reduced the backlog in less than 22 months to approximately 1,500 cases, but the mayor pledged to clear the remaining backlog within the next 180 days. Reed said the effort would strengthen neighborhoods and help end blight.
* Allocating $800,000 to fund a pay increase for 450 employees. Reed plans to ask the Atlanta City Council to approve a plan that will streamline the city’s pay and class system by cutting in half the number of categories and placing employees in their correct job classifications.
The Hungry Club, sponsored by the Butler Street YMCA, has presented its annual forum and other civic dialogues since 1945. Over the years, mayors and other key city and state officials have made the Hungry Club an essential stop for campaigns and annual addresses. Reed cited the Hungry Club Forum as the “touchstone of the soul of the city” and a fitting venue to introduce his administration’s newest initiatives.