Some may balk at the suggestion, but at least a bit of the content within today’s inauguration of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed may owe something to Gov. Sonny Perdue.
If nothing else, similar themes resonate. You’ll recall that after he was elected in 2002, Perdue put great emphasis on state government as a “customer service” provider.
The following was one of Reed’s more effective phrasings from his first brief speech as mayor — perhaps a nod of the head to run-off rival Mary Norwood:
“I want to acknowledge that the city government has a responsibility to its citizens to perform the business of government in an open, ethical and professional manner. We must also create a culture of customer service that competes with the service quality of those companies that call Atlanta home…
“Whether it’s taking care of that pothole on 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.”
After the inauguration ceremonies, Reed scheduled a “citizen’s reception” at City Hall. Not unlike the “Saturdays with Sonny” that the new governor implemented after his election — which, in turn, were patterned after sessions held by Gov. Lester Maddox.
It should be noted that Reed, a former state senator, went out of his way to welcome members of the General Assembly in the audience, along with officials from DeKalb and Fulton counties.
– If you needed evidence that the office of mayor of Atlanta has a symbolic value to African-Americans that expands well past the city limits, the packed house at Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center was proof enough. A crowd of several thousand — Reed’s office put the count at nearly 4,000 — filled the lower seats, and bled into the balcony sections.
– Out-of-towners included several big-city mayors, the Howard University Choir, and Reed’s very extended family.
– Prayers from a host of clergy dominated much of the program, a sign of the city’s dire circumstances. All the bases were covered — Baptist, Jewish, Muslim and Presbyterian. The Rev. Jasper Williams of Salem Baptist asked God to consider solutions other than property tax increases:
“The government and Obama can’t do it all. Perdue and the state of Georgia can’t do it all. We’re taxed to the max, but we pray that somehow that thou will give [Reed] what he needs to move us forward.”
– Past mayors at the swearing-in included Sam Massell, Andrew Young, and Shirley Franklin, who remained off-stage during much of the ceremony, so as not to distract from the new mayor. During the two-hour affair, Bill Campbell’s name was mentioned only once, by newly sworn-in Council President Ceasar Mitchell.
Young won the prize for the sharpest line, quoting from Martin Luther King Jr. “Hell is god giving you what you thought you wanted,” the former U.N. ambassador said, staring directly at the new mayor. But it was not a curse — Young was one of Reed’s strongest supporters during the campaign.
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