The difference between a bully and a man with a to-do list

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Members of the media stand on the steps of Atlanta City Hall during the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP rally on Wednesday in support of city workers pension plan. Johnny Crawford, jcrawford@ajc.com

The matter before us today is whether there is a difference between a bully and an insistent man with a to-do list.

Friday, July 1, is an important day for the city of Atlanta.

Mayor Kasim Reed wants the city’s new pension plan in place by that date — the beginning of a new fiscal year. Otherwise, he has said, the city will be forced to lay off more workers to accommodate the extra cost.

July 1 is also the day that provisions of Senate Bill 79 kick in. This is the measure passed by the Legislature that will oblige the state school board to step into the swamp that is Atlanta Public Schools and recommend whether Gov. Nathan Deal should replace members of its duly elected board.

The school district’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, placed the board on probation in January, accusing it of poor governance. The system has until September to convince SACS that it has seen the light.

The mayor of Atlanta helped push SB 79 through the General Assembly, which means that the school board and pension issues are united by more than a date. And with June fast running out of days, Reed has begun taking heat from certain quarters for pushing both matters to a timely conclusion.

Last weekend, the exiting-but-not-quite-ready-to-leave chairman of the Atlanta school board, Khaatim Sherrer El, sent around an email praising his own courage and accusing a “bullying” Reed of kowtowing to the downtown Atlanta business community.

El pointed to Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell’s fight with Reed over the pension overhaul. Last week, just before a council retreat to discuss the issue, Mitchell — the son of a police officer — issued a statement calling for civility in the forthcoming debate.

Since he and Reed had recently exchanged harsh words — the council president had wanted to delay the pension vote until September — there was little doubt about Mitchell’s target.

Code words are a part of any political culture. In Atlanta, the phrase “downtown business community” is a polite reference to the white economic forces that rule daytime Atlanta. It is a signal to the city’s black voters.

But “bully” is another matter. So is an accusation, however veiled, of uncontrolled hostility. Both phrases raise the specter of the angry black man — a high sign to Atlanta’s growing white population.

There is no question that Reed, a state senator, is well versed in hardball political tactics. The state Capitol is the realpolitik capital of Georgia.

Also consider that Reed’s haste isn’t that unusual. Good politicians understand that major initiatives must be tackled early in their terms, before their public mandate drains away. And if the mayor is to tackle anything else during his four years, he needs to dispose of the pension fight as quickly as possible.

But the real test of whether the mayor of Atlanta qualifies as a bully is whether he has stepped into a fight that is none of his affair. So you can immediately scratch pensions from the warrant — overhauling the city of Atlanta’s retirement benefits was a central part of Reed’s ‘09 campaign.

As for the school board fracas, Reed didn’t enter the fight in a public way until January, when SACS placed the Atlanta Public Schools on probation. Within that same time frame, city and state officials were negotiating with Porsche over whether to relocate an enlarged, $100 million North American headquarters next to Atlanta’s airport.

It is difficult to attract new business to a city whose high schools can’t issue diplomas that will be honored by the state’s own public universities. Which makes the Atlanta school system Reed’s business.

No, if Reed is guilty of anything, it is of acting with the confidence of a political figure who knows he has the facts and the votes on his side.

Last month, the mayor drew money from his campaign fund to finance a poll of 600 Atlanta voters by Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies in Washington, D.C. No doubt Reed has shared it with members of the City Council.

Among the results (with a 3 percentage point margin of error):

– 80 percent said they were concerned about the pension issue.

– 49 percent of voters view Reed as being fair to city workers on pensions; and another 49 percent opposed more trims to the city workforce — which would be the alternative.

– 55 percent agreed with the statement that “in this economic downturn, everyone must sacrifice, including city workers who have a more than generous pension plan that’s better than found in most private sectors.”

– Reed has more political leeway when it comes to education:

– 63 percent approved of the way the mayor is handling the Atlanta school board issue.

– 72 percent disapprove of the way the school board is performing its job.

Are there limits to Reed’s mandate? Absolutely.

– A hefty 44 percent disagreed “with the idea of the mayor taking over the public schools.” Only 42 percent endorsed it.

– A majority — 54 percent — would object to the governor replacing members of the Atlanta school board. The idea is fine with 39 percent of voters.

On Friday in Savannah, Deal said that he would only use that power with great reluctance.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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67 comments Add your comment

Last Man Standing

June 18th, 2011
3:15 pm

I read a lot of very positive stories about Mayor Reed, and he is aparently doing a good job. In asking the following question, i infer nothing negative about this Mayor. Why do politicians need a favorable poll before doing the obviously right thing? Should the career of a politician be a higher priority than the accomplishment of a necessary goal?

Hey, I ran a poll and here's what it said about Reed

June 18th, 2011
3:15 pm

Reed is a deceitful, dishonest, currupt Bill Campbell look alike. He owes everything, like Campbell, to the lawyers, builders, developers, and power broker. Don’t you love Reed running his own poll. What a joke. Insider Advantage is part of Reed’s posse. Just like Campbell and Fred Tokars. Wake up Atlanta.

Last Man Standing

June 18th, 2011
3:15 pm

“apparently”

Last Man Standing

June 18th, 2011
3:19 pm

Hey, I ran a poll:

Why so negative about Reed? What has he done, or not done, that formed your opinion?

Hey

June 18th, 2011
3:27 pm

I just stated what he has done. He is associated with some of Atlanta’s most notorious criminals, Tokars and Campbell. That’s enough if you know those two scumbags.

Last Man Standing

June 18th, 2011
3:41 pm

I know who Tokars and Campbell are, but I didn’t know Reed was associated with them. How did you find this information?

Voice

June 18th, 2011
4:18 pm

@Hey, I Ran A Poll, people would probably respect your comments more if they involved sound arguments instead of baseless accusations.

If Reed was afraid to be aggressive regarding the tough issues then I’d be a lot more worried than I am about him sticking to his guns for policy he believes in. Was he supposed to allow APS to lose accreditation for the sake of El’s feelings?

Silent Majority

June 18th, 2011
4:19 pm

Apparently, all effective politicians are “bullies” according to El. Toughen up, kid.

AtlNative

June 18th, 2011
4:24 pm

Keep fighting for our City, Mayor Reed!

Hey

June 18th, 2011
4:29 pm

If you don’t know the connection of Reed to Fred Tokars and Bill Campbell then I’m not interested in your respect. If you were informed when this was all happening you would know the connection. There’s a posse of lawyers eminating from Cobb, that all ran around together as they stole the Atlanta monies. Both went to jail and they are Reeds buddies from the early days. A couple of those lawyers are still sucking the life out of Cobb and GA.

jm

June 18th, 2011
4:35 pm

Reed’s got no choice – he’s got to balance the budget. he’s got to make sure businesses stay in Atlanta and new ones come here – he knows what he is doing is right, but he is politically savvy too – will the voters sustain his efforts? yes. and that gets him the clout he needs to push forward. I wouldn’t associate him with crooks without evidence, politicians all run in the same circles and collide into each other often. Illinois politics is as crooked as they come, but Rahm Emanuel and President Obama still managed to tell Gov. Blago to stuff it and survived. It can be done. And a strong mayor like Reed, who works with all sides and gets things done, is good not just for the city, but for the region and the state as a whole.

really?

June 18th, 2011
4:37 pm

Since when is “honesty” a part of politics??? Isn’t Nathan Deal under ethics investigations AGAIN, didn’t he leave D.C. because of prior investigations but yet people voted him in anyways. These are the traits of good politicians you must be able to be a very good liar, deceitful, make false promises and of course represent those who cut the check. And I love the phrase they use “The citizens have spoken”. No they didn’t, when they pass bills, it’s it not about the citizens it only the politicians pushing their own agendas but they want to use the “citizens” to make it sound good.

Johnny

June 18th, 2011
5:11 pm

@Hey, you’re an inarticulate clown. You’re obviously unable to explain why Reed is wrong on either of these issues so you’ve resorted to imaginary connections. That’s an elementary tactic. Step it up!

Ga Values

June 18th, 2011
5:41 pm

Reed’s job is to protect the Jackson family interest, they will keep all their business at the airport and continue to skim millions off the APS food service.

RGB

June 18th, 2011
6:13 pm

A hefty 44 percent disagreed “with the idea of the mayor taking over the public schools.” Only 42 percent endorsed it.

Now I know the difference between “hefty” and “only”. It’s 2%.

The Centrist

June 18th, 2011
6:14 pm

IF the Jackson family were skimming millions, imagine the conservative Democrat side of Perdue, Richardson, and now Deal being in charge of the airport and APS food service. Now to the pension issue. How long has it been that the phrase “unfunded pensions” been in our vocabulary?

Councilmember

June 18th, 2011
6:40 pm

Jim, this is the first I’ve heard of a poll and its results. Where did the 600 people live who were polled? The City of Atlanta or Metro Atlanta? The Mayor has not shared his results with us.

steven

June 18th, 2011
6:40 pm

i was with you until khaatim’s use of the word “bully” meant “angry black man.” you might need to better explain that logic. I think that most of the readers consider a bullying politician to be more media savvy and politically cunning/cutthroat, as opposed to violently aggressive.

Wait, actually I wasn’t with you on “downtown business elite” being a signal to the city’s black voters either, sounds more like a signal to lower middle class/lower class workers. Those in the poor schools that suffered from the testing scandal, which may be majority black but are not exclusively so.

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 18th, 2011
9:00 pm

Why has the media ignored Leslie Ward’s audit of the city budget’s vacant funded positions??? Seems like that’s the real news to me. In her memo, Ms. Ward identifies 761 FUNDED VACANT positions. The total cost of these funded positions is 48.5 million dollars. Why is Mayor Reed threatening to cut 200 funded and FILLED positions when there are 761 to choose from? All this chicken little “the sky is falling” is just more of the same policy of the former failed administration.

Results

June 18th, 2011
9:20 pm

I think the title of this article is right on point — There IS a difference between a bully and a man w/ a to-do-list. And since 2010, the Mayor has done nothing but achieve RESULTS for Atlanta. Folks who try to bring up political bullying are just trying to distract us from what’s really going on. They sound like a bunch of kids who aren’t getting their way to me.

Results

June 18th, 2011
9:21 pm

And another thing — Mitchell and the rest of council have had years to correct the pension issue… It didn’t just happen overnight. As the article correctly points out, candidate Reed made it a campaign issue in ‘09 and is delivering on his promise to rectify the problem… The school system issue has to be rectified as well. Reed is clearly a man of action. I wish more of our political leaders would do the same.

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 18th, 2011
9:24 pm

These FUNDED POSITIONS which are vacant serve what purpose? $48.5 million is twice the so called shortfall! What’s really going on? Seems to me that by cutting out some of the vacant funded positions, we could close the gap and not have to lay off any more city workers. But I guess that doesn’t fit with tough guy politics. It appears to me if you eliminate all the funded vacant positions you would have 48.5 million dollars. And all this talk about the pensions, which are currently rebounded and more hogwash and sky is falling rhetoric. Create any emergency, give a deadline and ram it down their throats. Seems like the Franklin administration all over again.

And as far as a mandate goes and polls, if I remember correctly the mayor barely won in a run off between Mary Norwood. 800 vote win does not equate to a landslide or mandate.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

June 18th, 2011
9:29 pm

Mayor Reed finished law school in D.C. in ‘95, Fred Tokars arranged the hit on his wife in ‘93.

One can ask what became of the list of names from Fred’s safe Sara Tokars gave to Steve Labovitz, but trying to tie Kasim Reed to it is beyond a stretch…but then again, the one pathetically trying to do it is “anonymous.”

Even though Cesar Mitchell stuck with Bill Campbell too long, his inaugural speech was highly uplifting – a hopeful sign for good things to come from him. Between him and two-termer-Obama-connected Reed, Atlanta, by G-d’s grace, shall weather the post-Bush storm buffeting Our Nation. The concern Atlanta’s property taxpayers should have is the Mayor’s plan to add judges to the city courts to enhance ticket writing revenues by an expanded police force to pay for an expanded police force: caesarism at its worst…just what we came and created America to escape…uncool in the coolest town in the world.

Is it just me...

June 18th, 2011
9:34 pm

I heard somewhere that Reed has gotten more done for Atlanta in his first year-and-a-half as mayor than the last 5 Atlanta mayors…. Seems like he’s doing a pretty good job to me.

Johnny

June 18th, 2011
9:41 pm

All these crackpot conspiracy theories are amusing, but let’s stick to the facts. The Mayor promised to increase the City’s police force and he’s brought in a significant number of new recruits already. He opened up all the City’s recreational centers (Centers of Hope) just like he promised. And now he’s about to bring the City into a more sustainable pension plan.

Perplexed...

June 18th, 2011
9:44 pm

Hold on, I’m confused.

1. Did the Mayor vote for all the changes in the city’s pensions over the past 11 years that created this mess? Not last time I checked. Matter of fact, he’s only been in office since 2010.

2. Did the Mayor create the problems with APS accreditation? Not the last time I checked.

The same “establishment folk” that certain “people” are complaining about are the same “establishment folk” that put him in office…

VHighlands

June 18th, 2011
9:44 pm

It looks like Khaatim El’s family members are participating on the blogs today. No one else would attempt to justify his antics. It’s about the kids, not Mr. El’s political career.

How long?

June 18th, 2011
9:47 pm

Here we go with another case of “Don’t bother me with the facts” again…. And how long does it take to step down? This is the old banana in the tailpipe trick. Lol

Concerned Citizen

June 18th, 2011
9:54 pm

Mayor Reed did not create the pension crisis nor did he create the mess with the school board. However, now as a Leader he is being criticized for his efforts to take the appropriate and necessary steps to fix things which in turn will help this city move forward. For that we call him a Bully? I call that leadership that’s ready to get things done!

Joe the Observer

June 18th, 2011
9:56 pm

To councilmember; please identify yourself.

SW ATL

June 18th, 2011
9:59 pm

I’ve never been more proud of my Mayor – Young, Black and Gifted. You are doing the right thing! God Bless!

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 18th, 2011
10:02 pm

So no one is concerned about the budget shortfall lie?????????

Brady O.

June 18th, 2011
10:02 pm

Unfortunately, the crab mentality is alive and well. No objective Atlantan can say the Mayor isn’t doing a great job. I hate to see the Green Eyed Monster rear its ugly head. Let’s support our Mayor.

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 18th, 2011
10:04 pm

People we have $48 million dollars in vacant positions!!!
There is no budget crisis!!!!!

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

June 18th, 2011
10:12 pm

May G-d bless Atlanta, and all who love this greatest city in the world.

Hey

June 18th, 2011
10:13 pm

You mention Steve Labovich, he was Campbell’s campaign manager, chief of staff, and law partner; so there’s one connection. I believe you made the connection of Labovich to Tokars – it is real. The entire APS scandel is almost identical to the problems in Clayton and DeKalb. When one of the Tokars lawyer-posse looses the majority of the board votes, he calls out SACS. There’s another sick connection there too.

Douglass High

June 18th, 2011
10:14 pm

The Obamas love Mayor Reed and so do I!

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

June 18th, 2011
10:20 pm

“Hey” said: “If you don’t know the connection of Reed to Fred Tokars and Bill Campbell then I’m not interested in your respect.”

[sound of crickets]

Ricky Grooms

June 18th, 2011
11:18 pm

Greatest city in the world? That’s like saying uga is # 1 in football before the season starts.

Curious George

June 18th, 2011
11:26 pm

Say you buy a house in bad shape (broken windows, leaky roof, rotted floors) that you want to rent out. Before you close on the house, you get an estimate that it will cost $150,000 to get the house in just good enough condition to rent it. To stay in budget making rental income and paying the mortgage you know you have to get the work done in 2 months.

After you close on the house, you don’t fix it up. Instead you buy a new fully loaded SUV on time, a new livingroom set and new designer shoes. So when it comes time to pay the mortgage on the rental, you have less money to make the payment AND you didn’t get any rental money because the house was unlivable. Which bill do you choose not to pay? The one that gave you the opportunity to get into the rental property market? Or the bills you knew you shouldn’t have racked up? And if you choose not to pay the mortgage, what does that say to anyone that might lend you money in the future?

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

June 18th, 2011
11:31 pm

The “season” of human civilization is well along. With all of history’s urban manifestations to compare this ville – for geography and native culture – it is the best in America, hence the best in the world. May Mayor Reed and all our elected officials always strive to be worthy of our people, the Electorate, and of G-d: Dr. King didn’t become a holy martyr and American prophet by “licking it off the wall.” Those most blessed were born here, by grace and intelligence the rest showed up.

Councilmember

June 18th, 2011
11:38 pm

Joe the Observer, I am Council Member Felicia Moore.

Atlanta mom

June 19th, 2011
12:18 am

“Khaatim Sherrer El, sent around an email praising his own courage ”
Any time you have to send out a memo praising your own courage– there’s a problem

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 19th, 2011
12:20 am

The Moore Pension Plan is what the city needs. I hope the bully will accept the Moore-Adrean compromise. Thats what makes good politics. Republicans are the only ones who don’t compromise. I don’t believe hizzoner will accept the plan. It would piss off wall street investors who need 7000 new turkeys in the sinking debacle called a 401k. I wonder how much money he will lose if he accepts your plan. That would derail his congressional aspirations for 2014. he is a true no compromise republican. Keep up the good work Ms. Moore.

Atlanta Tax Payer

June 19th, 2011
12:40 am

Ms. Moore, wouldvyou address the 761 funded vacant
Positions that are tying up 48 million dollars, vacant positionsvthat could be cut to avoid layoffs which truly are not necessary, 48 million that could be used elsewhere.

Thank you

Paddy O

June 19th, 2011
1:03 am

If i voted for Mr. Reed, I would be very happy with the things he has done. If you did’nt, you still might like the things he has done. The APS super was running a first class racket – as usualy, high ups walk off while the manure hits the worker bees in the fans. I hope Reed keeps on trucking.

Paddy O

June 19th, 2011
1:04 am

Will JOnes – you are making posts complementary to America – thank you – it is a great place!

Paddy O

June 19th, 2011
1:07 am

Curious – not exactly sure where you are going with this. Obviously, you have 2 lines of credit. Why would you take the loan out for the rental house? Did the loan include the cost of fixing the house? If so, you essentially re-programmed that money, but for what purpose? There are too many variables Mr. George.

Paddy O

June 19th, 2011
1:08 am

If that is really Ms Moore – why the heck is she discussing this here? Why not take action with Mr. Reed to defund those positions?

Last Hope

June 19th, 2011
3:23 am

Are there any candidates willing to run for mayor in 2013?