Why Atlanta's Mayor jumped in as T-SPLOST head cheerleader

6:44 PM, Jul 27, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA - "We have to stay in the future business."

"We're not doing enough."

"This is going to be a close election."

Those comments have turned into a mantra for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed the past several days.

From Atlanta City Hall to the Republican suburbs, he's been on a whirlwind tour to push next Tuesday's transportation sales tax vote.

"What I did see two weeks ago was a lack of energy and passion," Reed told 11Alive News about his side of the issue.

He jumped in as head cheerleader because he realized polls showed the T-SPLOST was losing.

"Leaders shape polls, they don't read 'em," he added.

Even though it was a separate issue, on Friday the mayor proved how his connections with the Obama administration helped fast track a future downtown transportation center.

Some may question the coincidence of the timing, but Reed wasn't shy about using that announcement to push the transportation tax.

"And we're gonna pass that, too!" he added.

"In some ways this is Mayor Reed's Olympian moment," Emory University political science Professor Michael Leo Owens told 11 Alive.

Owens called the transportation tax vote a huge political moment for Reed, who is just over halfway through his first term as Atlanta's Mayor.

Many credit the former State Senator for personally lobbying for the bill that set up the referendum.

After years of gridlock, it finally passed the state legislature in April of 2010, in no small part thanks to Reed's personal two day blitz.

"I don't think I deserve any more credit than everybody else," Reed said about his 2010 full court press.

Even though he's a Democrat in a red state, many give him credit for being liked and respected by many in the Republican controlled Georgia General Assembly, where he drew praise for bipartisan workmanship.

Several of his former Republican legislative colleagues openly supported him when he won the mayor's race in 2009.

Professor Owens predicted if Reed can help turn the T-SPLOST campaign around and convince enough voters to support it next week, many in the metro region will hail him as a hero.

"This will be a tremendous win for the Mayor," Owens said.

He said Republican politicians in the suburbs who supported T-SPLOST will owe Reed big time.

Even if it loses, Owens believes those same suburban politicians will still owe Reed for sticking his neck out for them.

"If they don't win, I don't think it'll actually have a great effect on his future career," Owens said about Reed.

"It'll be a blemish, of course...(but) even if he loses, he wins because he really has put himself on the map as being the foremost booster not only for the City of Atlanta, but metropolitan Atlanta as well, so it's a win-win for him," he added.

Despite more than 40 speeches and interviews in only a matter of days, Reed said he relishes the contest.

"I love campaigning; I love to fight and I love the spirit of all of this," he added.

Sometimes, though, his love of a good scrap can get in the way.

Wednesday he gathered about 20 different environmental groups to support the T-SPLOST, but the press conference was overshadowed by an earlier nasty spat with DeKalb County NAACP President John Evans on V-103 radio.

The two continued their very personal battle over the issue in a live 7 pm debate on 11Alive that night.

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