Kasim Reed: Hillary in 2016, and Atlanta, please lighten up

Notes from the press club luncheon

Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, and she and her husband will make a play for Georgia. So predicted Mayor Kasim Reed, who spoke to the Atlanta Press Club today. Since taking office three years ago, Reed has steadily been raising his national profile, largely through his strident support of President Obama. It’s led many to speculate about his own political ambitions beyond a second term (he faces re-election this fall, which will be little more than a formality), but when Maria Saporta asked him directly if he had designs on statewide political office beyond his current role, he said simply, “No.”

“This is my dream job,” he said. “This is the job that when I was a kid I wanted to have.”

It may be because he’s addressing a bunch of jaded journalists, but when he gives his annual talk to the Atlanta Press Club, Mayor Kasim Reed often invokes what he sees as Atlanta’s inferiority complex. He did it several times today, listing both his and the city’s accomplishments in the teeth of the worst recession in eighty years, and seemingly puzzled that we don’t see the glass as half-full. “We’ve got a strange way in Atlanta,” he said. “We argue a lot, we discuss a lot, but we’ve accomplished a lot.”

Among the wins he listed since he took office in 2010: A city reserve fund that’s gone from a paltry $7.4 million to $126 million, positioning the city to soon embark on an infrastructure campaign whose price tag could be close to $1 billion; a third year with no property tax increase; the biggest police force in the city’s history (1,910 officers, according to Reed); a murder total last year of eighty-five, which he said was the second lowest since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew); better response times for 911 calls; ribbon-cuttings on the Civil Rights museum and the college football hall of fame; a program funded in part by the Bloomberg foundation to house homeless veterans, which so far has sheltered more than 300. He also pointed out private sector wins, such as the Intercontinental Exchange’s purchase last year of the New York Stock Exchange. “I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty big deal,” he said, referencing again the city’s sometime dour mood. “Some people are only happy when they’re sad.”

Politically, Reed predicted that Georgia is on an irreversible path toward a Democratic majority. (Um, really?)

Afterward, I asked him what he thought should be done regarding gun control in the wake of Newtown. While he said he was awaiting Vice-President Biden’s recommendations, he did offer a few ideas: Limit a magazine’s capacity to ten rounds, beef up background checks, close the gunshow loophole, and restore the assault weapons ban.

Not exactly a platform that would get a man elected to statewide office in a place like Georgia. Fortunately he’s got five more years at City Hall.