Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed made a series of angry statements about the Atlanta Public School’s desire to be paid the nearly $20 million owed to APS by the Atlanta Beltline project. The contractual amount owed to APS is not under dispute. However, because the project has not lived up to its billing in terms of the increase in property values and the projected increase in property taxes resulting from a higher valuation, the City of Atlanta (that is a party to the contract) wants to renegotiate the amounts due.
Outgoing Superintendent Davis entered into discussions with the Beltline and has offered a number of reasonable alternatives for how APS would be paid, however the City’s and the Beltline’s response has been completely inadequate. As a result, Davis has left all options on the table.
For more background on the Beltline issue, see the AJC article here.
As reported by WSB – see here,
But what infuriated Reed is that Davis threatened legal action and admitted to doing so to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Nobody’s going to negotiate at the end of a gun. So, if you’re going to take hostages, you’d better be ready to shoot the hostages,” Reed said to Davis at an Atlanta Beltline board meeting last week….Reed also offered a blunt analysis of political realities in Atlanta.“The Atlanta Beltline is the most popular public project in the entire city of Atlanta — by a lot — more popular than APS,” Reed said.
“So let’s tee it up, and let’s go. You take the actions you need to take, but I want you to be clear, I’m going to be equally aggressive in addressing whatever you do,” Reed said.
APS board member Brown, who also represents APS on the Beltline board,
… sent Belcher an email Wednesday afternoon that said, in part, “For over a year, APS has tried to resolve these issues. Our commitment to the beltline is unquestionable, but our first responsibility is to the children of Atlanta.”
This is a reasoned response in the face of an unreasonable and ugly public outburst by Reed.
Is that assessment of Reed to harsh? Let’s look at the facts:
- The contractual amount is not in dispute – the City simply does not want to live up to its commitments.
- APS has willingly entered into negotiations with the Beltline, but the Beltline’s (and the City’s) response has been wholly inadequate.
- After a lengthy period of time, Davis reasonably states that all options are on the table to bring the matter to a reasonable conclusion.
- The Beltline made the original projections on the value of the project and the corresponding value to APS – the project was sold to the citizens and contractual commitments were willingly entered into by all parties.
- The original contract has been amended at least two times, but no changes were ever made to the amounts promised to APS.
- The Beltline has fulfilled its monetary commitments to all other parties except APS.
- Mayor Reed, who is playing a very weak hand, loses his composure and lashes out at APS for simply asking the City to live up to the contract it signed.
I would suggest that, given the fact pattern, the Mayor – who appears to desperately want to have more influence on APS – is, once again going down the wrong track. Money inducements did not work earlier and it is unlikely his current stance on the Beltline issue will curry favor either.
Mayor Reed had a unique opportunity – an outgoing superintendent that wanted to clean up a mess; getting a problem issue off the plate of the incoming superintendent; a set of reasonable proposals by APS; a new Board that has been willing to take on tough issues; and, most importantly, the ability to come out in support of the Atlanta education system.
Mayor Reed – opportunity squandered!
I also wonder how the parents (and voters) of the nearly 50 thousand students in APS will view the Mayor’s position on this. For that matter, consider how property tax payers will view it – the $20 million owed is approximately equal to one millage point in school property taxes.
My sense is that this will not go over well with either constituent group.