Group hopes to drive next mayor’s poli­cies

Cor­po­rate, univer­sity lead­ers re­lease list of five pri­or­i­ties.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - BUSINESS - By Michael E. Kanell

A group of cor­po­rate and univer­sity lead­ers has is­sued a frame­work for im­prov­ing At­lanta, hop­ing to get a head start in­flu­enc­ing pol­icy un­der a new mayor.

While the out­line re­leased Thurs­day by the At­lanta Com­mit­tee for Progress con­tains few specifics, the group has called on the next mayor to fol­low poli­cies that em­brace five pri­or­i­ties:

■ Fi­nan­cial strength.

■ A more in­clu­sive econ­omy.

■ Im­proved tran­sit.

■ Bet­ter stu­dent achieve­ment.

■ Pub­lic safety.

The aim is to set an agenda that helps shape the poli­cies un­der whomever is elected to suc­ceed Kasim Reed, said John Dyer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cox En­ter­prises, who is chair­man of the ACP. “These are goals for what we hope to ac­com­plish. It is a goal to makes At­lanta a good place to live and work.”

Cox En­ter­prises owns The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion.

The group, founded un­der Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2003, has been in­volved in a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of the Belt­line, pen­sion re­form and ad­vo­cacy for strength­en­ing the city’s fi­nan­cial stand­ing — ar­gu­ing that the city’s gen­eral fund re­serves should rep­re­sent 20 per­cent of its op­er­at­ing bud­get.

ACP is made up of about 40 peo­ple and in­cludes lead­ers of prom­i­nent At­lanta firms such as Dan Cathy of Chik-fil-A, Andrew Evans of South­ern Co. and Ryan Mar­shall of Pulte.

Also in the group are heads of lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Mark Becker of Ge­or­gia State, Mary Schmidt Camp­bell of Spel­man and Ronald John­son of Clark At­lanta Univer­sity.

“Once a quar­ter, these lead­ers come to­gether,” said Duriya Fa­rooqui, ACP’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec-

tor. “It’s an ex­traor­di­nar­ily unique thing about At­lanta. You don’t find that in any other city in the coun­try.”

How­ever, com­par­ing At­lanta to other cities was a large part of pre­par­ing the agenda, she said.

The idea is to see how At­lanta stacks up, she said, as well as to iden­tify its strengths and flaws.

Fa­rooqui said she has spo­ken about the ACP agenda with a num­ber of may­oral can­di­dates and hopes for a meet­ing in De­cem­ber with whomever is elected to talk about pol­icy in the next ad­min­is­tra­tion.

While most of the ul­ti­mate goals are not con­tro­ver­sial, they will likely lead to some con­tention when it comes to meth­ods, Fa­rooqui said. “The big ques­tion is al­ways about ap­proach.”

No com­mu­nity or neigh­bor­hood or­ga­ni­za­tions were part of the dis­cus­sion or the draw­ing of the plat­form, Fa­rooqui said. “We would let the new mayor drive that.”

But Larry Geller­st­edt, CEO of Cousins Prop­er­ties and vice chair of the ACP, said the group has worked in the past with lo­cal groups. He cited past ef­forts by the group, such as the West­side Fu­ture Fund in which the group es­tab­lished a non­profit group to help re­vi­tal­ize a spe­cific area of the city.

“We look to where we have ex­per­tise,” he said. “We are try­ing to stay in our lane.”

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