By Kasim Reed
On March 17, city of Atlanta voters will decide whether to allow the city to make the most significant single investment in modern times through support for a $250 million infrastructure bond.
Today, the city of Atlanta faces an infrastructure backlog of more than $900 million. If we do not take this on, it will grow to be $1.5 billion and then $2 billion and soon we will face a crisis we cannot solve.
Without raising one penny in taxes, a yes vote will allow us to rebuild our roads and bridges, synchronize and modernize traffic lights to connect communities and reduce traffic, improve our parks and recreation centers and bring new businesses and jobs to Atlanta.
Over the last year, the city has held or participated in more than 100 public meetings to hear from Atlantans on the infrastructure needs of the city. Thousands of comments from all across the city, combined with “Connect Atlanta,” the city’s comprehensive transportation plan, has resulted in a list of top priority projects that will transform the look, feel and experience of our city.
We will resurface Atlanta’s major roads, repair city streets with a Complete Streets approach that addresses curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes, crossing signals, and ADA ramps all to decrease congestion, improve mobility and provide transportation options.
We will design and repair our streets for all users, not just cars.
We will synchronize thousands of traffic lights to address congestion bottlenecks and reduce traffic.
We will replace and repair bridges to connect communities.
We will upgrade fire stations, police stations and recreation center facilities across the city.
We will replace thousands of street lights to make neighborhoods safer.
And I do not come to the voters lightly on this issue. My administration has spent four years getting the city’s financial house in order.
We closed a $48 million dollar budget gap in the first year.
We now have more than $138 million in the bank – growing the city reserves from just $7.4 million in the bank when I first came into office.
We have passed five straight balanced budgets, proving that we can do more with less.
We are implementing recommendations from the blue ribbon panel of business, city and labor leaders that reduce waste and improve efficiency in government to the tune of $15 million to $17 million in savings each year.
And, most importantly, your property taxes have not been raised in five years. In fact, the FY2015 city budget included a rollback in the property tax rate.
This important work has resulted in the city’s strongest credit rating in at least 12 years. We are in a position now to pay the total debt service – principle and interest – on these bonds without requiring one additional penny from taxpayers.
We could not be in a better position to take on this challenge. On March 17, a yes vote on questions 1 and 2 will help us make Atlanta the most livable city in the United States.
Kasim Reed is the mayor of the city of Atlanta.