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Our Views: Partners in governing

US leaders could take a cue from the way Ga. governor, Atlanta mayor work together

POSTED: June 9, 2013 1:00 a.m.

As the loggerhead battle of partisan squabbling continues unabated in Washington, D.C., it might behoove our national leaders to look to Georgia for an example of how leaders can come together to solve problems.

Georgia’s governor and Atlanta’s mayor would seem, on the surface, to be the oddest of political couples. One a seasoned, white, conservative North Georgian with years of experience as a congressman and prosecutor; the other an African-American Democrat born in New Jersey and educated in the more liberal environment of the Northeast academic and legal world.

But Nathan Deal and Kasim Reed have found they have much more in common that meets the eye, and have forged a working relationship that benefits both the state and city they represent.

Despite whatever differences in background and political philosophies they may bring to the job, they both are more pragmatic than ideological, their chief goal being to solve problems and help make Atlanta and Georgia more prosperous.

Their partnership has helped bring numerous companies and new jobs to metro Atlanta, and helped bring about the deal to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Whatever one thinks of the stadium plan, it’s clear the political obstacles were no match for two strong-willed leaders willing to work together.

Deal and Reed both cut their political teeth in the state legislature where one-party dominance has largely made such compromise hard to come by. Yet both built a reputation for their willingness to work across the aisle with members of the other party to get things done. And both have a laserlike approach to solving problems that would be beneficial to other leaders at the state and national level.

Right from the start, the two men found they could talk to each other as colleagues and equals, not rivals. Their mission is the same: Attract good jobs to put Atlantans and Georgians to work while providing increased tax revenue to pay for improvements to schools, public safety and infrastructure.

They have also teamed up to secure funding for the deepening of the Port of Savannah, a key component to helping Georgia businesses grow their exports. Reed has served as the state’s point man with the White House in effort to land more than $600 million in federal money for the project. The deeper harbor would have a significant impact in North Georgia, giving poultry and other industries the chance to increase their markets abroad with bigger ships to carry their goods.

Some decry tax incentives the state offers businesses to locate here, seeing it as a needless “expense.” But they lose sight of the big picture: Yes, each job may carry a hefty price tag at the start, but if you extrapolate what that particular job means over time, it does pay off.

Add to that the double benefit of getting more people off unemployment and state benefits while boosting the tax digest and you have a long-term win-win proposition.

Reed clearly understands this. He has earned high marks as mayor, his charismatic personality and sharp mind making him the ideal leader for a dynamic city like Atlanta. He has only just begun what is likely to be a successful political career.

He also isn’t afraid to toss his newfound weight around and support his political partner. Recently he pushed to have the state’s Democratic Party chairman step down so new leadership could step in. He also urged Georgia Democrats to focus on the upcoming Senate race for the seat of retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss and not challenge Deal’s re-election bid next year.

“My opinion is, Gov. Deal has done a good job as governor,” Reed said in urging Democrats to point their resources toward a race he feels is more winnable.

Many Democrats bristled at this suggestion, unsure why one of their own would endorse a sitting GOP governor so early in the process. Perhaps they, like many Republicans, still don’t get the whole idea of bipartisanship. The goal should be to find like-minded people you can work with, who have the best interests of the people at heart, and forge strong relationships with them.

That used to be the case in Congress, where political rivals as disparate in their views as Barry Goldwater and George McGovern became trusted friends. No, they didn’t agree on much, but they were good men with good intentions, and each saw that in the other.

Yet in today’s climate it is much easier to dismiss someone simply because they have a D or an R beside their name. Too many good leaders become marginalized by such an approach. Even worse, many others who might have the skills and inclination to enter public service no longer want to expose themselves to such a hostile environment.

Fortunately, we don’t have that problem right now in Georgia. For whatever issues we might have with legislative or local leaders, we at least have two men at the head of their respective parties who know how to come together and get things done.

We applaud the governor and mayor for their ongoing alliance. Here’s to hoping both have several years left to come in making Georgia and Atlanta work better.


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