By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.netAtlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says he will look at privatizing city services on a case-by-case basis.

“You will see in the upcoming 2011 budget some steps that are pretty bold in terms of reducing the size of the city’s work force in a way that is not damaging to services or result in raising taxes,” the mayor told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods on March 18.

Reed spent about an hour answering questions from a BCN meeting packed with representatives of neighborhoods that did not support Reed in last year’s mayoral election.

“I hope that you will take my visit as a beginning of a conversation that I want to continue,” the mayor said. “I want you all to feel completely at home and able to talk to me.”

The mayor pledged his support for the Buckhead community’s efforts to get the Georgia Department of Transportation to complete the interchange at Ga. 400 and I-85. A completed interchange would allow traffic from Ga. 400 to go northbound on I-85 and traffic headed southbound on I-85 to go northbound on Ga. 400.

“I am also very interested in the interchange at I-85 and Ga. 400. That is why I have been working very hard with the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house to pass the regional T-SPLOST” bill, Reed told the group. The proposal would allow a special local option sales tax to finance transportation improvements.

“When you see the bill that comes out, you will see that Atlanta’s interests are well-preserved and protected,” he said. “It is my hope that if we are successful in passing the bill, that you all will work as a partner with me to make sure that the interchange is funded.”

In response to a question about his commitment to the environment and the protecting the city’s trees, Reed said, “We are going to have a ‘green audit’ done, which has not been done in four years.

“There are things we can do at very little cost and we will implement those things,” the mayor said. “I believe we need to convert the (city) over time away from traditional fuels.”

Reed stated, “Overall Atlanta is moving in the right direction moving from 34th to 18th among the most environmentally friendly cities.”

The mayor promised one item in the forthcoming budget will be “an investment in green space and parks. My administration will maintain its commitment to the BeltLine, which we believe is special and unique and has a long-term value to Atlanta that cannot be measured. It has my complete support.” He said he has joined the fund-raising effort as honorary chair and reported that $35 million has been raised toward the $60 million goal for the BeltLine.

“The folks who have been investing in the BeltLine wanted to see if the city would honor its commitment during tough times or would we back away. We are about 63 percent through in terms of right-of-way acquisition. It is my goal to complete all of the right-of-way acquisition, because then we will have the permanent framework,” he added.

Reed said the city’s pension expenses rose from $44 million to more than $144 million last year. Despite that, “I have committed repeatedly that I will not raise taxes as we move into the 2011 budget and I am absolutely going to honor that commitment,” the mayor said.