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7:30 a.m. at Friday, Nov. 4, 2011

I'd like everybody to just pause for a minute. I think Tad has been overly modest today. We really ought to give it up for him. He has done an outstanding job leading us and I think we need to pause to acknowledge him.

That video was absolutely terrific, and I think the video was so strong because it ought to make us all feel good about what we contribute every day.

I'm going to speak very plainly today rather than to give a political talk. I want to talk about what I have seen as a partner at the Atlanta Regional Commission.

I believe that the vote that occurred some weeks ago was the most important political event that I've experienced in my lifetime in modern Georgia. And I don't believe that I'm overstating it.

The fact that 21 members from rural and urban metropolitan Atlanta worked through a project list that was in excess of $20 billion; that required a number of very, very tough decisions with real local consequences at home. Spent six months together. Talking, getting to know each other, working through really hard issues about the future of our region. Not in 4 years, 6 years or 10 years but in 20 years, 30 years or 40 years, 50 years.

And then under the leadership of our chairman, Bucky Johnson, bringing in a project list for $6.14 billion on time and in a way that was unanimous.

Now I've got to tell you this morning I was a little frustrated because I thought a band should have been playing when all of that happened; and not many folks talked about it. There was a small bit of coverage, but I really believe a shift occurred through that process.
I think that we see a way forward. I also believe that it shows what can happen when leaders from governments across our region get to know one another; doesn't mean we always agree, but it does mean that we do have the interest of the region, and we can talk through complex problems and complex issues.

That really is when we are at our best. Something to when the story is written, and I certainly want the regional TSPLOST to pass. In my mind, the process of getting to that $6.14 billion list was every bit as important as the vote that we're going to have in July.

Because I believe it has shown what we can do when we treat each other with dignity and respect. I also believe this. That we all know that we're governing through both in the private sector and in the government sector, the most tough times that we've all been through since the Great Depression --- once again not a lot of bands playing, not getting a lot of credit for it. But folks contributed their time, their talent and their energy to this exercise that is about the future of the region.

And if we pass this regional TSPLOST, we will take on the two significant challenges that are facing us today. And one is the problem that we have with unemployment in our region.

We have lost 57,000 construction jobs in the last four years. These are hard---working women and men who used to be gainfully employed. Many of whom are now unemployed or underemployed.

And we're also going to take on the challenge of the lack of wage growth that we have seen in our region. If we invest $6.14 billion, the matched amount will probably end up being about $9 billion total.

I think we ought to remember today that the hard investment in the Olympic Games was 3½ billion. It powered about $60 billion of investment across our region through 2008. I think we ought to remember that right now the London Olympic Games in 2012 is spending about $9 billion dollars to pump into that economy; and it's moving.

So this is the right thing to do for the future of our region, because we know our competitors like Orlando, like Dallas and like Charlotte say that Atlanta has LA---like traffic --- and they used to be able to say that Atlanta does not have its act together.

I think the people in this room and certainly the people here show just the opposite. Atlanta does have its act together. We're making tough decisions. We're doing hard things. We're working in a collaborative fashion. We're taking political heat on the left and political heat on the right.

I watched 18 elected officials stand up on video, YouTube and camera phones and vote for this TSPLOST. It didn't seem like it was tough that day, but it's tough.

But that's really when Atlanta thrives. Atlanta thrives when we stretch. We're really not a small ball town or a small ball region. We don't do well when we don't have big goals.

So when you look at the busiest passenger airport on planet Earth, Mayor Hartsfield stretched, and he got beat in an election because people thought it was a dumb idea.

When you look about MARTA which we just bragged about on the video as the ninth largest transit system in the United States --- it passed by 1,000 votes, and Mayor Ivan Allen and Mayor Sam Massell pushed for it.

If you look at Georgia 400 that we use constantly now to move around our region, Ambassador Young got torn apart for working for the expansion of Georgia 400 and the same thing that they’re doing now --- they used to run the videotape of Georgia 400 and show how not many people were using it. It was a decision about the future that opened up the entire northern corridor.

We stretched.

Billy Payne and Ambassador Andrew Young got on planes, on Delta planes --- I know Richard is somewhere listening --- and they flew all over the world telling folks that Atlanta should be the home of the Centennial Olympic Games, and what we don't talk about very much as we look at history is how people used to laugh at them when they went to those meetings.

Billy Payne and Ambassador Andrew Young got to know each other
Flying all over the world going to meetings where they were often laughed at.

First round of the Olympic voting passed --- Atlanta didn't win. Second round of the Olympic voting passed --- Atlanta didn't win. Third round of the Olympic voting passed --- Atlanta didn't win.

But about fourth or fifth, it started to break our way because there were 92 people voting, and Ambassador Young knew more than 65 of them personally, and Billy Payne had put together a business plan that was undeniable.

That's when Atlanta's at its best.

So I want to remind my friends on the ARC who've shown extraordinary political courage, and I want to remind my friends who are on the staff of the ARC who have done incredible work in the most noble sense of being committed to a public cause --- that as tough as the conversation is right now… Is the TSPLOST going to pass? Is it not going to pass?

We're in our sweet spot right now. See we're actually in our zone.

Atlanta's at its best when it is stretching and trying to be more. We're not good at being small.

So I want to remind us. Somebody walked up to me yesterday, and they're a big contributor to the effort for the TSPLOST, and they said: "Mayor, I want your best political advice. What do you think is going to happen when the TSPLOST vote comes up?"

I said: “I think it's going to win by one vote.”

Which is just fine with me.

So let's stretch everybody. Let's choose to be first again.

We're working on three things all at the same time, and very few people are talking about them, but they're going to determine what the future is like for us.

We're working on the TSPLOST right now. Governor Deal and Lt. Gov. Cagle and the Speaker are working on the water issues. And we've had good results in federal court on the water wars.

And we're all working in partnership to make sure that the Port of Savannah is deep, and so when the Panama Canal opens in 2014, the fastest growing port on the eastern seaboard will be ready.

We're doing them all right now --- working in partnership. Because we live in cities that we did not build. All of us. No matter what neighborhood, county, or community you live in.

You're really stewards. Our job is to take care of what we have, do our very best and then pass it along in better shape than we found it. We can't shrink from that. And I stand here confidently knowing that we won't. Because Atlanta has always punched above its weight. We've always stretched.

And we've got great partners. And one of them is sitting by my side over at the table. His name is Casey Cagle. And I had the pleasure of serving with him in the state Senate for more than seven years.

And Casey Cagle is a fighter, too, and he punches above his weight, too. And he is the right partner for the region, and he is one of the reasons that I believe that when all is said and done, the state is going to move forward on the issue of transportation, on the issue of water, and on the issue of deepening the Savannah Port.

And when the country is divided in the 8 to 10 mega-regions, the Atlanta metropolitan region is going to be at the center of our Megaregion, and we're going to be the dominant region in the South.

Because of the people in this room and because of the man I'm getting ready to bring up here, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.

God bless you, everybody.
Last updated: 3/28/2012 10:49:57 AM