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Reed talks of Atlanta's future at TEDCity2.0 conference
by Bobby Tedder
September 24, 2013 02:07 PM | 1533 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed espoused a rosy outlook concerning the prospects of cities like his own — provided they remain open to private talent and extraordinary ideas.

Reed was among the featured speakers at the TEDCity2.0 event in New York last week, crafted and organized under the theme, “A Day of Urban Inspiration.”

Reed, citing the turnaround of his jurisdiction’s finances and statistical decline in violent crime, noted that cities’ dynamism and capacity for change is in stark contrast to state and federal governments’ penchant for inactivity.

“Cities are where hope meets the street,” Reed told the large crowd on hand. “Cities are ascending … and if you don’t want to spend your whole life waiting to change something, I happen to believe that you ought to be in cities.”

Interested parties flocked to multiple metro Atlanta venues where they could be privy to a live stream of the conference, billed as a day-long TED (technology, entertainment and design) event for urban innovators, organizers, stewards and builders — complete with an eclectic lineup of live speakers, global conversation sessions and activities.

Rebecca Ewing was among those on hand for the event held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown, sponsored by Midtown Alliance, TEDxAtlanta and Turner Broadcasting.

Ewing, a Decatur-based interior designer, has become a regular at local TED events.

“I’m just really interested in the nature of the human being and how we live — how we prosper and how we stumble … and design is such a key piece of urban planning,” she said.

The event’s speakers touched on an array of topics, examining both forward-thinking concepts and existing conditions in major cities around the world. All essentially represented an element of world-class city-building or citizen activism/participation.

During his time on the main stage, Eric Liu, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, called on audience members to “democratize” democracy in an age of dysfunctional national politics.

“Cities are becoming great catalysts of civic action and innovation. … As more responsibility and authority flow to the local [government], citizens need more than ever to become literate about power,” Liu said. “It’s so important to reimagine civics as the teaching of power … and there’s no better arena for the practicing of power than in our cities.”

Proponents pointed out the steady migration to cities as the key indicator of a seismic behavioral shift within that context.

For the first time in recorded history, 50 percent of the world’s populations live in cities. Over the next 20 years, that number will rise to 60 percent — and another 10 percent over the next 20 years, Reed said.

Moreover, change occurs faster there, he said.

“It’s not just in the United States. … Large governments are moving slowly around the world,” Reed said. “I don’t need 218 votes in Congress or 91 votes in the Georgia Legislature to move. … I need eight votes on the Atlanta City Council to make change. That’s why I want you to be involved in cities.

“You pick an issue — childhood obesity, adult illiteracy, immigration — we are dealing with those issues head-on as cities.”

Reed was among the few mayors invited to speak at the TEDCity2.0 event.

His appearance on that New York stage perhaps draws a parallel to Atlantans embracing the increasingly visible TED outfits, which began popping up around 2009.

“It’s really grown,” said Jenn Graham, social innovation designer at Un-Boundary, a strategy design firm and co-organizer of TEDxAtlanta events. “We sell out in a couple minutes or days because people know that what is shared at TED is something new and invigorating and useful in their daily and professional lives as well.

“And what’s really exciting is having [Reed] on the TED stage. … It makes me proud and also happy that he’s there being exposed to these people and ideas that he can champion and bring back to Atlanta.”
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