Kasim Reed

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Panelists discussed the current state of American government and the influence of  extreme partisan divides at the "Can the Center Hold?" keynote discussion at the 2014 Tribune Festival on Saturday.

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley; Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China and Utah governor; former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; Ron Kirk, former U.S. trade representative and Dallas mayor; and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta spoke on the panel, moderated by Evan Smith, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune.

While the panelists have varying backgrounds and levels of experience in politics, they all agreed the current system of government is broken.

Bradley said the problem with today’s government is the partisan division in Congress.

“I don’t know a president who isn’t thinking like an executive,” Bradley said. “They want to get things done. The problem is Congress. You will never defeat power except by power.”

According to Hutchison, who currently serves as president of the Texas Exes alumni association, the party division in the Senate poses a problem.

“I think it is the polarization and the toxicity,” Hutchison said. “I think the Senate, which was very carefully crafted to be the adult in the room in the whole balance of powers, has lost that role. One of the things that protected that was, and this is a different issue, was the two-thirds rule and the 60 percent rules, where you really couldn’t do anything without a supermajority.”

Advocating for an open primary system in Texas, Hutchison also said she thinks the existing primary system in America is broken and contributes to the heavy party divide in Congress.

“If we are going to have the primaries the way they are today, in Texas especially, you do have the appeal to the very narrow primary voters,” Hutchison said. “People who want a different track need to vote in the primaries. Look at the competitive races you care about. You need to vote in that primary so you can ask for a broader appeal.”

According to Reed, the national division that exists between parties is not as prevalent on smaller governmental levels, making city government positions ideal for individuals who want to see action.

“The kind of hyper-partisanship that goes on nationally is not happening in cities, thank goodness,”  Reed said. “Because of that, you’re going to see more highly talented people put their energy and their passion into cities.”

According to Huntsman, who ran for president in the 2012 race but said he has no presidential aspirations for 2016, Congress' mentality needs to mirror that of city government.

“I would say part of our longer term fix is how do you change the culture, the ethos on capitol hill from anger, animosity and acrimony to problem solving?” Huntsman said. “In order to do that, you have to infuse in people who believe in problem solving and then give them something to do.”

Kirk said he thinks the rise in prominence of social media has caused a shift in political culture.

“I think the explosion of social media changes everything,” Kirk said. “We now all get a peek behind the curtains that we didn’t get before – giving more strength to those who are villains.”

Kirk also said the country ought to have a third, moderate party. 

Reed said he is optimistic that change will come.

“Just about every great revolution in the world was started by someone in their 20s or 30s,” Kirk said. “It wasn’t a bunch of 60-year-olds sitting around pontificating about how life used to be.”

Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed speaks on gun law reforms and explains his plans for the public education system and poverty reforms at an interview in KLRU’s studio Tuesday morning.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

On Tuesday morning, Kasim Reed, the 59th mayor of Atlanta, made a special appearance on Overheard, a KLRU-hosted television series hosted by Evan Smith, editor in chief and CEO of The Texas Tribune.

During the interview, Evan Smith asked Reed pressing questions about gun law reforms, the present and future status of Atlanta’s public education system and poverty reforms.

While Reed expressed Atlanta’s great respect for the second amendment, he also voiced several precautions he said must be taken in order to protect the city and the country.

“What I care about more than folks wanting to have access to soft guns are the women and men and the 1,900 police officers that work for the system,” Reed said. “I don’t want them to ever arrive to the scene and feel outgunned.”

Since Reed was elected in 2010, Atlanta has seen the lowest number of felonies since 1969. Reed attributes this success to building the biggest police force in the history of the city.

“Crime reduction is not really rocket science,” Reed said. “You choose where you’re going to put your resources.”

In addition to hiring 700 new police officers, Reed chose to pool his resources into upgrading video technology and modernizing techniques such as crime mapping. 

While most of the interview focused on gun violence, Reed mentioned improving Atlanta’s schools by removing the school board so that the state could implement reforms.

“We’re going to recruit a superintendent like you would recruit a football coach for UT,” Reed said. 

Allie Sandza, public affairs producer at KLRU, said the show is expected to air March 21.

“Evan Smith, who hosts the show is super connected, so we were able to get the mayor while he was originally here for the Texas Legislative Back Caucus Summit,” Sandza said.

Overheard with Evan Smith is in its third season and showcases in-depth interviews with guests from a variety of fields.

Smith ended the interview by asking about the possibility of Reed campaigning for a higher office.

“Fighters don’t become champions when they fight too early,” Reed said. “I made a promise to Atlanta and I want to finish the job I have.”

Published on February 27, 2013 as " Atlanta mayor talks policy to KLRU". 

Occupy Wall Street protesters run from tear gas deployed by police at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — The display of police force in Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta has unnerved some anti-Wall Street protesters.

While demonstrators in other cities have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they wondered on Wednesday how long the good spirit would last and whether they could be next.

Will they have to face riot gear-clad officers and tear gas that their counterparts in Oakland, Calif. faced on Tuesday? Or will they be handcuffed and hauled away in the middle of the night like protesters in Atlanta?

“Yes, we’re afraid. Is this the night they’re going to sneak in?” said activist William Buster of Occupy Wall Street, where the movement began last month to protest what they see as corporate greed.

“Is this the night they might use unreasonable force?” he asked.

The message, meanwhile, from officials in cities where other encampments have sprung up was simple: We’ll keep working with you. Just respect your neighbors and keep the camps clean and safe.

Business owners and residents have complained in recent weeks about assaults, drunken fights and sanitation problems. Officials are trying to balance their rights and uphold the law while honoring protesters’ free speech rights.

“I understand the frustration the protesters feel ... about inequity in our country as well as Wall Street greed,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “I support their right to free speech but we also have rules and laws.”

Some cities, such as Providence, R.I., are moving ahead with plans to evict activists. But from Tampa, Fla., to Boston, police and city leaders say they will continue to try to work with protesters to address problems in the camps.
In Oakland, officials initially supported the protests, with Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes “democracy
is messy.”

But tensions reached a boiling point after a sexual assault, a severe beating and a fire were reported and paramedics were denied access to the camp, according to city officials. They also cited concerns about rats, fire hazards and public urination.

Demonstrators disputed the city’s claims, saying that volunteers collect garbage and recycling every six hours, that water is boiled before being used to wash dishes and that rats have long infested the park.

When riot gear-clad police moved in early Tuesday, they were pelted with rocks, bottles and utensils from people in the camp’s kitchen area. They emptied the camp near city hall of people, and barricaded the plaza.

Protesters were taken away in plastic handcuffs, most of them arrested on suspicion of illegal lodging.

Demonstrators returned later in the day to march and retake the plaza. They were met by police officers in riot gear. Several small skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas.

The scene repeated itself several times just a few blocks away in front of the plaza.

Tensions would build as protesters edged ever closer to the police line and reach a breaking point with a demonstrator hurling a bottle or rock, prompting police to respond with another round of gas.

The chemical haze hung in the air for hours, new blasts clouding the air before the previous fog could dissipate.

The number of protesters diminished with each round of tear gas. Police estimated that there were roughly 1,000 demonstrators at the first clash following the march. About 100 were arrested.

Among the demonstrators injured was Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, a veterans advocacy group, said Olsen was hit by a projectile while marching toward city hall and suffered a fractured skull. A hospital spokesman said Olsen was in critical condition.

It was not clear who threw the projectile.

Demonstrators planned to try again on Wednesday night to march, and could clash again with police.

In Atlanta, police in riot gear and SWAT teams arrested 53 people in Woodruff Park, many of whom had camped out there for weeks as part of a widespread movement that is protesting the wealth disparity between the rich and
everyone else.

Mayor Kasim Reed had been supportive of the protests, twice issuing an executive order allowing them to remain.

Reed said on Wednesday that he had no choice to arrest them because he believed things were headed in a direction that was no longer peaceful. He cited a man seen walking the park with an AK-47 assault rifle.

“There were some who wanted to continue along the peaceful lines, and some who thought that their path should be more radical,” Reed said. “As mayor, I couldn’t wait for them to finish that debate.”

Reed said authorities could not determine whether the rifle was loaded, and were unable to get additional information.
An Associated Press reporter talked to the man with the gun
earlier Tuesday.

He wouldn’t give his name — identifying himself only as “Porch,” an out-of-work accountant who doesn’t agree with the protesters’ views — but said that he was there, armed, because he wanted to protect the rights of people to protest.
People who were arrested trickled out of jail as a crowd of several dozen supporters chanted “freedom” as they left.