Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pulled no punches Thursday when asked about longtime rival and critic, State Sen. Vincent Fort.
“Vincent Fort is one of the most disappointing human beings I’ve ever seen,” Reed told reporters and business folks at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon on Thursday, in response to a journalist’s question about Fort’s legislative priorities.
The mayor also accused Fort of introducing legislation aimed at Atlanta City Hall as a “publicity stunt” ahead of a bid for the mayor’s office in 2017 — though Fort has not officially declared his intent. The state senator, a Democrat who represents Atlanta, is behind various bills that would prohibit City Hall from outsourcing parking enforcement, place the Atlanta Streetcar under MARTA’s control and block a pedestrian bridge the city is building at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Reed said the parking legislation is “ignorant” because it would have no effect on Atlanta’s existing contract with Park Atlanta and noted the bridge legislation would have no impact because its already under contract.
“Vincent knows this is a publicity stunt and he’s running for mayor and he’s passing worthless pieces of legislation,” Reed said, drawing gasps and nervous laughter from the crowd as he continued: “Let me look into the camera and guarantee you Vincent Fort will never be mayor of the city of Atlanta.”
Fort shot back with a statement on Thursday: “I am disappointed that our mayor would stoop to personal attacks rather than addressing the concerns of our joint constituents, but unfortunately I am not surprised. In recent years, he has become an example of the coarsening of public debate that we have seen from the presidential campaign to the local level. That said, I will continue to push for legislation to put an end to PARKAtlanta’s abuses.”
In a separate interview, the state senator deflected when asked if he plans to run for office.
“My priority is to push for as much as I can for policies during this legislative session that will benefit my constituents,” he said. “Anything other than that is secondary.”
The two have tangled over the years, with Fort weighing in on city issues including its dispute with Atlanta Public Schools and the sale of Morris Brown.
Touching on that relationship, Reed described Fort on Thursday as “Wile E. Coyote Fort” because “he never wins.”
The mayor, who has developed a reputation for taking critics head on and with a blunt tongue, asserted that Fort “started” the conflict, “But I am from Southwest Atlanta, so I do believe in finishing it.”