Mike Klein Online

Bill Bolling: We Need New Trust, Honest Conversations

A lot of smart folks who care deeply about Atlanta’s future went to Wednesday’s New Century Forum lunch at The Commerce Club.  They talked about water, education, transportation, existing companies, emerging companies and economic growth.  All the usual issues that you would expect were put on the table and the terms we all know like MARTA, GRTA, SPLOST, GDP and FDIC.

The panelists used phrases like “pockets of great schools, pockets of mediocre schools and pockets of poor schools.” They discussed a second airport, the Beltline initiative, Atlanta one day becoming an urban model for green technology and why mass transit needs money.  None of the major stuff was missed.  It was all there, just like it’s always there in these conversations.

Some of the very best ideas came from Catherine Ross, Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development director, who spoke eloquently about the importance of being able to answer, “What is Atlanta best at?”  If we don’t answer the question Atlanta will never become best at anything.

Ross also reminded the audience that Atlanta is very good at many things but we should remember that Georgia could become the hole in the doughnut if we allow Florida and North Carolina to establish an economic surge better than our own surge.

After an extensive moderated panel discussion, Bill Bolling stood up and threw a spear into the conversation.  “We all know each other.  We all meet and talk about these things throughout the year.  We spend twenty minutes naming the five things we need to work on, essentially the same five priorities we talked about 30 or 40 years ago.

“We need more honest conversation.  When we think about leaders, I don’t know if they’re not as smart, not as informed, don’t have as much courage, or the system has knocked them down, but in many areas, citizens are ahead of the leaders.  We just seem stuck here.  You all know what the issues are.  We need more courage to act.”

By vocation, Bolling is founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank which distributes some two million pounds of food per month to 700 partner organizations in north Georgia.  For a long time, Bolling has been a social thought disciple who keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously and he helps steer us straight when we are wayward.

Wednesday he issued a challenge of sorts to anyone who’s listening: “We need some new circles of trust, more honest conversations.  It seems like today we are all ducking.  We have an environment today where political leaders say, we can’t raise taxes, and we’re going to give you more stuff for less and less sacrifice.  It’s dishonest and we all know it.”

Dan Rather ended a newscast one night with the word, “Courage.”

It sounds better coming from Bill Bolling.

February 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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