Proctor Creek Greenway Ribbon-Cutting:

The Menschkeit of Mayor Reed, Mayoral Candidate Al Bartell, Partners At Last


A vibrant crowd, eclectic yet unified for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Proctor Creek Greenway yesterday, gathered and heard Mayor Kasim Reed deliver an end-of-term speech — a speech and a speaker that addressed more than Proctor Creek.


Amongst the spoken words — and the words unspoken — a message was delivered about the commitment of leaders and leadership — despite politics, despite the millions of dollars at play.


It could be summed up in the greeting between Mayor Reed  and Mayoral Candidate Al Bartell — their exchange — and their handshake…


In the 1996 movie “City Hall”, that kind of “unspoken” was called “menschkeit” — “the space between a handshake”


“The key concept in the 1996 movie City Hall is menschkeit…. Mayor John Pappas, whose background is Greek rather than Jewish, refers to menschkeit as “about honor and character” and “the space between a handshake.” — Sanford Borrins


Bartell, a resident of Proctor Creek — both Vice President of the Grove Park Neighborhood Association, and Chairperson of NPU J’s Committee on the Environment — has been unrelentless in highlighting and capacity-building the neighborhoods and communities of Proctor Creek to deal with the impending major developments coming to West Atlanta.  Developments that create Atlanta as a global destination for sports, hospitality, entertainment, and international tourism of a magnitude that will have the city, by all projections, tripling in population.  The 5-10 year near prospect is already dramatically impacting affordable housing in the city — already creating loud warning signs of impending destructive gentrification and displacement.


The natural assets of Proctor Creek, its watershed — entirely within the city limits — and its direct flow into the Chattahoochee River, have become both the promise and the battleground of an Atlanta that will either be dominated by global corporate interests — or by an Atlanta that creates a different urban future for itself.  One that includes its rich, cultural heritage and fabric of existing neighborhoods and community — and the people who helped to build this “phoenix” of a city.


Reed and Bartell have become the faces of this Atlanta dichotomy and critical crossroads, both in terms of their public policy and their political leadership.


And yet, especially as evidenced yesterday, there seems to be a quiet coexistence of respect between the two — a menschkeit of their own. Recently, as the only mayoral candidate making the environment and sustainability a top priority for his proposed administration, Bartell released a public statement supporting Reed’s decision to continue the City of Atlanta’s involvement in the United Nations Paris Climate Change Agreement.


And, although Reed has not mentioned Bartell publicly, his speech yesterday demonstrated acknowledgement and recognition, to all those who, with the restoration of the ecosystem of Proctor Creek, will now have a “fair shot and a fair shake”, and “what they deserve”.    


Reed expressively spoke about the “expanded roadmap to resiliency” that the green economic development/revitalization of the Proctor Creek watershed of 60,000 residents and 24+ neighborhoods would make possible for the city as whole — a “most precious resource” where people will come, he declared, to “build and bring their dreams”.


Reed shared how the Proctor Creek Greenway will give the first true access to the Chattahoochee River for Atlanta residents, and that when the Chattahoochee gets connected to the City of Atlanta, the entire area will be “opened in a way” that it has not been, “certainly not in my lifetime.”


Pausing very briefly, the Mayor then quietly offered, “This is why you get into politics — to change people’s lives you may never meet, or know….”


A recent statement by Bartell offers a companion intention of his: “[to] help raise local awareness and build stewardship to protect, preserve, and restore urban creeks as a community resource for generations to come…”


The menschkeit and unseeming partnership between Mayor Reed and Mayoral Candidate Bartell may never be publicly acknowledged by the two — but quiet waters have been known to run deep, even in an urban creek– like Proctor Creek.


“[Turn] our faces toward our natural resources and no longer turn our back on them.”  

Candidate for City Council President Felicia Moore