Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Andre Jackson – Editorial Board,  Atlanta Journal Constitution

Having duly celebrated on Thursday this nation’s long-ago parting of ways with England, it can be worthwhile now to examine a more local application of independence.

The word is often mentioned here in a local context.

There’s no doubt that this is a metro area comprised of strongly independent enclaves offering a wide array of lifestyles. And there are no regionally elected officials in our midst, unlike in some other cities that we’re normally compared against. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

It’s thus clear that independence is deeply revered around here. We would suggest, though, that interdependence should also have a substantial place in our civic life. A region this large is often faced with challenges likely best solved by cooperative effort on either a large, or small, scale. Not coercion, mind you, just smart collaborative work when there’s mutual benefit or efficiencies to be gained.

We tried this in a big way with the 2012 T-SPLOST referendum on a project list approved by a roundtable of appointed, local officials. In that instance, the Atlanta metro had to follow a process spelled out in the Transportation Investment Act. Local officials did just that, and we all know what happened next.

In fairness, we’ve seen examples of productive cooperation across borders here. Officials have long worked together to address our water challenges. And Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta have, for decades, taxed themselves to provide funding for MARTA.

Such cooperation where it’s mutually desired is in keeping with current best practices. In the 2012 report “America’s Metro Regions Take Center Stage” by consultants Citistates Group, they write that, “The metropolitan regions in the United States are entering, however cautiously, a critical intersection. Some will figure out a formula to coalesce around common interests and find a way to thrive in the new realities. Others will not, and will see their economic prospects wither.”

Against the recognition that some issues are simply too large for one city or county to fix, we asked four local civic leaders to examine how independence should mesh with interdependence in this metro. Their analyses are below.

We all know that opinions vary widely on how to address our common problems. We can, however, generally agree on the challenges that we jointly share. That’s the first step toward reaching solutions that respect both independence and interdependence.


Independence, interdependence can coexist

Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Field Searcy

Ever since 1776, being independent has been a part of our national DNA. Obviously, the founders couldn’t have imagined the interconnected world in which we live today. However, they did understand human nature and they didn’t trust it — much less did they trust centralized government authority. The greatest legacy of the founders when creating the Constitution was the decentralization of power. They believed local control would best allow citizens to be engaged in the affairs that affected them.

Indeed, technology and mobility have caused our region, our nation, and even our world to become more interconnected and interdependent. Because of these societal trends, expected productivity levels have caused citizens to be less engaged in the process of self-government. Without that check and balance, central planners are increasingly creating the bulwarks of regional governance that is unelected and unaccountable to the people.

The Georgia Government Accountability Act of 2012 would have authorized a Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to recommend elimination or consolidation of state agencies, ensuring increased accountability and a more efficient state government. This legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the Georgia House and Senate, yet it was vetoed by Governor Deal.

Included in the review would have been multiple state agencies that oversee transportation. A revamping and consolidation of these agencies would go a long way toward increasing the efficiency of our state transportation system. Speaking of accountability, what happened to the $1 Billion of unallocated DOT funds discovered in the state audit?

Another solution for regional transportation would be House Bill 195 introduced in 2013 that would allow counties to create their own special district, set their own list of projects and have their own referendum.

The colonies that declared their independence had to be interdependent on each other in their battle to beat the British. As we celebrate our nation’s birth, let’s resolve to protect our individual liberty and independence for another 237 years, while still working cooperatively and interdependently to solve problems of regional importance. Citizens need to remain engaged to prevent a few elites from consolidating power and ignoring the consent of the governed.

Field Searcy of Cobb County, represents, a campaign by the Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC which opposed the T-SPLOST.


Urban mindset won’t hold sway everywhere

Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Don Haddix

Regionalism is seen as a dirty word to many because it means a regional government controlled mainly by Atlanta. Counties such as Fayette are nothing more than financial donors.

More rail? More asphalt? Where, why, how and for whose benefit? The bucket is full, there is no more room.

The Single Hub Atlanta thinking is outdated, outmoded, impossible to pay for and has to change.

Using NCR, with over 1,000 employees in Peachtree City, as an example, they train 120 technicians, etc a week. They neither want or need to commute to Atlanta.

There are other industries here, some expanding, with more under construction. We are an international city with 92 miles of golf cart paths so people can walk, bike or golf cart to work.

This defies the Single Hub urban thinking.

Atlanta has a lot of areas needing redevelopment. Build villages where people can live and shop in a suburban, not urban, environment. Connect them to the high-density office and similar buildings with cart paths. Change the environment in which people work, live and play.

The District 3 (ARC) Meeting, at the Georgia Municipal Association annual convention, illustrates my point. My table, with cities on the South Side, stated what we do, and do not, need or want.

Interior cities came right back and demanded rail and roads at the expense of the whole Region. This includes rail to Griffin, requiring a station in Peachtree City, which we adamantly oppose.

Some even want the state to step in and force their wants to happen on those who dissent.

Clearly shown were inequities of regional demand and benefit, as illustrated in the T-SPLOST referendum.

This is not respect for independence, or looking for true solutions. Many interior cities want us to sacrifice and give nothing in return. Cooperation must be a two-way street.

I recognize the needs of different areas of the ARC. We are not one homogeneous whole, but diverse people with diverse goals, wants and needs. Until that is recognized and respected, there will be no real solutions, just continued tension and distrust.

Don Haddix is Mayor of Peachtree City


Collaborate to Compete

Posted: 10:40 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Kerry Armstrong

The mantra for the 21st century is “Collaborate to compete.” While we work at the local level to safeguard the identities of the communities we love, we must also work together to find innovative ways of managing with less funding, more demand and a changing population. And, we must capitalize on opportunities for collaboration this century offers.

With 55 percent of the state’s population and 70 percent of its economy, metropolitan Atlanta is the economic engine that powers the state. And, our reach extends far beyond Georgia. Technology, the Georgia ports and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport connect the region to the world, helping make us a competitor on the world stage.

Success depends on leveraging our assets and working collaboratively, and we have many past examples to point to. Collaboration brought the 1996 Olympic Games to the region. For more than 20 years, local governments and water utilities have worked together to defend the region’s rights in the tri-state water disputes. The Innovation Crescent brings local governments, development authorities, chambers of commerce, businesses and others together to market the region as a hub for the life sciences industry.

There is almost universal agreement that the airport is the region’s most important asset. Both the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Plan 2040 and the Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy, which involved hundreds of individuals from every county, emphasize the need to leverage the economic resources surrounding Hartsfield-Jackson. To that end, area stakeholders are working together to create the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance to promote the area as a great place to live or to locate a business.

Beyond transportation and water, our biggest challenges include educating our young people for today’s post-industrial economy, creating vibrant communities that attract the talent businesses need and preparing for a more diverse and older citizenry. Successful solutions depend on local governments, businesses, economic development professionals, educators and nonprofits working with each other and with engaged residents of the region to ensure metro Atlanta’s future is even brighter than it has ever been.

Kerry Armstrong is a citizen member of the Atlanta Regional Commission Board, and co-chair, of Atlanta Regional Workforce Board.


Cooperation won’t compromise local independence

Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Ellen Mayer

I confess. I do not understand why we in metro Atlanta spend so much time agonizing over what it means to be a region and whether we want to be one.

By its narrowest definition, metro Atlanta consists of 10 counties and more than 70 cities. Combined, our communities encompass everything from rural to urban, traditional to quirky, and historic to thoroughly modern. Each reflects the preferences and priorities of the people who live there.

At the same time, these communities and the local governments that represent them are bound together by impossible-to-ignore realities that have no regard for county lines and city limits. Transportation, water, economic growth, sustainability, workforce education, and other critical and quality of life issues are plainly too big to be solved piecemeal in our respective counties and municipalities.

Does a regional approach to such issues threaten local jurisdictions’ independence or identity? No. Does it take away our choices? No. Does it boost our capacity for cultivating the basic things we all want? Yes.

Some assert that regionalism negates competition among jurisdictions. Not true. In fact, competition should motivate all local governments and their constituents to do better. At the same time, competition is no excuse for tearing down or working against our neighbors.

The independence we celebrate every Fourth of July commemorates a break from a monarchy an ocean away. There is no “England” oppressing metro Atlanta or any segment of it. Our communities are geographically and economically interdependent, and despite their differences, the people of the region have much in common when it comes to what they want for themselves and the places they call home.

At the Civic League for Regional Atlanta, we believe the people of the region are the key to a better region. Our goals are to equip citizens with the information they need to make decisions for themselves and to create new opportunities for regional civic participation.

Together, we are all stakeholders and together, we can leverage our interdependence to adapt to growth, preserve the unique qualities we hold dear, and ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable future.

Ellen Mayer is Executive Director of the Civic League for Regional Atlanta which works to engage people about issues shaping their community and the region.



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