Last week, North Central DeKalb’s cityhood prospects
encountered a setback of at least one year in a series of moves within the
General Assembly’s House Government Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 270
(Lakeside City) sponsor Senator Fran Millar withdrew the legislation from House
consideration for reasons that could only be speculated about from his
irritation with House committee members. Millar and Lakeside board members
reacted as if having been betrayed by the House Government Affairs Committee. In
a full page, Atlanta Journal Constitution’s writers produced a mighty attempt
to round up a year’s worth of public confusion, conflict and in the end,
cacophony of inner legislative wrangling. In a response to the AJC shared on
Facebook, Lakeside board member and former House Representative Kevin Levitas
hammered the article for its purported inaccuracies and editorial nature. The
article, Levitas’ response and a position statement by current House
Representative Scott Holcomb were voluminous, reflecting the complexities of
defining and supporting the formation of a new city along DeKalb’s
Briarcliff/Lavista/US 29 Corridor—and what escapes most people, how little the
effort resembles the neat package that forming the “original” new city Sandy
Meanwhile Friday’s timely Journal Constitution “Atlanta Forward” editorials amounted to a pro/con cityhood argument from Dunwoody “on the merits”: service levels and adequacy of funds—a debate which will never have a winner. In the North Central failure and the Dunwoody editorials, the terms of engagement amount to a distraction—the functional arguments for new cities. Operations and service cannot trump an underlying social and economic environment in determining the future of a newly formed jurisdiction—trends that will have more influence in validating EXPECTATIONS (or not) for incorporation. Issues related to cost of operations, planning and control of assets can be laid low by more fundamental and inarguable “truths”: market choices and social organization; the “pay to play” to deflect real economics (incentives and subsidies); and why governing success will always rely on democratic factors—social (such as class and age) and political. These affect all jurisdictions, old and new, county and city. However, in the case of new cities, the decisions to start them are ELECTIVE and based in HOPE and ANTICIPATION.
A totality of information, past, present and predictively, the future would enrich such a debate and decision. Such an “awareness” brings sobriety, reality and best, predictability to the minds of citizens—enriching their understanding of what “local control” can be and what it can’t.
In the past year, when the public asked what the reasons or advantages of forming new cities are, the rationale boiled down to a philosophical “government closer to the people” and “maintaining our quality of life”. Can such expectations be justified when living conditions are beyond a question of forming and operating a new city? What “living conditions”? Those which describe who will live here and income expectations—are they in line with the case for forming new cities? Is the desire for more “national retail” outdated in an environment where growth markets are multinational and multicultural—and conversely, the notion of a “mainstream establishment” consumer? Will the national economy support continued home buying versus an increased need for rentals? http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/arms-are-back--reverse-mortgages-too--is-this-housing-bubble-2-0--145901330.html
Further, what can we glean from broader demographic market and social trends that offer a view into future residential property values—will they differ dramatically from “stretch areas” to more densely walkable areas? How must society pay-to-play for transforming one into another in terms of new infrastructure and subsidizing “economic revitalization”?
The articles mentioned below are intended to help consider whether we are even on the right page when we talk about city operations rather than what will exert far greater force on service levels and affordability—that of what the community will actually look like and want to pay for.
All items are from last week’s Atlanta Journal Constitution:
(1) Page A12, Business, In Brief—Average new car priced beyond many Atlantans The average price for a new car is out of reach for the median family income in Atlanta. Only buyers in Washington D.C. are making enough money to cover the average cost of a new car. http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/biz-beat/2014/mar/12/study-most-median-incomers-cant-afford-new-car/
(2) Page A14, Editorial— UAW creates jobs, higher living standards Reductions in union jobs have decimated the middle class, the underpinnings of suburban growth. Unions may be needed for a healthy consumer economy. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2014/03/13/states-vs-unions/
(3) Monday, March 17, B1—GOP senator right about drop in family income: Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) claimed “the average family…is now bringing home $4,000 less than they did five years ago.” The Truth-O-Meter gauged Portman correct. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/politifact-gop-senator-right-about-drop-in-family-/nfCXk/
(4) With housing apparently on the uptick in Atlanta, local homebuyers are making different choices about where and how they live, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle. So what to do with 3,000 to 5,000 sf homes on half-acre lots—portending multiple families and rental? Here are five key housing trends recently identified by the news site: http://blog.allstate.com/local/atlanta-ga/five-predictions-atlanta-housing-market/
(5) Page B1, Top—Cobb considering new sales tax: Like DeKalb’s HOST, the proposed sales tax offsets a reduction in property taxes. Consider how this is more like a “race to the bottom” as has been the experience in DeKalb. The proposal may actually be a cushion against home values not rising over the long term. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/cobb-leaders-consider-increasing-sales-tax-to-ease/nS2xc/