Atlanta’s new planning commissioner should be allowed to plan

Tim Keane

Tim Keane

Original story on WABE

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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced May 28 that he has selected Tim Keane of Charleston, South Carolina, as his new commissioner of planning and community development. The city has been without a permanent commissioner since last September, when James Shelby abruptly resigned. Atlanta has an opportunity with the selection of Keane, who still must be approved by the City Council.

Few American cities are as endearing as Charleston, South Carolina.

Its historic downtown. Its bustling sidewalks. Its active street life. All welcome residents and visitors alike to explore Charleston’s treasures.

Cities like Charleston don’t happen by accident. For nearly 40 years, Mayor Joe Riley has been improving Charleston’s quality of life with planning and community involvement.

A key member of Riley’s cabinet has been Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability ─ a planner who has worked for the city off and on since 1999.

Now Keane is coming to Atlanta to serve as the city’s commissioner of planning and community development.

We would be well-served to let Keane do his job.

One of Atlanta’s major shortcomings in recent years has been its lack of visionary planning ─ especially given the major projects underway ─ the Civic Center, Turner Field, Underground Atlanta, Fort McPherson, Westside Atlanta and Sweet Auburn.

The biggest exception is the planning of the Atlanta BeltLine ─ an agency that is independent from the city’s planning department.

Because the mayor’s office is making most of the city’s development decisions, the planning department has become one of the least effective in the city.

The Atlanta Urban Design Commission, which oversees historic preservation and city design issues, is understaffed and underappreciated.

The neighborhood planning process, once a national model under the late Mayor Maynard Jackson, often falls short of true community engagement.

Most planning happens after the fact ─ after a developer has presented his or her plans to the city and after the mayor has decided what he would like to see happen.

Mayor Kasim Reed has often said he would like Atlanta to become a beautiful city ─ like Paris, like Chicago, like Washington, D.C. And yes, let me add, like Charleston.

But those cities didn’t become beautiful by accident. They were carefully planned as livable, walkable, enjoyable places to visit, work, play and live.

Congratulations mayor on hiring Tim Keane ─ a true planning expert ─ to join your team. So now let’s make sure we let him do his job.


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