Entries by Teresa Johnston

Atlanta's income gap problem rooted in poverty, not in a lack of middle-class


By Guest Columnist MIKE DOBBINS, a Georgia Tech professor of architecture and planning who also served as the city of Atlanta’s commissioner of planning, development and neighborhood conservation from 1996 to 2002

In a recent column, Maria Saporta attributed Atlanta’s worst-in-class rankings for income disparity and social immobility to the post-Olympic period, which she characterized as one of “Atlanta’s Greatest Missed Opportunities.”

While I hesitate to challenge Maria’s wisdom, I must disagree with her conclusions both about why Atlanta has such income disparity and social immobility and with her characterization of the post-Olympic period as a missed opportunity.

Taking the latter first, she references the Renaissance Policy Board, which was convened by Mayor Bill Campbell and chaired by Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta to plan out Atlanta’s post-Olympic priorities and strategies.

Stevie Wonder provides a 'Candle in the Dark' at Morehouse College Gala


By Guest Columnist RODNEY STRONG, chairman of Griffin & Strong, a law and public policy consulting firm who graduated from Morehouse College in 1976 with an undergraduate degree in political science

A confluence of events made the year’s A Candle in the Dark Gala and Inaugural Ball – an annual festive black-tie event that raises substantial funds for Morehouse College ­­– particularly memorable.

The 26th annual Gala took place on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 to celebrate the 147th anniversary of the founding of Morehouse College in the Centennial Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. During the weekend’s activities, Dr. John S. Wilson Jr. was inaugurated as the 11th president of the College.

Good Growth DeKalb seeks plans with long-term vision instead of a Walmart


By Guest Columnist BRIAN BARTH, co-founder and head environmental consultant of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm

Just north of downtown Decatur, a two-year long campaign to prevent metro Atlanta’s next Walmart-anchored development from breaking ground hangs in legal limbo. 

While local residents wait for a ruling on whether the developer, Selig Enterprises, circumvented some of the fine print in DeKalb County’s permit approval process, there has been ample time to reflect on what may better serve the neighborhood.

Teleworking offers workable options during snow days and every day


By Guest Columnist TEDRA CHEATHAM, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign

The two storms that hit metro Atlanta over the last three weeks effectively shut down the city’s transportation for four or five days. While politicians and officials are collaborating to determine how to better handle these situations in the future, metro Atlanta’s businesses are looking at their own performances after the storm to make similar assessments.

One of the conclusions coming out of this evaluation will be obvious. A business continuity plan is now an essential part of every organization’s workplace strategy, and emergency preparedness should be part of every family’s kitchen table discussion.

When these storms first hit, especially the Jan. 28 storm, most metro Atlantans had to put aside their work and focus on making sure they and their loved ones were safe. However, the outside world did not stop moving when Atlanta ground to a halt, and some organizations were more prepared than others to continue working.

New Braves and Falcons stadiums offer redevelopment opportunities


By Guest Columnist JAY SILVERMAN, senior associate at Lord Aeck Sargent and president of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

As the current president of AIA’s Atlanta, I have heard many concerns from our membership about the demolition of the Georgia Dome, the potential negative impact of the Braves leaving their downtown Atlanta facility and the immense public cost of each of the two new stadiums.

I have come to understand that our baseball and football teams need to build new facilities to insure their financial success for the future.

Revenues rise, but Georgia's policies remain stuck in recession mode


By Guest Columnist ALAN ESSIG, executive director of the non-profit, non-partisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

The good news for Georgia is the state’s economy continues to recover from the recent recession and state revenues are heading in a positive direction.

The not-so-good news is that our state’s leaders are putting a strong economy and job-growth at risk through spending decisions and policy priorities that are counterproductive in a post-recession environment.

A driving force behind small business success in Atlanta and Southeast


By Guest Columnist CASSIUS BUTTS, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration – Region IV

Georgia is on my mind. My late father, Courtlandt Sr., was a Vietnam veteran and an aerospace engineer; and my mother, Barbara Ann, was the owner and operator of several businesses.

My brother, Courtlandt Jr., and I embarked on various business ventures starting at very young ages. When I think of ongoing entrepreneurial development, I often say: “Your passion is your purpose; and your purpose is your plan.”

Martin Luther King Jr. helped inspire Maynard Jackson to run for office


By Guest Columnist VALERIE JACKSON, wife of the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, is a principal of Jackmont Hospitality Inc. and former host of NPR’s “Between the Lines”

Maynard Jackson left the hospital where his first child had been born the day before to march in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral cortege. The King and Dobbs families were long time friends. “Daddy King” was an executive member of John Wesley Dobbs’ (Maynard’s grandfather) Civil and Political League. Also, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Dobbs’s funeral.

As metro Atlanta becomes more splintered, let's keep the core strong


By Guest Columnist RAY CHRISTMAN, senior vice president of the Mid South Division for the Trust for Public Land

Metropolitan Atlanta is going through what might be called an era of de-regionalization.

This is the best way to understand how major trends and events have shaped the region in recent years. And it may be the most logical context in which the City of Atlanta should consider its best path forward in the future.

Let's jumpstart infrastructure projects with new public-private partnerships


By Guest Columnist CHARLES WHATLEY, managing director of UurbanIS USA, an advisory firm focused on Public-Private Partnerships

In a globally competitive marketplace – inside or outside the perimeter or across the river – are nearly irrelevant designations.

It is time that the Atlanta region start to consider cooperative ways to finance and deliver lifeline infrastructure projects. While community scale governance has benefits, there are few advantages to small scale infrastructure development and delivery.

Believing in 'the buc' as metro surveys show increased desire for transit


By Guest Columnist JIM DURRETT, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District

Last month the Buckhead Community Improvement District, or “CID,” now 14 years old, celebrated 10 continuous years offering free bus service for workers, residents and visitors, featuring our shuttle, which we named “the buc.”

The purpose of this transit service is to augment existing MARTA bus service on Peachtree and Piedmont, and offer “last-mile connectivity” for commuters using MARTA to get to and from work.  Why did the Buckhead CID choose to do this?

A teacher makes lasting impression — filling lessons with art and creativity


By Guest Columnist CHARISSE WILLIAMS, president of Young Audiences, a division of the Woodruff Arts Center

In December 2012, I received a message on Facebook from a young man my mother had taught in 4th grade in Chicago over 20 years ago. He was living and working in London and usually had lunch with Mom back in Chicago over the holidays.

City of Atlanta's ability to create community partnerships needs work


By Guest Columnist JENNIFER WILSON, environmental mediator and consensus builder with Mellifera Mediation, LLC

Members of the Community Benefits Plan Committee learned Nov. 20 that a draft version of a redevelopment plan for neighborhoods surrounding the new Falcons stadium had been submitted to the Atlanta City Council without the consent – or knowledge – of the committee. Already a tense process, this turn of events angered community representatives who had been involved in this work since July of 2013.

New 'Equity Atlas' uncovers reasons for income disparities in metro Atlanta


By Guest Columnist NATHANIEL SMITH, founder and chief equity officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity

The divide between those who have ‘always had’ and the ones who have ‘never had’ is a national problem.

But nowhere is it more apparent than metro Atlanta where income disparities within communities are enormous with one in four children living below the federally-defined poverty rate.

Atlanta's Rev. Jasper Williams — a 'prince of preachers' — celebrates 50th anniversary at Salem church


By Guest Columnist MAYNARD EATON, communications director for SCLC who also moderator, executive editor and co-owner of “NEWSMAKERS” Live/Journal in Atlanta

Atlanta is nationally known for its unprecedented string of black mayors, its iconic roster of civil rights leaders, and its wealth of primetime black preachers.

With several tweaks, Atlanta streetcar can lead region to new transit era


By Guest Columnist DAVID EMORY, a transportation planner who is president of Citizens for Progressive Transit

Citizens for Progressive Transit has been a supporter of the Atlanta Streetcar project since it was just a line on a map, and we are thrilled to see the return of rail transit construction to the city after more than a decade of inactivity.

As construction continues on the Streetcar’s initial segment Downtown, we turn our attention toward key operational and policy decisions that must be made to support the project and maximize its success.

To this end, we offer the following suggestions to enhance the Streetcar’s ridership, further its appeal to those new to public transportation, and realize its transformative potential.

Getting to know Ted Turner — a multi-sided 'eco-capitalist-humanitarian'


By Guest Columnist TODD WILKINSON, author of the new book: “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet”

Ted Turner: Liberal or Conservative? Think hard before you reply.

Did you know that back in the late 1980s, Turner began spending summers away from Atlanta, retreating to the hinters of the wild American West, because it enabled him to live closer to the land and escape the annoying moniker “Mouth of the South”?

Or that contrary to popular opinion, Turner’s connection to Jane Fonda wasn’t centered around money, fame and power? In fact, they bonded over a mutual love of nature.

Atlanta will prosper if more companies step up to support BeltLine project


By Guest Columnist JIM KEGLEY, president and CEO of U.S. Micro — the four-year presenting sponsor of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

Study after study confirms what we instinctively know: talent – particularly young, mobile talent – is drawn to dense, walkable, city neighborhoods. Companies increasingly seek these urban environments that encourage the sort of chance encounters between talented people that lead to innovation and boost productivity.

Atlanta 'can do' better to reduce poverty with more jobs opportunities


By Guest Columnist MIKE DOBBINS, professor of planning at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture and a former commissioner of planning and community development for the City of Atlanta

Recent national studies have reminded us of Atlanta’s most pervasive, persistent and shameful problem — poverty.

The Gini Index exposes Atlanta’s income gap between rich and poor as among the most inequitable in the country.

The recent Harvard/Berkeley study  finds that Atlanta is dead last among American cities in offering our poorest citizens the chance to rise up economically.