Guest Columns

Four decades of the Old Fourth Ward, seen from my office window

By Guest Columnist WILLIAM VANDERKLOOT, a film director/producer with a unique insight into Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

A few years ago Google announced it would archive older images from its Google Maps StreetView program to create a StreetView History section for various cities. StreetView is less than 10 years old, but decades from now it will be a local historian’s delight. I only wish we had StreetView back when I moved my company to the Old Fourth Ward in 1979.

Like the proverbial frog submersed in slowly heating water, familiarity with our immediate surroundings makes us oblivious to incremental change. That is until one day we suddenly realize almost everything is different. That happened to me regarding my studio in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

Georgia leads in addressing school climate

By Guest Columnist CAITLIN DAUGHERTY KOKENES, project manager at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

Recent events such as the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February and similar occurrences across the country have brought to light the importance of school safety and student mental health.

As students, parents, administrators, and others search for ways to ensure that schools are safe places, some may be surprised to know that Georgia is a leader among states when it comes to making a concentrated effort to address and improve school climate….

Trump’s proposal to alter SNAP harks back to 1964 law with Georgia roots

By Guest Columnist NEILL HERRING, a lobbyist for environmental organizations and armchair historian

Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture for the whole, entire United States, and former governor of Georgia, has come out in favor of what used to called “surplus commodities.” This is his proposed substitute for what used to be called “food stamps.” Sonny said, early in his secretaryship, that program, now called SNAP, was “not broken,” and therefore needed no fixing.

A Civic Center for the 21st century

By Guest Columnist KLAUS VAN DEN BERG, a consultant with CITYperformance

The Atlanta Civic Center, a mega-venue that sports a 4,600-seat auditorium and a separate exhibition hall on a 19-acre site in the Old Fourth Ward, was sold to the Atlanta Housing Authority in late 2017. Former Mayor Kasim Reed, who had already sold significant land parcels to developers, closed the Civic Center deal without requiring the development of a new vision for the site that does justice to its historic significance. The sale itself proceeded mostly outside of public view after the collapse of a deal with a private developer.

CEOs can do more to reduce healthcare costs than the government or insurers

By Guest Columnist SHANE JACKSON, president of Jackson Healthcare of Alpharetta

Warren Buffet, one of the most successful businessmen in U.S. history, has called the soaring cost of healthcare a “tapeworm” on the American economy. He and two other Wall Street giants, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, have announced a joint venture in an attempt to dramatically reduce the inflationary pressure on healthcare delivery.

Overcoming the affordable housing funding challenge

By Guest Columnist MIKE DOBBINS, a professor of the practice of planning at Georgia Tech’s College of Design and and a longtime advocate for housing affordability

The city is making constructive strides toward addressing its ever-growing affordable housing needs. Researchers are pretty much in agreement that a stable, safe, and affordable home provides the fundamental and essential grounding for families to make their way into better education, improved health, higher incomes, and a quality of life that holds out hope.

Female candidates offer chance to end ‘toxic testosterone’ of patriarchal power structure

By Guest Columnist MELITA EASTERS, executive director and founding chair of Georgia’s WIN List

Record numbers of progressive Georgia women candidates, backed by hundreds who have volunteered to support them, are part of a headline-grabbing and magazine-cover-inspiring national wave of newly emboldened activists who plan to qualify for elected office over the coming weeks.

Why we need our national endowments

By Guest Columnist STANLEY ROMANSTEIN, professor of practice, Creative Media Industries Institute at Georgia State University, and principal with BLJackson Associates

In 1965 the U.S Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – expressed the firm belief that, “Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster and support a form of education, and access to the arts and humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located, masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

Developers say planned BeltLine project at 10th, Monroe is a chance to ‘get it right’

By Guest Columnist JIM KEGLEY, a partner in 10th and Monroe, LLC, which intends to develop property along the Atlanta BeltLine at Piedmont Park

We have lived in Midtown for 15 years. We share our neighbors’ love of the residential area. We also share our fellow Atlantans’ ambitions for our city, particularly as they’ve been articulated in our most transformational vision for our future: The Atlanta BeltLine. The land in which we have invested near the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Avenue represents an opportunity to express those values.

Make a $1 billion investment in Georgia’s youth, workers, families and communities

By Guest Columnist TAIFA S. BUTLER, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

You’ve no doubt heard many times Georgia is the No. 1 place to do business, but what if the state can also be the top place to settle and raise a family? That is the audacious vision the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute unveiled at its Jan. 25 policy conference under the banner “People-Powered Prosperity.”

Georgia needs a people-first strategy to build a stronger, more inclusive economy.

Georgia’s education system: Much better than we hear about

By Guest Columnist MATT CARDOZA, communications director for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

Have you ever heard that Georgia is first in education? Probably not. Have you ever heard that Georgia is last in education? Probably so.

When you hear Georgia is last in education, that is typically based on one measure – SAT results. Like many education measures, apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult to glean from SAT results. For example, the top-ranked state in the nation based on the most recent comparable (2016) SAT results was Illinois. Only 3 percent of their students took the SAT, compared to 67 percent of Georgia students.

The year ahead in Georgia transportation

By Guest Columnist RUSSELL MCMURRY, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation

Transportation infrastructure plays a pivotal role in driving Georgia’s economy, supporting community growth and maintaining Georgia’s position as the No. 1 state in the U.S. to do business. It also makes Georgia more attractive as a home to prospective new business operations like Amazon’s second headquarters, as well as those in the freight and logistics industry and our largest industry, agribusiness.

The Georgia Department of Transportation takes its responsibility for managing the nation’s 10th-largest transportation network very seriously, and we work diligently to ensure it meets the needs of all Georgians. GDOT focuses on innovation, safety, sustainability and mobility to provide well-maintained roads and bridges. But that is just the beginning.

2018 an excellent year for Atlanta, Georgia to commit to building global peace legacy

By Guest Columnist JOHN NAUGLE, president and CEO of Atlanta: City of Peace Inc.

Millions worldwide are re-branding New Year’s Day as “Global Family Day: A day for peace and sharing.” Well? Let’s excel!

It’s exciting. Atlanta is the best-positioned city on Earth to propel the goals of this annual celebration, plus eventually receive an immense economic and societal windfall, throughout every day of each successive year, as a “thank you.” Our city’s greatest destiny is in becoming an international beacon of peace to our entire global family. Will you assist?

Revisiting Christmas 1957: A vicarious trip via Atlanta History Center

By Guest Columnist BO HIERS, who recently “semi-retired” from a 35-year career in the reinsurance industry and is a recently minted Atlanta History Center volunteer

Close your eyes and step back in time with me. Imagine an Atlanta without the Falcons, Braves and Hawks. The glitzy Mercedes Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park are nowhere to be found. Think of our town without the Peachtree Plaza, Atlantic Station, IBM Tower and all the other tall buildings that dominate the landscape of Downtown Atlanta and Midtown. We’re in full imagination mode now, so let’s keep going.

Traffic is a breeze in this era, thanks entirely to a drastically smaller metro area population, roughly 85 percent less than it is today. Fewer people meant fewer cars on the road. Speaking of roads, there is no daily backup at the top end of I-285, or, for that matter, the bottom end of Ga. 400. I’m sure you’ve already guessed why – we’ve stepped so far back in time that there is no Ga. 400 or I-285.

A DACA Dreamer shares his story, support for path to citizenship

By Guest Columnist JAIME RANGEL, a DACA recipient from Dalton who works with lawmakers from across the state, serving as a liaison between their offices and the Hispanic community

My name is Jaime Rangel, and I’m a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. This federal program allowed me, and hundreds of thousands of other young people, the opportunity to work and study in the United States.

Smart cities for whom? Leveraging technology for an inclusive and just Atlanta

By Guest Columnist ALEX KARNER, formerly of Georgia Tech and now assistant professor in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin, with JENNIFER HIRSCH, ROBERT ROSENBERGER, and JESSE WOO, of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Atlanta is one of many cities across the country that is increasingly adopting “smart cities” technologies. These are usually internet-connected sensors that gather data about the environment. Common examples include traffic signals that monitor intersections for accidents, trash cans that alert sanitation workers when they’re full, or air quality monitors that send an alert when pollution levels are unsafe.