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Atlantans to take to the streets for first “ciclovia” on May 23

By Guest Columnist REBECCA SERNA, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and key organizer of Atlanta Streets Alive!

Streets take up almost one-third of the average U.S. city and represent the majority of our public space.

Yet the streets in car-dominated cities like Atlanta are not entirely public, at least not yet. Owning a car is widely viewed as a requirement for life in Atlanta. Those of us who choose to use bicycles to get around are often made to feel marginalized, as if our time and safety are less valuable than those who have made other choices.

Far from being a space only for cars, our streets — paid for with property taxes and public dollars — could be

Posted inMaria's Metro

Transportation bill gives transit and MARTA the short shrift, improvements needed in 2011

It’s just not good enough.

There’s a lot of self-congratulatory back patting going on in this town. After years of failed attempts, the Georgia legislature finally passed a bill that will allow 12 different regions in the state to pass a one-penny sales tax for their transportation needs.

But this bill is flawed. And patting ourselves on the back is premature at best.

The flaw? The bill falls short in helping the Atlanta region pay for its transit needs — arguably the greatest need that we have.

Then there’s the maliciousness of this bill against MARTA — the largest transit agency in the state and the one that is the backbone for all the other transit systems in the region.

What a disappointment House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta) has turned out to be.

Thanks to her insistence, MARTA got screwed — plain and

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Metro Atlanta’s university campuses need a physical link

By Guest Columnist MICHAEL GERBER, president of the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education.

During the recent LINK trip of regional leaders to Phoenix, Arizona State University professor Grady Gammage, referring to Atlanta-area colleges and universities, observed “You have got us beat on every turn. We talk a good game… But we would kill for the quality of institutions that you have.”

Accolades aside, the good professor probably gave Atlanta leaders something to think about. Just what does our region have in higher education? And are we using it to our full advantage?

What we have here is nothing short of phenomenal. Few metro areas enjoy such a concentrated and diverse

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Universities – linked by transit – can play a vital role in reinvigorating our cities

Not so long ago, Arizona State University had a mediocre reputation mainly known as being a top party school.

And then in 2003, Dr. Michael Crowe was tapped to become ASU’s president, and all of that changed.

Today there are a total of nearly 70,000 students on ASU’s four campuses in the Tempe and Phoenix urban area, and Crowe has garnered a national reputation as a transformative leader.

But to the Atlanta delegation that was visiting Phoenix as part of the annual LINK trip put on by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the most important contribution that has occurred under Crowe’s leadership is the relationship between the university and the metro area, particularly downtown Phoenix.

The result is the New American University — a bold declaration designed to make a national splash, according to Grady Gammage, an attorney and an ASU faculty member at the

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Atlantan’s Must Continue to Uplift the Voice of the Voiceless

By Guest Columnist W. IMARA CANADY, vice president of programming and strategic partnerships for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Last month, as a result of an invitation by the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, I was able to experience one of the most powerful and transforming moments of my life.

Through a program called “Celebrating Success”, I joined a small, but diverse group of concerned Atlantans for a lunch-time session, where, broken up into small groups, we listened to formerly homeless individuals tell the story of their successful, but difficult road to self-sufficiency.

This moment in time transformed my life. As a young, middle class African-American male that grew up in

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Atlanta LINK group heads to Phoenix to learn about water, education and transportation

If it’s 2010, it must be Phoenix.

About 110 leaders from throughout the Atlanta region will leave Wednesday morning to spend three days in Phoenix as part of the annual LINK trip.

This is the 14th annual LINK (Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Knowledge) trip where regional leaders visit a city to learn about how that metro area is handling its challenges.

In Phoenix, the major topics the group will explore will be water, higher education, immigration and transportation.

LINK is organized by the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the decision to go to Phoenix was made shortly after U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled last July that the Atlanta region has no legal right to rely on Lake Lanier for most of its water supply.

The judge gave the Atlanta region three years to come up with a way to resolve the issue, possibly by reaching an agreement

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Water stewardship act a strong first step, more green steps needed

By Guest Columnist WILL WINGATE, vice president of advocacy and land conservation for the Georgia Conservancy

As the 2010 Georgia General Assembly draws to a close, one of the success stories of the session is the near unanimous passage of the Senate Bill 370, also known as the “Water Stewardship Act.”

This groundbreaking legislation sets forth a “culture of conservation” when dealing with Georgia’s water resources.

While the conservation measures set forth in the legislation are important, the willingness of the environmental and business communities to sit down and work together towards a common purpose will set

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Renewable energy is all about jobs, jobs, jobs

By Guest Columnist BETH BOND, editor and managing partner of Southeast Green.

There is a vortex of activity revolving around renewable energy here in the state of Georgia. Can you feel it?

These past couple of weeks have been monumental for Atlanta. We had two of the leading minds on carbon and renewable energy in the country, if not the world, speak separately and yet with the same voice several times to local audiences.

Who were they? Dr. Richard Sandor the chairman of the Chicago Climate Exchange; and Jigar Shah the chief executive director of the Carbon War Room, a non-profit started by Sir Richard Branson to help produce solutions for businesses that are interested in reducing

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Georgia is trying hard to be dead last among 50 states in financial support for the arts

Update: Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee restored funding for the Georgia Council for the Arts on Tuesday. The budget now has to be approved by the full Senate and by the House-Senate conference committee before going to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.

“Georgia is in a race for the bottom.”

So said a community leader during a panel discussion this past week.

Although the topic of the discussion was not the arts, it might as well have been.

Last week, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a $17.8 billion state budget that would totally eliminate the Georgia Council for the Arts. That would give Georgia the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country without a council for the arts.

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As King siblings reach agreement, opportunity exists to build a stronger King Center

Few institutions are more important to Atlanta than the King Center.

And few families are more important to our city’s legacy than the family of Martin Luther King Jr.

Unfortunately, for the past several years, the three living children of the late Civil Rights leader have been at odds — saddled with legal and financial disagreements that threatened to destroy their parents’ legacy and the future of the King Center.

But now that three children have laid down their swords, partly due to the involvement of an outside mediator, the opportunity exists for each of them to follow their own paths by working in roles where they excel.

But a danger also exists that the three children will take on challenges where they could fail or give in to their own

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Creating “one Georgia” can help keep our competitors at bay

By Guest Columnist BRIAN LEARY, president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc.

On a rural highway outside one of the South’s busiest ports, the largest German investment ever in the United States is on schedule and on budget to employ 2,700 employees by 2012.

ThyssenKrupp’s $3.7 billion investment is further proof that our agreeable weather and hospitality; expansive interstate, rail network and long-term prospects for growth are positive factors contributing to the ongoing interest and investment of the world’s largest and most successful companies.

Where ThyssenKrup chose to build their new steel mill shouldn’t come as a surprise. The team that brought this technologically-advanced plant from an old world

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Atlanta must not lose its historical advantage of being a city willing to dream

To aspire or not to aspire. That is the question facing the City of Atlanta today.

Historically, Atlanta has always been an aspirational city. Back in the late 1800s, it willed itself to be the capital of the New South by putting on national events, such as the Cotton States Exposition in 1895.

The following century, Atlanta willed itself to be the “world’s next great city” or the “city too busy to hate.” It also built what is now the world’s busiest airport. And it aspired to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

In short, Atlanta is a city that has always aspired to be something grander than the city it has been. And then it has had to live up to its own hype by turning its dreams into reality.

But during our most recent mayoral election, none of the candidates offered an aspirational vision. Instead, they focused on all the problems facing the city — from budget shortfalls to

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To the contrary — business community does support MARTA, transit

By Guest Columnist SAM A. Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber

A recent SaportaReport column accused the business community of neglecting transit.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, no one has pushed harder for improving transportation – including transit – than the business community.

For years, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and its board of top business leaders have pushed aggressively inside and outside the Capitol for transportation funding.

We created one of the largest and most diverse transportation coalitions in the history of this state,

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Why Grady and not MARTA? Why have business and civic leaders saved Grady and not MARTA?

It’s a simple question.

Why hasn’t the business, political and civic leadership rallied to support MARTA in the same way it did to save Grady Hospital?

And it’s not just MARTA. It’s C-TRAN. It’s the Xpress buses. It’s Cobb Transit. And Gwinnett. In short, the region and the State of Georgia have failed to come up with a way to financially support transit.

As a result, C-TRAN is about to go out of business. And MARTA is facing a $120 million deficit in its next fiscal year — a deficit which will force the transit system to drastically reduce its operations beginning July 1.

A few years ago, Grady Hospital was in a similar precarious position.

The hospital was plagued with deficits, and there was talk the

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Georgia’s cities enjoy public support and are key to state’s economy

By Guest Columnist BILL FLOYD, Mayor of the City of Decatur and president of the Georgia Municipal Association

There are a number of interesting conversations going on nationally about the role of cities.

The common theme among the various discussions is that cities matter. They are seen as critical elements in our economic recovery, and they are considered to be core components in tackling any number of critical issues facing our society.

But in Georgia the discussion about cities doesn’t reflect the national conversation. Too often cities are painted, along with counties and local schools, as ineffective and not representing the needs of their citizens.

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Squeezed for cash, local governments hope new sales taxes will save the day

A penny here. A penny there. And pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.

The sales tax is one of the most tempting taxes a government can pass. It generates millions and millions of dollars. And with the exception of when someone makes a major purchase like a car, consumers really don’t realize how much they’re paying.

As this column is being written, the state legislature is in a tug of war over whether it should give voters an opportunity to pass a transportation funding bill with a one-cent sales tax. It is the third or fourth year in a row when there has been a concerted, and so far unsuccessful, effort get such a bill to pass.

The city of Atlanta has the highest sales tax in the state — currently at 8 cents. (Four counties in the Atlanta region only have a 6-cents sales tax: Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas

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Georgia at a tipping point — will it invest in a multimodal station and commuter rail?

By Guest Columnist JAMES OXENDINE, CEO of the Oxendine Group, a public policy consulting firm specializing in economic and transit-oriented development.

Noted author, Malcolm Gladwell, has characterized the potentially massive implications of small scale events known as tipping points: “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”

After 13 years of sitting around unused, the federal funds that U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) secured for the commuter rail line to Lovejoy have emerged as not only a linchpin for Atlanta and Georgia’s future federal

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Georgia State should make urban and regional studies the centerpiece of the university

Look what they’ve done to my school, Ma.
Look what they’ve done to my school.
(Apologies to songwriter Melanie Safka)

It used to be known as the College of Urban Life. Later it became the College of Public and Urban Affairs.

And then most recently the college morphed into the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Last week, the word came out that the GSU administration was considering folding the Andrew Young School into GSU’s Mack Robinson College of Business. That led to the forced resignation of the recently-named dean of the Andrew Young School — W. Bartley Hildreth — who had protested the potential merger.

Now it appears that the administration has backed off that plan, and GSU is now seeking to fill the dean’s position and is

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Fulton and DeKalb – seeking equity – could lose MARTA service

By Guest Columnist MICHAEL WALLS, an attorney who is a former MARTA board chairman and currently serves on the board.

We all know the story. MARTA was conceived as a five-county transit system but after the three suburban counties opted not to participate, it was developed as a two-county system for Fulton and DeKalb Counties.

For over 30 years those two counties have paid a one-percent sales tax that has been used to fund the construction and operation of MARTA. Not surprisingly, the fact that the three suburban counties chose not tax themselves to support the system has led to a certain amount of resentment among many in Fulton

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Feeling optimistic about our city’s future despite budget shortages and a down economy

The economy sucks. Local governments are slashing their budgets. MARTA is facing a $120 million operating shortfall and may have to cut its service by 25 percent. Many people are suffering from unemployment and underemployment. And our region, economically dependent on growth, is lagging.

It’s easy to get depressed, easy to feel that our best days are behind us.

But I can’t help feeling optimistic about the future. Maybe it’s because winter is finally on its way out and spring is coming. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of being depressed and pessimistic.

Yet I can point to two experiences this past week that have taken me out of my current misery and lifted me to take a longer view of the future of our city. And that future is bright.