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Guest Column

The Atlanta region is adrift without an elected captain

By Guest Columnist JERE WOOD, mayor of the City of Roswell

Metro Atlanta needs more than a one-cent transportation sales tax to recover from the recession and regain its position in a competitive world. We need to work together as a region, not independently, to meet our transportation, water and other regional challenges.

To act as a unified region, we need leaders with the authority to speak for the region.

Who has the authority to speak for metro Atlanta?

We have no shortage of leaders, but none whose allegiance is to all the citizens of our region. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed answers to the 500,000 residents of his city, not to the five million people living in metro Atlanta. Gov. Nathan Deal’s focus is on the entire State of Georgia, not on metro Atlanta.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood

How many organizations succeed without a leader?

With no recognized leader, metro Atlanta has little hope of acting as a unified region. Without a leader, we can only address our needs independently with piecemeal solutions.

The solution is conceptually simple, but politically complex. If metro Atlanta had a regional organization with a leader elected by the voters, this person would have the authority to speak for all of metro Atlanta.

The idea to popularly elect the chairperson of the Atlanta Regional Commission received no political support. The mayors of Fulton and DeKalb counties proposed electing a chairman to a Regional Transit Authority formed by merging MARTA and the transit systems of Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties.

But this idea has also been rejected.

There is little support for an elected leader for metro Atlanta because people do not willingly give up power. The governor appointed a task force to consider the Fulton and DeKalb mayors’ proposal for an elected chairperson to head up a regional authority to operate transit.

This task force of elected officials proposed a 35-member planning agency composed of county commissioners, mayors and appointees named by the governor. It seems the task force was not comfortable giving taxpayers the right to elect a leader to oversee how their money is spent.

In 1996, the Olympics came to Metro Atlanta and we were recognized as a world leader.

Today metro Atlanta is a leader in foreclosures, unemployment, underperforming schools, and traffic. A one-cent sales tax will not solve our problems.

Waiting on the economy to improve is not a sound strategy. If metro Atlanta wishes to regain its status as a leader, then we need to begin by electing a regional leader.


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  1. Just Common Sense February 28, 2012 1:00 pm

    What a novel idea….Have the People elect a QUALIFIED Leader, have them lead with transparency, and then follow the Leader.  I believe this was what our country was founded on and it worked quite well at the time, and for many, may years.  Where did common sense go, Mayor Wood?Report

  2. zedsmith February 28, 2012 1:36 pm

    secede and form our own state.Report

  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 28, 2012 9:30 pm

    Yes, the Atlanta Region is adrift without a captain.  And just who is that captain that the Atlanta Region is sorely lacking?  That captain that has gone awol when it comes to Atlanta Regional affairs is the State of Georgia. 
    The key reason that the Atlanta Region is struggling so mightily, especially when it comes to the critical life-and-death issues of transportation and water, is because, unlike other successful major U.S. cities, the state of Georgia has actively decided to take an almost completely hands-off approach and even at times an almost completely adversarial approach when it comes to transportation planning and water management of its largest city and its surrounding urban area, at times even appearing to be almost clueless of how to even conduct the simplest constructive planning and execution of these issues.
    Other major cities like Boston, Chicago, Toronto, New York and even the Texas cities of Dallas and Houston have gotten much cooperation from their state governments in helping to fashion much-needed multimodal transportation and water management policies during a time of explosive and transformative growth in the post-World War II era while the State of Georgia has been unwilling, uncooperative and even downright hostile at times to the pressing needs of its largest city and economic engine and with the sobering and harrowing extended economic tailspin that Metro Atlanta and North Georgia have gone into, it appears that we now paying a significant price for all of the years of extreme and intentional shortsightedness of our elected city, regional and state officials, which is a shame because this area holds so much economic potential. Report

  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 28, 2012 9:39 pm

    In Boston, the state of Massachusetts plays a significant role in transportation in the Boston Region and Eastern Massachusetts in the form of the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) through which the state of Massachusetts manages and is responsible for bus, subway, commuter rail and even ferry services in the Boston/Eastern Massachusetts Region.
    The state of Georgia must stop trying to delegate transportation management (and funding) off to someone else (the individual counties, the region, the feds or whomever else that they can pass the buck off to like a red-hot potato, or white-hot political football) and take control of this situation before this region is driven into semi-permanent decline because of a glaring lack of attention to details as important as transportation and water (and education).Report

  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 28, 2012 9:42 pm

    Where in the hell is the damn state of Georgia?  Why have they decided to go completely missing on so many matters of critical importance?  Is it because they are too incompetent to take on these matters in any way that is either constructive or substantive?Report


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