Some aspects of the August 2012 issue of Atlanta Magazine may scream “Agenda 21” for some PP readers. However, there are some excellent points about the future of metro Atlanta — particularly on transportation, water and education.
Experts interviewed for the issue, titled “Big Ideas”, include Emory professor Michael Leo Owens, Doug Shipman of the Center for Civil and Human Rights and Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institute.
Read excerpts below and check out the extended interviews and big ideas online.
Atlanta Magazine: Metro Atlanta’s population is projected to top 8 million by 2040. How do we prevent growth from making traffic congestion even worse than what it already is?
Leinberger: Provide options and choice rather than the current situation where nearly everyone is forced to drive to every single destination. Like your personal finances, it is wisest to have a diversified portfolio. Atlanta has taken steps in this direction, such as Downtown’s tentative redevelopment, Decatur’s revitalization, Atlantic Station, and the impressive redevelopment of Buckhead and Midtown. The market wants much more. For example, walkable urban Grant Park, Virginia-Highland, and East Lake were the only neighborhoods in the region over the past decade to show real dollar increases in housing value, compared to an average metropolitan decline of 29 percent.
Atlanta Magazine: When you think about Atlanta’s future, what worries you most?
Owens: All of us who live in metro Atlanta should worry about our collective unwillingness or inability to see, think, and act regionally. Generally, metro Atlantans lack what an urban economist once called a “regional perspective,” or a strong view that cross-community sharing of resources benefits the entire region. Our dearth of this perspective perpetuates a hoarding of resources — rooted in myths of scarcity, individualism, and otherness. This contributes to much our problems as a region, especially our traffic congestion, failing schools, fragmentation of government and duplication of services, and the secession of resources via the incorporation of new cities and maybe counties. In sum, our hoarding weakens our region.
Atlanta Magazine: What are you most optimist about?
Shipman: The talent of Atlantans under forty. The diversity of backgrounds and experiences, combined with a high degree of educational achievement, makes me optimistic about Atlanta’s future. I believe that creative talent, if supported, will develop new institutions, businesses, and opportunities to allow Atlanta to reinvent itself again. The changing demographics of Atlanta, combined with our civil rights legacy, provide a unique opportunity for the region to lead the country in thinking about living in a highly diverse world. Atlanta has always found ways to bring more people to the table; we have the opportunity to redefine how a community operates across all aspects of identity. Atlanta was known for the way it created the template for a post-segregation city; we can do it again for a majority-minority country that is inclusive of LGBTQ folks, honors all religious traditions, and has power shared equally by men and women.