There is less than five months to go before Atlanta elects a new mayor. I don’t know who the municipal bond markets are betting on, but as a “tax farm” and an aggregator of comfort-seeking individuals, the candidate that best articulates his or her ability to offer the creature comforts of a vibrant metropolis while persuading the collective to happily pay their sales and property taxes will win the day.
Most people have never heard Atlanta or any other municipal corporation described as a tax farm, but that is exactly what Atlanta is. A city extracts, organizes, manages, and distributes resources with the help of the private corporations and individuals it licenses to carry out those functions. The city taxes the income that these corporations and individuals generate and passes some of this revenue on to the bond holders that invest in the city.
To ensure that citizens and corporations generate maximum income, government creates a “comfort zone” for the collective. The comfort zone provides citizens with the “bread and circuses” environment that encourages citizens to spend which in turn leads to the generation of property tax, sales tax, and income tax. Major league sports and the stadiums that support them, bars and restaurants, museums, parks, shopping centers, and concert halls represents a city’s attempts to create the comfort zone; that atmosphere of belonging to something big and exciting that you don’t mind financing it with a portion of your income.
The electorate will select the candidate that gives the impression that they can create a beautiful comfort zone. So far that candidate is front-runner Mary Norwood, a current member of the Atlanta city council who came within 714 votes of being the mayor of Atlanta in the 2009 elections. She is promising the typical “bread and circuses” rhetoric: transparency at city hall, good jobs, and solutions to Atlanta’s transportation problems.
I’ve seen Norwood in action. She’s popular with blacks and whites and given the changing demographics of Atlanta with young whites rediscovering Atlanta’s inner city neighborhoods, changing demographics bodes well for Ms Norwood.