My simple take on what a city is

People move to Atlanta for various reasons. An individual may be a recent college graduate that received their first job offer from a company located here. Others are moving here to start a new business or expand an existing one. Some are leaving a traumatic experience that occurred in another city, like death in the family or divorce hoping that Atlanta provides a platform for a new life. Others simply like the weather and the city’s southern charm.

Whatever the reason, I think continued success here needs to be based on a couple realities about cities in general and Atlanta is particular. While we tend to look at a city from a perspective of what can this city do for me, we should round out our perspectives by asking what does this city expect from me? What is its role? To whom do the benefits of a city truly flow?

I admit that my connection to Atlanta is far from emotional. The city doesn’t feed an emotional need for me. While I would not want to live in a town with one traffic light and no movie theater, I don’t rely on a place for happiness.

What I appreciate and do need from a city is its ability to function as a hub for trade. A city should foster an environment that drives thought. It should have the infrastructure that provides an adequate platform for the exchange of ideas. It should, as a community or society, provide a safe environment for exchanging information. Since people are the primary source of information, people should feel safe and secure moving about and engaging with each other.

City governments promote themselves as suppliers of protection and infrastructure for its city’s residents. City governments exercise a near monopoly over protection services, organizing and regulating violence in order to meet their marketing message. I won’t get in to how individuals can and should compete with government to provide these services for themselves, but for now bear in mind that individuals can, but government does its best to dissuade the individual from doing so.

To stay viable as a service provider to taxpayers, city governments are expected to create public policy that supports the city’s function as a trading post in the digital age. For example, reviewing and approving broadband provider requests to use public rights-of-way to lay cable or construct and deploy cell towers in an expedited fashion provides information entrepreneurs increased assurance that they can conduct commerce in the city. It also provides broadband providers assurance that they can maintain returns on their capital while meeting their customers needs.

The city’s other function is that of a tax collector for its investors i.e. bond holders, members and employees of government, income-transfer beneficiaries. It aims to turn every resident into a tax-generating event, whether through the payment of sales taxes, property taxes, or business licenses. By providing infrastructure i.e. cell towers, streets, airports, the city contributes to the increase in the number of information seekers and information providers that trade in its jurisdiction, leading to an increase in entities that pay taxes and the amount of taxes collected.

How does knowing this contribute to your success in Atlanta or any other city? You can best guess the value you are bringing to Atlanta’s table when you understand what is being traded in the city, the information that is being demanded. You can best structure your labor or entrepreneurial activities to meet those trading needs. You become an asset.

Unfortunately, the State will wish to extract a significant portion of your success via income taxes. We’ll save that for another discussion.

 

Looks like it’s Keisha and business as usual …

Keisha Lance Bottoms appears to have captured the crown in the Atlanta mayoral race by approximately 759 votes over Mary Norwood. Ms Norwood reportedly has asked for a recount. She lost by 714 votes back in 2009 and likely wants to ensure that she doesn’t spend any more evenings trying to fall asleep and seeing both numbers dance around her head like sheep.

I found Ms Norwood to be engaging as well as tough. She is a seasoned politician, but unfortunately for her she appears to have run up on a buzz saw called the Black Slate. It came out in just enough numbers, apparently, to give Ms Lance Bottoms the win.

What do I expect from Ms Lance Bottoms? She will likely continue Mayor Reed’s gentrification policies i.e. a strong police presence in the West End designed to keep the current Black population quiet while more whites move in and buy up shuttered properties. Meanwhile, development will continue in the northern part of the city with increases in transportation capacity to meet increased residential demand on that side of town. The Atlanta metropolitan area expects 2.5 million more inhabitants over the next two decades and will have to act now to provide adequate infrastructure to accommodate them.

Black elites will hold on to ceremonial power. I refer to it as ceremonial power versus political power because valid political power means the ability to direct capital to whomever the holder of political power chooses. If blacks did indeed have political power, gentrification and poverty would not be an issue. Whites and other non-blacks that control capital in Atlanta should, as usual, have nothing to worry about.

The Atlanta “Black Slate” seeks to capture the Atlanta mayor’s office today

Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms are heading for a run-off on 2 December if the polls hold out going in to today’s elections. Ms Norwood held the lead in the polls well into the late summer and early fall, but fortune has changed in favor of Ms Bottoms who has amassed a two percentage point lead over the woman who could potentially be Atlanta’s first white mayor since 1974.

Ms Bottoms’ change in fortune may be due in part to a surge in campaign donations. According to the Atlanta Business ChronicleMs Bottoms led all candidates in fund raising in October.

How much the “Vote the Black Slate” movement has contributed to Ms Bottoms’ surge is debatable. The desire on the part of Atlanta blacks, especially those living in the southwest sector of the city, is real to the point of palpable. While Ms Norwood’s amicable personality is pleasing to a lot of blacks (Full disclosure. I voted for her in 2009 partly for that reason), increase in support for Ms Bottoms is visible. Campaign signs supporting Ms Bottoms have sprouted up in many southwest Atlanta yards like grass after a solid rain.

If Ms Bottoms does come out the victor and continues current mayor Kasim Reed’s economic policies, her voters may find themselves experiencing further disappointment. I have lived in the southwest sector of Atlanta for over nine years. The wielding of political power via the vote has not brought poor blacks in the sector any more real capital or employment opportunities. Gentrification has brought young white couples into the neighborhood, but their capital may be spent elsewhere in the city as they head out to work in the morning and return in the evening. Their capital sees no value in the southwest.

The “Vote the Black Slate” movement may help boost the self esteem of Atlanta’s black elite. Another black mayor gives them something to talk about during homecoming games and cocktail parties. What it does for blacks with no capital is another issue.