Quantifying the next City Council

The candidate roster is set for City Council, Mayoral and Board of Education elections in November. While early reporting has focused on new challengers taking on long-serving council members, the actual ballot numbers suggest that Atlanta will not see drastic changes in City Hall anytime soon.

Talk this summer has focused on an impending shakeup during the November 2017 Mayoral and City Council elections. While it is true that a new crop of ‘outsider’ candidates have entered the race, it is likely that 47% of the council will be filled with the same individuals as the past four years.*

At first glance it might appear that City Council is ready for change this coming November, as the number of qualified candidates running for a seat nearly doubled from the 2013 election field. But fifteen out of the sixteen City Council district members are vying for either re-election or a higher post (with several incumbents running unopposed). Within the Board of Education, eight out of the nine current members are re-running or running for seats higher up in City Council.

City Hall has been no stranger to controversy over the last legislative session. Since the 2013 election Atlanta City Council, the Office of the Mayor and the Board of Education have all been hit with ethics violations and internal corruption claims. November’s election will ultimately be a referendum on these twenty-three incumbents looking to maintain a position within Atlantan politics.

Where political shakeups are unlikely

Despite multiple high-profile controversies over the past few years, the latest polling by Landmark Communications/WSB-TV suggests that  ‘insider’ candidates have a strong early lead in the mayoral race. Three out of the top five candidates for mayor are all current or former city council members, suggesting that a familiar face is likely to hold the highest office in Atlanta next term.

A true ‘shakeup’ may be even less likely within the At-Large District Seats of City Council. The three At-Large positions are important because they can drastically shape the direction, priorities and demographic makeup of the council for the next legislative session. Yet two out of the three of these seats have an incumbent in the race. 

But what is more concerning for the future of Atlanta is that only one candidate for an At-Large seat in 2017 lives south of I-20.


Races to watch

All eyes have been on the mayoral race, as the legacy of Kasim Reed will be determined by an unlikely cast of characters.  Four candidates are current City Council members. Three others are well-known politicians from around the city and state. Four are political newbies.  Only three are female.

But district seats Four and and Eleven have pulled an incredibly large field of candidates. In the wake of multiple corruption scandals for current members Cleta Winslow, nine candidates have filed to run against her to represent Mechanicville and several surrounding Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods.

What this means for ATLproper

Passing laws for one of the largest capital cities in America is no small task. As the legislative wing of local government, City Council is key to the economic and social stability in individual neighborhoods and the city as a whole. Not only does the council oversee and allocate the city’s budget (currently at $637 million for fiscal year 2018), it also determines the outcome for everything from street names and monuments to the future of city transit.  However, only 93,759 people cast a ballot in the 2013 City Council/Mayoral elections, making it difficult to believe that City Council fully and accurately represents all of Atlanta Proper.

The voter registration deadline for the upcoming city elections is October 10. Check your voter status, or register online, here.

Continue reading “Quantifying the next City Council”


If there is one thing that brings Atlantans together it is our hatred of traffic. Whether you live off Ponce or near the Perimeter, traffic on highways and side streets is a defining part of our daily life.

But an interesting mix of new legislation and misfortunate infrastructure meltdowns this past week is putting public transportation options like MARTA and Xpress on the map as viable and necessary parts of our city’s proper vision for the future.

In the aftermath of the I-85 bridge collapse, MARTA studies suggest that ridership increased by over 50% on Monday alone. This comes on the heels of an increased sales tax rate to pave the way for building up the transportation system we so desperately need.

Changes to ATLproper’s transportation system:

1. New funding from taxes: As of April 1 the city’s sales tax is now 8.9% (up from 8.5%) in order to fund $300 million in transportation initiatives. This is an implementation of last November’s T-SPLOST vote for a 4/10 penny transportation sales tax increase.

2. New TOD (Transit Oriented Developments) building projects: Updates to the Edgewood-Candler Park MARTA station has spurred the construction of 273 new residential spaces and mixed-use retail spots. In addition, Place Properties and J.H. Russell & Company are taking over the King Memorial TOD from Walton Communities (awarded the project in early 2014) to develop 400 apartment units and a 10,000 square feet of retail space…the project will be breaking ground later this year.

3. New safety measures: MARTA just finished installing over 10,000 additional security cameras in stations across the city.

4. A more secure Breeze Cards that can be reloaded online.

5. An updated, mobile-responsive website that includes trip planning and historical trip ideas.

6. An open-source repository of their transportation data on GitHub for those who want to create their own research initiatives. Go crazy, data nerds of Atlanta!



What isn’t changing for MARTA anytime soon:

1. An expansion into Emory/CDC: The Georgia General Assembly voted down a ½ penny tax increase to fund the expansion of MARTA services throughout DeKalb County and the Clifton Corridor. The Assembly’s down vote means citizens of DeKalb County don’t even have a chance to vote on their own transportation future.

2. Driver Commute times: The new T-SPLOST project list will take years to tackle the mobility and access issues plaguing the current system. For commute times to decrease in any significant way, rail and bus expansion will need an additional $6 billion in funding ($3 billion expected to come from the Federal Government). Even with the new tax in place, it will take five years to implement plans.


ATLFF: Defining Atlanta through film

Known as one of the longest-running festivals in the country, The Atlanta Film Festival celebrates its 41st Anniversary this weekend. Screening 200 films from over 120 countries, this year’s festival has worked hard to rebrand itself as a prominent player among other Oscar-qualifying festivals around the world. And this rebranding effort has already paid off for Atlantans and for the city as a whole.

This year’s line up includes a curated list of every type of visual medium – from big-budget cinematic feats to puppet shows to VR films. And Wednesday’s lineup certainly showcased the wide creative breadth the Festival has to offer. Wednesday night gave audience members the chance to watch the upcoming Focus Features’ ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife,’ explore the Ferguson protests with ‘Whose Streets?‘, and even take in an eighty-minute block of new music videos. But it was the hometown documentaries that really captured the essence of the film festival as a whole.

The ‘Ah, My Hometown’ segment of short films explored everything from Atlanta’s place within the American South, our city’s role in changing journalism and the ethics of our state’s organ transplant system. ‘American Moderate‘, ‘7 Days’ and ‘Digital Edition‘ put a unique lens on how Atlantans and Georgians are front and center of some of our greatest national conversations.

These are the type of films that make us think about what the future of Atlanta Proper should be. If we want to be a World Class City for everything from medicine to art, we must be willing to explore our shortcomings as well as our potential and our achievements. And film is one of the most important mediums for capturing the changing story of Atlanta. Atlanta’s festival is particularly known around the country for celebrating LGBT films and filmmakers with the Pink Peach distinction, as well as focusing on films with female leads and directors with New Mavericks.

As Atlanta Proper grows as a production capital for the US, our Film Festival will continue to play an important role in the city’s growing film and entertainment industries. Tax credits signed by Gov. Nathan Deal have spurred close to 200 films and TV shows being shot in the Atlanta area, with an estimated economic impact of $7 billion.

While the Festival wraps up this weekend, there are still a few opportunities to see Georgia talent on the screen. An encore presentation of the ‘Ah, My Hometown‘ short films will screen on Sunday at 7 Stages Theatre and students at The Art Institute of Atlanta will showcase their work on Thursday night.

Watch some of the ‘Ah, My Hometown’ Short Films from Wednesday night:

Watch ‘Nadia’ – a 3 minute film following Atlanta Ballet’s Nadia Mara.

– Trailer for ‘American Moderate’

– 26 minute ‘Digital Edition’ by James Kicklighter

Additional resources:

-History of the Atlanta Film Society and the Atlanta Film Festival

Homegrown talent featured at the 2017 Atlanta Film Festival

11 ways the 2017 Georgia State Budget Impacts ATLproper

The 153rd Georgia General Assembly had 40 days to debate everything from tax codes to medical marijuana. But one of the largest issues on the agenda was passing a budget that would run the state for an entire year.

This year’s budget is $49 billion (with $25 billion coming from state funding sources, like state income tax and sales tax). It is now in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal, who has line item veto power over the proposed budget.

Passing a budget through both the State House and Senate is a unique challenge, given how diverse Georgia is in terms of demographics and geography. With over half of the state’s population living in the Metro Atlanta area, does the budget fairly represent and cover ATLproper and the rest of the Atlanta Metro? Understanding the budget breakdown is important, particularly as officials allocate taxes throughout our Blue city of Atlanta in the Red state of Georgia.

Below is a list of a few items that will have a noticeable impact on the people of ATLproper.

Impact On ATLproper:

1.  $105 million for new Georgia Supreme Court Complex on Memorial Drive 

2.  $55 million to increase exhibition space at the Georgia World Congress Center

3.  $485,000 to set up live video stream of State Committee meetings – making it easier for people all over the state to see what is going on inside the Atlanta-based State Capitol Building.

4.  $10 million (plus $100 million in bonds) for infrastructure improvements around the state – roads and bridges

5.  $745,223 for the Fulton County Board of Health district office (This is because last year Fulton County Board of Health was absorbed into the State Health Department after TB and HIV mishaps)

6.  $2.8 million to rehabilitate 32 Xpress buses and purchase 12 more buses (This is different from MARTA and it is run by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority GRTA. It serves Clayton, Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale counties)

7.  Teachers across the state will receive a 2% salary increase

8.  20% wage increase for state law enforcement officials, State Patrol Officers and those in the Bureau of Investigation

9.  College scholarship programs such as Zell Miller and HOPE could receive close to $49.8 million in additional funds. Another $16.8 million will go towards growing the Move On When Ready dual enrollment program for high school students looking to take college courses

10.  31% of the budget comes from Federal funding, which will go towards PeachCare, Medicaid, school nutrition programs and the Department of Transportation. Georgia Legislatures are still scrambling to figure out what the future of Medicaid and hospital health systems around the city and state will look like.

11. To pay for this budget, the state is raising the motor fuel tax by about 7 cents per gallon of gasoline and 8 cents for diesel, adding fees on electric cars and heavy trucks and is implementing a new $5 per night tax on hotel stays.

 2017 Georgia State Budget BreakdownGA State Budget Pie Chart ATLproperGraph from Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

The entire budget provides funds for everything from healthcare, infrastructure, cybersecurity and education for every Georgian. According to Gov. Deal’s prologue to the budget, the state as a whole has increased revenue, built up a $2 billion rainy day fund and maintained a AAA credit rating. Only 17% of the proposed budget is considered discretionary spending, with the rest going to non-discretionary programs (like Medicaid, unemployment insurance, The Head Start program and other essential building projects throughout the state). The budget goes into effect on July 1st.


Additional Resources:

  • https://georgia.gov/blog/2017-01-10/2017-legislative-session-has-begun
  • http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/SenateMembersList.aspx
  • AFY 17 State of Georgia Budget– link to the state budget – for those who want to nerd out on numbers and the direction of the state 🙂
  • https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/georgia/articles/2017-03-22/georgia-lawmakers-ok-49-billion-budget-with-teacher-raises
  • https://gbpi.org/2017/overview-georgias-2018-fiscal-year-budget/
  • http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2017/03/15/georgia-senate-adopts-record-25b-state-budget.html