Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, District 8, on Thursday, April 12, made a radical suggestion at the monthly Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting.
“I’d like for you guys to think about the whole city from time to time,” she told the group that is represented by more than two dozen Buckhead neighborhoods.
BCN Chairman Jim King told Adrean that the Buckhead community does invest in the whole city. It pays most of the taxes funding the school system. It donates to charities that serve needs throughout the city. He said the BCN is a group formed primarily to discuss issues related to the Buckhead area and it is serving that function well.
“If you want us to do something, Yolanda, give us our marching orders and let us know,” he said.
Adrean’s comments came after the BCN quizzed Tom Weyandt, Mayor Kasim Reed’s senior advisor for transportation, on what a proposed penny sales tax for transportation projects would mean for Buckhead. Another topic of the evening was Atlanta Public School’s controversial redistricting process. The Atlanta Board of Education approved its new maps on Tuesday, April 10, and the process left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, King said. He called it the “worst policy development on any issue.”
The North Atlanta cluster was largely unscathed by the redistricting process. The Pine Hills neighborhood was redistricted from Garden Hills Elementary into Sarah Smith Elementary and nearly 800 North Atlanta parents want two smaller middle schools instead of a sixth grade academy that feeds in to Sutton Middle. Aside from that, there were no major changes. Other parts of the city saw huge changes. Seven South Atlanta schools will close and the redistricting process raised racial issues for some of the parents there.
King, who blasted the redistricting process during the meeting, said Buckhead’s tax money bankrolls most of APS. Parents in favor of one larger middle school say it will be more diverse than two smaller ones. King said everyone is interested in the best possible education for their children.
“A majority of the (APS) budget comes out of the Buckhead community,” King said. “This is not funny. This is gamesmanship and it’s not right. We need to find out the best way to educate children in our system. I don’t buy into diversity unless someone can tell me that’s the best way to educate our system.”
Adrean said she made her comments because King and other BCN members were needling Weyandt specifically about Buckhead issues without considering the other benefits of the sales tax, known as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST. That issue will go before the voters on July 31. It is expected to raise $8.5 billion over 10 years for a 10 county area; 15 percent of that money will be discretionary spending for local projects. Weyandt said the city is in the process of drawing up a list to be funded with that discretionary money and the City Council could approve it in May.
Weyandt said the current proposal is to use the local TSPLOST funds only for projects that are funded entirely by the city. King pointed out that many of the city’s arterial roads, like Peachtree Road in Buckhead, are state-funded and wouldn’t be improved under the city’s current plan.
There are many significant regional projects proposed to be funded with the TSPLOST money, Adrean said. There’s the Clifton Corridor, an 8.8 mile light rail project connecting the city to major employers such as Emory and the Centers for Disease Control. There’s also the Atlanta Beltline, a 22 mile loop around the city utilizing old rail lines. That particular project has drawn the most criticism from North Atlanta residents who see it as something that won’t benefit transportation regionally.
Adrean said if the city can improve transportation throughout the city and spur economic development everywhere, Buckhead neighborhoods might not have to carry as much of the tax burden.
“We have to work harder to make sure other parts of the city are economically viable,” she said.