In his first “State of the City” speech, Sandy Springs’ new mayor called for regional solutions to common community problems.
“We all have issues,” Mayor Rusty Paul told members of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 25. “It’s time we put some of those issues together and started working together. Atlanta is not our adversary. Dunwoody is not our adversary.”
Paul said metro communities need to work together to attract new businesses and to solve transportation problems.
“We’re all one county. We’re all one community, with the same goals …” he said. “Let’s work together and figure it out.”
Paul heads the government of a city created in 2005. It was the first of seven cities created in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties since that year.
A need for regional solutions to common problems, the mayor said, showed in the response to traffic gridlock in recent snow and ice storms. Sandy Springs workers cleared roads to the city limits, but drivers still couldn’t move their cars because the same roads remained blocked in adjacent communities, he said.
“We’ve allowed divisions [in metro Atlanta],” he said. “Milton County – I was involved in that. I’ve kind of decided to change my mind about some things. …
“We’ve allowed our divisions to divide us.”
To solve problems, individual communities, should be able to join to create regional entities when necessary, Paul said, pointing to the Chattahoochee River 911 Authority as an example. The authority, generally known as ChatComm is owned by two Fulton County cities, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek.
Asked about the 2012 failure of the regional transportation local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST, a proposed penny sales tax for transportation projects that was defeated by voters in a 10-county region of metro Atlanta, Paul said the defeat may indicate leaders tried to do too much with the tax.
“I think with the T-SPLOST, as it was done, we tried to bite off too much,” he said. “We tried to cobble together a solution that made everybody happy and as a result we made nobody happy and we lost.”
He said one solution may be for mayors of several cities to develop a plan and take it to the Legislature, rather than have the plan drawn by state lawmakers.
Paul, Sandy Springs’ second mayor, succeeded Mayor Eva Galambos. He jokingly introduced himself by saying “it is a privilege to be the first mayor of Sandy Springs not named Eva.”