Not so long ago, the Wall Street Journal highlighted 20 troubled American cities and how Chapter 11 bankruptcy appears to be the only option to wipe the slate clean and start over.
How can such a municipal mess be avoided? One suggestion may be to look at the city of Sandy Springs and its model for providing city services.
Ten years ago, when Sandy Springs incorporated, the model of outsourcing was viewed with skepticism. But as the community celebrates it first decade, evidence of accomplishments is in full view: miles of roads paved, new parks and construction underway to create an epicenter for the community. All accomplished without a tax increase.
Before cityhood, Sandy Springs was part of unincorporated Fulton County, and residents were poorly policed while paying high taxes for few services. That is why I made it my main mission to get the cityhood legislation ratified by the General Assembly, so it could go to the voters.
There was an unwavering desire for governance close to home, and that is what Sandy Springs has today. Those making decisions on behalf of the community live within that same community. There is a greater level of accountability. Accessibility also matters, and if you ask any of the members of the Sandy Springs City Council, past or present, they hear from their constituents frequently, via phone calls and emails, as well as in the grocery line and at local events.
It is gratifying to see the positive chain reaction that has occurred since 2005, with other cities and counties opting for more privatization of services. In addition to the business model, there is a sense of ownership within the Sandy Springs community. This is a city comprised of residents who feel empowered and who exercise their right to voice an opinion.
They also frequently back up the talk with action. The community is strengthened by its volunteerism, as is evidenced by groups such as the conservancy and Leadership Sandy Springs, which have been instrumental in the increase in parks and programs within the city. And both the police and fire departments have troops of volunteers providing assistance from house checks to manning water rehab tents during emergencies. They give. The city gives. It works.
As Sandy Springs celebrates 10 years, it’s a good time to say congratulations on thinking different, taking the risk and a job well done. It will be interesting to watch what we do as a community in our next 10 years.
Joe Wilkinson represents District 52 in the state House of Representatives.