Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and members of the City Council following a June 6 protest where Paul spoke to the crowd.

Thank you for taking the initiative on Saturday, June 6, to discuss issues of race, community and equity. These are important topics, timely, and ones that affect the very fabric of society.

Two recent quotes attributed to you intrigued me. The first, “We have to begin the process of trying to eradicate racism from our community. We can’t do anything about the world, the country or the state of Georgia, but we can do something about our community.” I fully concur. Your statement encapsulates the historical context that sullied our past, hampers our present, and constrains our future unless we effect proper change. I ask what specifically do you propose from a structural policy perspective to effect needed change?

The second attribution highlights the internal struggle with race that you — and many of us who grew up in an earlier, less socially conscious era — consider as both a challenge and attitude that must change: “I spent my life trying to pull the weeds of racism out of my head, out of mind, and overcome the things that I was taught as a child. It’s something that we all struggle with, but it’s time that we begin to address this at a very deep and fundamental level.” Here, too, the question posed above remains. How do you intend to move the community from one of exclusion — intentional or not — to one that embraces inclusion?

I believe that most, if not all, Sandy Springs residents desire a prosperous city. One that remains vibrant and provides an array of opportunities across the socio-economic spectrum to benefit every resident. We can conceptually agree to create a cityscape and environs that contribute to the overall well-being of its residents and supports harmonious community relations. This may include increased green space; interconnected and walkable mixed-use communities; an array of city services and cultural activities with appeal to a broad swath of individuals from varied socio-economic and cultural backgrounds; and enhanced intermodal and accessible transportation as well as thoughtful and creative land use to foster more available affordable housing options that attract young, often single, professionals, provides options for lower- to mid-income families, and enhances opportunities for small business to flourish.

With several large corporations within city limits, why not consider various public/private partnerships and other creative, well-established and beneficial financing options such as land trusts to create the environment you seek and wish to promote?

What would attract younger professional and entrepreneurial individuals to Sandy Springs? How do we provide housing and other opportunities for those individuals — almost 17,000 in number at pre-pandemic levels — who work but can ill-afford to live in our community due to an unrealistic affordability index? How can we provide viable housing choices for our first responders, teachers, healthcare workers and many others across business sectors who earn a decent living but cannot afford housing within the city? What steps are we willing to take to create the necessary environment to live, work and play in Sandy Springs so as to promote a sustainable broad-based economic recovery?

These and many other issues are structural in nature and can be addressed through various means but start with intentional public policy that opens the door to effect change. The issue is translation from platitude to intentionality of purpose.

With at least four areas of the city currently under review for redevelopment, the opportunity to accomplish something great and move away from further gentrification is at hand. The time to turn wishful thinking into reality is here! What you do now matters! Will it be more of the ineffectual sameness or will it create the kinds of opportunity across the socio-economic spectrum that social justice demands as we strive to create equity and opportunity for all whom you speak to?

Jerry Tiarsmith
Sandy Springs

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