Recent articles and emails have given me a sincere concern. Our city of Sandy Springs is described as having been formed on the basis of racism and that we are still guilty of “systemic racism.” My purpose in writing this commentary is to state very affirmatively that the accusations are not true.
No defense is required for the many volunteers who worked so diligently, for so long, to found this city. The organizers were entirely focused on providing a better future for our citizens. Surveys told us that the number one concern of the residents was zoning. Not zoning against minorities (who comprised 28% of the population at the time of incorporation), but protection against the county’s drive to increase the level of rental properties. The county commission had set an upper limit of 40% rentals, but had let it move up to 52%. We were aware that property owners are more involved in the community. They vote at a higher rate and show more concern about the maintenance and growth of the city. The county’s game plan seemed to be “build anything in Sandy Springs, but take their taxes to spend elsewhere.”
Never in the years that I served on the Organizing Committee was race discussed. My service included chairman of the Charter Commission, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Sandy Springs, and unpaid interim city manager. To claim that our volunteer work was racist in nature besmirches the reputations of all those volunteers. Founding Mayor Eva Galambos must be turning in her grave. There has been no indication that the succeeding mayor and councils have approved any racist activities. Mayor Paul, whom I hold in high esteem for his service, has issued a “mea culpa” in recent weeks. I think Rusty does himself and the community a disservice.
I have received emails from a couple calling for community “conversations” about systemic racism. I do not know them, but I am told that they are wealthy liberals who wish to impose their values on the community. You may ask, “What harm is there in just talking?” We have seen the harm at a national level. Unfounded talk about Russian collusion, amplified by the media, led to three years of divisiveness in our country. To open a fishing expedition in Sandy Springs about racism, where no real evidence of that racism exists, invites divisiveness in our community. We do not need to create, and then discuss, unfounded issues in Sandy Springs.
I do not intend to participate in such discussions, and urge others to forego the “opportunity.” If there are actual problems, they should be taken before the council for action. If they fail to act, then take it to the ballot box. That is the American way. Do not encourage loose talk that encourages demonstrations, which serve as a cover for small, violent groups to riot.
I am proud of Sandy Springs, and I pray that we will not succumb to the divisiveness and violence that other cities have experienced. The “conversations” that are proposed are an open door to such divisiveness and violence.