Atlantans share commonalities, whether we live in Stockbridge or Suwanee. We waste hours in traffic, and worry about neighborhood schools or the foreclosed home down the street. In the broadest sense, we share a common destiny.
That makes it worth pondering how we can better work together, neighbor with neighbor, to improve our lives, communities and region. That’s as American a concept as it comes, talking earnestly amongst ourselves to identify common challenges, then finding ways to resolve them to mutual benefit. Who of sound reason can oppose that?
As of August 1, that became a tougher task around here after voters sent down the T-SPLOST to landslide defeat.
That vote was seen by many as a stark repudiation of both regionalism and the unanimous approval by elected leaders of the transportation tax’s much-maligned project list.
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, doesn’t see that as an end to working together as a region. Neither do we. During the ARC’s State of the Region breakfast last month, Leithead praised the unanimity of the area’s political leaders around a common cause. Such actions are a necessary tactic for success in a competitive nation and world economy, we believe. Winning metros in this global game will master the art of reasoning together. Losers will unproductively bicker in arenas of circular arguments, leaving vital work undone.
In seeking to dispel any thoughts of a post-T-SPLOST regional funk, Leithead proclaimed that, “Now I believe excellence is not only within our reach, but assuming we can all work together … excellence is virtually guaranteed.”
To bolster his point, Leithead quoted Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 message to Congress. Lincoln wrote that, “We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘can any of us imagine better?’ but, ‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
Logically, that means the Atlanta metro must now think about regional cooperation in a new way. If acting across 10 counties is not now politically acceptable, then we should break down our common problems into smaller chunks and begin to address them county by county, even city by city, if need be. Such a micro approach to problem-solving seems to be gaining ground here among some leaders and civic thinkers, and that is a good thing.
Using the smaller building blocks of, say, two counties working together on mutually agreeable projects, rather than working under a 10-county umbrella, can get done much-needed work.
And we have many big jobs that urgently need to get done here, improving transportation especially, but in other areas as well. We all know that. So let’s start collaborating to resolve them and build a more-prosperous region in the process.
Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.