A census speeds Atlanta toward racially neutral ground

The home where Coretta Scott King raised her four children after the assassination of her husband is still neat and tidy. The yard even has a splash of begonias.

But opposite 234 Sunset Avenue, within what was once the most famous middle-class black neighborhood in America, is a row of frame houses sporting “for rent” signs outside nearly every other door.

And if you travel just a hundred yards north on Sunset, across Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, you enter — quite literally — a kind of no man’s land.

Tract 23 is ground zero in the depopulation of black Atlanta, a place where plywood windows are all the rage. In 2000, census takers counted roughly 2,700 people in the neighborhood. Last spring, the U.S. Census Bureau tallied 1,476. That’s a 45 percent decrease.

More than half the housing in Tract 23, in an area a stone’s throw from the Georgia World Congress Center, stands vacant.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2010 figures for growth-hungry Atlanta. Officials are still reeling at the news that — despite the boom of condo-building in the early part of the decade, and despite the Buckhead engine — the city’s population grew by a mere .4 percent over 2000.

The city’s official population now stands at 420,003 — a net gain of only 1,629 bodies in 10 years.

But such numbers scream of a status quo that isn’t there. Over that same period, 31,678 African-American residents fled the city — most of them living along and south of I-20. Meanwhile, the white population of Atlanta increased by 22,213.

A city that last month was thought to be 61 percent African-American is now, by the federal government’s count, 53 percent black. The home foreclosure crisis has sent Atlanta speeding toward racially neutral ground.

Surely, there are other reasons for black depopulation — the flood of ’09, an aging middle class, the end of massive public housing complexes, the lack of jobs, and the lure of the suburbs all come to mind.

But the results of a 2007 study by the Atlanta Regional Commission provides evidence that the home foreclosure crisis is the most likely villain. It, too, showed the Tract 23 region as the focal point for disaster.

“We meet the very definition of ‘distressed’,” said Ivory Lee Young, who represents Tract 23 and the rest of District 3 on the Atlanta City Council.

That trip to Britain last year by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, to discuss urban renewal with Prince Charles? Young was there, too. And the topic was how to revive Tract 23 and the surrounding area.

Young observed that, with a vanishing black middle class in the region, even the simplest economic wisdom is lost between generational cracks. Estate planning — the premeditated transfer of property from a deceased relative to a living one — is common on Atlanta’s north side. But not in Tract 23.

Such depopulation isn’t limited to Atlanta. This week, the U.S. Census Bureau declared that Detroit’s population had tanked by 25 percent over the last decade.

There’s every possibility that Atlanta will appeal the U.S. Census Bureau’s count of the city. The bureau’s own 2009 estimate had put the city’s population at 540,000. One number or the other is very wrong.

Because much federal and state money flows to cities based on population, an appeal would become important.

But if the numbers stick, the political implications for Atlanta could be profound.

For instance, Atlanta’s crime statistics would leap upward — not because of an actual increase in violence, but because the pool of potential victims has shrunk. It would be an immediate problem of perception for the city and its mayor.

Once district boundaries are redrawn, political clout on the Atlanta City Council and the school board is likely to shift north. And, most important, we now know that Reed’s slim, 714-vote victory over Mary Norwood in the 2009 race for mayor of Atlanta was no fluke.

Near racial parity in Atlanta could easily tempt a stronger opponent for Reed in 2013. You’ll remember that Shirley Franklin was nearly given a free pass for her second term. She faced only token opposition.

Significantly, the census reinforces the educated guess made by both Reed and Norwood in their bitter ‘09 runoff: That the citywide contest would be decided not by African-American voters, but by white — often gay — voters on Atlanta’s east side.

District 5, which stretches deepest into DeKalb County, has experienced the most startling transformation in the last 10 years. More than 10,000 African-Americans left the district. And 7,012 new white residents moved in.

District 2, which includes Midtown and all of Downtown Atlanta, added 11,466 people in 10 years — more than any other city council district. Only 535 of the new residents were African-American.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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50 comments Add your comment

Ennis

March 23rd, 2011
6:56 pm

Well, that would explain why Reed had to spend $1.6 million for those 714 votes. He knew that the 2009 Mayor’s race was the last go round for the Jackson Machine.

eddy

March 23rd, 2011
6:57 pm

And meanwhile, the crimes committed by blacks continue their sharp and continuous rise even with a dwindling black population within Atlanta. Just watch any local news channel for the next month. Robberies, shootings, rapes, assaults…is there a convenience store that hasn’t been robbed? No wonder people are exiting stage left and quickly. Schools..can you say APS and you need not say more. Detroit of the south brought to you soon.

Larry Durwood

March 23rd, 2011
6:58 pm

Change is a coming to Atlanta politics. Sooner than you think.

Centrist

March 23rd, 2011
7:27 pm

“There’s every possibility that Atlanta will appeal the U.S. Census Bureau’s count of the city. The bureau’s own 2009 estimate had put the city’s population at 540,000. One number or the other is very wrong.”

Gee, a self interested estimate versus a neutral detailed census – and we should wonder which is wrong? Not that it will matter – a POLITICAL adjustment to the census is likely.

BW

March 23rd, 2011
8:02 pm

We didn’t need a census to understand what gentrification is and has been doing to Atlanta over the last decade….which is fine by me….the sooner we clean up the image of Atlanta so that our suburban neighbors want to participate in regional solutions the better…I don’t care what the race of the mayor is.

ATL

March 23rd, 2011
8:03 pm

Stupid race-baiting comments aside– the loss of 120,000 folks continues to be baffling– the census bureau uses a pretty exacting methodology to determine poulation estimates– things like vehicle registrations and tax records… In any case, one thing is for sure–the folks at the census are either really bad at counting or at estimating…

mc

March 23rd, 2011
8:07 pm

Last Man Standing

March 23rd, 2011
8:26 pm

I got the standard census form by mail. Although I didn’t answer all the questions, I did fill out the appropriate part (what they were legally supposed to ask) and sent it back in. Is it possible that Atlantans trashed it in large numbers and just didn’t send it in?

td

March 23rd, 2011
9:02 pm

The conspiracy side of me would like to look at the estimates vs the numbers for Ill, NJ, NY, PENN and GA, NC, Fl and Texas. I would like to see if the same is true for the rest of the southern states and if the numbers are higher then the estimates in the northern states since this is an election cycle and these numbers represent electoral college members.

D-Bo

March 23rd, 2011
9:34 pm

td- what does electoral college members have to do with this? Blacks left the city, not the state.

Interesting figures. The same thing happened in Chicago when the CHA closed all the projects. The immediate neighborhoods around downtown became heavily gentrified, and crime moved to the south and west suburbs. Living in SW Atl, it would be good to have a more educated tax base.t

td

March 23rd, 2011
10:11 pm

D-Bo

March 23rd, 2011
9:34 pm

The rest of the article yesterday in this paper also talked about less actual population in Cobb, Gwinnett, Dekalb and Fulton counties. The total numbers were around 500,000. Between 500 and 600,000 is the range for an additional congressional seat and as such an additional vote in the electoral college.

Man Down

March 23rd, 2011
11:05 pm

Wow – it looks like affirmative action and preferential treatment for whites is nearly at an end in Atlanta. They are in the minority, right? Oh yeah – what was I thinking – blacks still continue to be the recipients of affirmative action and preferential treatment simply because they are black. Great policy.

scott

March 23rd, 2011
11:25 pm

ATLANTA??THE NEW DETROIT…THE WRITING IS VERY MUCH ON THE WALL,,KEEP IN MIND DETROIT WAS ONCE A VERY VIBRANT CITY..LOOK AT IT NOW..IT LOOKS LIKE A BOMB WENT OFF….

native

March 23rd, 2011
11:27 pm

@Man Down
I was born in Atlanta and have lived here continuosly for nearly 45 years. This is a great city. What made it great in the 60’s was a repudiation of racism.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

March 23rd, 2011
11:41 pm

Larry Durwood

March 23rd, 2011
6:58 pm
“Change is a coming to Atlanta politics. Sooner than you think”

You know how North Fulton County has been trying to breakaway from the rest of Fulton to form its own county, Milton County? Well this could be the opportunity for this political change without having to change the state constitution to allow for a 160th county, by allowing North Fulton and the new City of Dunwoody portion of North DeKalb County to break off and form their own county in exchange for merging the remaining parts of Fulton and DeKalb Counties together into a new “Atlanta County” that would function as a combined city-county government where all residents of the new county, or at least those in the current City of Atlanta and areas currently unincorporated could vote for the new expanded Atlanta city government.

milkJoe

March 23rd, 2011
11:49 pm

It’s BearClaw’s fault!

double

March 24th, 2011
12:03 am

Lost man you are still in the majority.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

March 24th, 2011
12:05 am

scott
March 23rd, 2011
11:25 pm
“ATLANTA??THE NEW DETROIT…THE WRITING IS VERY MUCH ON THE WALL,,KEEP IN MIND DETROIT WAS ONCE A VERY VIBRANT CITY..LOOK AT IT NOW..IT LOOKS LIKE A BOMB WENT OFF….”

No, Scott. Despite the City of Atlanta’s supposedly current troubles with sustaining population, Atlanta would have a very long way to go before it could even hope to want to be like Detroit. Detroit had two very violent race riots, one in 1942 and one of the worst of all time in American history in 1967 from which the city has never recovered. Add to the riots, an economy that was too heavily dependent on manufacturing and never diversified, a high-tax climate that was toxic to business for far too long until it was too late and really cold and nasty winter weather in which it starts snowing in November and sometimes doesn’t stop until May and you start to get the idea behind the reasons for the massive population drop in Metro Detroit and a steady population decline in the state of Michigan. Georgia is still one of the fastest-growing states in the union, despite the economic downturn while Michigan is one of the fastest-shrinking where the only problem with illegal immigration is from one of the few ethnic groups that will even consider moving to the state in Middle-Easterners. There was a statistic out a few years ago that stated that over 60 of Michigan’s 83 counties were losing population at an alarming rate.

cs

March 24th, 2011
1:02 am

maybe these are the estimates that left before the census?..Illegal immigrants are boycotting Georgia by the thousands, showing their outrage with Georgia’s new illegal immigrant are criminals and should be called such legislation by moving elsewhere.

In the city of Hotlanta , Manuel Renaldo is one of those who is punishing Georgia by leaving. As he loaded his stolen car with his belongings and family of ten, Renaldo told this reporter through an interpreter “It’s a matter of principle. I refuse to be supported by a state that treats me like a criminal.”

The effects of the exodus are being felt by Georgia retailers who are reporting dwindling thefts of beer, spray paint, and ammunition. Also hit hard are the state’s hospitals, which have reported a dramatic decline in births and emergency room visits. Tattoo parlors are in a state of panic.

Renaldo told a reporter through an interpreter “He and his family are moving to California, which is a state that will support him and his family with dignity.”

Rhonda

March 24th, 2011
2:09 am

Don’t forget that many people, including many Blacks, didn’t send in a census. There are actually people out there who are so paranoid, that they think that there is an ulterior motive behind the census. When I hear people talk negatively about the census, and about their rights, I tell them that, as a genealogist, and family historian, I dearly wish that my ancestors had all been able to even have the opportunity to fill out a census. Everyone should fill out and send in the census, if for no other reason than that your great great great grandchildren will know about you.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

March 24th, 2011
4:34 am

cs March 24th, 2011 1:02 am-

The illegals aren’t leaving Georgia because they’re scared of laws being enforced, if anything, the illegals are leaving because there’s no money to be made. The endless overbuilding and overdevelopment that North Georgia has experienced for much of the last 30 yrs at the hands of greedy land developers has ground to a screeching halt for the time being and as a result, many, but not all, of the illegals have gone back home south of the border to live like kings in a land where the national currency, the peso, is worth less than a U.S. penny. Make no mistake, whenever the economy picks up, both big business and small business will be falling over themselves to resume hiring as many as they can while undermining the living wages of legal American citizens and best believe that our state legislators who seem to be so concerned about the ill-effects of illegal immigration on Georgia will be tripping over themselves in a rat race to see who can grant the biggest loophole to their largest campaign contributors and big business cronies.

seabeau

March 24th, 2011
7:30 am

Alanta is going the way of most Democratic run cities like Detroit Mich.,Gary Ind., Camden NJ.. Middle Class Flight from the noise,crime,transportation struggles, failing schools . Grady Hospital is but a symptom of Alanta’s greater failings.

Reality

March 24th, 2011
7:42 am

UH-OH! Does Cynthia Tucker know about this?!?!?!?!

Buzz G

March 24th, 2011
8:05 am

Maybe if the illegal aliens pull up stakes, legal citizens will again be able to get jobs and our unemployment figures will come down from the stratosphere.

270mark

March 24th, 2011
8:31 am

C.S. , You deserve a Pulitzer. Well done.

Wordsmith

March 24th, 2011
8:46 am

You Atlanta bashers should know that kids can receive a very good education in many of the Atlanta public schools. Any college you can name has students from Atlanta public schools. The Atlanta city and county governments are far from perfect, and the school board is a mess, but this white, conservative 60-year old guy who has lived in the city since the summer of 1969 is happy to live in the city. Perception is not reality!

A Conservative Voice

March 24th, 2011
9:08 am

@native

March 23rd, 2011
11:27 pm
@Man Down
I was born in Atlanta and have lived here continuosly for nearly 45 years. This is a great city. What made it great in the 60’s was a repudiation of racism.

native – We’ll sell you the whole thing for $24 and a string of beads :)

ATL

March 24th, 2011
9:11 am

In the end Atlanta (the city) is a very good place to live– two kids in public school and they are getting an excellent education… I love the diversity, the open (and yes– liberal) attitude–
Looking for a green big city with an open mind and heart– Atlanta would be the place– despite its problems… The ‘burbs– narrow-minded and more than a little ugly… oh well– its all about perspective, I guess…

Mike

March 24th, 2011
9:16 am

Wow, some of you are MORONS. How is Atlanta turning into Detroit when uneducated poor black people are moving out of the city and educated white people with money are moving in???

In the next census, Atlanta will be a majority WHITE

Mike

March 24th, 2011
9:17 am

Wow, you people are morons. How is Atlanta turning into Detroit when uneducated poor black people are moving out of the city and white educated people with money are moving in??? Please explain this to me.

Cutty

March 24th, 2011
9:17 am

Seabeau- if you were shot, in a bad traffic accident, or any other traumatic event, you’d be at Grady so shut your piehole. You suburbanites use Grady, Hartsfield, and every other amenity that City and Fulton Co residents pay for. Stop leeching and pull your own weight.

atler8

March 24th, 2011
9:23 am

td
Since the conspiracy side of you would like to take a look, well then go ahead & do it. No one is stopping you from doing so. The 2010 figures & 2009 estimates are both readily available if you want to do a little research on your own.
But then you might risk debunking your own “conspiracy” theory. If you do research this, let us know the results.
By the way, I’ve taken my own look at the 2010 & 2009 numbers & the two states with the biggest 2010 shortfalls below the earlier 2009 estimates are Arizona & Georgia.

Centrist
Regarding your comment, “Gee, a self interested estimate versus a neutral detailed census…” Reread Mr. Galloway’s column please. The 2009 estimate was not put together by the City of Atlanta but rather by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the very same folks who did the “neutral, detailed census” count of 2010.
So your point is…?

Tancred

March 24th, 2011
9:25 am

Finally, some good news for Atlanta.

After moving here 12 years ago, it became clear to me after a while that Atlanta was clearly a black-run, dysfunctional city. And unlike Detroit, it did not have the excuse of a major industry going bust. All the dysfunction was self-induced. Fulton, Clayton, Dekalb (remember the sheriff shootings), MARTA, Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta Public Libraries (remember the 11 fired white librarians). And the foreclosure crisis? That was mostly fraudulent blacks taking advantage of ignorant blacks that lived beyond their means to begin with. I’ve never witnessed a populace that wanted (or felt they were entitled to) something for nothing as they do here. Pay day loans, Title Max, Rent-to-Own. Just look back at that article earlier this week about the woman who was in financial trouble because she owed 30K on her damn new SUV. She’s like the model for a whole lot of people around here.

Gentrification will occur, and I hope it does. First the gays move in and spruce things up, a few restaurants and coffee houses pop up, and soon actual neighborhoods develop. Blacks had their turn in this city and they blew it. They got political power and if they didn’t just outright steal from the taxpayers, they made sure they and their friends got the jobs and bennies. No Ferris wheels or Civil Rights Centers will improve this city. But an influx of whites eager to create a livable, thriving metropolis, a bastion of gay pride and commitment to real urban living, that’s what will put
Atlanta on the road to becoming a real, instead of a fake, World Class City. It would be good if the “good ol’ boy” white Republitards would leave in droves too. That, I’m afraid, will take some time.

Oh yeah, let’s bring back Freaknik. What a joke this city is.

(And no, it’s not ALL the blacks, but it sure is a lot of them)

seabeau

March 24th, 2011
9:26 am

Cutty!! I believe that Grady exists only with the State of Georgia’s help? Right!!! Right!!!

gm

March 24th, 2011
9:54 am

eddy

Turn on the news on any channels and you also see whites males killing, especially our serial killers in the out skirts of the city, and the worst crimes are the white Rep conservatives who are stealing from you idiots everday and you continue to vote for them.

jm

March 24th, 2011
10:06 am

Race baiting at its finest….Gotta love the AJC.

@Tancred…
I’ve heard a lot of blacks say the exact same thing that you have said.

Atlanta….Too busy to hate….What a Joke!!!!

Last Man Standing

March 24th, 2011
10:11 am

Dribble:

“Lost man you are still in the majority.”

I already knew that, Dribble. I hate to be the one to burst your little bubble, but I live nowhere near that cesspool known as Atlanta.

Last Man Standing

March 24th, 2011
10:14 am

gm:

“conservatives who are stealing from you idiots everday and you continue to vote for them.”

You’ve been listening to Rush again, gm! Congratulations on joining the informed folks!

Last Man Standing

March 24th, 2011
10:17 am

Tancred:

Good post and very accurate.

GA Democrat

March 24th, 2011
10:29 am

seabeau–Fulton and Dekalb Counties are the only two counties in Georgia that provide direct funding (approximately $80 million/annually) to Grady. The state provides support to Grady through trauma care funding, federal indigent care dollars and general Medicaid payments. At the end of the day, we should all be thankful for Grady’s trama unit facilities–the best anywhere in the state. Hopefully none of us will have to use that facility, but the sad fact is that some of us will.

Reality

March 24th, 2011
10:48 am

gm

March 24th, 2011
9:54 am
eddy

Turn on the news on any channels and you also see whites males killing, especially our serial killers in the out skirts of the city,

Oh really, name them. Or at least provide facts.

mum

March 24th, 2011
10:51 am

If I recall correctly, isn’t that the history of urban planning? The wealthy lived in the city and the “workers” outside the cities. After some time, the roles reversed once the workers moved to the cities to be close to the employment hubs, causing the money-class to run in the opposite direction resulting in the urban sprawl we now have. The educated, affluant population that once ran to the suburbs have come back to the cities for the easy access and sense of community that always existed in those small urban communities in the cities. They appreciate not having to sit in their cars going nowhere for hours per day. Every truly international city is like that…New York, London, Rio, Paris, etc., plus they all have superb transportation that doesn’t depend on cars. We need to get some light rail in her to be truly competitive. I really doesn’t care about the race of who’s in office so long as they work for the betterment of their constituents, which unfortunately, hasn’t been the case in most cities in recent history.

dribble

March 24th, 2011
11:02 am

Lost man the citizens of Atlanta are proud you live south of Atlanta or anywhere except Atlanta.

Tom

March 24th, 2011
11:05 am

Maybe is we counted all the people who live here, but keep their South Carolina plates we would get a better number.

Hushmo Black

March 24th, 2011
11:38 am

First of all is the us census counting the thousands of african american in the city of Atlanta that are un-employed somewhere around 25%, with no tax records, with no vehicle registration, with no voter registaion records because of felony records garnered while teenagers involved in minor drug arrests that left them at the mercy of a justice system that is more corrupt and does more harm to our community than the crime for which they were arrested for. It’s no wonder Blacks in this city are under counted and the phenomenon doesn’t start or end here here in Atlanta. It’s a systemic problem facing our community nationwide.

Mike

March 24th, 2011
12:05 pm

Tancred, I couldn’t agree with you more.

Last Man Standing

March 24th, 2011
12:42 pm

Double-dribble:

“Lost man the citizens of Atlanta are proud you live south of Atlanta or anywhere except Atlanta.”

Not nearly as proud as I am! I well remember my last day in Atlanta, 12/18/94. The muggers were muggin’, the car-jackers were jackin’, the Christmas shoppers’ cars were being broken into, a homicide here and there – just another day in Atlanta. The most beautiful sight I ever beheld was my last look at Atlanta – in the rearview mirror!

Decline is not inevitable, but the trends don't look good for the ATL

March 24th, 2011
1:08 pm

All politics aside, the last decade was a demographic disaster for the City.

If the City cannot add or keep families during the boom of the last decade, and benefit from the community capital they bring, when will they come? There is no room for true diversity under the City’s “new urbanist” theology that focuses on building cute condos over convenience stores, neglecting the social infrastructure that makes a city great.

A city is not sustainable when its population growth is based on alienated, underemployed, hipsters.

Pillsbury

March 24th, 2011
1:52 pm

Maybe it’s because I’m a native of this state (Augusta), but I’ve always loved Atlanta and I’ve never understood the people who bash it. And you know what? Almost everyone I talk to also loves Atlanta. Very rarely do I hear anyone speak poorly of the city (unless they’re talking about traffic). Crime happens everywhere; you can’t get away from it. Atlanta is not immune to crime or poverty but neither is it unique.

Also, what’s the deal with people comparing Atlanta with Detroit? Can you people not read? The city is getting whiter according to the article. That’s not Detroit. If anything, Washington, D.C. is the closest cousin to Atlanta.