Whew! 2009 is almost behind us; and good riddance! The Great Recession has hammered much of our state. A federal judge told us the water we thought was ours, isn’t. For the third year, our state Legislature failed to resolve our transportation funding crisis. And this is the short list.
So what needs to happen for 2010 to be full of sunshine, instead of a year of prolonged darkness?
First and foremost, Georgians need to understand that we are all in this together. Without a healthy Atlanta region, the state suffers. Without progress outside the region, the Atlanta region suffers. Unless we cast aside the two-Georgia mindset, we will never achieve meaningful progress on any important issue.
Second, it will take courageous leadership and action from the Legislature, from the governor and from the leadership of state departments to make and implement the difficult decisions. The more we continue to punt instead of going for it, the more difficult and expensive will be the ultimate solutions to our problems.
Third, what are the most important issues we face? I believe they are how we fund transportation and how we spend those funds, and determining to resolve our water resource challenges. Without prompt action on these issues, the health and prosperity of the Atlanta region and the state will suffer.
We must find new sources of transportation funds and we must diversify our portfolio of options. Each region in the state needs the flexibility to determine the right mix of transit, roads, sidewalks and bike lanes to meet its needs. Supporting operations and maintenance should be allowed in any funding bill. And the construction of rail to connect Georgia’s cities will best bring us together in a way that will promote more sustainable economic development, unite us as a state and respond to federal priorities.
Regarding water, we must implement both greater conservation and continued, earnest negotiation with our neighbor states. Interstate and intrastate squabbling must yield to earned trust.
We are at a pivotal moment for both our state and region. Addressing these issues during fiscal crisis makes the job even tougher. But if we can pull together and summon the courageous leadership to act now, we can look for 2010 to be an excellent tonic for 2009.
Jim Durrett is executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District and a MARTA board member.
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