First, former Governor and Mayor Ed Rendell, in addressing our group, offered an honest perspective on regional collaboration. Having served both as a mayor who dealt directly with regional politics and as a governor who arguably sat removed from regional concerns, his insight was credible and instructive. He urged us to pursue functional integration of strategy, planning and implementation — a difficult task when parochialism and personality trump practicality and vision.
Second, the ARC team allowed interactive feedback after most sessions. These sessions explored the good, the bad and the ugly in metro Atlanta. Our dialogue covered lessons learned, existing initiatives and ideas.
One lesson learned regarding T-SPLOST was that regionalism cannot be top-down. A groundswell of support is critical. We also learned that a path to regional transit has begun with one profound, yet incomprehensibly simple step — a unified website providing route information from every agency. The brainchild of a committee formed by state Sen. Brandon Beach, this step may become a stride with the creation of a unified fare system.
The most unexpected development came from Jim Rhoden of Cobb County. After touring the art mural program in inner-city Philadelphia, he proposed this concept as an initiative to galvanize and unify our region. The idea got more than praise; he raised $75,000 on the spot. Amazing that art in Philadelphia could spark such a profound step toward collaboration.
These simple notions can be key to tangible regionalism. We first must courageously believe baby steps are OK if we keep moving, and that immediate gratification is neither necessary nor reasonable. Our singular, but steady steps toward regionalism may be felt by the next generation. Big things of legacy usually have small beginnings. And regionalism is a big thing.
Onward and upward Atlanta!
Ceasar C. Mitchell is president of the Atlanta City Council.