Inequity across the region

So the Atlanta Braves want to build a $672 million stadium and $400 million entertainment district in Cobb County. The high-end development would have retail shops, restaurants, possibly a hotel and 30,000 parking spaces near the Cobb Galleria and I-285.

There are already enough political, civic and business leaders debating whether the Braves should leave Turner Field. I implore Braves management and metro Atlanta leaders to broaden the discussion to a more fundamental level:

•Will sustainable revitalization finally be created for Atlanta communities that have borne the burden of living near a key economic driver for decades without any economic benefit to themselves or their neighbors?

•What will be done to ensure jobs for the people who want to work in the hundreds of positions the new Cobb development will create?

Recently, the Partnership for Southern Equity revealed the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, the South’s first equity mapping project. The atlas contains the findings of a two-year study that pinpoints resource imbalances throughout the 28-county region that perpetuate prosperity for some and poverty for others. InAtlanta, some communities enjoy wealth while others — such as Summerhill, Mechanicsville and other neighborhoods near Turner Field and the Georgia Dome — struggle.

A key finding of the atlas is that the need for regional public transportation is now greater than ever. Baby Boomers are the largest-growing population segment in metro Atlanta. In time, they might need to rely on public transit.

Suburban sprawl has made metro Atlanta car dependent. Ask someone in Clayton County without a car how difficult it is to compete for a job in Gwinnett County. Our communities and businesses suffer without a well-connected transportation system.

In the last decade, the suburbs experienced the largest population growth. More than 1 million people moved out of the city in search of better housing and educational opportunities for their families. Ninety percent of that growth came from minorities. Suburban poverty increased from 8 percent to 11 percent in counties with an abundance of jobs.

How does poverty increase in areas with jobs? Because poor people sacrifice to live in places where schools and jobs are located in spite of the “inequity tax” they pay.

I like to tell people that if you are waiting for Superman to save your community, don’t hold your breath. The Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas is more than an information tool. It is a tool people can use to empower movements for change. It is the partnership’s hope that not just community development corporations, nonprofits and business and civic leaders find it useful. We will be showing the average person how to extrapolate information from it and compare resources in their neighborhoods to those of others. It can help bring people together. We are the super heroes we’ve been waiting for.

To review the report, visit http://www.atlantaequityatlas.com.

Nathaniel Q. Smith Jr. is founder of the Partnership for Southern Equity.