Opinion: City of Atlanta has capacity to boost annexation area

Since Mayor Kasim Reed took office in 2010, the City of Atlanta has acted upon 35 different annexation requests. Of those, 18 groups of petitioners requested annexation through the “100 percent method,” meaning 100 percent of the property owners on a given street or in a neighborhood wanted to be governed by the City of Atlanta.

On July 25, Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), Georgia Power, Villa International and the Presbyterian Synod of the South Atlantic became the latest group of petitioners to request annexation into the City of Atlanta through this method.

Why? Because Atlanta is an ascendant, global city with the ability to support the annexing institutions and leverage partnerships for smarter growth and economic development.

Atlanta is the most vibrant, culturally significant and international city in the Southeast and is the anchor of the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the eighth-largest state in America. We are a global force with a GDP of more than $305 billion – bigger than 30 states. Atlanta’s reputation as a global city is strengthened by this annexation. At 744 acres, this will be the largest expansion of the city since the annexation of Buckhead in 1952.

Working with Emory University, CHOA and the CDC, and with the support of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, we believe we can build one of the nation’s leading biosciences corridors. With the City’s winning track record on economic development, the 45,000 jobs that exist in the area today can easily become 65,000 over the next decade.

Atlanta’s elected leaders have delivered on the promise of efficient and responsive government. Atlanta is the safest it has been in more than four decades with skilled, diverse police and fire departments, and a crime rate that’s down 36 points since 2010.

We have built our cash reserves from $7.4 million when Mayor Reed was elected to more than $175 million today. We have delivered more services and balanced the city’s budget for eight consecutive years, without once turning to a property tax increase. We have moved our credit rating eight positions, to AA-plus, the second-highest credit rating that a city can have.

Atlanta residents have strong local representation, with a low ratio of residents to representatives. We have active neighborhood-participation networks through our Neighborhood Planning Units.

The City is fully committed to addressing all meaningful concerns about this annexation raised by the County or area residents. The petition will move through a multi-step public process, starting with the Zoning Review Board, committee meetings, and then a hearing by the full Atlanta City Council. The City welcomes all communities who want to be part of Atlanta, and we welcome engagement with the annexation process.

City leaders are determined to solve Atlanta’s traffic problem through expanded public transit. In 2016, Fulton and DeKalb counties declined the opportunity to present their voters with the option to increase the MARTA sales tax. The elected leaders of those counties made their position clear: greater access to transit and all the associated benefits are not a priority. Atlanta took a different path. We brought a referendum to voters that will generate $2.6 billion for the largest expansion of MARTA since its inception. With this funding, we have a plan to connect our neighborhoods and workers to our job centers in ways that will transform the city.

The Clifton Corridor is the largest activity center in the region with no direct access to the interstate system or MARTA. This annexation aligns institutions that need and want public transit with a city government that is eager to lead. Emory, CHOA and the CDC are ready to move forward, and the City of Atlanta is ready to serve.

Daniel L. Gordon is chief operating officer of the City of Atlanta.