And if the state won’t act, the situation is even more hopeless at the local level. We have an increasing multitude of governments in metro Atlanta, each bound to its own narrow interests, each jealous of the other’s success, each treating growth as if it were a zero-sum game. Cobb County steals the Braves from the city of Atlanta with millions of dollars in subsidies; Atlanta steals NCR from Gwinnett County. And even if it were possible to rally those individual entities in a common cause, no mechanism exists to give that consensus a means of being acted upon.
In pressing state leaders for action on transportation funding, the business community and others concerned about our future are addressing merely a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The state won’t act; local governments can’t act. Long-term, we have no alternative but a regional metro government that can tax regionally, plan regionally and most important build regionally. And if that regional government is to have credibility, it must also be elected regionally, with candidates directly responsible to voters.
Is that a longshot? Yes, for the same reasons listed above: State leaders won’t want to stick their necks out; local leaders will fear losing power. But we can develop the regional institutions and regional leadership needed to adapt to 21st century demands, or we can sit back and watch as others pass us by.