Thinking about interdependence

Having duly celebrated on Thursday this nation’s long-ago parting of ways with England, it can be worthwhile now to examine a more local application of independence.

The word is often mentioned here in a local context.

There’s no doubt that this is a metro area comprised of strongly independent enclaves offering a wide array of lifestyles. And there are no regionally elected officials in our midst, unlike in some other cities that we’re normally compared against. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

It’s thus clear that independence is deeply revered around here. We would suggest, though, that interdependence should also have a substantial place in our civic life. A region this large is often faced with challenges likely best solved by cooperative effort on either a large, or small, scale. Not coercion, mind you, just smart collaborative work when there’s mutual benefit or efficiencies to be gained.

We tried this in a big way with the 2012 T-SPLOST referendum on a project list approved by a roundtable of appointed, local officials. In that instance, the Atlanta metro had to follow a process spelled out in the Transportation Investment Act. Local officials did just that, and we all know what happened next.

In fairness, we’ve seen examples of productive cooperation across borders here. Officials have long worked together to address our water challenges. And Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta have, for decades, taxed themselves to provide funding for MARTA.

Such cooperation where it’s mutually desired is in keeping with current best practices. In the 2012 report “America’s Metro Regions Take Center Stage” by consultants Citistates Group, they write that, “The metropolitan regions in the United States are entering, however cautiously, a critical intersection. Some will figure out a formula to coalesce around common interests and find a way to thrive in the new realities. Others will not, and will see their economic prospects wither.”

Against the recognition that some issues are simply too large for one city or county to fix, we asked four local civic leaders to examine how independence should mesh with interdependence in this metro. Their analyses are below.

We all know that opinions vary widely on how to address our common problems. We can, however, generally agree on the challenges that we jointly share. That’s the first step toward reaching solutions that respect both independence and interdependence.

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