Atlanta’s Political Structure, Key Partnerships, City Management, Best policies
Regarding the structure of the city government, the City of Atlanta has more of a reform model rather than a political model. According to Robert England (2017), the reform agenda includes a council-manager plan, nonpartisan ballots, and at-large constituencies part of the progressive era. However, as the state’s capital, it gets a strong influence on a political model as well. In short sum, the city has a mixture of both models. As a city of Georgia, Atlanta has a reform model, but as Georgia’s capital and the headquarter of the Georgia State Governor’s Office, it has a political model.
Like the City of Augusta, Atlanta has a government structure with a mayor and special districts with commissioners. The commissioners also serve different roles in the different branches of Atlanta’s executive offices. Atlanta has both a mayor, the executive branch, and a city council team, which serves as the legislative branch. The president of the city council service kind of like a vice-major in the structure. There are also three other at-large councilmen (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021). While mayor-council governments are typical in the smallest and largest municipalities, the council-manager plan is popular with the mid-sized city (England, 2017). Contrastingly, unlike Augusta, The City of Atlanta and Fulton County are not consolidated. Atlanta is unique for its dual approach; this type of government structure has many red tapes and is not as efficient.
Atlanta has a Chief of Staff that serves as an advisor to the mayor, acting as a City Administrator. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms serve as the executive officer, similar to an administrator who has the power to execute and enforce provisions of all departments of the city. Atlanta has 15 different offices and agencies (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021). Furthermore, instead of a City Manager, the City of Atlanta employs a Chief Operating Officer (COO). The COO “directly manages and oversees all city operating departments and related agencies including Aviation, Police, Fire, Corrections, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Planning and Community Development, Public Works, Watershed Management, Human Resources, Procurement, Information Technology, Sustainability and Enterprise Assets.” (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021)
One of the policies that I appreciate is the formation of diverse committees. Atlanta also has different committees and councils that are comprised of members-at-large in the local community. These are non-paid positions and representatives of the community. For example, the Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee comprises many business owners, education leaders, and directors of non-profits (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021). Furthermore, Atlanta Fulton County engages with citizens by offering public participation to their board meeting via zoom and form a focus group to survey for social research. In addition to that, Atlanta also has reports available for download and states a straightforward way to contact them on their website (Mosaic Community Planning, 2019).
Another policy that Atlanta had seen success in is its incentives for fostering public-private partnerships. The City Council has signed contracts with private developers on projects like LCI to create a more sustainable redevelopment project. An excellent example from the past is the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) plan; it focused on transit-oriented development in the city’s planning efforts (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). Public and private partnerships with business, financial and non-profit communities are key to spurring quality job creation and investment throughout the city’s neighborhoods (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021). Atlanta’s Bureau of Planning and Development provided information and advice to the mayor and city council, and other city officials to assist them in making decisions about the growth and development of the city. It also collaborates with non-profit organizations such as the Historic District Development Corporation.
Overview of Atlanta’s Community
Listed as the 9th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, the City of Atlanta, Georgia, was founded in 1837. Its 2015, the population was an estimated 437,077 (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). The majority of Atlanta, around 90%, is in Fulton County; the other 10% is in DeKalb County The racial composition of Atlanta in 2014 was estimated to be 53% black, 40% white, 5% Hispanic origins, 4% Asians, and 2% two or more (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016).
Atlanta full-heartedly embraces diversity, as it is coined the birthplace of civil rights. The city learned from its long mistake of segregation and made a breakthrough during civil rights. The city’s comprehensive plan credits its vibrant economy to the diversity of its people, places, activities. The city stated that diversity, connectivity, and synergy are among its development principles (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). There are 12 districts that organize the city. Council President is elected from the city at large. The council consists of 15 members, 12 elected from single-member districts and three elected at-large.
Atlanta’s Community Assets
Downtown Atlanta is a very bikeable, walkable, and pedestrian-oriented community. The city’s continuing effort to offer various safe and affordable transportation options, such as sidewalks, streetscapes, greenway trails, bike lanes, and handicap accessibility. In recent years, the City converted shared bike-automobile lanes and a few parking spaces to designated bike lanes around Piedmont Park (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016).
Atlanta is well known for its BeltLine, connected to Ponce City Market, residential lofts, public transit, and is walk and bike-friendly. According to the Department of Planning and Community Development (2016), the agency, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., connected 45 in town neighborhoods via a 22-mile of repurposed old railroad tracks that encircled the city.
Another feature that Atlanta attracts people to move there is that the economy of the city is very prosperous and sustainable. The metro area alone is home to Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest aquarium, and over a dozen other Fortune 500 companies. Atlanta continues to be an attraction and hub for business as it is home to the world’s busiest airport. “The Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the City of Atlanta are committed to actively recruiting new companies to the region” (the City of Atlanta, Ga, 2021).
Last but not least, my personal favorite about Atlanta is that it is known for diversity in people, culture, and cuisine. There are many concentrated areas of minority-owned businesses in the surrounding metropolitan area. A notable example is the stretch of Buford Highway NE, in Doraville, which contains many Asian-owned businesses. Furthermore, the City of Atlanta (2021) encourages diversity of languages as well. Per Code of Ordinance sec. 114-140, the City incentivizes employees who speak a second language or are willing to learn another language, particularly Spanish. Employees have to maintain their proficiency to continue this bonus.
Residents of Atlanta’s quality of life
Atlanta is a prosperous city that draws many residents to move there. The city is very progressive, inclusive, and has many high-caliber economic opportunities. Atlanta is the South’s shining star, a vibrant city with an outstanding quality of life. The city government’s focus on teamwork with private organizations continues to pursue intelligent economic development that benefits all Atlanta’s residents.
As Georgia’s capital, it is hard to miss the compelling statistics on Atlanta’s success as a business hub. Several startup companies or independent developers can uncover Atlanta’s support and resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Explore our blueprint for livable urban design and workforce development ideas. The metro Atlanta area is home to 13 Fortune 500 and 24 Fortune 1000 headquarters (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). The Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, corporate executives, relocation consultants, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are committed to actively recruiting new companies to the region. Public and private partnerships with business, financial and non-profit communities are key to spurring quality job creation and investment throughout the city’s neighborhoods.
Atlanta’s economic, environmental, and social sustainability
Social sustainability in Atlanta is boosted by many higher education and research institutions in the city, such as Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, and a few others. There are also smaller community-sized colleges in the city that offer a different approach to help current residents and attract potential residents to build a career (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). These large institutions help both experienced and budding professionals build a network and allow them to hone their expertise and unique skillsets for workforce development, job attainment, and career advancement. In return, it will boost the city’s already very well-established economic development. According to England (2017), economic development is very competitive and risky with entrepreneurial and is synonymous with city planning.
Another effort that the city has brought forth to improve social and economic sustainability is neighborhood stabilization and affordable housing Production. They fostered collaboration between the Atlanta Housing (AH) and the private-sector developers, acting as a catalyst to attract investment (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). Furthermore, other transit-oriented housing developments focus on establishing commercial corridors and neighborhood centers. Having a strong, diverse economic base can provide a range of businesses and employment opportunities that meet City residents’ needs. Continuation to revitalize Atlanta’s downtown because it serves as the city’s heart and soul will help ensure its major employers’ vitality (Department of Planning and Community Development, 2016). Economic development has become the strategy to improve the economic base and make the community more attractive to private investments. Urban planning is directed toward activities that support the economic development of communities (England, 2017).
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a national effort brought together by US Green Building Council to lower the impact that the building has on the environment, focusing on energy efficiency and self-sustainability in design (US Green Building Council, 2021). It also has more construction requirements, such as the source of building materials needs to be within a certain radius of the site. Many architects in the Atlanta government encouraged private developers to contribute to that effort, ensuring their design is LEED-certified, with different tiers of certification, silver, gold, and platinum (US Green Building Council, 2021). For example, the center of Greenbuild activity is the LEED Gold Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Georgia Falcons, and the Expo Hall for conferences and events (Benjamin, 2019).
In 2017, the city council updated an ordinance to include requiring LEED certification for new construction. In 2018, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the nation’s busiest, became the first airport in the world to be awarded precertification under the LEED for Communities program. In 2019, the city exceeded its energy goals in the Better Buildings Challenge by more than 20 percent (Benjamin, 2019).
Atlanta’s Non-Wealthy Communities and Past Successes or Future Plans Regarding Affordable Housing
As the largest housing authority in Georgia and among one of the most prominent in the nation, the Housing Authority of Atlanta provides and facilitates affordable housing resources for nearly 22,000 low-income households for almost a century. The city was the first to work on a federally funded public housing project in 1934, called Techwood Homes; it replaced what was known as a shanty town and opened for occupancy in August 1936 for low-income families, primarily for whites. The Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta, commonly known as AH, was formed the year after 1938 (Atlanta Housing, 2021).
The first black president of Morehouse College applied the Techwood Homes model to the planning of University Homes, a public housing project for black families on Beaver Slide slum (Atlanta Housing, 2021). He hoped to brighten the city’s most underserved communities to better the city overall as a whole and aid the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was initially very successful in desegregating the neighborhood, and black residents slowly integrated with the white neighborhood. However, the success was short-lived. The white families started to move out, and when the property was left with predominantly black residents, the racially motivated city administrators at the time purposely neglected the building. The building slowly evolved into slum-like conditions over time. Techwood later is demolished in preparation for the 1996 Olympics. The property, later acquired by Georgia Tech, was redeveloped for student housing (Atlanta Housing, 2021).
Since Techwood, there were a few other public housing projects created. However, by the year 2011, Atlanta would eventually demolish all the housing projects conceived from the 1930’s public housing. Replacing in their place would be mixed-income housing projects, and other federal US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) based subsidized housing. However, HUD projects have a noticeably smaller impact as they were intended solely to provide vouchers to those with adequate needs and an ability to pay the remainder of living costs. Meanwhile, AH now operates and overlooks most of the mixed-income and senior living homes around the city of Atlanta.
Learning from the city’s past success and failure, AH vows to bring more public housing projects in modern ties. In FY 2019 alone, AH has served almost 25,000 households, provided over $5.5 million in monetary assistance, and created over 1,500 units (Atlanta Housing, 2021). According to the Department of Planning and Community Development (2016), the number of units permitted in Atlanta has increased steadily since 2010. There were 89,781 housing unit permits between 2000 and early 2016, almost 85% of which were in multi-unit structures. These types of units are attractive to one-person households as well as small households.
Furthermore, AH is also focus on green energy in housing. To reduce environmental footprints, AH focused on focus to AH-owned buildings to improve their “water conservation upgrades, weatherization, HVAC upgrades, lighting replacements, and natural gas boilers.” (Atlanta Housing, 2021) Following the Energy Star ratings, 6 out of 10 AH-owned buildings perform better than other public housing nationwide peers (Atlanta Housing, 2021).
The City of Atlanta announced its clean building ordinance in 2015; AH was the first to be compliant (Atlanta Housing, 2021). Each year, AH and many other entities voluntarily report our energy and water consumption to the city, intending to benchmark and lower these numbers (Atlanta Housing, 2021). Furthermore, in 2013, AH joined the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge. They were tasked with reducing their portfolio-wide energy consumption by 20% within ten years, and they are on track to exceed that benchmark. At the end of FY 2021, they already reduced energy efficiency by 15%, equivalent to almost $4.7 million (Atlanta Housing, 2021). This AH acts as the catalyst for providing housing assistance to the city, and it also takes housing to the next level to incorporate green energy. AH’s effort and achievement serve as an inspiration and motivation for others to join the movement.
Benjamin, H. (12 November 2019). Green places to see in Atlanta during Greenbuild 2019. US Green Building Council. https://www.usgbc.org/articles/green-places-see-atlanta-during-greenbuild-2019
US Green Building Council. (2021). Why LEED certification. US Green Building Council. https://www.usgbc.org/leed/why-leed
the City of Atlanta. (31 March 2021). Code of Ordinances. https://library.municode.com/ga/atlanta/codes/code_of_ordinances
the City of Atlanta, Ga (2021). The Mayor’s Cabinet. The City of Atlanta, Ga. https://www.atlantaga.gov/government/mayor-s-office/executive-offices/the-mayor-s-cabinet
Department of Planning and Community Development. (2016). City of Atlanta 2016 Comprehensive Development Plan. City of Atlanta. https://www.atlantaga.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=23571
England, R., Pelissero, J., & Morgan, D. (2017). Managing Urban America (8th ed.). SAGE CQ Press.
Mosaic Community Planning. (2019). Atlanta and Fulton County Consolidated Plan and Fair Housing Study. City of Atlanta. https://atlantaconplan.com/
Office of Housing & Community Development. (2021). Inclusionary Zoning and The 2020 IZ Report. City of Atlanta. https://www.atlantaga.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=49832
Atlanta Housing. (2021). AH History. Housing Authority of Atlanta. https://www.atlantahousing.org/about-us/ah-history/