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This time of unrest offers the chance to take a different path forward and lead the Atlanta region, the South, and the nation toward a more equitable future. We must take the lessons (both good and bad) from our courageous past to realize a New Atlanta Way.
I wish I could say that last week’s Brookings Institution report stating that Atlanta has the highest income disparity of any big U.S. city was a surprise. But it wasn’t. As I read through the details of the analysis—which compares the ratio of the city’s top earners to those in the lowest fifth of household incomes—I couldn’t shake a particular mental image: a drive that I have made dozens of times in recent months while reporting a story for next month’s issue of the magazine.
The story of Turner Field and its neighbors is one of stunted vision, cynical opportunism, halfhearted reform efforts, and misguided renewal schemes. Millions of dollars have been squandered and hundreds of acres left vacant. Around here, thousands of people live below the poverty line while just a handful—some legally, some not—cash in, because it’s more lucrative to park cars on an empty lot eighty-one days a year than to clean up that lot, open a business, and operate it year-round.
It’s the ultimate example of Atlanta’s ahem, ballsy boosterism. On April 15, 1964, ground was broken for a new stadium. Never mind that the city didn’t have a baseball franchise and details of how it would all be paid for were still being sorted out. “We expect to be playing major league baseball here this time next year,” mayor Ivan Allen confidently told the New York Times.