Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Someone finally gets the story right

While the recent Wall Street Journal heralding The End of White Flight gets all the attention, it mostly rehashes points I think readers of this blog already know. For a much better article, Thomas Wheatley directs my attention to a fantastic story in Governing magazine on the changing racial demographics and politics in Atlanta. It's a veritable dorkgasm for a blog focused on real estate and local politics, and should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in city politics.

The article is jam packed with great info. Part of the reason that the City of Atlanta is getting whiter is because many middle class minorities are settling in the suburbs. Ever wonder just how much the 'burbs are changing?
Of the 10 counties in the nation with the largest declines in white percentage of the population from 2000 to 2006, six are in the suburbs of Atlanta.
This is one reason that a guy I knew laughed when Sandy Springs incorporated. "They'll have a Democratic mayor in ten years," he said, simply because the demographics are changing. I don't think it'll be that soon, but it will be sooner than a lot of folks think.

What I like most about the article is that it manages to capture the depth and nuance that is Atlanta and race relations:

"Old-timers are hopeful about what change means, because for the first time they've got a grocery store within walking distance and don't have to take a bus five miles to get food," says state Representative Stacey Abrams, a young African-American Democrat who represents a racially mixed — and gentrifying — district that includes Kirkwood. "On the other hand, when white folks come and start talking about how bad things are and how we have to fix them, it seems patronizing."

But if disagreements are inevitable when you bring together whites and blacks, old-timers and newcomers, poor and prosperous, suburbanite and urbanite, what is just as striking is an emerging Atlanta in which those distinctions are being set aside in favor of addressing basic concerns about quality of life. After a period of racial division, for instance, the Kirkwood homeowners' association has coalesced around the issues of public safety and improving the neighborhood's public schools.
It is too often that race relations and politics in the city get stereotyped and glossed over by the national media. Not in this article - although mostly because the author found knowledgable locals and let them do the analysis:
It's not that it has become unimportant, Bookman and others argue, but that the significance of race has changed. In Atlanta now, a citywide politician, black or white, can win only by talking to the electorate in all its current diversity. Winning requires the building of coalitions based on issues other than race.
Despite the fact that my previous handicapping of the Mayoral race focused a lot on race, I definitely agree with Bookman's take. Consider my previous handicapping as a starting point.

The author also interviews many of my favorite local politicians and activists: former state Senator (and my former employer) Sam Zamarripa, GALEO director Jerry Gonzalez, City Councilman Kwanza Hall, and State senator Nan Orrock. All of these folks are they type of forward-looking, results-based politics that Atlanta needs.

1 comment:

  1. Simply an incredible article by Gurwitt. I'm glad the guy's getting the credit he deserves for that piece.

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