SKG responds to post on privatizing cities

by reader SKG

The Fulton County Commission is a 7 member commision, with 5 elected by district, and 2 elected county-wide.

The result of this structure was that the residents of the City of Atlanta (and to a lesser degree South Fulton) completely controlled the County Commission by controlling 2 seats, and the 2 county-wide seats. This resulted in the appearance (and probably the actual fact) that infrastructure and other needs in the faster growing north were being ignored while considerable tax money was being redirected to Atlanta and other districts. The Fulton County Library System provides a good example of the process.

While over a third of the population lives in the north half of the county, only 5 out of the 34 library branches are in the relatively densely populated northern third of the county. Similar results are visible in the distribution of Senior Centers.

Probably equally dramatic would be spending on roads, etc. but that information is not easily available.

But even after the cities split off, many services are still provided by Fulton County, including education, health, libraries, etc. The biggest result of the changes were that police and firemen were fired by the County, and many hired back by the Cities. Zoning and other local land use will be handled by the Cities. And they will have more control over road improvements, etc. in their areas. Overall, I expect total taxes will rise in the new cities to handle the additional redundant courts, etc.

Grady Hospital, mentioned in the video, is funded by Fulton and Dekalb (a neighboring county) but receives patients from quite a few other nearby counties. (The Metro Atlanta area is now composed of 28 counties throughout much of north Georgia, and Gwinnett and Cobb, the 2nd and 4th largest in the area, do not contribute.) Fulton and Dekalb are naturally pushing to get support from those counties. There is a perpetual funding crisis that is currently more critical than usual and the state hasn’t stepped in to resolve the issue. This facility provides a great deal of subsidized care, but is also one of the few top-notch trauma and burn centers in the area. I’m sure the current financial difficulties will make this issue a bigger deal at the next legislative session. But this isn’t an issue related to the new cities at all.

So for whatever it is worth, the choice by Sandy Springs to go with a privatized government had little or nothing to do with any of the other issues raised in the video piece. Given the need to set up services in a hurry, and the fact that Fulton County was being very aggressive about suspending services in the area, it might have been largely a matter of convenience. (Some Fulton County Commission members were threatening to sell off park land in the new cities to developers, although an arrangement has been made for the cities to lease or buy the parks back.)

Maps and such below the fold.

The wikipedia article on Fulton County has some pretty good discussion about the creation of the new cities:

Here’s some interesting maps from the Fulton county government site….

Here’s a map with all the new cities (Milton, John’s Creek, Sandy Springs, and Chattahoochee Hills.) The proposed “City of South Fulton” failed at referendum.

Here’s a difficult to read, but perhaps explanatory graphic of population density.

.. and income for the entire county (although up north it probably should go higher than $60k). But the section in Southwest Fulton in green (>$60k) is a majority black area, so this isn’t strictly an income issue.

And a map with tables of population and race.

From this table:
North Fulton, combined, including the cities on this map. North Fulton, combined with the cities of Roswell and Alpharetta, had a population of about 290,000. This is mostly newer suburbs (many new in the last 20 years at least), with a very affluent population, which is about 90% white.
The City of Atlanta in Fulton County has about 385,000 people, about 2/3’s black. It is a wide mix of incomes, but includes many of the lowest incomes in the area.
The cities in South Fulton have about 135,000. Several cities are around 50% black, but some areas are 90+% black. Incomes are mixed, with some very affluent black suburbs in the west. There is a geographically large, but very thinly populated area in the far south-west that is basically rural.

(Slightly edited to fit our format and links…rdan)