"Atlanta Metropolitics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability"

                    Summary of paper prepared by Myron Orfield, Metropolitan Area Research
                    As the wave of social and economic stress grows in the older suburbs, tides of middle-
                    class homeowners sweep into fringe communities. Growing cities and counties, facing
                    tremendous service and infrastructure needs, offer development incentives that allow
                    them to capture the most tax base. In doing so, they lock the region into sprawling
                    development patterns that are fiscally irresponsible, foster automobile dependency,
                    contaminate groundwater, and needlessly destroy tens of thousands of acres of forest
                    and farmland.
                    In metropolitan areas across the country, communities like Atlanta's inner suburbs,
                    satellite cities, and low tax-base developing communities are beginning to realize that
                    the solutions to these problems are larger than their own jurisdictions and will require
                    cooperation with neighbors in the regional community.  This paper seeks to further the
                    processes of metropolitan reform in the areas of regional land use planning, regional
                    equity, and regional structural reform. It outlines the need for reform for the traditional
                    advocates of land use, housing, fiscal and governmental reform (such as
                    environmentalists, good government advocates and academics), while encouraging
                    new participants -   including elected officials and representatives of developing
                    suburbs -   to join the debate.
                    Key Findings

                         A decline in business opportunities in the older suburban areas of Atlanta
                         including DeKalb, Clayton, south Fulton, and inner Cobb   can be linked to a
                         loss of middle-class citizens.

                         Signs of change exist in suburban Atlanta elementary schools. Growing
                         segregation in schools is a sign of future social and economic problems
                         for a community. For example, the non-Asian minority school
                         population increased by more than 20% in fifteen elementary schools
                         located in suburban Clayton, DeKalb and Cobb county school districts
                         between 1992 and 1995. Some inner Gwinnett County schools also saw
                         increases of more than 20% in non-Asian minority students.

                         The older suburban areas are more fragile than the central city of
                         Atlanta, because they lack the large tax base of the downtown business
                         district, a gentrifiable housing stock, and a central location.

                         Some communities, particularly those in Gwinnett, Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette
                         and Rockdale Counties, are developing without enough tax resources for
                         public services or schools.
                        Jobs and economic growth are going north while workers for those jobs often cannot afford
                        to live close to those communities. As a result, the region has had to build enormous highway
                        projects to respond to the mismatch between housing and employment. As this gap grows
                        wider, congestion and pollution increase to unacceptable levels.

                       Thousands of acres of forest and farmland are becoming urbanized unnecessarily as the core
                       of the region is abandoned. Between 1970 and 1990, the region's population increased by
                       85% while the land area grew by 161%.

                Policy Recommendations

                      Create County and City property tax equalization - similar to the school aid system already
                      in place - that will keep property taxes down and services high in older communities and
                      ease the financial need to develop in low tax-base suburbs.

                      Include urban growth boundaries and transit-friendly development in plans for future growth
                      (as exists in Oregon, Maryland, California and Washington) and place greater emphasis on
                       mixed highway and transit solutions that solve congestion rather than make it worse.

                     Give residents of inner-Atlanta, stressed older suburban communities and communities
                     struggling with the impact of rapid growth more of a voice in Atlanta-area development
                     decisions by creating a more public and accountable regional planning process for the Atlanta
                     Regional Commission.
For additional information, contact Myron Orfield, 612/379-3926.