At first glance, it might seem an insignificant story; the approval by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed of a 50 percent pay hike for the members of the Atlanta City Council, which they voted on back on December 3 [Atlanta Mayor lets Council pay increase become law, wants to talk raises for employees, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 14, 2012].
|12 of the 16 members are black; Atlanta is 54 percent black and 36 percent white|
So what does a 50 percent pay raise mean for the 16-member Atlanta City Council? [Atlanta City Council votes for 50 percent pay increase, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 3, 2012]:
Atlanta City Council representatives could get more expensive come 2014. The council voted 10-4 on Monday to raise salaries by more than 50 percent for members who will take office in January 2014, after next year’s election.
The pay increases of roughly $20,000, pushing the pay for the City Council and its president above $60,000, appear to be the largest in Atlanta’s history. The vote is the latest move in an escalation of salaries that stretches back to at least the 1990s.
With the upcoming pay spike, the City Council’s pay will have nearly tripled in twelve years, creating a potentially potent issue for challengers in next year’s elections. The controversial vote also sets up tense talks with city employees about their own promised increases.
The ordinance was based on the findings of an advisory group that spent about eight months studying the issue. With a separate across-the-board pay increase for city employees held up in committee because of uncertainty about the city’s property tax collections, the City Council’s pay increase sparked a wave of criticism in online forums and during Monday’s meeting.For those wondering, 12 of the 16 members of the Atlanta City Council are black; three are white; one is the first openly homosexual and Asian member of the council (killing two diversity birds with one stone).
In 2010, the U.S. Census of Atlanta reported the city has 432,437 citizens, of which 54 percent are black and 36 percent are white (despite having almost all the political power in Atlanta, this hasn't translated into economic power: only 30 percent of the businesses are black owned in the city).
It wasn't until the late 1960s that black people became the majority population of Atlanta, and though the city briefly flirted with the dangerous tipping point of going 70 percent or more black (addressed by Tamar Jacoby in her book "Someone's Else's House"), white people are moving back into the city -- the prospect of distressed housing values to lend the helping hand of "gentrification" to is too great an investment to pass on.
But as more whites to Atlanta, and more blacks to the suburban counties like Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas, and Rockdale, white residents of communities in both Fulton (home to Atlanta) and DeKalb are working to "incorporate" in a calculated bid to keep more of their tax revenue at home, instead of allowing it to be redistributed.
Brookhaven residents voted for incorporation in July, though black people in DeKalb protested [Lawsuit wants all DeKalb voters to participate in Brookhaven election, WSB, 10-17-12]:
The State of Georgia is now the target of a federal lawsuit that asks a judge to allow all DeKalb County voters to participate in the City of Brookhaven's election in November. Investigative reporter Aaron Diamant spoke with Jerome Lee, the attorney who filed the case, who said the unusual move was meant to protect the rights of African-American voters.
"In this day and age, this is still important," Lee said. Lee filed suit on Tuesday against the state of Georgia and requested an emergency hearing. Plaintiffs include a bloc of black voters, civil rights icon Joseph Lowery and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.
"When you allow people to come in and punch out economically valuable parts of a county, and then have that particular punch-out have racial lines, it becomes a very, very dicey matter," Lee said.
Lee explained plaintiffs are worried, if left unchecked, the African-American vote would become watered down. "Now, you have these little enclaves of people that I'm now trapped inside with and we no longer have the ability to decide who's going to govern us now," Lee said.
The basis for Lee's argument: U.S. Census data, which shows, right now, DeKalb County's population is 54 percent African American, while the new City of Brookhaven's African American population is just under 11 percent. Lee explained what he claims that means minority voters. "
At a minimum, it appears that you won't share certain characteristics with your new elected government," he said.What about those white residents of Atlanta, whose numbers increase daily, who seem to be disenfranchised when it comes to the elected government of Atlanta's 75 percent black city council, Mr. Lee?
If white people are so racist, why do black people seem dependent on them for providing tax revenue? With Brookhaven's incorporation, DeKalb County will have to raise taxes. Why did Brookhaven incorporate? This USA Today explains in simple terms:
"When is someone going to have them indicted and taken to trial?!?" he barked, eliciting head nods from fellow disgruntled taxpayers picking at their three-course lunches.
The "them" he refers to is the Atlanta municipal government — namely, the public school system, mayor, city council and bean counters who helped dig the $140 million hole in which the city finds itself. The angry man's audience consists of more than 200 Buckhead residents, a well-to-do group of citizens in the city's most well-to-do community.
The occasion? The Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation's luncheon to discuss the controversial — and extremely complex — notion of Buckhead severing ties with Atlanta, a city full of confusion that Glenn Delk, an attorney and 20-year resident of the community, said is subsidized by he and his neighbors' largesse.
Delk, whose study about Buckhead's possible cityhood has kickstarted a serious look into the matter, informed the audience right away that he neither intended to run for political office nor owned commercial property in Buckhead. He appears to simply be a person who doesn't like paying high taxes for what he considers to be subpar services. Plus, he doesn't trust the money management skills of City Hall. To him, and to many in this room, the time has come to break free.
"You will hear some people say this is about race and money," he said. "There's only one color that matters in this debate — and that's the color green."
The crowd ate this up. The city was broken, Delk said, and the same woes it faces today it faced in the past. And as Delk rattled through a laundry list of statistics — the community comprises 15 percent of Atlanta's population yet generates 45 percent of its revenue; a city of Buckhead could be run on $150 million, half the taxes residents pay today to the city — the crowd of predominantly white men and women nodded their heads in agreement.Now... 15 percent of Atlanta's population produces 45 percent of its revenue, which goes to do what exactly? Hide the facts of the 2011 Atlanta Public School fiasco, an almost entirely all-black affair?
In 2013, the fight begins.
And any form of economic secession is just, without question, a move for racial separation.
Though Barack Obama and Eric "My People" Holder's Department of Justice (DOJ) might strike down this attempt of Buckhead to secede and form a new county with other North Fulton communities that have incorporated, it's a movement in the right direction.
But that's how it always begins. Very small.
As Jack Burton might say, "What the hell..."