Thanks to a fortuitous miscalculation at City Hall, Mayor Steve Tumlin now expects to have up to $68 million to work with if city voters approve a November bond referendum framed primarily as way of raising funds to address problems in the Franklin Road corridor. City Hall finance types had thought that a 2-mill bond issue would raise around $35 million, but the city’s bond consultant says the actual figure likely would be close to twice that.
The council, which voted earlier this month to schedule a $35 million referendum for November, tonight must decide whether to void that vote and schedule a referendum for the same date with the new dollar figure. There’s also the possibility that some council members will try to snare portions of the “new” money for projects in their own wards unrelated to the overarching purpose of the referendum, which is jump-starting redevelopment along Franklin Road.
Franklin is lined with garden apartment complexes, most of which are run-down and home to highly transient residents low on the economic scale. Those complexes account for a disproportionate share of the city’s police and emergency services and also are large contributors to the city school system’s high transience rate.
Tumlin wants to see the city buy the worst of the apartments, bulldoze them and sell them to a developer or developers. The land in question should command a very high price in light of its easy access to Interstate 75.
Moreover, Marietta is overloaded with apartments. This is a city in which the ratio of renters-to-homeowners long has stood at around three-to-one. That’s a very unhealthy ratio when it comes to ensuring the survival of the city’s independent school system.
Some have criticized the plan as a thinly veiled effort to rid the city of some of its “less desirable” residents. But the mayor and others rebut that, noting that the great majority of those who formerly lived in now-demolished Marietta Housing Authority complexes are now in better housing thanks to the city’s efforts of the past 10 years.
“Most of those people (along Franklin) will wind up in better places to live,” Tumlin told the MDJ. “We’re not driving them out — we’re driving them up.”
And Tumlin’s plan would “drive” Franklin up. It deserves the support of the full council tonight, and of voters in November.