We can vote “Yes” on the $68 million Redevelopment Bond for the Franklin Road corridor and begin to eliminate gang and crime activity, stabilize our schools and provide safe, affordable housing options to a growing middle class. Or, we can vote “No” and continue to watch as our city struggles with retaining and recruiting young middle-class families that are the life blood of a vibrant, growing city.
Marietta’s Franklin Road corridor has become one of Georgia’s highest concentrations of criminal and gang activity. Drugs, prostitution, theft and even murder have become an all-too-familiar occurrence in the daily lives of the residents living in bankrupt, dilapidated and substandard apartment units along this 1.5 mile stretch of road.
Some have asked, “How did this happen in an ideal location like Marietta, Georgia?”
Unfortunately, well-intentioned city officials in the 1970s and 1980s made poor zoning decisions, engaged in short-term annexation and used government-subsidized bonding to create an extremely high-density area of rental properties. In hindsight it is now clear that the government artificially created a rental housing bubble that distorts the private sector, leading to perpetual bankruptcies, foreclosures and dilapidated properties along the corridor.
When bad government policies create economic distortions, the private sector cannot function; thus, it requires government to help fix the problem. Our city, state and federal governments have spent millions in law enforcement efforts but high crime and transiency persists. We must change tactics and seek another solution.
Our usual group of “professional aginners” would like for you to think that everything is just fine. However, Marietta continues to be a community with a declining middle class, lost business opportunities and increasing criminal activity.
Over the last five years, more than one million square feet of commercial office space has been vacated and not replaced in the Franklin Road corridor. Further, our crime statistics and shrinking middle class prevent us from attracting stores like Trader Joe’s or Publix inside the city. Instead we attract Goodwill and Dollar Tree.
The next generation is voting with their feet. Too many are bypassing the city of Marietta and choosing Woodstock, East Cobb or Northwest Cobb for safer communities with seemingly better schools.
It is indisputable that our school system struggles with high transiency and the influences of drug and gang activity from Franklin Road and other areas. As a fourth-generation graduate of Marietta’s public schools and one who is committed to their success, I am hopeful my children will be afforded the same quality education that was there for me. But the crime and transiency trend must change.
It is right for us to be concerned about the well-being of the families residing on Franklin Road. In fact, I believe it is wrong for us to do nothing. If we truly care about the single mothers and the children and others living and working along Franklin Road, then we must address the reality that this high concentration of crime and poverty is not in the best interest of those individuals.
I saw this first-hand when my mother taught for 10 years at Park Street Elementary. She would often ask for my help as we delivered furniture, meals or other essentials to her students living on Franklin Road. It was very rare for a child to start and end the school year in her class, and I understand why. The conditions would make it difficult for any child to succeed in school and life; and that was a decade ago.
Research has shown that young children who are subjected to drugs and crime have a much more difficult time succeeding in school and life. The kids who live on Franklin Road deserve better!
By voting “Yes” for the bond, you will enable the Marietta Housing Authority and our fine nonprofits and churches to help these families living in crime and blight find safer, more permanent and affordable housing options. MHA has a great deal of experience and success relocating families to better housing in a compassionate manner. Many of these families don’t have the resources MHA can provide to find safer housing and will welcome the help.
As a fiscal conservative I always ask, “Is this a good investment for the taxpayer?” Absolutely. This investment will actually result in a net positive for the taxpayer: reduced cost of services, property sales, improved property values and new jobs will ensure that Marietta remains one of the lowest-tax communities in Georgia.
Communities are either vibrant and growing or they become stagnant and begin to wither. Let’s make sure Marietta is a growing and vibrant community. Please vote YES on the redevelopment bond. It is time to Revitalize Marietta.
Mitch Hunter is a life-long resident of Marietta, lives in Whitlock Heights and is a partner in a government relations firm off the Square, He is the co-founder of Revitalize Marietta and serves on the Board of Commissioners of the Marietta Housing Authority.