I thought this crowd was all about free market capitalism. Why can’t rich developers spend their own money if Franklin Road is such sweet “investment,” as former State Sen. Chuck Clay repeatedly called the proposed deal in a recent MDJ op-ed?
“While there is always risk involved in great endeavors, I applaud Mayor Tumlin and the City Council for being willing to dare to dream ‘big,’” wrote Clay in the MDJ. “Yes it is our tax dollars, but the upside potential is enormous for Marietta.”
Franklin Road is home to 14,000 Marietta residents, many of them working families of color employed by Marietta businesses.
Mayor Steve Tumlin wants you to vote for his bond issue that would use the $68 million it raises to buy the property on which many of the apartment homes of Franklin Road residents sit. The city would then displace those aforementioned residents of color, raze the buildings, and sell the rezoned land to unspecified developers at some time in the future.
Is this a redevelopment project or a social engineering scheme?
“I was wondering if you can sell the (existing) properties and leave the $68 million off the heads of people?” Marietta resident Edwin Dyer asked Tumlin at a recent town hall meeting.
Charles Levinson, who is running against Tumlin in the Nov. 5 election, has made the proposed Franklin Road bond issue central to his campaign. Like Dyer, he wants to know why Tumlin is hot to raise taxes two mills on property owners to pay for a speculative bond issue with no guaranteed payoff for Mariettans.
“I want to make sure redevelopment efforts serve the people and businesses already invested in the area instead of lining the pockets of developers and politicians,” explained Levinson, noting that Marietta voters assume all the risk for the bond.
“When the bond issue was $35 million, Tumlin was talking about acquiring four of the 10 apartments on Franklin Road,” Levinson said. “Now that it’s $68 million, it’s still four apartment complexes. There’s no central plan.”
Tumlin and his allies have resorted to scare tactics, claiming Franklin Road is crime ridden while characterizing the approximately 1,400 Franklin Road children attending Marietta schools as “transients” who hurt the entire system.
“If you measure the number of crimes per thousand people, it is not worse than other areas,” Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn told the MDJ. “Of the serious crime that does occur, most of that is committed by people who do not live on Franklin Road.”
“One way to curb (school) transiency is to remove the slum apartment complexes that attract it to begin with,” argued Marietta School Board member Jill Mutimer in a letter to the MDJ supporting Tumlin’s borrow-tax-spend plan.
Mass expulsion of children from Marietta’s schools isn’t the answer, says Levinson.
“Reducing transiency could be accomplished with far less risk and cost by putting Sunday bus service on Franklin Road, increasing police patrols and stepping up code enforcement,” he counters. “Letting Franklin Road (residents) feel safer in their homes … will persuade many to put down roots rather than continue ‘apartment hopping.’”
Even if the bond measure is defeated Tuesday, it is sure to be back on the 2014 ballot if Tumlin is re-elected. Before they vote, Mariettans should be asking whose interests Tumlin is really serving.
“A Democratic candidate need not be wasteful, obtrusive or raise taxes,” Levinson added. “I want to look for efficiencies that don’t hurt working people” — or Marietta taxpayers, who have a chance Tuesday to elect a pragmatic mayor.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.