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Opinion - What we want to see for Atlanta in 2012

More art, better sidewalks, and love for MLK

Forget all that malarkey about the world ending in 2012. The next 365 days are gonna be great, replete with Democrats winning the White House and Congress, metro Atlanta transit receiving more funding, and at least seven new Tyler Perry films. Or so we hope. In addition to the requisite filling of potholes and patrolling the streets, allow us to present our simple pleas for progress in 2012:

• The city should call in a favor from its corporate citizens and ask for additional financial support for Living Walls, FLUX, and other large-scale public art projects. These events, which connect people with neighborhoods and remind us that Atlanta's filled with creative talent, boost the city's reputation and standing in the art world. Let's be known for something besides Coca-Cola and the Braves.

• The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday celebration here should be worthy of the Civil Rights icon and attract worldwide attention.

• Boarded up, dilapidated homes whose owners have been incommunicado for years need to be demolished and turned into greenspace.

• Some downtown streets — especially in the area south of Marietta Street — could benefit from being only for pedestrians. Consider contacting owners of South Broad Street's vacant storefronts and closing the walkable street for vendors, live music, food trucks, and art.

• On July 31, metro Atlantans will vote on a 1 cent sales tax — commonly called the T-SPLOST — that could build new roads and transit throughout the 10-county region. Some of that cash will pay for local projects, including sidewalk and bridge repairs. The city and MARTA shouldn't pin their hopes on the T-SPLOST's passage to fund all our transportation needs, especially the most basic. Many bus stops lack sufficient nearby sidewalks, making transit accessibility difficult for many riders and sending a poor message to tourists. Budget cash for these fixes.

• Oh, and MARTA? We know times are tight, but fares — especially monthly passes — must be reduced. Other cities give larger percentage discounts for larger pass purchases.

Fort McPherson, the 488-acre former military base in southwest Atlanta, needs to actually become part of the city and not a walled-off mega-development. Its growth should be organic and beneficial to the surrounding neighborhoods.

• Citizen groups need to launch another campaign to push elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council — to pass meaningful ethics legislation. Where to start: A cap on gifts, funding for the state Ethics Commission, and a frank discussion about legislation that would prohibit campaign contributions from vendors who do business with governments. Not a good idea? Explain why.

Go to the city's website. Tell us Atlanta's Web presence doesn't look like some 2001 intro-to-web-design tomfoolery. The city is sitting on a wealth of information that isn't properly presented. Georgia Tech and Georgia State University are down the street. Call them and ask for pointers.

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