Opinion - CL's 2016 Wish List
Lower rents, WRAS' rebirth, and a triumphant return for Manuel's
It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in our reasonably priced apartments making plans for beers at Manuel's before a concert at the Masquerade. Those days may be gone — or at least put on hold — as Atlanta moves into 2016, but that doesn't mean we'll stop holding our city to a high standard. Here are CL staffers' humble wishes for the coming year.
REIN IN THE RENTS: Atlanta needs an affordable housing policy with teeth. The city's not adding affordable housing units, it's losing them. According to Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck, approximately 5,000 low-cost apartments and homes went bye-bye from 2010 to 2013. Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens is expected to unveil a proposal and Mayor Kasim Reed wants to see movement on the issue. May the gods who want vibrant, sustainable cities look down upon Atlanta and give us a policy without loopholes that make it pretty on paper but useless in reality. Oh, and make it citywide.
REAL TALK ABOUT AFFORDABILITY: At the same time, we need an end to the stigma attached to "affordable housing." Atlanta's rampant income inequality has put such a squeeze on the middle class that even the conversations around affordable housing don't include us. We need a development boom of true lower-middle-class housing inside the city. That includes different multi-family housing options and styles that can accommodate more people. Otherwise, as Reed recently acknowledged, we'll be headed the way of San Francisco.
HELP THE HOMELESS: Homelessness is a serious issue and deserves to be treated as such. It requires funding and attention from a wide variety of government and medical groups. It warrants innovative approaches that combat the root causes of homelessness rather than playing musical chairs with one of our most vulnerable populations.
PUT WRAS BACK ON THE AIR 24-7: The beloved college radio station being booted off the air during the day has deprived local music lovers — all music lovers, really — of hearing new bands and sounds. We still miss it. And we still want it back.
A TRIUMPHANT RETURN FOR MANUEL'S TAVERN: Green Street Properties and the bar's owners have promised that the Poncey-Highland watering hole's renovation is focused on its guts rather than its charm. Pictures and old beer cans will be returned to their previous spots, they say. We hope they don't take the vowels out of the name so it will be MNL's or the Gastro Pub at 602 N. Highland Ave.
NO MORE NO-MAN'S-LANDS: More sidewalks! Fixed sidewalks! Bike lanes! Better development! Whatever it takes, just fill the gaps between neighborhoods. That doesn't mean we have to line every street with mixed-use developments. But make it easier to go from neighborhood to neighborhood if you're not in a car. We should not have to drive to walkable places.
TRANSPARENCY: We need transparency in officer-involved shootings — and less of them. Waiting months for the release of surveillance footage in the death of Alexia Christian, a 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed by Atlanta Police after they say she opened fire from the back of a patrol car, makes no sense. And it does nothing to ease community concerns about police powers. Better training and officers connecting with the communities they patrol could help reduce unnecessary violence and build bonds between police and residents.
KEEP SOUTH DOWNTOWN REAL: Now that Downtown renovation seems like a reality in the foreseeable future, it's time we consider what that future should look like. The last thing Atlanta needs is another homogenized, over-gentrified section of town. Whatever we do, dear God, please, let's preserve a sense of South Downtown's urbanity. Don't knock down Underground to turn it into a replica of Midtown.
NO CASINOS: We repeat, NO CASINOS.
REDUCE FOOD LOSS: According to the USDA, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food was wasted in 2010. In recent years, forward-thinking individuals have advocated for more sustainable practices in the restaurant industry. Many local eateries have already incorporated the responsible sourcing of locally grown ingredients into their business models. In an effort to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, however, in 2016 we'd like to see Atlanta restaurants begin to adopt practices such as repurposing less desirable animal parts and vegetable scraps in creative ways, forging partnerships with charities or shelters that might accept usable food, as well as growing food on-site and composting when possible.
BE GONE, PARKATLANTA: End the private company's contract and put someone in charge of parking enforcement who will be transparent and operate with oversight. Designate some of the fines to go toward public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalk repairs — infrastructure that encourages people not to use their cars.
WHILE WE'RE AT IT: Fill the damn potholes and get rid of metal plates in the road. End binary public restrooms. Open a good record store in Downtown. Don't let the Atlanta Hawks scare the city into caving to giving ridiculous incentives to renovate Philips Arena. Above all, may all transplants and natives, ITPers and OTPers, liberals and conservatives, blues and reds and every other cultural extreme in Atlanta find a shared sense of identity and empathy in 2016.