March 11, 2006


Gentrification Changing Face of New Atlanta (SHAILA DEWAN, 3/11/06, NY Times)

[A]lthough gentrification has expanded the city's tax base and weeded out blight, it has had an unintended effect on Atlanta, long a lure to African-Americans and a symbol of black success. For the first time since the 1920's, the black share of the city's population is declining and the white percentage is on the rise.

The change has introduced an element of uncertainty into local politics, which has been dominated by blacks since 1973, when Atlanta became the first major Southern city to elect a black mayor.

Some, like Mayor Shirley Franklin, who is serving her second and final term, play down the significance of the change, saying that the city — now 54 percent black — will remain progressive and that voters here do not strictly adhere to racial lines. Others warn of the dilution, if not the demise, of black power.

"It's certainly affecting local politics," said Billy Linville, a political consultant who has worked for Ms. Franklin. "More white politicians are focusing on possibly becoming mayor and positioning themselves accordingly, whereas in the past they would not have. The next mayor of Atlanta, I believe, will be African-American, but after that it may get very interesting."

Because blacks will still dominate Democratic nomination processes, their slipping share of the demographic pie creates important opportunities for the GOP to court Latinos, Indians, Asians, Jews, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 11, 2006 8:32 AM

oj, your use of the word, "court," in relation to those who usually vote for Democrats, suddenly opened my eyes as to why traditional methods (pandering , promising special privileges and entitlements), of appealing to voters doesn't work well on the groups on your list.

The don't have a slave mentality. They're dynamic, hardworking, in the most part successful Americans who don't want or need to be courted or cosseted. What we need are some creative media people who can design a very positive, dare I say it, patriotic, campaign which allows those who traditionally mistrust Republicans and are wary of the vast rightwing conspiracy, to give us another look. We need a campaign that talks about a strong America quoting the Preamble and inviting them into a Republican party that celebrates the real diversity of the melting pot and assimilation, not the divide and conquer of multi-culti.

Posted by: erp at March 11, 2006 10:00 AM


Not one that's mired in anti-immigrant and anti-Arab raving?

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2006 10:04 AM

It's very simple where a lot of Shirley Franklin's constiutency may be going as Atlanta becomes more "gentrified:" DeKalb and Clayton counties. Those counties became majority black in just one decade.

Posted by: Brad S at March 11, 2006 11:32 AM

Former Mayor Bill Campbell is on trial for corruption (among other things), and that has made quite a few Democrats in GA nervous. Campbell is a slickster in the mode of Ron Brown, and might have joined Clinton's cabinet after the 1996 Olympics, had the stench been less noticeable.

Shirley Franklin a good mayor, but Atlanta has structural problems that would be difficult for anyone to solve (like needing to spend $400 million for a new sewage treatment system, on top of fines to the state EPA of (I believe) $150,000 a day until the new system is finished).

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 11, 2006 4:11 PM

Jim -- Campbell walked on the corruption charges, was convicted of cheating on his taxes. Nobody in their right mind, though, thinks he wasn't corrupt. Prosecutor just couldn't prove he was corrupt in exactly the way they said he was.

It will be interesting watching the demographic dynamic change. The city of Atlanta straddles Fulton and Dekalb county. Dekalb County, esp. south Dekalb is majority black. But Dekalb's whites are heavily concentrated in north Dekalb in Atlanta and Decatur. Fulton's about 50% white, but most these whites live in the northern part of the county outside the city limits. Further, Fulton and Dekalb are home to sizable populations of asians, indians, hispanics and other folks not necessarily bound to or interested in the dreary old black / white racial divide.

Posted by: Twn at March 11, 2006 5:09 PM

oj. Goes without saying, however, I don't think Buchanan, Falwell and their ilk should be part of the Republican party.

Posted by: erp at March 11, 2006 6:44 PM

Why not? They need our help.

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2006 6:48 PM

Let them come to their senses, then we can provide help.

Posted by: erp at March 12, 2006 9:39 AM

Our help is bringing them to their senses. The Rev comes to heel pretty well.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 9:56 AM

Although the Times article, “Gentrification Changing Face of Atlanta: Historic Black Share of Population Declines” in the March 11 was insightful and important, it buried the lead, and failed to address even more important political and economic questions that the article itself raised.

Part of the bigger story started to appear on paragraph 6: “The changes do not mean that Atlanta has lost its magnetism for Blacks. Twenty-year projections show the percentage of African-Americans continuing to inch upward in the 10-county metro area. Blacks already hold a majority on the [suburban] Clayton County commission and they are gaining footholds in [suburban] counties like Cobb and Gwinnett.”

Another buried bit of insight came on paragraph 13, where a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. helped the Times reporter to write, “Atlanta’s upward shift in its white population is atypical, Mr. Frey [from Brookings] said. Although many other cities have embarked on revitalization programs, only Washington is seeing a similar, if less stark, racial trend as Atlanta.”

So, the more important question is: what do metro Washington and metro Atlanta have in common that is causing educated, ambitious young Black people to continue to flock to those cities even as their relatively small urban centers (The District of Columbia and the City of Atlanta) actually become more affluent and whiter?

Anybody who has had the good fortune of visiting today’s higher-paying workplaces in Atlanta in recent years can see the issue for themselves. Unfortunately, in the overwhelmingly majority of U.S. metro areas, it is always striking how few Black faces one sees in workplaces where large numbers of well-paid professionals are employed. That is true across the board with the striking exceptions of metro Atlanta and metro Washington.

Those two traditionally Southern metro areas have outstanding historically Black universities like Morehouse, Spellman, and Howard, plus they have historically white universities such as Georgia State, Georgia Tech, George Washington University and the University of Maryland where tens of thousands of Black students have chosen to study and graduate in recent decades. Plus, economic growth is very high in both regions, led by the technology sector. The result is that young Black professionals are attracted to metro Washington and metro Atlanta because they tend to find more professional and social acceptance in those areas than they tend to find in other metro areas such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boston, and the New York City/Tristate region.

The tragedy here is out of all the large metro areas in the U.S., there are only two where the ambitions of young talented young Black people are allowed to flourish in this way. So, what’s the solution? Well, perhaps a serious national effort to upgrade education and create new high-paying jobs would help. And surely more insightful and deeper reporting by the New York Times could prove to be quite helpful as well.

Posted by: Alex Wiggins at March 12, 2006 11:44 AM

No, you just need to move the Northern cities to the Sunbelt.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 11:58 AM