Should Atlanta Consolidate With Fulton County?



Is it time to consider consolidating City of Atlanta and Fulton County again? During the2001 mayoral campaign this idea was floated by a few brave souls during thedebates. One key business leader pronounced that no reputable leader wouldsupport the consolidation because none of the business and civic leaders of theregion trusted the leadership of the City of Atlanta. So for the last decade this idea hasbeen dormant only to be raised again by former city executive David Edwards. Inhis recent letter to the Atlanta City Council and Fulton County Commission, heproposed consolidation as the appropriate next step after the sale of theAtlanta Detention Facility to Fulton County.

I’ve been on both sides of the consolidation conversation since the 1970’s having learned about the perils and challenges of city/county consolidation from listening to then Central Atlanta Progress President Dan Sweat and former Mayor Maynard Jackson. There are a few things to remember when tackling this topic. Atlanta operates a water system and sewer system that serves more than one million customers, which is twice as many people who live in the city. The once broken and underfunded water and sewer systems are in better condition and better operated than they have been since Hartsfield was mayor. The City owns and operates in partnership with Delta Air Lines and other airlines one of the most effective and efficient busiest airports in the world. The City provides municipal services on a daily basis to well over the 500,000 residents. By some estimates those served in the hospitality industry, colleges and universities, cultural institutions, sports franchises and businesses push the city’s daily population to nearly 750,000.
None of these undertakings is without its challenges. Dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s Mayor Hartsfield and civic leaders expanded the water system beyond the city limits to accommodate industry and advance business options forever with the early investment in the airport. Since that time, the City leadership has been willing to invest in what is best for the city’s future no matter how awkward the conversation and debate. Edwards may not be right about the sale of the City jail, but he’s not wrong to raise consolidation as a long-term option for Atlanta and Fulton County.

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