How under six square miles could determine Atlanta’s next mayor

Illustration by Justin Renteria

Before Shirley Franklin had even begun packing up her City Hall suite in ’09, pundits and politicos were silently debating whether she may be Atlanta’s last black mayor, because of shifting census. The speculation grew to become so feverish that, a couple of days in front of that fall’s elections, two Clark Atlanta College professors penned a secret memo-later released and broadly denounced as borderline racist-that advised black voters to consolidate support around just one Black candidate to be able to defeat Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood, our prime-polling white-colored candidate.

Within the finish, Kasim Reed squeaked out a runoff victory with a mere 714 votes. Since that time, conjecture over the way the city’s altering racial composition could influence future elections only has intensified. Based on U.S. Census data, Atlanta increased with a mere 3,500 residents between 2000 and 2010, to 420,000-a internet population gain of under 1 %. Time obscures the seismic shift still occurring within the city’s racial makeup: Since Reed required office, greater than 20,000 white-colored transplants have moved within the city limits. That increase, combined with past decade’s property foreclosure crisis that disproportionately affected black residents, means today its black human population is roughly 50 %, in contrast to 67 percent in 1990.

To political strategists, these statistics indicate quickly declining strength within the once-monolithic black voting bloc-as well as an chance for any white-colored mayoral candidate. For this reason a set of Atlanta annexation campaigns, situated in areas about 20 miles apart on opposite sides from the city, are now being viewed so carefully.

Since early 2013, Druid Hillsides residents have debated whether their community, nestled west and south of Emory College, should end up part of Atlanta (about 500 homes locally already lie inside the city limits). A grassroots annexation campaign referred to as Together in Atlanta, brought by resident Anne Wallace, increased as nearby cityhood proposals threatened to gobble up areas of the historic neighborhood. (A referendum to produce the adjacent town of LaVista Hillsides narrowly unsuccessful in November.)

For Atlanta officials, the possibilities of annexing Druid Hillsides would appear a no-brainer. The area hosts a properly-educated, liberal-leaning, affluent populace. However, nearly three-quarters from the neighborhood’s residents are white-colored.

“The city is really near to being majority nonblack that simply adding Druid Hillsides could tip the total amount,Inches states Chris Huttman, a political consultant who labored to improve minority turnout in Georgia for Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008.

And, since many politicos will explain, tipping the racial balance within an electorate can result in another election result.

“I don’t think anybody watching this method via a political lens requires a tutorial on the notion that more white-colored voters helps a white-colored candidate or the other way around,Inches states Democratic strategist Howard Franklin (no regards to Shirley).

Which was certainly the thinking during the 1940s, when then-mayor William B. Hartsfield recognized that white-colored flight towards the suburbs would eventually give Atlanta a black majority-unless of course he could persuade white-colored communities to participate the town.

“This isn’t meant to stir race prejudice because complete thing . to manage fairly together,Inches Hartsfield authored inside a 1943 letter to residents of Buckhead, then a part of unincorporated Fulton County, “but would you like to hands them political charge of Atlanta?”

Hartsfield’s efforts finally compensated off in 1952 having a mass annexation that tripled its footprint to 118 square miles, boosted the populace by 100,000, and ensured that the century-lengthy string of white-colored mayors would continue-a minimum of until 1973, when Maynard Jackson grew to become Atlanta’s first black mayor.

A Sandtown annexation meeting in May

Photograph by Brittany Miller/CBS46

Enter Sandtown

A bucolic, largely black exurb outdoors I-285 near Camp Creek Parkway, the city of Sandtown and it is neighbors voted in 2007 against developing their very own town of South Fulton.

Then, last spring, condition Representative Pat Gardner, an Atlanta Democrat, introduced twin annexation bills in the behest from the city: one covering Druid Hillsides and also the area, the place to find nearly 39,000 people another targeted at Sandtown and adjacent land, a part of a place which includes an believed 17,500 residents. Neither bill moved far this past year, but both might be adopted following the 2016 Georgia General Set up convenes on The month of january 11.

But whether or not the legislation stalls, a stealthier annexation efforts are also going ahead-one which enjoys the support of Atlanta’s current mayor.

At the begining of 2015, Sandtown resident Debra Davis, together with counterparts from two nearby communities, posted petitions to create chunks from the area into Atlanta. (Neither Davis nor another petitioners taken care of immediately multiple demands for comment.) Under an obscure condition law, a place could be annexed right into a city if endorsed by 60 % of their residents and landowners via a petition, therefore staying away from both statehouse and also the ballot box.

Both Reed and the close ally, Atlanta Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose district adjoins Sandtown, have attended numerous community conferences since late 2014. Equipped with glossy brochures, they’ve given sales pitches touting the advantages of joining Atlanta. As enticement, the mayor offered homeowners a ten-year property tax freeze, undercutting one of the greatest rationales for any city to annex land-to grow the tax base.

Reed has gone to date regarding sue the Atlanta Public Schools to strike lower its policy that requires the machine to consider over existing schools in recently annexed areas-a suit carried out to appease parents in South Fulton County who would like their children to stay within the county school system. The suit is pending.

Even though the current petition effort by Davis and her associates will bring no more than 2,400 new residents into Atlanta, it’s moving that may be repeated over and over, incrementally growing its footprint-and voter rolls. Based on Wallace, her Druid Hillsides group is thinking about an identical approach if it is denied the chance for any neighborhood-wide referendum. Actually, last October, about 100 households in nearby Edmund Park became a member of the town while using petition method.

Howard Franklin states any mass infusion of recent voters could affect the results of the 2017 election: “Either annexation might have far-reaching impacts on Atlanta that might be difficult to overstate.”

Huttman is one kind of individuals who believe the mayor might be pulling from Hartsfield’s playbook to preserve the racial established order at City Hall. Reed’s legacy might be tarnished among Atlanta’s black political elite, Huttman explains, if he is doing absolutely nothing to ensure he’s been successful by another black mayor.

“Kasim’s people wish to preserve the total amount from the electorate,” Huttman states. “For everyone they add from Druid Hillsides, they would like to add one from Sandtown.”

Anne Torres, Reed’s communications director, states racial balance plays “absolutely no role” within the mayor’s stance on annexation. “Anyone asserting that annexation has been driven with a need to keep Atlanta’s voter census exactly the same is scraping the foot of the barrel with allegations which have simply no basis actually and seeks to make use of race like a tool to inflame opinions and divide a town.Inches

While upon the market Georgia Condition College public policy professor Harvey K. Newman concedes that voting patterns aren’t perfectly foreseeable, he states it’s natural to anticipate Druid Hillsides voters to show in pressure in city elections whenever they become Atlantans. It is also natural, he states, to visualize Mayor Reed may wish to mitigate the possibility impact of the transfer of voter census. Since the town grew to become majority-black in early 1970s, racial census happen to be probably the most foreseeable element in figuring out who becomes Atlanta’s next mayor.

Still, former mayor Franklin holds out hope that at some point Atlanta voters can move beyond problems with race, asking, “Do you feel so beholden towards the paradigm of history that you simply miss possibilities for future years?Inches

An account of two unincorporated areas


Druid Hills
and surrounding area
Estimated 39,000 residents would be annexed by Atlanta under House Bill 586

and surrounding area
Estimated 17,500 residents would be annexed by Atlanta under House Bill 587

This article originally appeared in our January 2016 issue under the headline “A delicate balance.”