Future Of Atlanta Series

This year, voters in Atlanta will elect a new mayor and replace almost half of the city council. In this moment of transition in the leadership of the city, WABE News examines the biggest issues facing Atlanta.

It’s a special series called “The Future of Atlanta.” Look for new stories on this page throughout October.

Evolving Civil Rights In The ‘City Too Busy to Hate’

By Lisa Hagen • Oct. 26, 2017

Metro Atlanta has a lot to offer today’s social justice activists: economic inequality, police violence, the Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy.

But how can these things still be in a place known for its central role in American civil rights history?

Atlanta Is Working On Climate Change, But There’s More To Do

By Molly Samuel • Oct. 24, 2017

While the federal response to climate change has sputtered, Atlanta is one of the cities that’s stuck with its goals, and it’s adding more.

One the city’s main initiatives is the Better Buildings Challenge, a project to cut energy and water use from buildings by 20 percent. City-owned buildings, schools and dozens of commercial buildings are participating, including some of the city’s biggest skyscrapers.

Strength Of The Region’s Workforce Could Depend on Adult Education

By Martha Dalton • Oct. 23, 2017

Recently, Atlanta has attracted big companies to the region. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have relocated their U.S. headquarters to the area. Each company brought hundreds of jobs with it. Metro Atlanta is also a contender for a second Amazon headquarters.

However, to keep attracting big businesses, the region needs more qualified workers. To do that, the state wants to increase the number of employees who have some type of college training.

Challenges For Atlanta, Fulton Too Big To ‘Let Personalities Get In The Way’

By Jim Burress • Oct. 23, 2017

First, a brief civics lesson.

Fulton County operates under a commission-county manager form of government. Its top elected official is the commission chair who serves a four-year term. Unlike the other six seats, which represent individual county districts, the commission chair is chosen at-large. According to Fulton County’s website, “This system combines the policy leadership of elected officials with the administrative abilities of a county manager.

Schools Use ‘Work-Based Learning’ To Prepare Atlanta-Area Students For Jobs

By Martha Dalton • Oct. 20, 2017

As elected officials and other stakeholders try to recruit new businesses to the Atlanta region, they want to make sure there are enough qualified workers here for companies to hire.

As a result, many public school systems have focused on making sure students are “college and career ready.”

Full BeltLine Loop Could Be Walkable In A Year

By Amy Kiley • Oct. 20, 2017

The Atlanta BeltLine just bought the land to finish the Eastside Trail, but what will it take to complete the whole project?

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. President Brian McGowan is optimistic about the undertaking. He’s excited about the latest section to open, the new Westside Trail. It’ll eventually be part of a 22-mile loop around the heart of city, but much of the trail is still under construction.

Atlanta Tries To Catch Up On Street Infrastructure

By Johnny Kauffman • Oct. 20, 2017

Andrew Pierce sat along the sidewalk outside his house between the Bankhead and English Avenue neighborhoods enjoying the cool, autumn weather.

Just a few feet away, cars and trucks rushed past on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, named for the Atlanta civil rights leader.

Atlanta Continues To Grapple With HIV Epidemic

By Elly Yu • Oct. 19, 2017

Gary Jerkins sets up a tent outside a van in a sprawling parking lot in South DeKalb County. The van is a mobile testing unit with AIDS Healthcare Foundation, where people can hop in and get a free HIV test in about a minute.

“We’re actually out five days a week — Tuesday through Saturday, nontraditional hours and locations to improve visibility and accessibility,” said Jerkins, an HIV testing counselor with the organization.

Is A Sales Tax Hike A LOST Cause In Atlanta?

By Jim Burress • Oct. 18, 2017

If you were to rewind Atlanta’s clock back five summers, you’d find Mayor Kasim Reed campaigning hard — not for re-election, but instead for a penny hike to the area’s sales tax.

“If we’re successful,” Reed said of a transportation referendum during a July 2012 press conference, “we’ll move the equivalent of 72,000 cars each day from our roads.”

Can Atlanta Continue To Dominate In Financial Technology?

By Tasnim Shamma • Oct. 18, 2017

Saurin Patel swiftly swipes a credit card at the register of the midtown Atlanta Pita Pit he owns. The details are then likely sent to a computer somewhere in Atlanta.

That’s because every time you swipe, tap, insert your card and even pay with your phone anywhere in the world, there’s a 70 percent chance the transaction is being processed in Georgia.

Atlanta’s Population Is Aging Quickly, And That’s A Big Challenge

By Lisa George • Oct. 17, 2017

In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, a lot of people — mostly young people — moved to Atlanta to work. And they stayed.

So now, “It is one of the most quickly aging cities in the country,” according to Becky Kurtz, director of the Atlanta Area Agency on Aging, a part of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Atlanta Continues Its Journey To Become A More Bike Friendly City

By Ross Terrell • Oct. 16, 2017

Relay Bike Share moved into Atlanta last summer. There were about 100 bright blue bikes around town to choose from and 10 rental stations.

Now, there are 500 of them at more than 70 bike rental stations around the city.

Timberley Jones, Relay’s director of community outreach, said there’s been a change in Atlanta’s attitude toward bikes.

To Keep Growing, Atlanta Has To Watch Its Water

By Molly Samuel • Oct. 13, 2017

Two years ago, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke about the importance of water from the bottom of a giant quarry west of Midtown.

“Conservative estimates show that if we were to go just one day without water, the price tag to our local economy would exceed $100 million,” he said.

Can Georgia’s Film Industry Survive A Challenge?

By Amy Kiley • 

Georgia is now one of the most popular places in the world to film movies and TV shows. Projects skyrocketed after the state began a 30 percent tax credit in 2008, but, if another state offered a better incentive, would Georgia’s film industry survive?

The short answer to that question is … probably. The reason is that Georgia has trained workers and film-friendly locations.

How Atlanta Keeps Its Convention Industry Booming

By Sam Whitehead • 

When Joe Glionna was looking for a place to host the first-ever North American Commercial Vehicle show, the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta stood out.

“A lot of the upgrades in the city – the restaurant life, the bars, the access around the GWCC, the thousands of hotel rooms within walking distance – all of that made Atlanta a good spot,” he said.

Atlanta Shifts Strategy On Homelessness After Shelter Closure

By Susanna Capelouto • Oct. 10, 2017

Peachtree-Pine, a homeless shelter on the edge of downtown Atlanta, used to house up to 500 people a night.

It was the city’s largest shelter until it shut down this summer following a $9.7 million settlement in a decade-long court battle between its operator, Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and various downtown civic and business organizations.

In Atlanta, It’s More Complicated Than Trees Versus Developers

By Molly Samuel • 

There used to be trees across the street from Portia Webb’s house. She’s lived in the Atlanta neighborhood of Reynoldstown for 50 years, she says.

There was a big old house on the lot across the street. And up until a few years ago a ministry that was around the corner would bring kids to the lot to play.

The ministry that worked with the kids has moved; now there are townhomes on that spot around the corner. And the trees in the lot across the street are gone, too.

How Atlanta Is Working To Fill Demand For Its Tech Talent

By Tasnim Shamma • 

Atlanta is sometimes referred to as the Silicon Valley of the South. The city has major tech companies, start-ups and universities.

One problem? Not enough workers. Rodney Sampson is chairman of Opportunity Hub and a partner at Tech Square Labs in Midtown Atlanta.

“The computing job shortage will be a million-plus by 2020,” Sampson said. “And so are those going to be Americans in those jobs? Who’s going to be in those jobs?”

What Rising Housing Costs Could Mean For Atlanta

By Stephannie Stokes • Oct. 9, 2017

If you need numbers to prove affordable housing is an issue for Atlanta, you’ll get them from Georgia State professor Dan Immergluck.

He’s analyzed rents.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen rents in many neighborhoods go up 15 percent, 20 percent,” Immergluck said. “Some neighborhoods 40, 45 percent.”