It’s not ‘What’, It’s ‘Who’

Economic stagnation can’t be explained away by relying on the old “left versus right,” Republican v. Democrat, or Socialist v. Capitalist anymore. Disinvestment from a community because of high crime or the creation of enterprise zones to spur economic activity both are the result of one group of people: black people (and, increasingly, immigrants – both legal and illegal – from Mexico).

Which is why the story of downtown Atlanta being labeled a “ghost town” for business is so funny; it’s also an area completely dominated resident-wise, by black people [Atlanta looks at $500K downtown revival plan, WSBTV, 1-10-13]:

Business owners call parts of downtown Atlanta a ghost town, but some city leaders want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to change that.  

“To have a downtown in a major city like this that is dead, there’s no reason for it, and it’s embarrassing,” said Bruce Teilhaber, owner of Friedman’s Shoes on Mitchell Street.  

Teilhaber has been on Mitchell Street for 58 years, but it’s nearly empty, even during the lunch hour.  He and his son, Brett, said they remain open because of a booming catalog business, but walk-in traffic has basically stopped. 

“Now, you can go to Mitchell or Spring (Street), throw a bowling ball and not hit anybody,” his son said. 
The city of Atlanta is looking at changing that and investing $500,000 to develop a plan to bring back people and jobs. 

“We have all these wonderful things happening in downtown Atlanta, but really not a lot of synchronization,” Atlanta City Councilman H. Lamar Willis told Channel 2’s John Bachman .  

Willis proposed the development plan. He said for $500,000, the city can get the right people to synchronize development around upcoming projects including, the new Falcons stadium, the Civil Rights museum, and the College Football Hall of Fame.  With a plan in place, Willis believes developers will build out from there.
“So they can know what they’re going to get from us and know what this city has to offer them,” Willis said. 
The Teilhabers said it’s long overdue.  

“It would revitalize us. It’d be like somebody giving you blood. It’d make me breathe again, it’d keep me working another 58 years,” Teilhaber said. 

Buckhead doesn’t need a “revival plan”; Midtown Atlanta doesn’t need revival. In fact, any area of the city of Atlanta or surrounding suburban counties populated with a majority of white residents doesn’t have an economy whose survival (or resuscitation) is incumbent upon a “revival plan” — they have the ability to create a thriving economy together as a community based on their individual contributions to ensuring their city or town has high social trust/capital.”

The same can’t be said of black areas in Atlanta (or of a similar city such as 92 percent black Detroit, whose government, business community, and neighborhoods are also in a similar quandry [Long-term Detroit neighborhood stabilization plan to be unveiled, Detroit News, 1-8-13]), where the fabric that holds together society is stretched thin once a community goes black.

Take this story out of South Fulton (home to increasingly-white Atlanta) where the high rates of crime having pushed police to make an extraordinary decision in combatting the violence found there… black violence [Fulton police use armored vehicle to fight crime, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1-10-13]:

Police are using an armored vehicle normally used by SWAT teams to try to put an end to a series of burglaries and home invasions in a south Fulton County neighborhood. Police tell WSB-TV ( the vehicle, called the Bearcat, has thermal imaging technology to help them see in the dark. 

Fulton County police Capt. Wade Yates says that could help in a foot chase. Last week, a woman was shot multiple times during a break-in in the area. Police say the burglars fled in a stolen car and were able to escape when they jumped out and ran 

into some woods. Police say the armored car is also meant to reassure residents. Officers are also longer hours and more patrol shifts to increase police presence in the area.

Meanwhile, former black residents of Atlanta that have flocked to Clayton County (90 percent white in 1990, 15.5 percent white today) have imported the same type of crime, misery, low-levels of economic activity and social trust, and poor schools that they left behind [Crime Migrates to Suburbs,As Homicides Fall Sharply in Cities, They Are Rising in Surrounding Communities, Wall Street Journal, 12-30-12]: 

 RIVERDALE, Ga.—Friends of African immigrant Demba Balde worried about his safety when he opened his Metropolitan Food Mart in southwest Atlanta. The two-room store, which sold beer, candy, cigarettes and other items, was in the middle of one of the city’s most violent areas. But the 49-year-old native of Guinea-Bissau ran his shop without major incident for years. 

Every night after closing, he drove to his modest home on a quiet street in this unincorporated area of Clayton County, about 15 miles south of Atlanta. He was home unloading groceries from his van late one night in September when neighbors heard loud bangs. 

One woman in a nearby house heard a man scream either “No!” or “Ow!” Police found Mr. Balde across the street in a neighbor’s driveway, dead with two bullet holes in his chest. So far, they say, they have no leads in the killing. 

Today, suburban murders, from domestic violence to robberies gone bad to massacres like the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, make up about a quarter of all homicides in the U.S., up from 20.7% in 2001, according to the BJS. 

The sharpest increases in violent crime appear to be in suburbs of cities, including those of Houston, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. 

The violent-crime rate in Atlanta’s suburbs rose 23% between 2000 and 2008, while the city of Atlanta’s violent-crime rate dropped 49%, according to federal crime data in a May 2011 study by the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. 

New suburban residents include people who moved from tough urban neighborhoods, lured in part by cheaper rents in some suburbs like Clayton County. Some were pushed out of cities like Atlanta by urban gentrification and public-housing demolition. 

Many hoped for less crime, but some who came were criminals. Clayton County, where Mr. Balde lived, was rural but today is full of homes and apartment complexes that house people who migrated over the past decade and a half from Atlanta’s gritty south side and, after 2005, from the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. 

Unemployment, at 10.5% in October, was far above the national rate of 7.9% that month. Its home-foreclosure rate is more than double the national average. Homicides rose in Clayton County to 48 in 2007 from 12 in 1997, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation statistics. They dipped right after the recession to 15 in 2010, but they rose last year to 29, tracking national trends for violent crime.

Folks, Clayton County was a 90 percent white middle-class paradise back in 1990; now, the remaining 15 percent of the country that is white has watched property value plummet to the market level commiserate with that set by an increasingly all-black population and are… stuck.

Just like the economy that needs “revival” in downtown Atlanta and the neighborhoods in Detroit.

It’s not “what.”

It’s “who.”




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