Atlanta, Jackson have political machines – LTE Northside Sun

Dear Editor:

Living in a suburb of Atlanta for nine years and
having lived in Midtown Atlanta for a year and a
half, I have witnessed a mighty political machine in
action. What a show! I’ve heard from dozens of
longtime members of my church in Midtown stories
of how the machine started, struggled, prospered
and dominated. It still dominates.
Now Atlanta’s former mayor, Bill Campbell, (not
to be confused with my old boss at Jackson
Blueprint and Supply during my college summers
downtown) is desperately battling the FBI in court.
This, along with other scandals, should give more
than a few black eyes to those in power.

But, the
machine moves on, for all sakes and purposes
undamaged. The new mayor is breaking her promises
about the homeless, city infrastructure, etc. I
work with the homeless at my church and had high
hopes for her when she asked the more powerful
members of our congregation for their help.
Excitedly they gave much more time, resources and
money than she had hoped for. Her self-imposed
deadlines have come and gone for nearly 18
months and nothing has really changed. It’s the
same old, same old.

Witnessing this unfortunately reminds me of my
hometown, Jackson. Not the Jackson I remember,
with men like Russell Davis, Dale Danks, and even
Kane Ditto (the last man I voted for as a Mississippi
resident) in the mayor’s office, but Jackson as it is
now. Jackson, like Atlanta, has a less than honorable
city council, and a mayor that only seems to
care about some of his constituency, but not all of it.
The similarities continue. Crime is unreasonably
high in both cities, though property prices have
been on the increase in many areas. The economy
of the United States and the businesses, small and
large, that are doing the work and producing the
revenue are to be thanked for this, not the mayor or
city council of either city. Education in both cities is
even more of a shame than the level of crime. In
fact, the weak schools increase the number of criminals
on the streets.

Jackson is failing. Atlanta is failing. The citizenry
of both cities are failing by not breaking out of the
mold. Jackson is on a slippery slope that seems to
have grown more slippery in the last eight years.
The mayor and city council are not totally to blame
for every problem, but they are in charge, thus
responsible for the city as a whole. Change has to
start somewhere.

The machines in both cities are at different points
in their lives, but they are both alive and well, much
to the detriment of their respective communities.
Jackson’s population is declining, though Atlanta’s
economy, which has very little to do with city government,
is prosperous enough to have residents
flooding into old office space and warehouses that
have rapidly been turned into lofts or condos,
despite the enormous taxes, despite the crime, and
despite the pathetic school system. In an effort to
meet the demand, residential towers are also going
up in downtown and midtown Atlanta. Again, this
is the doing of the economy, not our political
machine.

Sadly, Jackson’s economy isn’t strong enough to
lure my former Northeast Jackson neighbors away
from the ever enticing environs of Madison and
Rankin counties. I can’t blame them for moving. I
remember back when you lived out in the “country”
if you lived in Madison, and Ridgeland was
sort of a lower-income stepsister of Jackson. Unless
you lived at the reservoir in either county you were
out in the “sticks.” Rankin county is nice, but I’m
really impressed with Madison. It’s becoming
Northeast Jackson of 20 years ago improved upon,
yet the taxes are lower, the crime is lower, and parents
can confidently send their kids to public
schools. What a change!

My father, who lives in Gulf Shores now and who
used to help run a large multinational oil company’s
office downtown, predicted exactly what has been
happening in Jackson in the last 10 or 12 years way
back in the early 1980s, using, you guessed it,
Atlanta as the example. I thought he was crazy at
the time. He only goes back to Jackson for a visit if
he really has to, because he says it makes him very
sad. That’s a shame.

Though I will always consider myself a
Jacksonian at heart, I no longer reside there and will
not be voting in the election. Despite Dorothy
Triplett’s impassioned letter to this paper, I would
opt for change, hoping for the very best, and cast
my vote for Mr. Melton. Mayor Johnson has had
his shot and he has failed. While you’re at it
Jacksonians, try some new faces on the city council,
too. It couldn’t hurt.

Dan Richart
Lawrenceville, GA

Letter to the Editor
Northside Sun
4/14/5