The Black Misleadership Class Lines Up Behind Transit Privatization In Atlanta
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Back in the 1960s residents of Fulton and Dekalb counties along with the city of Atlanta voted in a penny sales tax to fund MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. For all the usual reasons, the surrounding majority white counties declined participation in MARTA, claiming its acronym instead stood for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. Along with rural legislators they imposed savage and arbitrary funding and operational restrictions on the agency, so that to this day MARTA receives not a penny of gas tax revenue and is the only big city transit agency in the nation that gets not a penny from state government.
Though they wouldn't tax themselves to pay its bills, suburbanites were long represented on MARTA's governing board, and the rural and suburban state legislators although again, the state gives no money to MARTA, convene a permanent and powerful oversight committee that constantly interferes with its governance.
A generation of black Atlanta mayors have made it their business to push tens of thousands of low income black families out of the city in order to “revitalize” it with wealthier, whiter residents, and white suburbanites now covet the multibillion dollar transit infrastructure built by inner-city Fulton, Dekalb and Atlanta residents.
The next big play, openly demanded by Atlanta business leaders like the Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the legislative oversight committee, and tacitly agreed to by Atlanta's black mayor, it's majority black city council, and most of the local black leadership class is privatization of the city's transit assets, all at once or piece by piece. The transit agency's own governing board is on the privatization bus as well.
They commissioned a recent audit that blames the city's transit woes on lazy, overpaid workers with too many sick days and much too lavish health care plans. And with the approval of the white governor --- again despite the fact that the state provides the agency NO funding --- and the black mayor, a new transit chief has been brought in from San Antonio, TX for the express purpose of breaking the black-led union, and transitioning the agency to state control so it can be privatized.
Privatization will be a good deal for whichever fat cats get the contracts. But it won't be good for ordinary people who need transit to get to and look for jobs. It won't be so good for businesses who depend on transit to bring workers and customers to their doors. It won't be good for the thousands of elderly who have less access to automobiles, often because they can no longer drive, and it won't be good for college and high school students who depend on public transit to get to school. It won't be good for folks who have to access medical care or government services, or who want to maintain family ties or get to church on Sunday.
But a whole layer of the black political class and their hangers on are foaming at the mouth at the thought of lucrative “public private partnerships,” and that will be the shape of the politics of black Atlanta for the near future. It's the privatizers and profiteers vs the rest of us. Which side are YOU on.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.