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CL's 2013 wish list

Transit funding, an arts vision, and - get ready - smokeless bars



Over the last year, we've seen political careers renewed and dashed, new bike trails unveiled, and high-rise buildings rise once again in Midtown. All signs point to more of the same in the year to come — although now we'll have a stadium debate in the mix. Before digging into CL Photo Editor Joeff Davis' spectacular retrospective of the year that was (online 12/27), we want to look forward and think about the year that's to come. Without further ado, we present CL's wish list for 2013.

Find transportation funding State leaders made it clear after July's overwhelming defeat of the 1 percent transportation sales tax — R.I.P., T-SPLOST — that they won't touch transportation funding anytime soon. That can't be the case in Atlanta. According to the breakdown of T-SPLOST votes, the majority of Atlanta residents want to see more transit, bike lanes, smoother roads, and sturdy bridges. Failure to do anything about the problem won't sit well with the populace. There are several options to make Atlanta more walkable, bikeable, and connected by transit. The city has considered issuing as much as $300 million in bonds to start addressing its $922 million backlog of projects. Mayor Kasim Reed has signaled to reporters that he might wait until the federal government creates an "infrastructure bank," which could offer low- or no-cost loans to cities to build projects. That's a smart move. But knowing the feds, it also might not happen anytime soon. Consider asking the Legislature for a smaller T-SPLOST in Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties, which could generate an estimated $3.1 billion over 10 years. Issue bonds to pay for needed, targeted transportation projects. And let's synchronize the damn traffic signals.

Come up with a public art policy that actually supports public art A vague sign ordinance won't cut it – isn't cutting it, in fact. The people have spoken and they want public art. Naturally, the points of view about what qualifies as "appropriate" varies among residents who are protective of their neighborhood's image. City officials should outline a process that gives residents a say in their community's aesthetic, but that also allows arts organizations the creative freedom to create work that does one of the things art does best: push us out of our comfort zones.

Ban smoking in bars Yes, we said it. If you're an asthmatic who wants to enjoy a beer without choking to death (or you're just a non-smoker who hates stinking like an ashtray), your best bet is a few miles down the road in Decatur, where puffing tobacco in pubs is prohibited. Atlanta officials should at least broach the topic again.

Prove the new stadium actually deserves public funding Arthur Blank is a fine corporate citizen who has given back to Atlanta many times over. But he has yet to prove why it's a good idea to build a new stadium with at least $300 million in public cash — a figure, mind you, that doesn't include sales tax breaks and public land. To secure that bag of cash, the General Assembly will have to approve legislation that ups the limit on the credit card belonging to the Georgia World Congress Center, which is nearly 99 percent on board with the stadium proposal.

Keep cheering Atlanta, long known for its tepid sports fans, seems to have found a new love for its athletes. Some of us went overboard — looking at you, Atlanta airport worker who egged the New Orleans Saints' bus — but the support gives the city energy.

You should run for elected office Voters next November will return to the polls to elect Atlanta City Council members and a mayor. They all deserve competition. Not because everyone at City Hall needs to go. (We'll offer our suggestions later in the new year.) Far from it, actually, as some of the city's pols are stellar. But for Atlanta to be a truly great city, we need people who are hungry to serve in elected office. That means strong challengers and incumbents who will fight to keep their seats. Disgruntled about the way things work? Think you can do a better job? Have delusions of grandeur? Get your name on the ballot.

Support local music Fans will flock to a venue when there's a free show. But when promoters charge $5 the space isn't as packed. Show support for the hard-working musicians in our city.

Stop with the construction of cookie-cutter skyscrapers and big-box monstrosities We understand that developers have budgets. But it's a problem when an Atlantan can step out of a taxicab in Tampa and see a high-rise apartment that's virtually identical to one in Midtown Atlanta. Or see a developer actually consider erecting something more suitable for Snellville along the Atlanta Beltline. Our city's buildings should be a source of pride, not derision or shame, and city officials should tell developers that they expect quality designs.

Fix public schools And we don't mean by dismantling the system in the hopes that more charter schools will take their place.

Accomplish at least one of the following, state leaders: Lift the antiquated funding restriction imposed on MARTA that limits how Fulton and DeKalb residents' tax dollars operate our transit system. Give new MARTA CEO Keith Parker a chance. Opt in to the expansion of Medicaid. Make the state Ethics Commission independent from state government, provide it with a dedicated funding source, and let those regulators do their jobs.

Bring back manufacturers We shouldn't just make movies in Atlanta. We need to build things. Widgets, doohickeys, thingamajigs. We do already, but we need to do much more, like woo existing businesses and nurture local start-ups to set up shop in appropriate areas. Train Atlantans to work in these jobs. It won't be accomplished in a single year. Hell, it might actually be easier to ban smoking.

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