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Which side are you on?

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This dispatch just in from the Capitol: The Atlanta Home Guard has expelled the occupying majority from under the Gold Dome and sent them packing for home. Atlanta has declared its independence and invites like-minded counties to join the secessionist movement and establish a new capital for the New South.

So which side are you on, folks? And how did it come to this?

For decades, small, empty counties that were created by and overrepresented in the Legislature have dominated state politics. And Georgia has milked the undisputed economic engine of the Southeast for everything from band uniforms to "developmental highways," all the while declaring that Atlanta will have to solve its own problems.

Whenever Atlanta initiated efforts toward self-sufficiency – by beginning a local freeway system in the 1940s or laying out a network of reservoirs to slake its growing thirst – the state imposed controls. A "regional planning commission" gives overrepresentation to small counties; a "state water plan" puts the demands of industrial agribusiness on par with the drinking needs of condo dwellers. Now they can't find money in their $600 million surplus to shore up Grady Hospital, and "hunters' rights" are trumping the city's right to sue gun dealers who flood our communities with cheap pistols.

It's time to look at what things would be like if Georgia didn't have Atlanta to kick around any more. It may be a tough sell. There are no islands in the economic stream, but since Atlanta's economic peers are cities such as Dallas and Dubai, not Augusta and Albany, we won't suffer much of a financial shock.

What can we do? First, as Franklin says (both Ben and Shirley), let's all try to hang together, so we don't hang separately. Let's build a coalition around the things we agree on. That means not shooting every Republican who comes over the hill. It also means the suburbs can't ignore the obvious when it comes to things like transit and health-care funding.

Let's also try out the tax-cutting scissors ourselves. Every dollar the state collects in taxes includes about 30 cents from inside the Perimeter. That's often sent to far-flung corners thin on people but thick with politicians. So let's back cutting the state sales tax by a penny and replace it with a local sales tax to fund local transportation and water needs.

If you take away metro Atlanta, you can call our state "Mississippi." The demographics, economic base and future of the rest of the state depend on the Atlanta region to set it apart.

Yes, we depend on Gwinnett's and Cobb's, and even Forsyth's boomtown. But when push comes to shove, they have more in common with intowners and more to gain as a part of the new state of Atlanta than they do in continuing to be bled dry by the good ol' boys who now rule Georgia.

So which side are you on, folks? Because it's time to choose ...

Jeff Rader is a DeKalb County commissioner.

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