Editor's Note: Douglas County Board of Commissioner Kelly Robinson today released the following statement in response to his fellow Board of Commissioners recent four-to-one decision to declare parts of the only black commission district as a “slum.”
Simply, the GOP cat is out of the exploitative bag. The very first decision under the proposed re-districting map that has not been pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice is to declare parts of the only majority black district as a “slum” in the name of economic development.
It’s not the fact that District 2 which is the eastern wall of the county facing Atlanta 18 minutes away along I-20, cradled between super counties: Cobb and Fulton, was expanded to include two mega black voting precincts, causing the district to move from first to worst in foreclosure rates–one area had 900 property parcels and approximately 700 were in some form of foreclosure status.
It is not the fact that this District will be handicapped economically as two capital projects (one late and one over budget by almost 40 percent were pushed in as well). In an all funds in budget of over $100 million not one dollar is allocated to social programs in a county with a 48 percent minority population (132,000 total) and a 9 percent minority work force out of approximately 900 county employees.
It’s not the fact that where Douglas County has two minority commission seats of five and was making significant inroads into a third where the new map establishes a solid single minority vote.
It is simply the fact that the deciding members did not care that the action would degenerate a large (and vocal) middle-income community that was almost 75 percent African American and whose per capita income was not indicative of poverty. Important to note that one of the top Christian Academies is housed in this area. In one fell swoop after public outcry and rationalized appeal, the BOC decided now was the time to strike, to show its economic policy stripes. They exploited the poverty status of residents in another county, declared a commercial corridor “slum” to give big business incentives, yet exacerbating the recovery of home values and setting in motion the creation of a social under-class: Soweta at Sweetwater.
The Urban Redevelopment Act gives cities and counties in Georgia specific powers to rehabilitate, conserve or redevelop of any defined geographical area that is designated as a “slum area.” As a prerequisite to exercising these powers, the city council or county commission must adopt a resolution finding that the area constitutes a “slum area” as defined by the Act and that redevelopment of the area is “necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, morals, or welfare” of the residents of the jurisdiction.
The URA asserts the word “urban” in the title indicates the existence of slum areas as:
• Contributes substantially and increasingly to the spread of disease and crime;
• Constitutes an economic and social liability;
• Substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of municipalities and counties;
• Retards the provision of housing accommodations; or
• Aggravates traffic problems, and substantially impairs or arrests the elimination of traffic hazards and the improvement of traffic facilities;
• Are local centers of disease;
• Promote juvenile delinquency; and
• Contribute little to the tax income of the state and its municipalities and counties, consume an excessive proportion of its revenues because of the extra services required for police, fire, accident, hospitalization, and other forms of public protection, services, and facilities.”
This area is not a slum. This economic decision is being done to advance perhaps a single transaction with a large prospective business with the hopes of hiring locals, however, the three year old Opportunity Zone program has yet to prove itself and so the residents of Lithia Springs are being corralled into an area by policy makers who have white districts and live 10 to 20 miles away. They have decried war on middle-Americans in Douglas County. Their 142 year “off the radar” reign of suppression of collective voice and oppression of individual opportunity of minorities born or migrated here is a travesty and tragedy. Yet, they’ll feign–what did I do?