The council tonight has the opportunity to send a strong signal to voters by reaffirming that decision.
Not only that: Thanks to a fortuitous recalculation of the figures involved, the city now expects to bring in $68 million from the bond, roughly doubling the amount of money the city would have to work with and thereby increasing the odds the makeover will succeed.
Yes, passage of the bond in November would mean a two-mill increase in the city’s property tax rate, but the overall rate would remain unchanged because the city school millage is being reduced by a like amount thanks to passage of the E-SPLOST referendum in March, which will pay off the school system’s bond debt.
Franklin Road is lined with garden apartment complexes that were nice “back in the day,” but now, not so much. Most are home to a highly transient population low on the economic scale, which in turn is reflected in the sky-high transience rate in nearby city schools. The complexes also produce a disproportionate share of calls to the city’s police, fire and 911 services.
Mayor Steve Tumlin is proposing the city use the bond proceeds to buy the worst of the complexes and bulldoze them, then convey the land to a developer or developers for a sweeping transformation. The land in question is highly desirable thanks to Franklin’s proximity at both ends to Interstate 75. Meanwhile, the complexes that remain presumably would be able to be much more selective about to whom they rent. As for the residents of the complexes that meet the wrecking ball, they would be given Section 8 housing vouchers, like those who earlier lived in now-demolished Marietta Public Housing Authority projects and who now enjoy more pleasant abodes.
Franklin Road has festered for decades while City Hall watched. The bond proposal is the most promising solution yet to come along and is probably the corridor’s “last best hope.”
Tonight’s vote is not the last word on the subject. No, the final decision is in the hands of the voters, as it should be. Yet the council can and should send a strong signal tonight by voting again to put it on the November ballot and thereby exercising the leadership that the public was looking for when it elected them to office.