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Atlanta Public Sector Under Attack
north america / mexico | community struggles | opinion / analysis Saturday November 17, 2007 22:26 by Joe - Capital Terminus Collective, Atlanta, GA, USA
With much of the media's attention placed on the “War on Terror,” a clever name for neo-colonialism, the war at home rages on against the working class and poor, with barely a mention. Much like the quest for control of global resources, the continued decline and shifting of public resources and institutions in the US into private sector hands plays right into the agenda of funneling more power and control to the usual suspects. While this sounds grand to the play-makers, their negligence of its own consumers and the environment in which they operate will only regress us farther into horrible working and living conditions, thus rendering all of this positioning useless in the end.
Atlanta, the growing and bustling metropolis it has become, is a prime example of neo-liberal policies at work. The public sector, specifically health care, education, transportation, and housing, are under siege by private interests and their profit-driven mindset. As libertarians, we can't stand idly by: we have chosen to lend our analysis and energy to this struggle. Gentrification. Urban renewal. Revitalization. These terms all mean the same thing: further displacement and marginalization of working class and poor people for almighty profit. Since the 1996 Olympics the Atlanta Housing Authority, partnered with the Atlanta City Council, have ravaged public housing in order to make way for wealthier residents moving to the city. This does three things simultaneously: increases the tax base by raising property taxes, markets the downtown Atlanta area to Fortune 500 companies, and crushes any opposition to the economic restructuring. Public housing residents are most directly affected, but the effects contaminate anyone within the city who can't afford to live in the newer communities. What happens to the current residents? They are forced (by higher rents and property taxes) to move to communities either unreceptive to their plight and/or unable to provide the public services that many who are more privileged or economically stable take for granted, namely transportation and healthcare. This slash-and-burn tactic has to stop. If the city really wants to “revitalize” the communities, which make up the metro area, why must it result in tearing them down?
The next major issue is the management of the public resources and institutions that are still available to everyone. There is a continued trend of privatization of our utilities, education and health care systems, which isn't benefiting anyone but the private sector entities in control. This trend creates guaranteed money for a corporation whose focus is on providing water, gas, and electricity. Most people need these resources in order to live decently. The local government claims the reason for this practice is that these companies can provide better service and subsequently more savings to the consumer. But the real result is just the opposite. Ask any long-term resident of Atlanta and they'll tell you their bills have only gone up and the quality of service has remained stagnant, if not declined. Stories of embezzlement and mismanagement are constantly in the media. Grady Hospital, a major southeastern health care institution that provides essential and unique care, is also a major hub of education for doctors all over Georgia and the rest of the region. Of course, it suffers from a lack of funding by the region it services, and mismanagement by its previous handlers. Now a private group wants to rescue the hospital from its financial woes and claims it is to be a non-profit entity, yet no one on the proposed board is actually involved with the hospital's operations. Isn't it logical, that those directly involved with the hospital would have better insight into keeping it running? What services will be cut and who will be denied treatment in order to keep the costs in-line and still maintain non-profit status? These are serious questions for those most affected by it: the employees and working class/poor residents of Atlanta.
Politically speaking, Atlanta has remained dormant for far too long. It's time we step up the efforts to defend our city from corporate takeover and destruction of our basic human rights. Those most affected by these changes have to be informed of the consequences and allowed to have a say in that which affects their daily lives. This isn't the first Battle of Atlanta and it certainly won't be the last.
From the pages of Anarchist Atlanta #6, being distributed at the annual demonstration against the School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia, USA, in November of 2007.