Atlanta still wants the DNC, does the DNC want Atlanta?
Welcome to my freemium newsletter by me, King Williams. A documentary filmmaker, journalist, podcast host, and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a newsletter covering the hidden connections of Atlanta to everything else.
Red Clay News
1. Atlanta is awaiting the results of the 2024 DNC
Atlanta is still awaiting a decision on whether it or Chicago will be hosting the 2024 Democratic National Convention next summer. Atlanta has become a key market for the national Dems winning big in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
For both cities, there’s been over two decades since the DNC has been held in their cities. For Atlanta, its first and only time was in 1988 led by the efforts of then-mayor Andrew Young. For Chicago, its eleventh time and last time hosting the DNC last was in 1996. Fwiw, Chicago has also hosted the RNC fourteen times.
For both cities, the DNC was a catalyst for bigger economic developments.
For Atlanta, it was used to set the city up for the 1990 bid for the 1996 Olympics. For Chicago, the 1996 DNC was used as a civic clean-up that anchored an ensuing round of gentrification and economic development in the downtown area along some parts west side of the city. For both cities, hosting the 2024 DNC is a shot in the arm of much sought-after economic development.
From my previous newsletter: DNC 2024 in Atlanta? - 11/6/2022
What the DNC/RNC brings to cities
Hosting a national convention is a form of event-based economic growth. The 2024 DNC is projected to have an economic impact of $70 million in Atlanta. For a comparable event, the annual labor day weekend of the Chick-fil-A college football kickoff generates between $70-80 million. The 2021 Chick-fil-A college football kickoff according to internal estimates by the company brought in $82 million.
What the DNC/RNC does for political parties
For cities, the DNC/RNC is a way to temporarily align your city politically, culturally, and (potentially) economically. In election years, cities can host multiple members of either the incumbency or the incoming new political faction. In the process touting the needs of either the city, the state, or both.
Are the Dems ready to move south?
For Atlanta, this would be about the bigger pivot: moving the party’s center from the heavily connected DMV-NYC-BOS corridor, the nation-state of California, and the declining Midwest to the sunbelt. A move that sees more opportunities for big swings in states such as Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. For a party that’s seeing a migration of its biggest pool of voters coming from the midwest, northeast, and California, it makes sense to be a bigger presence in an area of growth.
From my previous newsletter: DNC 2024 in Atlanta? - 11/6/2022
Why the DNC is considering Houston and Atlanta?
For the Dems, who are struggling to finally have definitive successes in sunbelt states (Arizona, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida), there is an imperative to be in these states, where the populations are growing. Compared to the declining population’s midwest and or the deep blue-to-mostly blue states of the northeast.
The political opportunities for both parties are in the sunbelt, the problem is GOP political entrenchment, which could take decades to fully undo. Lending to the idea of hosting in either Houston or Atlanta, blue cities with blue metros in red states was a no-brainer for Democrat leadership.
Chicago has some other concerns for the party
Chicago is a traditional center of the party. But like the Midwest and cities as a whole, the on-paper base is in need of a little TLC. Chicago is the ideal city for the party with its large population, diverse residents, and variety of Dems finding success locally.
But in a post-2020 world, Chicago is coming to mean a lot of things whether warranted or not about the Dems. ‘What about Chicago?’ has become a conservative sticking point that the Dems can’t keep affording to ignore.
There are likely a lot of internal decisions on using the base of Chicago as a national case for reinvigorating the larger party. A party that’s been on the receiving end of fatigue, culture wars, pandemic mandates, policing issues, and inflation.
For Chicago, this includes a large base of loyal but slowly disaffected Black voters. A Latino base that was once reliable is falling off or moving to the GOP. Democratic pro-life voters. White liberals. All of whom are upset with the lack of progress, failing schools, economic stagnation, and address of an uptick in violence. Chicago gaining the DNC would be a signal that the party is going to allocate more attention and resources to the Midwest’s most important city.
The Obama effect
Add in the potential one-two punch of having the DNC + the debut of the Obama presidential library which is slated to open next summer, and that could be enough to shift the focus to Chicago. Obama’s post-Trump presence has seen the former president noticeably more vocal, politically engaged, and out in public life.
For a national party in desperate need of a jolt of energy, the potential of anchoring in Chicago with Obama + the media ecosystem that follows him could help the party.
Atlanta is still the favorite but…
But Atlanta has a lot going for it, including its upswing in Dem and would-be Dem voters in the state. There is positive migration to the city and region year over year for the last decade. There is also a more extensive base of potential corporate and higher-end donors for the national party. But recent losses like statewide Dems in 2022, Buckhead Cityhood, (Black) inequality, and the lingering ‘Cop City’ fiasco could deter the convention. Atlanta’s brand has taken some serious hits that could linger if not addressed adequately.
Why the DNC might avoid Atlanta
For Atlanta, a place that can rely on its current economic status and history, it’s a potentially better bet that the Dems build out its base here versus re-establishing the base after the 2020 national convention in Milwaukee. All of which was undermined by the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin three days later. Those protests included the vigilante killing of two protestors by a teenager in the subsequent days. Those protests saw the Dems be flatfooted in how to respond. Atlanta with a lingering ‘Cop City’ problem can’t afford that type of brand damage.
2. Clayton County will have a new sheriff, after a runoff
A special election for Clayton County’s newest Sheriff is heading to a runoff. The race will be between Levon Allen, who fell 3 percentage points short of the threshold needed at 47.01% of the votes necessary to avoid a runoff, and Clarence Cox, who received 2.6% of the vote.
This comes as former Sheriff Victor Hill has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for abuse at his prisons. For Hill, the conviction and light sentence ensures that he could run again in 2026 if he chooses to. Hill, a controversial figure for his tough-on-crime measures still has his supporters and could be a challenger should he choose to run again. Voting for the next ClayCo Sheriff will be on April 18th.
3. Mableton de-annexation fails in state legislature + a runoff is scheduled for its first-ever mayor
Some members of the newly incorporated city of Mableton who wanted to not be a part of the city saw the efforts to de-annex fail in the state legislature. The move was the second cityhood measure of 2023 to be voted on this year after Buckhead Cityhood was struck down again. After last week’s special election, several inaugural members of the city of Mableton have been elected. There will be a runoff for mayor between Aaron Carman and Michael Owens taking place on Tuesday, April 18th.
For more on Mableton, I suggest reading back newsletter issues:
Mableton is still considering cityhood - 11/21/2022
The 4 Cobb County cityhood initiatives - 2/3/2022
4. Two beloved in-town festivals will be paused for 2023
The Candler Park Music Festival has been canceled. While the Decatur Book Festival has been paused for 2023. Both previously successful local festivals have struggled during the pandemic and post-pandemic eras. The pandemic, inflation, and a rapidly shifting Atlanta marketplace are making typical low-priced (Candler Park) to free-to-attend festivals (DBF) harder to produce. No word on if any festival will step in to fill the shoes of either festival, with the DBF being the hardest to replicate.
5. Midtown students stage a walkout over redistricting
Midtown (formerly known as Grady) High School has held a student walkout over a redistricting plan. The plan would separate certain students as a means to address overcrowding at the popular high school. The plan would send over 200 students to Booker T. Washington High on the Westside.
The move would also be a switch from one of the city’s best-performing (Midtown) and most-resourced schools to one of the least (Washington). Midtown (Grady) is near Piedmont Park, located in the heart of midtown Atlanta. Similar plans have been proposed for Maynard H. Jackson High and Woodson Park Academy, an elementary school. APS has not rendered a final decision.
6. Sheraton Atlanta is facing foreclosure
The global hedge fund, Apollo Capital is in talks to foreclose on the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel after it defaulted on its mortgage. The 763-room Sheraton Atlanta, located downtown is the sixth-largest in the city and the entire metro area. The deal is still pending but could represent a retraction in the overall hotel market in Atlanta. The hotel was purchased for $64 million in 2017 before a series of loans and subsequent credit lines pushed the property to owe tens of millions in fees and interest. The property was put on the market in 2021 but failed to generate any buyers.
7. Georgia trucks are about to get heavier thanks to state
HB189 is making its way through the legislative session. It will make trucks heavier. It could also lead to more traffic fatalities, potholes, and traffic jams. The issue has divided lawmakers as it has passed through its committee on a 7-4 vote. Kemp used his pandemic-era powers to temporarily lift the limit on weight capacity on multi-axle vehicles. This move expands the state’s growing storage, logistics, and delivery industries. It also coincides with massive expansions on I-285 E from Candler Road, and I-285 S at Bouldercrest, which is a hub to I-675 N. The current expansion of I-285 S at Bouldercrest could take the 8-lane road and expand it as wide as 16 lanes.
8. Grady opens a new $237 million dollar building while Wellstar fights accusations over its closing downtown
Grady Hospital has opened its new $237 million dollar outpatient building. The addition, announced in 2020 is located at the corner of Piedmont and Gilmer Street.
The project was already in the works prior to the sudden closure of Wellstar Hospital in the Old Fourth Ward. The move still leaves Grady as the only Level-1 trauma center in the area but the expansion can take some, but not all pressure off of the closure of one hospital. Wellstar is currently facing criticism and federal complaints concerning its decision to close its downtown hospital.
9. Atlanta City Council is launching an audit into the More MARTA program
The Atlanta City Council is auditing local transit agency MARTA concerning the lack of dispersal of funds and cutbacks of several projects related to 2016’s More MARTA campaign. The potentially transformative in-town transit expansion has yet to fulfill even half of its proposed list. The project now seems almost doa, a far cry from 2016.
From my previous newsletter: The Campbellton Road MARTA controversy explained - 5/12/2022
The More MARTA campaign of 2016
2016’s More MARTA campaign saw a majority of the city of Atlanta residents vote for the first massive in-town transit expansion in years. The vote would be for a half-penny sales tax that would generate an additional $2.7 billion dollars of funding for new transit projects. The project list includes investment in missing middle transit corridors within the city, including places like Campbellton Road.
The council will look at why pre-pandemic plans for MARTA did not move together faster. It will also look at why post-pandemic plans have completely fallen apart with a series of planned cutbacks and other issues. MARTA is claiming that there is nothing unusual about the issues outside of declining ridership pre-pandemic, pandemic crushing demand + funds, and now operating with these factors post-pandemic.
For MARTA, whose declining prospects could not have come at a worse time, this could get much worse as Emory’s transit options were also greatly reduced. It was Emory in 2018 that left unincorporated DeKalb County over frustrations regarding a lack of transit expansion.
From my previous newsletter: The Campbellton Road MARTA controversy explained - 5/12/2022
There was no way then or now, that the city would’ve not made sure MARTA will give them their LRT project. Additionally, if Atlanta has to expand further into the county as a hedge against another cityhood initiative, the proposed City of DeKalb, Emory’s LRT transit line is of even greater importance. The Emory LRT would then serve as a connection point of more importance into the newly established eastern end of the city. An eastern end that would go potentially as far as Lithonia and Rockdale county, with a corridor of nearly 300,000 residents—60% of the current population of the city of Atlanta.
Transit expansion is the future of Atlanta and the anchor the region needs. But considering the rising costs and dwindling public support, Atlanta may likely seal its future of sprawl and traffic forever. For MARTA if its public support and ridership dwindle, the future of the agency is TBD. Add in the prospect of The ATL, the Republican-appointed metro Atlanta mass transit coalition one day becoming the agency that takes it over is a far away but plausible future.
10. The AJC has a new editor
Leroy Chapman is the new editor-in-chief for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He replaces Kevin Riley, AJC editor since 2011. Chapman has been will the AJC since 2011 and the AJC promotes from within. Chapman is the first Black person to be EIC in the 155 years of operation for Georgia’s largest newspaper.
This comes as Cox Media, the parent company of the AJC is refocusing its broader focus on owning local markets nationally. Cox purchased Axios, a national-local news brand for $525 million in 2022. Cox Media also hired former CNN senior member Andrew Morse in January to head its efforts to expand into digital media.
Other red clay news:
The Feds give Atlanta $30 million to connect downtown to Southside Beltline.
Biden administration taps Atlanta native Rykia Dorsey Craig to policy council.
NBA veteran and Boston Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire is the new head coach at Georgia Tech.
A supplier for Hyundai will be opening a plant with 400 jobs near Savannah.
Ron DeSantis is opening a branch of his 2024 presidential campaign PAC in ATL.
The State of Georgia wants critics of its $5 billion dollar subsidy to EV manufacturer Rivian to pre-pay their court costs.
It’s officially the start of spring! This year is flying by!