ATLANTA (Jan. 14, 2009) - Atlanta's quality of life, which helped fuel the metro area's residential and commercial real estate markets for the past 12 years, is slipping, and in some areas literally crumbling.
Crime, sewer problems, inefficient government and an aging infrastructure have become major problems again for the economic engine of the South. Sink holes opened last week around Underground Atlanta. Fire stations have been closed, and solid-waste pickup has been cut.
Atlanta's problems became sadly serious - and deadly - less than 48 hours after second-term Mayor Shirley Franklin delivered her State of the City address. During the speech delivered last week, Franklin said "Atlanta is on the threshold of greatness." She rattled off a series of quality-of-life statistics aimed at persuading residents that things have improved during her tenure. Franklin said major crimes were down 10 percent and overall crime rate down 24 percent - numbers some on the city's police force challenged.
Public safety became topic No. 1 soon after Franklin delivered her assessment. On Jan. 7, an incredibly violent crime occurred in a new business along a corridor in Grant Park, a neighborhood that's been transformed into a solid, safe area. Just after 4 a.m., four young men broke into Standard Food & Spirits on Memorial Drive. When two bartenders went to check into the noise, the robbers forced them into the business office, where they demanded and got the cash they came for.
Soon after, the robbers shot 27-year-old John Henderson, a popular employee, several times. They spared a female employee, and she since has looked shattered in TV interviews.
The crime shocked Atlanta because of the robbers' ruthlessness; they killed an affable man after he handed over the money.
The crime will get a lot of continued attention, in part, because several journalists, including a highl-level Wall Street Journal editor and several writers for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, live in and around Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood.
The crime reminds Atlanta residents that the city cannot be considered safe, especially as public safety positions are eliminated and left vacant. The sad story of John Henderson backs up Emerging Trends' statement made last year that Atlanta no longer can take a high quality of life for granted.