Take Time to Reflect on the Value of Georgia’s Cities

December 6, 2019

Dublin Mayor Phil Best, GMA President

This article is part of GMA's Viewpoints catalog, a grouping of opinion pieces from the GMA magazine, speeches and other editorials.

As the 1980s icon and philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Picture of Dublin, Georgia
Dublin is one of Georgia’s 538 cities.
He’s right. If you’re anything like me, life does move fast, too fast at times. Between my two day jobs—you know, the one that pays the bills and the other one as an elected official (along with church activities, various civic responsibilities, GMA duties and events and time with family and friends), there’s always something going on.

So, as we come to the end of 2019 and look to the New Year, I decided to take Mr. Bueller’s advice to stop and look around to make sure I know what Georgia’s cities are doing. What I see is amazing.

Cities across Georgia are actively working to remove blight in their communities. Other cities, both large and small, are grappling with affordable housing issues. Two metro-Atlanta cities are dealing with toxic emissions from local facilities. Cities across Georgia continue to work on regulating vacation and short-term rentals.

Investments in parks and recreation facilities continue to be a priority for many cities. Other communities are in the midst of water and sewer upgrades. Gangs, youth violence, parking, technology and innovation, planning and development concerns, new city halls, youth focused projects, visioning efforts, city workforce development struggles, homelessness and quality-of-life efforts of every kind are all being tackled by Georgia’s cities.

I don’t mention these things to brag about cities, although they certainly deserve it. Rather, I’ve listed these efforts for two reasons. The first is to highlight the value cities bring to Georgia’s economic prosperity and quality-of-life. The second and more important reason is to remind us why we collectively believe in and work to fight to maintain home rule.

As we approach the 2020 Legislative Session, it’s time to look around and be aware that the idea of home rule will sometimes conflict with the desires of a legislator. The differences in governance between a top-down approach to decision making and one where residents and their local officials make decisions to meet local needs and desires is quite stark.

To put it another way, it essentially boils down to a question of statewide uniformity versus local autonomy and decision making. I tend to lean toward the local decision-making side of the equation, as I feel that in most situations, it is the best approach to take in addressing the needs and challenges of our local communities. Too often the supposed need for a statewide mandate or limitation on local decision making doesn’t anticipate or respect differing local needs and situations.

City leaders are meeting head-on the challenges and opportunities facing their communities. Let’s continue to work together to protect the ability of residents and elected officials to address those issues as they see fit.

Back to Listing