What’s the point?

I have never understood the disdain most urban planners have for suburban America. My neighbors and I enjoy living in homes on about a third of an acre around a cul-de-sac.

We enjoy living in a city with low crime rates and great public schools. We like having a yard where our children and grandchildren can play catch without walking or driving to a park.

I love waking up to the sound of a dove cooing outside my window and sometimes catching a glimpse of a fox when I walk to the mailbox. I get a kick out of seeing an owl perched on top of my son’s basketball goal when I pull into my driveway at night. And even though I get frustrated when my pansies become fodder for my woodland neighbors it is thrilling to catch an offending deer in my yard and stand there waiting to see which one of us will blink first.

Yes, I love living in the suburbs and apparently my neighbors do too. Many of them are educated, relatively affluent people who moved from all over the world to call Alpharetta home. They could have chosen anywhere in metro Atlanta but they have set down roots in Alpharetta because this is where they wanted to live and raise their families.

Of course very few of us have always lived in Alpharetta. Over the years we have lived in apartments, town homes and houses in cities populated by a variety of ethnic and economic demographics in cities all over the world. Each was appropriate for that particular stage of our lives. But at no point in time did any of us ever think our preferences were superior to those of people who chose to live differently.

That’s why I’m always amazed by people who profess to know what’s best for everyone else. Especially the city planners who make a living by telling everybody else how they should live. A perfect example is Richard Florida whose book Rise of the Creative Class gained him celebrity status more than a decade ago but is now peddling a book titled The New Urban Crisis which proposes solutions to the negative consequences caused by his previous recommendations.

So it was refreshing to run across this video titled The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us the other day. The video is nearly an hour long so most of you may not have time to watch the whole thing but it provides a perspective from Joel Kotkin, a founder of the website NewGeography.com, that I have never heard explained so well anywhere else.

Joel Kotkin

If you can’t watch the whole thing you should at least watch the last four minutes. Mr. Kotkin’s response to the final question beginning at the 52:28 mark provides a poignant summary.

You can have some more density in suburban areas but if you densify them too much then whats the point?

Why would I live there?

I couldn’t agree more. An overwhelming majority of American adults people prefer to live in suburbs when given the choice. They prefer suburbs to dense urban cores.

So when great suburban cities like Alpharetta add density to the point of losing the character that makes them more attractive to us in the first place… whats the point?

What’s the point?

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Were Atlanta schools cheating to compete with the Northern Suburbs?

Last week while I was on my electronic rehabilitation program there was an interesting article in the AJC about the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal. The headline of the article was “Scandal could hamper city’s business growth” and you can read the whole thing here.

The entire school cheating scandal is a disappointing chapter in Atlanta’s history but one of the most intriguing components of the story is the entanglement of the Atlanta business community in the sordid affair. What I found unique about this particular article is that it hints the City of Atlanta is losing businesses to the cities in North Fulton County because of our superior schools:

The Atlanta Public Schools scandal will deeply hamper the city’s efforts to attract new businesses and jobs, perhaps for years, business and company site selection experts say.

Quality of the local school system is a top factor in company location decisions, especially among large corporations with employee bases that are substantially made up of families.

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Atlanta in particular has struggled over the past few years as companies have located outside the city limits, especially in the northern suburbs. Instead of going downtown, the job growth of late has been with companies such as NCR Corp., which moved to Gwinnett County from Ohio, and in the numerous technology firms that now call Alpharetta home.

“The city of Atlanta faces much stiffer competition than it did a decade ago,” said Ron Starner, general manager of Site Selection magazine, an industry periodical.

That’s important because school systems in the northern suburbs — some of which are nationally recognized — are generally considered stronger, which allows the metro area to stay competitive in drawing companies, Starner said. That, however, bypasses the city of Atlanta. (emphasis added)

What? Do you mean to tell me that Atlanta with all those MARTA trains and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of transit infrastructure is losing the competition for jobs because other cities including the ones in their Northern suburbs have better schools and are more conducive to raising families? Whoda thunkit?

Well there was this… and this… and this… and this

I think you get the idea by now but if you aren’t convinced you can use the site search to the right of this screen and find dozens of examples on GA Jim which document what makes Alpharetta and our neighbors in the North Atlanta suburbs special and enables us to attract jobs even in this atrocious economic climate. We provide a superior environment for executives and their employees to raise families at a substantially lower cost than an urban environment.

It really is that simple. If you build a great city for families they will come… and they will bring their businesses with them.