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The United Voice of Georgia’s Cities Still Matters

May 4, 2015  |  Lamar Norton, GMA Executive Director
Lamar Norton
We live in an ever-changing world, with tech­nology advancing and shaping society and our place within it. It’s not unusual these days to “discover” some new technology only to have it become obsolete as soon as you figure out how to use it! So within that framework, it is good to know that some things don’t change. For example, city officials coming together to influence policy and make a difference in cities across Georgia has not changed since GMA’s inception in 1934.
 
GMA was founded on the basis that city officials had more influence at the state capitol if they spoke in unison, rather than as individuals. While many city officials do have one-on-one conversations with their legislators during the session and throughout the year—and we’re glad they do—the principle of “one voice” has continued to serve cities well. We saw that with the latest legislative session. When the transportation bill was first introduced, it did not bode well for local governments. The original proposal would have taken local sales taxes and redirected them to the state. As one, city officials said that solution to the problem of transportation funding was unacceptable to them. While the final version of HB170 still has some con­cerning aspects, it is a far cry from what was originally proposed and also includes flexibility for local governments to call for additional sales tax for transportation projects. Working together, we all win.
 
We need to apply that same method at the federal level. The federal gov­ernment has yet to pass a long-term funding plan for transportation. City of­ficials need to press Congress to make transportation funding a priority and allow for local officials to have input and flexibility in determining projects to be funded. As government gets further away from “we the people,” there is less ability—and less pressure—to be responsive to the people. As the government closest to the people, city leaders are in the perfect position to represent and address the concerns of their constituents.
 
Another example of city officials coming together to change commu­nities is the annual “Georgia Cities Week” event. Held in April every year, cities make the event their own—with activities tailored to their communities and their abilities. This year, more than 150 cities participated. The great thing about Georgia Cities Week is how it brings communities and people to­gether. Volunteers and city employees get recognition for the great work they do; people learn more about their city through scavenger hunts and trivia contests; and people come together to plant flowers and trees and clean up their cities. As each person partici­pates in the events, it binds them closer to the cities they live in and the people within their communities.
 
It reminds us that while technology has made the world a smaller place, we are neighbors first and foremost. And when we come together as neigh­bors and friends, much can be accomplished.
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