Our state capitol has been in Atlanta long enough. It’s time for a change, down to middle Georgia to spread the growth to new areas of the Peach State and relieve some of the congestion in the metro area.
This is not that revolutionary of an idea. Consider that Georgia has already had five capitols; why not six?
When the first seat of colonial rule was established in 1754, Savannah served as capitol. At that time, routine court matters such as divorce and name changes required a trip to the state capitol and Savannah was too far to the south from the bulk of the state, so in 1785, the capitol was moved to Augusta where it remained for a decade before it was judged too far to the east.
A new city, Louisville in Jefferson County, was created on 1,000 acres purchased and designed to be like Philadelphia – specifically to become the state’s seat of power. Louisville, like Augusta, only served as the capitol for a decade. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia online, it fell out of favor possibly over malaria concerns.
Milledgeville then took its turn as the capitol from 1807 through the Civil War. The legislature initially budgeted $60,000 to build a new capitol building. But then after the war, they packed up and followed the growth tied to railways to Atlanta where several major rail lines merged. They used one of the trains to load up the furnishings and paintings in Milledgeville and depart for Atlanta. We could use these same lines to send the legislature’s furnishings back to the south.
The simple fact is Atlanta and its surrounding metro area have gotten too big to hold our state government and all our biggest companies and our sports teams and our urban tourist destinations, plus the roughly half-million people who call the city home.
It’s time to spread the wealth around. State leaders from Governor Brian Kemp to the representatives and senators all express concern that Atlanta is the state’s King Kong growth machine – very healthy, on the move, but completely out-of-control. This white hot growth in one city while the the rest of the state finds economic development a tough row to hoe is proving an intractable problem.
Census figures from the past year show that Atlanta grew to almost half a million people, but more than one-third of Georgia’s small towns lost population. The big cities got bigger and their industries grew, while small cities shrank in population and vitality.
Former capitol Louisville is one of those declining areas. It’s population was only 2,493 at the 2010 census, down from 2,712 at the 2000 census.
The state can’t dictate that private business move out of Atlanta, but they can look for new real estate themselves. If they moved the government seat to nearer the center of the state, it would make it more accessible to all Georgians.
Moving state government out of Atlanta to a convenient, but less crowded area, would spread the economic growth. State employees, lobbyists and related service jobs would be a boon for a rural area.
Certainly, the move would be expensive and inconvenient for state employees with roots in Atlanta but that is what being a public servant is all about – putting the needs of the private sector and citizens over government employees.
Atlanta has gotten to serve as the capitol for 151 and we could give them another decade to complete the move but, if the top state officials are serious about creating economic opportunity for all Georgians, this is a way to put their money where their mouths are.
It’s about fairness for all areas of the state. Atlanta doesn’t need to get everything.Plus taking pressure of the metro-area roads would be a huge favor to the rest of the half million people who call the ATL home.