Mayor Rusty Paul Delivers his Sixth Annual State of the City Speech to Members and Guests of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

In what has become an eagerly-anticipated annual tradition, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul gave his sixth “State of the City” address to a crowd of nearly 300 Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber members, guests, elected officials and city leadership at City Springs May 14.  The luncheon meeting was sponsored by Kennesaw State University and the City of Sandy Springs.

With his usual humor and enthusiasm, Mayor Paul, now serving his second mayoral term, told the crowd he wanted to update them on three key issues:  water reliability, traffic congestion and North End improvements.  The Mayor said providing reliable and cost-effective water to Sandy Springs residents and businesses is probably the greatest challenge facing the community.  The city’s water is provided by the City of Atlanta, thanks to an agreement worked out by Atlanta and Fulton County in the early 1950’s when the county was unable to meet the need of the Sandy Springs community.  Not surprisingly, the aging water system has deteriorated, while costs to customers continue to increase.

“The City of Atlanta charges its customers some of the highest fees for water service in the country,” said Paul.  “And Sandy Springs pays a surcharge on top of that!  I’ve met with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to discuss our city’s desire to purchase and operate our own water system, but since we contribute about $30 million to Atlanta through the current arrangement, I have not yet been successful.  I believe that ensuring safe, cost-effective and reliable water delivery to our residents and businesses is crucial to the long-term health of Sandy Springs.  This is not going to be a short process, so stay tuned.”

The Mayor then spoke about ongoing concerns and frustrations with traffic congestion.  “We are all drowning in traffic, and we need a real transit network to move people.  As you know, I have been working with other mayors and country leadership in the north metro region to come up with solutions, and the good news just this week is that the proposed East-West Express Lanes on the northern arc of I-285 have been included in the Fulton County Transit Plan.  This is a huge step for mobility, since the new Express Lanes will efficiently move people from Doraville to SunTrust Park.

“However,” the mayor continued, “we cannot build our way out of our traffic issues with roads.  This is the price greater Atlanta is paying for not investing in infrastructure in the past 30 years.  Now we have to retrofit within the footprint we have.  We need traffic alternatives to keep attracting a strong workforce and new businesses.  We Baby Boomers used to find the jobs we want and then move to where they were.  Today’s workforce finds the community where they want to live and then seek out jobs there.  We need to be the place where people want to live and work.  We have got to improve traffic connectivity, and the process will be painful, excruciating.  But it has to be done.  I want our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities and great quality of life we have enjoyed.”

The Mayor then addressed revitalization plans and proposals for the North End of Sandy Springs.  He expressed frustration with what he called disappointing rumors.  “This should not be a community where working and middle class people cannot afford to buy a house.  When this happens, we’ve sawed off the bottom rung of the ladder that leads to the economic dream.  There is a misperception that revitalizing the North End means we are trying to push people out of apartments.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  Working people are essential to our economy, and fear-mongering is not how we do things in Sandy Springs.  Rents are going up and the problems are not getting easier, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step up and find a solution.  We need to get people working together to strengthen the North End and preserve what we’ve got to create that quality of life for everyone.

“For years, I’ve said I want Sandy Springs to be the envy of other communities because we are good neighbors who take care of each other.  We are a people who look to the future and build it together.  Politics done right is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.  We do not leave people behind as we move forward.  This is what makes us great and this is why other communities envy Sandy Springs.”