East Point Mayor: Choose to Invest in Your City’s Future

Deana Holiday Ingraham

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Many Georgians have heard the story of the pivotal moment when the leaders of two southern cities made choices that would shape the destiny of their communities. One city was Birmingham, Ala., and the other was the city of Atlanta. As history tells us, in the 1950s leaders in Birmingham declined to take advantage of federal matching funds to invest in an international airport. Atlanta, however, jumped at the opportunity. This investment in infrastructure has literally put Georgia on the map, with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport becoming the world’s busiest airport, the gateway to the world and a major economic driver of the state’s economy. As the daughter of an entrepreneurial father, who owned and operated a construction company, the importance of building for today and tomorrow was engrained in me from an early age. Now, as the proud mayor of the city of East Point—within a stone’s throw of Hartsfield-Jackson—I am reminded daily of the need to invest in my city’s future.

East Point has been busy. We’ve been developing public art and trailblazing city agriculture master plans. We’ve won a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfields grant, entered a strategic alliance with the U.S. Small Business Administration to foster small business development, constructed the model mile of our East Point Path and cut the ribbon of our new city hall in the heart of downtown.

East Point City Hall, a 32,000 sq. ft. facility, that includes city offices, a multipurpose city council chamber, a spectacular water feature and outdoor amphitheater to host major events, is symbolic of the importance of making signature investments in our community’s future.  This state-of-the-art facility is catalytic to revitalizing Downtown East Point to one day include a variety of retail, commercial and residential properties as well as greenspace and public art.  Our new city hall is aesthetically pleasing—both on the inside and outside. Residents have left comments on the city’s Facebook page exclaiming “Beautiful!” and “Well done!”
Identifying Funding Sources for Capital Needs
Paying for investments in infrastructure, facilities and other capital needs is often a challenge. We’ve done a good job of identifying funding sources and partners to address ongoing capital projects while not financially overburdening residents with tax increases. City hall, for example, was financed through GMA’s Real Estate Financing program. With GMA’s support, East Point is now using our new city hall as a place to connect and continue to build community with our residents by being center stage for some of our most popular events.

These events included the celebration of the city’s 132nd birthday as part of the National League of Cities’ Love My City Summer of Love initiative and hosting Chamber Music at “The Point” with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program. Our city hall is one that will have a lasting and transformative impact on our community.

A recent survey by GMA indicates that Georgia’s cities are facing $11.2B of capital needs between now and 2022. As an elected official, it is top-of-mind that property tax increases can’t be the go-to for covering the investment needs across the state.

Georgia’s cities are economic engines for the state and should be granted the authority to lead with innovative funding sources. Partners at the federal level, state agencies like the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and tools like the T-SPLOST single-county tax are all necessary to build our communities. Yet, we owe it to our constituents to continue to explore innovative and cost-effective financing options to ensure that we meet community needs.  

While there are many partners and tools in existence to assist in necessary city investments, the General Assembly should continue to explore other tools that allow cities to make smart investments at the best possible price for municipal taxpayers.