The Sunk Cost Fallacy of Cop City

I have been trying to understand why my city, county, and state leaders are so committed to such a bad idea. The dedication of resources to counteract a fight invited to seemingly line the pockets of the Atlanta Police Foundation seems like a dumb choice that has now long passed the point of being worth it for whatever political points it may have scored. I mean, after 17+ hours of public comment, the loss of a number of council members after the vote, the shady removal of a vocal critic on the one committee that had some semblance of oversight, and the (in my opinion) assassination of a protestor, what did y’all really think would happen??

And now the appalling tragedy of Tyre Nichols’ death in Memphis. Can we not admit that this Cop City thing just isn’t worth it?

I am an optimist at heart, and I’ve sat in a few rooms where deals were made. Can we not find another way and end all this foolishness? At this point, we’re going through the hard-earned tax dollars of many folks who will neither benefit from nor ever see this damnable space built. The loss of one life, with the serious injury of another seems far too high of a price for anything to me. 

I took a hike last Friday to prep for an intense weekend. As an aside, I would like to personally thank Aftab Virani, the Eagle Scout whose 2006 project provided me a place to sit (after walking past the turning point to return to the Visitors Center) and gave me the wild hair to take a detour that day. My husband is a proud member of the Order of the Arrow, and I’ve personally never understood why the state of Georgia doesn’t develop a partnership with Scouts, USA, and Girl Scouts to maintain aspects of our parks. Seems like an easy budget relief idea that fosters the next generation of Friends of whatever park. 

The woods and fields have always been a space of discovery for me. And now I find the streets of Atlanta are that place of inspiration. Both share a story of the beauty of humankind. The streets and the pastures have given me instances of encountering the divine through the mundane. 

For this reason, I always feel like where someone is from tells a story about where they might be going, so I drove down to Watkinsville and then came back home to Atlanta by way of Adamsville. The Governor’s Wiki page may say he was born in Athens, yet I’ve always heard him refer to Oconee as his home. The fact is, I was born in Athens Regional- it was the biggest and best hospital in the area 40 years ago, so I took a guess that like me, the Governor’s more from the surrounding fields of the Athens area vs the Classic City itself.

What I do know from my drive is that both areas have sprawl, schools, law enforcement, sidewalks, traffic, and roads in need of paving. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seemed clear to me while driving from Cartersville to Watkinsville and back to Adamsville, our leaders have PLENTY to keep them busy aside from needless moneymaking schemes from the police foundation.

Absolutely no offense to my well-heeled friends in the halls of the Gold Dome- but our leaders (if only in theory) have a higher purpose of being there than whatever your client or organization wishes for them to do.

As I drove down 316, I noticed how similar the low-rise developments are to Gwinnett circa 2000. There were anchor stores with huge parking lots. There was construction across from the Georgia Club and road work cones from Cartersville to 85N. Watkinsville doesn’t need to densify yet, but it is coming-any idiot can see that. I drove with almost bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way from where I picked up 85N from 285. 

Dear sweet baby Jesus, why do we not yet have a short-line rail between Atlanta and Athens? 

If you want money-making ideas, why doesn’t someone set up a train that serves high-priced Bud Lite on the way to Georgia games and let folks tailgate along the way? Add a sin tax on top to maintain the rail and boom! Reduce your traffic AND have a helluva time!  There was also construction all along the way to the Oconee Connector (reminded me of 75S through Macon for the entirety of my existence). As I drove down Mars Hill, I noticed hair salons, small businesses, and Jittery Joe’s was busy at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon. (The 16 oz dirty vanilla chai was a welcome pick me up.) It was busy and bright, and the Athens hipsters and truck-driving work-a-days were all out in full force. 

I nearly ran off the road in Bishop when I saw McMansions in treeless lots advertised for $500,000! It was Alpharetta-beige EVERYWHERE! Who knows what rooms have shiplap- perhaps even reclaimed from the barns that once stood there!

I tipped my metaphorical hat in my hometown of Social Circle and got gas in Conyers before taking 20W through Atlanta, past the Candler Rd exit I took so many times in college, and picked up 285S closer to my home. I took the curly cue turn off the entrance ramp to 285 and landed right there at the Adamsville Rec Center where my Congresswoman likes to take pictures of herself while voting. 

Adamsville had the trees that were cleared in Bishop and Watkinsville, along with a layer of kudzu to boot. It had apartment buildings, a mural with the Mayor’s mug, MARTA buses, and all the sprawling development and traffic I found in Watkinsville, just jammed into smaller spaces, and with a need for street sweeping and pressure washing. Makes sense- the developments in Adamsville are older and Atlanta leaders seem to have a penchant for building new rather than maintaining. My guess is that after multiple fires in Atlanta, the city gave up at some point on betting on maintenance versus just rebuilding every 20 years. IMHO, this contributes to the culture I find in my neighborhood of valuing more the new than the quality products and buildings that just require basic maintenance. Mind you, the hair salons cater to a different audience, the housing is more multifamily versus R1, but there was vacant land for sale here just like in Watkinsville. The MLK Jr. Dr. revitalization project picked up as I drove away from Fulton Industrial with tree-lined wider sidewalks. 

Why don’t we have a MARTA train stop that extends beyond Hamilton E. Holmes? I know, I know. Racism and poor city planning (some things haven’t changed, although I appreciate that the article highlights the past reality of Adamsville as a target for segregation and line of demarcation of city resources).  Classism also plays a part in the division of my end of MLK and the Adamsville end as well. On my end, neighborhoods like the West End, Just Us, Mozley Park, Ashview Heights, Westview, and others were your neighborhoods for Black yuppies after they were integrated. Dr. McLendon’s home (of the historic Black McLendon Hospital that operated into 1975, I think, as a result of segregation) is on the right-hand side of MLK Jr. Dr. at the corner of MLK Jr. Dr. and Chickamauga Ave, in Hunter Hills, as you get closer to City Hall and the Capitol. 

As an aside, I wish Atlanta took the time to preserve spaces like McLendon Hospital, Citizens Trust Bank, and the Harris Hospital which are reminders of why the Civil Rights movement was requisite. 

As I looped from MLK Jr. Dr. to Fulton Industrial and then Old Gordon Road back to MLK, I followed the topographic lines of the area, moving from high to low and back again. This is the implicit challenge of Atlanta-these low areas fill like water in bowls, making water always the biggest worry for me (more than asbestos or termites) in residential realty. The city’s stormwater management is moving to a greener infrastructure, but not really fast enough. In Mozely Park, I know of a neighbor whose yard fills with water every time it rains, namely because there is no curb redirecting the water from the street out of their yard. I thought of the parking spot I eased into only hours before as I moved down from the Mars Hill roadway into Jittery Joe’s valley of a parking lot. All cities face the challenge of topography, they just developed at different times and code tends to improve as new technologies are developed and implemented. And with the systematic aspect of racism and classism affecting the way Atlanta developed in the 1970s until today, there’s a LOT for Atlanta’s leaders to improve upon rather than directing resources to further the Atlanta Police Foundation’s bottom line. 

The matter of where resources are devoted, how updates are implemented, and when improvements are executed does determine how areas develop and grow, though. These things influence economic development and transportation patterns, and all of the above affect the health of those living and working there as well as the general quality of life. We all know these are the things that influence whether families move to an area and it grows or whether they leave an area and it declines. Over time, all of this contributes to the recognition of how certain areas benefit and others do not. 

Now add in a system of jobs that promote some to flourish and force others to flounder. Throw in those folks with a chip on their shoulder who’ve waited too long for the training provided in Forsyth but they’re given a gun. Add in continually rising costs of living-inflation aside-Georgia’s growth was skyrocketing prices far before the Biden admin. 

Now multiply that by a factor of ten. 

If you’re looking for a way to end protests, stop sending Troopers, and start considering transit-oriented development. Come up with affordable housing options that don’t require people to overload our roads to get to higher-paying jobs. Yours truly drove 90 miles roundtrip daily in her 20s to get to work by 9 am at the corner of Andy Young and Piedmont. On the drive-in, I made calls for constituent services starting at 7:30 am for then Rep. Jeff May (my hometown representative at the time). At nine o’clock I started working and at 4:30 or 5 pm (depending upon the semester) I either walked or took MARTA to grad school classes at GSU. At 10 pm I drove home to my parents’ home in Monroe, GA. I’m absolutely certain this challenge has been exacerbated rather than improved in the last 20 years. On Friday I was personally passed by Gwinnett cops coming out of the city of Atlanta and Doraville and APD vehicles coming from Conyers. A few years ago I remember meeting a Dekalb County medical examiner who was leaving Mansfield at 6:30 AM to drive to his job. 

Folks LOVE to rail on how families must instill values in their homes rather than depend upon the school/state to do it, but if you’re not home due to the time you need to spend driving to get to the work that keeps your family afloat, something has to give. 

I will kindly remind folks that economic development and housing affordability are policy topics everyone tends to align on, no matter their origins, or political leanings. This is the bread and butter of good government and a rising tide that lifts all boats. Paving roads are the most basic example of what most people of all political stripes expect of our government. Yet I can show you emails of GDOT’s ignoring the requests of Mozley Park neighbors for barriers between I-20 and their backyards despite knowing how dangerous haivng only a chain link fence and a few trees are to protect families in their own homes.  

Troopers descending upon Atlanta like locusts are not going to solve any of these challenges.  

Leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area seem to be falling susceptible to the Sunk Cost Fallacy. It’s not unusual in government or business, according to HBR.  However, the rumor mill tells me that some changes are happening on the fringes. Michael Paul, the Mayor’s hope for appointment to the Public Safety Commission is declining the appointment. APAB’s Public Safety Chair, Chris Brown, whose appointment was initially blocked by the APAB President, is now also being replaced by another of the President’s choices. Like sunk cost, old habits die hard in the city. The APAB President and the Assistant Director of Neighborhood Planning Units for DCP both have a connection to Councilmember Joyce Shepherd, who championed Cop City, and some might say she lost her seat as a result

I haven’t found that the Old Guard goes away, they just move differently now.

Meanwhile, Dekalb Avenue remains forever in need of paving. I can only hope that as it runs down into Decatur, Dekalb’s CEO will take a break from selling the metro area’s forest cover to the latest scam of the APF long enough to pave the street. 

From Watkinsville to Adamsville, our state has many other more pressing needs than this foolish rainmaker for the Atlanta Police Foundation. If the Governor wants to sink more state resources into my city of residence, Atlantans can hand him a list of investment opportunities, none of which would include Cop City. 

I grew up in Social Circle, not Oconee County, and my end of MLK Jr. Dr. is a different space from where the Mayor grew up. But I do know something about spaces that seem to grow children with grit. 

And what I can’t seem to figure out about this whole Cop City bs is how two men from places that reward honest competition, hustle, and red neck engineering “creative problem solving” could want to reward a foundation that moves in a process of secrecy, silencing voices of a woman who’s a professional authority on the very “compromise” they’re having another metro leader to produce and positioning this unnecessary mock city in the midst of a hard-earned middle-class, predominantly Black community- all in the year the Mayor has deemed the “year for youth”. 

What in the actual hell, gentlemen?

There’s no amount of driving between fields and Wayfield’s that can make any of this make sense. 

This is just another government-funded sweetheart deal at the cost of taxpayers’ expense. And I hope people can see sweetheart deals are very clearly a bipartisan endeavor that can unify our Governor, Atlanta’s Mayor, and Dekalb’s CEO more than any pandemic ever did, sadly. Unfortunately, police foundations are growing in their national influence, so please do not think this is a phenomenom unique to Atlanta. They don’t just influence politicians, but also pioneering public safety “enhancements”. Please note the reference to Atlanta’s “At Promise” youth centers as part of the APF mentioned in Politico. Rather than expanding Forsyth’s training location to accommodate all of our state’s growing need for LEO training, the Governor is providing Dekalb and Atlanta with Troopers without body cams because they’re all in too deep to quit now. 

Don’t tell me about how D.C. needs to be drained. It’s piled high and deep enough down here.

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