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Celia Murray

Celia Murray

By Celia Murray, Columnist

Last week, two inches of snow shut down metropolitan Atlanta. The city of Atlanta has only 500,000 residents, but the metro area has six million. Commuters were left gridlocked on interstate highways 18 hours. Thousands of school children slept on gym floors, while others were trapped on school buses as temperatures fell to the teens. Atlanta was the focus of national media attention for days – and not in a good way. Across the country, viewers were bombarded with images of motorists trapped on freeways or bunked down in supermarket aisles while kids spent the night in schools or firehouses or on buses. “Atlanta, hub to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport, once again found itself unprepared to deal with the chaos,” said the Associated Press. As J. Scott Trubey reported in the AJC, perceptions do matter. “John Boyd, a New Jersey site consultant who helps companies pick where they locate new facilities and create jobs, says the intense media coverage has again put the issue in the face of corporate America.” “Historically, Atlanta has always been under the microscope when it comes to traffic congestion, the relative lack of public transit…and the vulnerability to ice storms,” Boyd said. “It’s a wakeup call, and a reminder of something to account for when (companies are) considering Atlanta.” A major metropolitan area needs to be prepared for anything, and we were all assured after the 2011 storm that Georgians would be ready next time. So, how could it have happened again? The reasons are many. Brookhaven resident Conor Sen, writing for The Atlantic, ran down the political, racial and fiscal quagmire that has troubled the metro area’s governance and transportation system for decades. The buck stops with Governor Deal. The metro Atlanta region is a political and geographical overlay of hundreds of towns and dozens of counties, all around the hub of Atlanta and the seat of state government. Each entity has leaders who make decisions for their city or county or school district based upon their own best judgment. Some do better than others. For example, Morgan County closed schools all day Tuesday, sparing our children the fate of those in districts who opted for “early release” that day. All of the independent county and city governments take their cues from the State. Only after 5p.m. Tuesday did Gov. Deal issue a state of emergency declaration – many hours after the governors in other southern states had done so. Such a declaration usually triggers school dismissals and business closings. In the aftermath of last week’s storm, it’s become apparent that the Governor became paralyzed out of fear of making the wrong call. “[W]e don’t want to be accused of crying wolf,” Deal said later. One can only suspect that finances also played a role in the governor’s decision making. Did he think thousands of dollars spent on sanding and salting and shutting down would be considered wasted if the storm didn’t materialize? In the end, Georgia was penny wise and pound foolish. The Governor must take the lead in emergencies. He failed in 2011 ice storm, and he’s failed again now. He should be held accountable. Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.

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