Politics and the Beltline

Quite simply, virtually every part of the Beltline derives from politics. This reality should be apparent, yet it takes some study to recognize the cruciality of the political realm truly. When walking along the Beltline, you see plenty of apartments, businesses, art pieces, skyline views, nature, the trail itself, and so. None of these objects appear political. However, the entire environment that a Beltline visitor is walking completely leans on politics. The land that the Beltline is built on had to be purchased by the government using taxpayer money. The Beltline had to use more taxpayer money to build the physical trail itself. The businesses that feed off of the Beltline required permits and local approvals to operate, and same for the apartments. Some of those apartments and houses are partly funded by more taxpayer dollars to allow homeowners to resist rising property values. Nearly every building that you can see from the Beltline is paying higher taxes as part of the financing plan to raise more revenue to continue the Beltline’s construction. Even the conception of the idea stemmed from public funding. Ryan Gravel conceived the project as a thesis while attending Georgia Tech, a public university.

In short, to describe the political influence of the Beltline’s built environment is the same as describing the Beltline’s political environment. The Beltline as a physical entity takes the form of a wide path that stretches for miles and will one day wrap around the entirety of Atlanta, offering a new and more inclusive connective transportation system that will combine streetcars, MARTA, pedestrians, and bicycles. Already, stores and residence complexes line the sides of the path, with a constant smattering of sculptures and murals. The infrastructure includes bridges and tunnels and carries walkers, cyclers, runners, joggers, shoppers, families, and so many groups. All of this is politics. Every single facet of this built environment would not exist without politics.

And the future constitutes no difference. A week from today, voters will not just choose between Trump and Clinton (or Johnson or Stein or McMullin), nor just their Senators and Congressmen, nor just their board of education of members, residents of Atlanta will have the vote to choose whether to increase a city sales tax to fund Beltline expansion. Even now, forces like city planners, the Beltline organization, and grassroots activist are locked in debates over where to expand, how to solve unexpected problems, how to raise more money.

The past, present, and future of the Beltline was, is, and will be politics. If I had to write this description in on sentence, it would be: one word sums up entirely seems what elements of the Beltline’s built environment have been affected by political influences, and that word is everything.

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