James.qxp Nov Dec 2018 web - Page 13

Much has been made of the Sandy Springs
model— privatization of services, low taxes, attractiveness to business. One problem that could not be solved
through savvy contracting, however, was creating a
real sense of community and a place to manifest this
sense. Sandy Springs’ history as a bedroom community
for Atlanta— and lack of history as a community unto
itself— meant there was no real downtown, no “historic square” or central gathering spot for restaurant
patrons or event goers. Various strip malls along
Roswell Road couldn’t quite cut it.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul talked with this
writer about part of the genesis for City Springs— the
complex that would become the “downtown.” “As the
metropolitan Atlanta area has expanded over the last 40
years from a 3- or 4-county area to 23 counties, it has
changed the dynamic a lot. Atlanta is still the core but as
the region has expanded and gone further out, there’s
less desire— because of traffic time and other reasons—
people don’t always want to go to the core for everything
that they do nowadays,” Paul says.
“You’ve got a lot of communities that are looking at
how do we create gathering places for the community at
large and create an environment that people can get
urban-type entertainment and cultural activities in suburban communities, and that’s the genesis for City Springs.”
Sandy Springs started talking about the project
since the cityhood movement was successful. There
was a recognition then that— although city hall was
leased in some retail space on the northern end of the
city— there was a need to have a “central space.” It
was clear then that the city wanted more than just a
central spot for government activities. It wanted and
needed a gathering spot. continued on page 14
Galambos, a refugee from the European Holocaust, has
a fascinating background. Her father, like many other
prominent Jews in Berlin, had been ousted from his
employment in 1933. Her family moved to Italy for several
years before settling in Athens, Georgia. Galambos graduated as valedictorian from Athens High School in 1944. She
earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from the
University of Georgia and then later got her Ph.D. in economics from Georgia State. While working as the associate
editor of the Atlanta Journal of Labor, Galambos was covering the life of a locomotive engineer and broke the rule
against women in the locomotive, riding roundtrip from
Atlanta to Greenville to gather background for her story.
Galambos was not shy about bucking the system and
arguing for what she thought was right. That attitude is
what led her to be such a central figure in the Sandy
Springs cityhood movement. Following the success of the
campaign and then the referendum, Galambos and other
Sandy Springs officials were faced with the question of
“now what?” She won the city’s first mayoral election
with 84 percent of the vote and it could very easily have
turned into a dog-that-caught-the-car scenario.
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In the summer of 2005, vendors had to be found for
public services and they had to be in place when the city
began in December. Interim City Manager Oliver Porter
bid out 12 main services to companies that often outsourced to smaller vendors. When certain guarantees
couldn’t be met, the city chose someone else. The companies providing the services pledged in their contracts
to have a human being answer phone calls and emails 24
hours a day, seven days a week. They also committed to
responding to a problem within 48 hours— and the
appropriate elected Council member was to be kept in
the loop with the progress of the work or issue.
This public/private model evolved into a stunning
success. There is incentive for the companies providing
the services, because if they fail they can be replaced.
The main exception to the outsourcing is public safety—
mainly because of liability issues. But law enforcement
and firefighters enjoy 401(k) defined contribution plans,
not pension programs.
Officials from other Georgia cities and counties (and
even from some foreign countries) have visited in recent
years to study the model. As bloated budgets and pension obligations drive all too many cities toward insolvency, politicians and even the national media are talking
about Sandy Springs.
N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8


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