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Where the Sidewalk Ends: Atlanta Sued for Failing to Maintain Sidewalks, Intersections

Law/Urban Planning/Georgia

A Meaningful Meeting About Meaningful Things

From The Georgia Supreme Court. If your neighbor submitted an application to rezone their property would you want to know about it? Would you want to be a given a chance to make objections to your elected officials? Georgia law requires affected landowners and interested citizens be given a chance to be heard when a fellow citizen has submitted a rezoning application.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that not only do people need to be made aware of rezoning applications, but they have to be given a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the proposed zoning changes. In other words, you can’t do what Pickens County did: allow citizens to voice complaints to the planning commission during a hearing, then have the planning commission submit a short, 1-page memo on the hearing (excluding details of the complaints) to the board of commissioners, and then have the board of commissioners approve the zoning change in an unadvertised hearing several months later. This, the court said, is hardly a meaningful opportunity to be heard since only elected officials (the board of commissioners, not the planning commission) can approve of zoning changes.


Where the Sidewalk Ends

From Daily ReporterAtlanta is being sued for failing to comply with a 2009 settlement agreement it entered into with the US Department of Justice over its crumbling sidewalks. In the agreement, Atlanta is required to make necessary repairs in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit alleges that the city has done very little in the 9 years that have elapsed. A 2010 audit found that 18 percent of the city’s sidewalks and 15,000 intersections were in such disrepair that they were inaccessible to people with disabilities. A 2016 audit found that less than 5 percent of those sidewalks and intersections had been repaired.

The lawsuit was announced with Mercedes Benz stadium as the backdrop. The city was able to spend millions on a new stadium and pedestrian walkway, but has allegedly done very little to improve infrastructure for those in need. We talk about this with transit frequently – you can’t just build the big projects. You have to invest in the supplementary infrastructure, such as sidewalks, in order to make those big projects work. This is particularly troubling since we’re talking about basic infrastructure necessary for people with disabilities to get around and not simply wider or better sidewalks.

Sidewalk repairs in Midtown. Image Credit: SustainAtlanta



Federal Court to EPA: Turnover Documents Backing Up Climate Change Claims

From Scientific AmericanEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has long claimed that humans are not the primary contributors of climate change. A Freedom of Information Act request was given to the EPA back in 2017 for documents related to the science behind this assertion and so far the agency has refused to turn over anything. Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the EPA to produce all relevant documents.

This comes in the wake of several other high-profile cases where those denying climate change or those denying the human contribution to climate change are being forced to produce actual evidence supporting their claims. Unlike the campaign trail or cable news, courts require actual evidence to support claims. While those asserting that climate change is not happening or that humans have contributed nothing to climate change may be able to convince certain voters, they are increasingly finding resistance in the federal rules of evidence and procedure. They’re also finding resistance from insurance companies, shareholders, and investors. An actuary in an insurance company likely isn’t going to be swayed by a tweet from a politician doubting climate change when their job depends on accurately assessing risk; a task that requires looking at actual data and evidence.

A recent study released by the international insurer Zurich Insurance Group, found that the best way to spend disaster-related money is not in cleanup costs and protective structures, but in environmental protection. It turns out (and who knew?), wetlands, forests, and barrier islands are irreplaceable in mitigating disaster-related damage. From a business and financial-perspective, it’s a better use of money to protect the environment than to spend money cleaning up damage or retrofitting buildings. As we referenced in a previous post, Philadelphia learned that planting trees is a significantly more cost-effective way of dealing with flooding than building massive concrete structures.

Perhaps one political party is right: government should be run more like a business. The name of that party, though, is becoming harder to identify.



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