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Do Atlanta's Woes Warrant 'Detroit of the South' Description?

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An online report by "WND: America's Independent News Network" has drawn comparisons between Atlanta and a northern city synonymous with urban decay. To quote the article: "As Detroit — beset by violence, debt and social woes — prepares to undergo a historic takeover by the Michigan state government, the city of Atlanta could be sliding toward a similar fate." The site suggests "some" people "are quietly wondering whether Atlanta is in danger of becoming 'the Detroit of the South.'" It revisits recent DeKalb County government scandals, claims of racism and school board oustings. It points out — fairly — that suburban cities Milton, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chattahoochee Hills and Johns Creek have broken away from Fulton County since 2005. The story garnered beaucoup reader comments and landed Wednesday at #16 on the Drudge Report's "50 Most Clicked" list, under the headline "Suburbs Secede From Atlanta ?" Sure, Atlanta's school cheating scandal and housing bust are embarrassing, but could this comparison help bolster an unsavory, and largely baseless, national reputation?

It's not the only time Atlanta and Detroit have been mentioned in the same breath recently. The Big Peach landed at #16 on Forbes magazines' annual "Most Miserable" cities list — a dubious catalogue topped by Misery Mecca Detroit. In the eyes of Forbes, Atlanta's piece-of-cake winters and extreme livability couldn't outweigh its recent housing crisis and chronic traffic.

By and large, housing prices in many intown Atlanta neighborhoods held steady through the Great Recession, relatively speaking. Those that crashed are swiftly rebounding, in most cases, the city's southwest side notwithstanding. Forbes reported that median housing prices in Detroit have plummeted to $40,000.

What's more: Atlanta's improving crime rates. According to an AJC analysis, Atlanta recorded the second fewest homicides in 50 years in 2012 — notching a 3 percent improvement over 2011. Overall, crime dipped 5 percent last year, the newspaper reported. The city of Atlanta recorded 85 homicides last year; Detroit had 411. (To be fair, Detroit proper includes significantly more people, but the per capita homicide rate still dwarfs Atlanta's).

Another consideration: Atlanta's influx of young, educated residents, aka "The Creative Class."

In Atlanta, the number of 25-to 34-year olds with four-year college degrees or higher swelled by 61 percent between 2000 and 2009. That being said, the 2010 Census showed the city of Atlanta had grown by a mere 3,500 people since 2000, despite the obvious influx of condo and apartment dwellers to many neighborhoods. But the unimpressive population growth might not be because people weren't moving to Atlanta, but rather because some people, blindsided by an economic collapse, moved out. The demolition of public housing — and high-vacancy rates in struggling neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosures and mortgage fraud — is thought to have played a significant role.

WND purports itself as an "Independent conservative news website with an emphasis on aggressive investigative reporting and gossip." Fair enough. But a quick glance suggests an alternate description: A forum for crass, closet racists that's less thorough and witty than it thinks it is.

· Will Atlanta's 'Creative Class' Uproot to Suburbs? [Curbed Atlanta]
· Atlanta homicides 2nd lowest in 50 years [AJC]
· Say What? Forbes Calls ATL 16th 'Most Miserable' City [Curbed Atlanta]

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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