Axios Atlanta

Picture of the Atlanta skyline.

Happy Monday, ATL! What was the best dish you ate during the holiday?

β˜€οΈ Today's weather: Sunny, sunny, sunny, with a high just over 50. The day could get a wee bit windy.

Situational awareness: On Election Eve, there's one last mayoral debate, organized by the Center for Civic Innovation, tonight at 5pm.

Today's newsletter is 828 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: 🚧 Bike lanes, repavings, rec centers, oh my

Illustration of a bike with quarters for wheels.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Bicycling and pedestrian advocates are urging Atlantans to send their wishlist of bike lanes, park improvements and safer streets to Atlanta City Council representatives and city officials before a Wednesday deadline.

Why it matters: Atlanta's facing an infrastructure backlog and a growing desire (and need) for sidewalks and streets that serve bicyclists, pedestrians and people using transit.

Details: In September, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she wanted Atlanta voters to approve (or reject) two infrastructure packages totaling $700 million on the May 2022 ballot.

  • One $400 million bond would pay to build and improve parks, police and fire buildings, the arts, and transportation projects.
  • A renewal of the TSPLOST would raise $300 million for streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and other transportation projects.

The big picture: Roughly $120 million of the TSPLOST cash would fund new sidewalks and sidewalk repairs, according to an Atlanta Bicycle Coalition analysis.

  • The plan would also allocate nearly $100 million to build much-needed safe streets along major thoroughfares across the city, it says.

Advocates say they're disappointed by the lack of public engagement β€” we've been unable to find any information online from the city β€” and previous infrastructure programs. They're also concerned by the fact that Bottoms and some council members voting on the list are leaving office.

  • Emailed queries to Bottoms' office on Wednesday and Sunday went unanswered.

Read the full story.

2. 🀝 Teamwork makes the dream work

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The Cobb County School Board should set aside its differences and make needed changes so the district can remain accredited, several parents tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the district still maintains its status as an accredited system, a special review done by Cognia raised concerns about the district and school board's handling of its fiscal responsibilities, among several other issues.

State of play: Democratic board members Jaha Howard, Charisse Davis and Leroy β€œTre” Hutchins had asked Cognia in April to conduct a special review after topics they wanted to discuss were not added to meeting agendas.

  • The Cobb County School Board is racially and politically divided: Four white Republicans are in the majority, while three Black Democrats make up the minority.

Hutchins told Axios that civic groups in the South Cobb area are planning a series of town hall meetings to discuss the report's findings.

What's next: Watching the Funds – Cobb, a grassroots group, will create a report card featuring Cognia's action steps, and its members will present status updates on how the board is progressing at upcoming meetings.

  • Stacy Efrat, an East Cobb parent and member of Watching the Funds – Cobb, says dysfunction on the school board could be resolved if it allowed all members to put items on meeting agendas.

Read the full story.

3. Afghan refugees arrive in Atlanta

Afghan family
Shir Ahmad Safai with seven of his 10 children in their hotel room. Photo courtesy of Sophia Qureshi

At least 600 Afghan refugees have arrived in Atlanta in the last several weeks.

But their journeys have stalled, as many are staying in hotels and Airbnbs while resettlement agencies struggle to find them affordable housing, reports Sophia Qureshi of 285 South.

Qureshi spent time getting to know some of these refugees, including Shir Ahmad Safai, who worked as a plumber on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

  • He and his 10 children have been living in a hotel next to an I-85 off-ramp in metro Atlanta since October.
  • Because there isn't a halal butcher within walking distance and they don't have a car, they've been eating vegetables from a nearby market.

In her story, Qureshi outlines what the family is facing:

β€œNow that he's here, he has to learn English, get a job, obtain a driver's license, find housing, and enroll his children in school. When he describes his situation in Pashto, his face reddens and tears fill his eyes. His eldest son, Ikram, translates, 'We have a big family. We don't have money. ... Home costs are very high.'"

Qureshi tells Axios that the toll of the trauma these people have experienced is evident.

  • But, she says, the refugees are hopeful and repeatedly tell her β€œthey love America and are happy to be here.”

Go deeper: Qureshi highlighted a few organizations who are supporting these families, including the Afghan American Alliance of Georgia, New American Pathways and The Welcome Co-op.

Worthy of your time: Read Qureshi's full story.

4. πŸŽ„ Y'all probably have your Christmas trees up by now

Data: Axios survey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios; Illustrations: AΓ―da Amer/Axios
Data: Axios survey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios; Illustrations: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

If you spent the day after Thanksgiving at a Christmas tree farm (or a strip mall parking lot) to buy a fir for your family, you were not alone.

  • According to Axios Atlanta's totally scientific and peer-reviewed survey, 58.3% of nearly 200 readers put up their Christmas tree between Turkey Day and Dec. 1.

To the people who voted for putting up their tree before Thanksgiving ... how do you keep those things thriving until Christmas Day?

5. Five Points: πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ ATL leads on LGBTQ equality

Illustration of five-ish points animating to form the letters ATL.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ’΅ Georgia wants to impose a $3 million fine on a shipping firm after its cargo capsized off the coast. (WABE)

πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ For the ninth year in a row, Atlanta earned a "perfect-or-better score" on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index. (Project Q Atlanta)

πŸ₯• Community garden allows refugees to enjoy taste of home. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

🚨 Dark money makes its way into Atlanta elections. (Atlanta Civic Circle)

πŸ€” Why did a mistrial over a Black man's death in a Georgia town go unnoticed? (Atlanta Magazine)

πŸ₯° Kristal loves her high maintenance but beautiful Calatheas.

🧹 Emma spent seven hours reorganizing her attic this weekend. And now there's so much room for activities.

🏞️ Thomas is grateful he got to explore Billy's Island in the Okefenokee Swamp during the holiday weekend.

πŸŽ‰ Our editor, Kayla, spent the holiday weekend feeling thankful for her smart, funny and talented Atlanta reporters!