Midsummer brings a stirring in the Atlanta mayor's race, which will add excitement to the fall.
Candidates are raising money, seeking volunteers, opening headquarters, sending out mailers and shaking hands in preparation for the November election. After eight tumultuous years - losing the Braves, economic recovery, population growth - Mayor Kasim Reed will move on to his political future.
The new mayor, if he or she serves the customary two terms, will leave office in 2026. That number seems futuristic, heralding a new world like those envisioned by science fiction writers and visionaries. The year 2026 has the momentous sound of accelerating change, more rapid and challenging than in past generations. Or, things might seem pretty much the same.
I'd like to ask the 16 mayoral candidates - that crowded field will cut the electorate into small slices - what they envision the city to be like in 2026, when they leave office. The election might begin a wondrous new age for the city, or the years of its collapse. Utopia or dystopia? Most likely, as with the past, the day-to-day rhythms of work and leisure and life.
If all goes as planned, the Beltline will be further developed, with rail lines that cover more of the city. The Beltline streetcar and light rail system will link to MARTA, now stretching to the suburbs, even Cobb and Gwinnett.
Self-driving and electric cars will fill the streets. Your Uber or Lyft driver will be a robot.
Atlanta's high-tech industry will draw a new generation of young workers and residents. The city's population will expand. Neighborhoods will flourish, especially along the Beltline. Young workers, families and residents of all races will find a variety of affordable housing. High-tech innovators, artists, writers and musicians will expand the creative frontiers.
A water shortage and droughts could cripple the city's economy. Airline travel could become rare. Depleted fish stocks will make seafood almost impossible to find. Chefs will create palatable insect dishes. Eating meat will be as shunned as cigarette smoking is now. Climate change will make summers even hotter. Flowers that now bloom each spring will come out in December or January.
National and global events will influence Atlanta. At Emory and other hospitals, gene technology and other medical advances will end diseases like cancer. Aging will be reversed, living to 100 common. With polar ice caps melting, long buried diseases will escape. Health care will be available for all. With persistent poverty, the poor and middle class will find medical care prohibitively expensive.
The gap between rich and poor will widen, or narrow. Education will improve, and people of all ages find enhancing careers and creative pursuits. Or illiteracy will worsen. Robots will handle more and more of the economy, increasing unemployment. People will turn into cyborgs. AI will run the refrigerator, air conditioner, TV, oven, or whatever appliances we have.
The Falcons might win a Super Bowl or two, if football is still played. The Braves will take the World Series, beating Tokyo. The Hawks will still be bad. (Some things will never change).
2026 seems a long way off, but it'll be here before we know it.