Decatur Releases Full Diversity Report

diversitycoverLate yesterday, the City of Decatur released it’s final Diversity Report (PDF) compiled and written by City Intern & GSU Master’s Student Christian Perry and City Communications Officer Casie Yoder.

The report itself begins with numerous resident definitions of what “diversity” means, and goes on to dissect Census data to show how the city’s demographics have changed over time in a variety of different bar charts.  There’s a lot of data in here: covering changes over time in age, race, household type (size, w/children, same sex), education, income, and home value.

(If you’re interested in Atlanta/Decatur demographics, these interactive Social Explorer maps that were pointed out here a while back are a really great way to analyze demographic data at the Census Track level – in Decatur and beyond.)

The report also includes an extensive “Next Steps” section that recommends more qualitative research (i.e. focus groups), keeping track of city employees home location, tracking event attendee demographics, collecting additional data points (occupation, transportation patterns, religious & political affiliation, housing trends, small business owner demos).

It goes on to recommend against a city-wide minimum wage due to the city’s small size and also notes the city’s ability to maintain affordable housing levels, unlike Atlanta.  It highlights how the three new apartment complexes currently under-construction in Decatur will attract younger residents to the city, that the UDO is expected to allow new zoning options on residential lots, and that annexation could incorporate commercial areas like Patel Plaza, which serve the Indian-American community.

It concludes by noting that the city has little control over a community’s cultural values, but that it can “create forums and opportunities for responsible, civil discourse about how best to foster a diverse community that is open and welcoming to all.” and that after the funded Phase I is completed by year’s end, Phase II will occur next year with “large-scale community conversations and development of an action plan” in 2015.

49 thoughts on “Decatur Releases Full Diversity Report”

  1. Annexing Patel Plaza- really? Btw, when the government starts showing interest in knowing citizens religious affiliations, it’s going way too far. This is just absurd

    1. And what’s with the report singling out the Indian community as being served by Patel Plaza? I can already hear my Pakistani friends responses of “Hell No, Decatur! We shall be Avondale or BriarLakeCliffSide!” Now a whole stretch of Lawrenceville Hwy will become our Kashmir. Just how many casualties of these annexation wars are willing to risk?!?

      Damn, I’m hungry now. Dosas and samosas, anyone?

      1. I wonder about an influx of Indian and Pakistani children into the school system.
        Is it prepared for that ?

      2. Annexing diversity? I don’t know, but I’m not sure that the businesses in and around Patel Plaza would be all for joining COD. And I’m fairly certain the customers couldn’t care less (or even be aware of what jurisdiction there in; most people don’t pay much attention to such things.)
        I do, however, agree with the report that the apartments underway and in the planning stages will increase diversity in a few categories (though I doubt, Dawgfan, politics will be one of them 😉

        As for religion, the only diversity I’m interested in is an increase in the number of people who feel free to admit to subscribing to none.

    2. If they truly want to manufacture diversity, I guess that means they will have to seek out more people who didn’t vote for Obama!

      And I agree. Understanding income levels, for ex., is useful for planning housing types, etc. But, there is absolutely no legit reason to track religious affiliation.

      One more point that seems to continue to go unnoticed (or maybe I am the only one who thinks it is important). Although I am sure he/she is a bright kid, this report was prepared by a STUDENT INTERN. Everything in the report may be accurate, but shouldn’t CoD have it reviewed or vetted by someone, I don’t know, with relevant experience and qualifications, especially before they use it to enact policy?

      1. I voted for Obama, contributed to his campaign and consider myself a liberal, and I feel strongly that our city government should NOT be attempting to legislate secular-liberal agendas like “diversity” and “compassion” any more than it should be promoting conservative religious virtues. You can simultaneously believe in something good and understand that government is not equipped or even designed to bring it to pass.

        Decatur is gaining certain minority groups and seeing declines in others. So what? The temporary migration patterns of people in cities have fluctuated since the dawn of society, and the Atlanta metro area has seen its minority skyrocket in the last 10 years. Just because our 4 square mile city is a part of this migration does not mean its citizens are uncompassionate.

        1. “You can simultaneously believe in something good and understand that government is not equipped or even designed to bring it to pass.”

          Indeed! Let’s start a list, shall we? But, come to think of it, we’d end up exceeding DM’s bandwitdth. It’d be a lot easier to list the 3 or 4 good things government can actually accomplish.

        2. “You can simultaneously believe in something good and understand that government is not equipped or even designed to bring it to pass.”

          The unofficial libertarian motto! You sure you are a liberal? If so, you should start reevaluating using your own logic! You are almost there! 🙂

          1. Well, I still want the city to have a say in the architectural aesthetics of new developments. I get less libertarian when surrounded by stucco city blocks.

            1. Nah, the statistics show that wealthy liberals are the ones that feel that way (or at least their actions/inactions suggest this). We libertarians completely understand the value/necessity of community and looking out for each other. I think it says “screw you” to leave it up to government to help folks out.

              Serious answer to your joking comment… 🙂

  2. “The conversation now expands to how attract new diversity, especially young professionals of color”.

    Says who? The intern? While I, and I assume most of us, agree we need to attract young professionals, I could care less about their “color”, or lack thereof. Further, is this to the exclusion of those without “color”?

    While attracting young professionals of color, do we also have to make sure they are card carrying Tea Party members, are Muslim or Buddhist and/or have some Indian-American blood, because we seem to have a shortage of all of those? Sorry, scratch that – we are annexing the Indian-Americans.


    1. While I’m agreeing somewhat with you on this thread, Dawg, I think it might be useful to lay off the personal attacks on the student intern. I’m sure he’s doing his best and just following orders, and I would assume that someone up the chain of command read this thing before being released. Don’t you think? I’m quite sure that he’s a bright young man. This is a big task for him to take on. I say we be nice to him, since he’s working for the city for free (I presume). Attack the report all you want, but leave him out of it, is my advice (for what it’s worth).

      1. Fair enough. My attacks are meant to be directed at the city for relying on the report prepared by a student intern, and not necessarily at the intern directly. I believe I even said that I believe he is a bright kid, and this was undoubtedly a huge task. But, point taken.

        1. I think the authors, including the “student intern”, did an outstanding job with the report. If I was hiring for public policy jobs, I’d want to see his resume fly over my transom, for sure.

          I think the CoD was smart to get this project done by this mechanism. They engaged a very talented person with a bright future. Bravo.

          The whole idea of a deep dig data analysis such as this is to throw it all out there. What’s important is not the recommendations but the data analysis. The city is now in a position to do data-driven policy and strategic planning. As opposed to flying by the seat of the pants.

        2. To be fair – this guy is working on a Master’s Degree. He’s almost certainly old enough to drink, and calling him a “student intern” is kind of demeaning. He is a college graduate working on getting professional certification, not a high-schooler running photocopies and fetching coffee.

          This is almost certainly going to be a chapter of his eventual thesis, I’d presume – it better be, for the effort put into it.

      2. I think at least raising the question of interns is important for a simple reason. I agree they are talented, why can they not organize and facilitate? Why is 25k being spent to do this?

        This hands-on activity is the type of stuff that gets interns and volunteers all pumped up. You need one head person to corral the volunteers, and that person delegates the tasks to everyone else. Goes like this:

        “Hey you, go find a space to fit hold xxx people and don’t come back until it is secured, you, go call all your friends, let’s get the phone bank going, we need to find a 100 people to knock on doors early Saturday and drop leaflets to let people know the times of the meetings, that’s true it’s early, we’ll get all the volunteers coffee and donuts” And thus a plan is created. Then bring the talented writers/interns back to summarize. Spending money on this task is ridiculous.

        I’m still wondering exactly what kind of plan you create for the hideous problem of “we got way too many white people!” 🙂

  3. ” notes the city’s ability to maintain affordable housing levels, unlike Atlanta”

    The first thing most people note about Decatur is just how dang affordable the housing is.

    Reading the report, sounds like that snippet was in reference to DHA units. Just thought some others might have scoffed when they read that also.

  4. The thought that the COD should be involved in orchestrating diversity is just a joke. I wonder if the City of Stone Mountain ever did a diversity study. I wonder what it would look like.

    The free market of supply and demand is the right to for th market to dictate what it likes and what it does not like. While many want to make racial issue out of this report anyone is welcome to purchase a home in the COD.

    I have never observed a builder who would take the color green.

    1. While I have not read the entire report, the summary provided here indicates the COD is actually not interested in orchestrating diversity. The objective is information gathering and the creation of “forums and opportunities for responsible, civil discourse about how best to foster a diverse community that is open and welcoming to all.”

      It does assume that diverse communities are an inherent good. However, I don’t read the the paper advocating that the COD establish programs that will tip the scale in a particular direction.

      The thing I like about DM is that it serves a similar info gathering function for me. It is a place that I come to gather some proximate understanding of the what my neighbors think and value. I see no problem with the city gathering info on the demographic breakdown of our city. I want to live in a community with people who do not look like me, think like me or love like me. It would be good to know if Decatur is actually that place.

      While I am a rabid supporter of affordable housing, I would have some concern institutionalizing a policy that targeted a particular racial or ethic group. Fortunately, the report doesn’t advocate that.

    2. “The thought that the COD should be involved in orchestrating diversity is just a joke.”

      Perhaps you are unaware of the Decatur Housing Authority, through which Decatur has been managing diversity successfully for decades.

      1. The DHS does not “manage diversity”. It provides housing for lower income residents, period. It cannot pick its tenants by racial or ethnic group. That is illegal. It’s against federal law just as if a landlord excluded black people because of race. The fact that most of their tenants might be of a particular race is not indicative of any agenda, or better not be if they want to keep getting federal subsides.

      2. For reference, here is the mission of the Decatur Housing Authority, accessible via the Google machine:

        “To support the strength and diversity of the Decatur community by providing a wide range of housing opportunities with a focus on affordable housing, promoting community and economic development, and administering its program in a creative, cooperative, responsive, and effective manner.”

        DHA has an outstanding reputation and a list of its accomplishments can be found at the following link.

    3. The housing market in Metro Atlanta has never been “free” until MAYBE the last 20-ish years. It’s been artificially manipulated by banks redlining and realtors steering and blockbusting.

      1. Wacky, I absolutely remember “realtor steering” or at least testing feasibility from 25+ years ago. We wound up here.

  5. Knowing your customer is not the same as orchestrating diversity. Although the U.S. Census was once used to restrict the number of immigrants from a given country, this study suggests nothing of the sort. The document seems to provide a thoughtful assessment of interesting data on an important topic. A topic that, if ignored, can result in very expensive problems. There’s a town in Missouri that can attest to that.

  6. Hello me; could you please elaborate on how the DHA has been successfully managing diversity for decades?

    1. Marty, if the DHA neighborhoods weren’t there, Decatur would be far less diverse than it is. I suppose that’s how the DHA serves to manage diversity in the city.

      I should also add that in the world that measures and charts and has mechanisms to act on this issue, ‘race’ indicators have evolved into ‘disadvantaged’ indicators, to more clearly delineate that the problem is not one of skin color but of persistent socio-economic disadvantage.

      1. “if the DHA neighborhoods weren’t there, Decatur would be far less diverse than it is. I should also add that in the world that measures and charts and has mechanisms to act on this issue, ‘race’ indicators have evolved into ‘disadvantaged’ indicators”

        Honestly, your are the one suggesting that the DHS “manages diversity” by providing government subsidized housing. I have no idea what percentage of Decatur’s minority population lives in DHS property or not, but I am not sure your assumptions are very flattering.

  7. Knowing your customer is not the same as…orchestrating diversity.

    Orchestrating diversity –

    “Maintaining diversity has been a major part of the city’s efforts to date, specifically with
    programs like the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project. The conversation now expands to how to attract new diversity, especially young professionals of color.” p.25

    1. I maintain that most of what this kid has done is about understanding who lives in the city. What to do about it is left to the community, though he has suggestions which are clearly stated as such. I encourage all to read the 2010 Strategic Plan carefully before slamming the city for doing something that the community asked to be done through a very open process.

  8. I’m glad that we are talking about diversity on this blog and in Decatur, even if we disagree about how to do it. Agism, sexism, racism, tribalism, classism, sectarianism (if that’s a term), nationalism, colonialism, and all the other isms (I can’t think of how to express homophobia as an ism) are part of human behavior and can’t be completely eliminated. But if they get out of hand, that’s when bad things start to happen. A red flag is when people stop talking about them, often because of official sanctions. So talking about diversity is uncomfortable and we can disagree about how to do it, but I’m glad we’re doing it.

    1. No – A red flag is when people talk about “diversity” to the exclusion of talking about those things that bring us *together*. This kind of silliness actually just divides and pushes people farther apart.

      It’s well documented – See the entry on Obama, Barack. He spoke of “no blue, no red” when campaigning, but in office has only divided the country even further by singling out smaller, special interest groups. Great leaders like Kennedy and Reagan focused on what made us the same.

      Let’s focus on the things *all* of Decatur values – our families, our “places of worship”, vibrant and engaged businesses, community volunteering, etc. (And festivals, of course.)

      1. We are all just a collection of “special interest” voters who assemble, collaborate and compromise because it is in our best interest.

        There is nothing “all of Decatur values.” Our families are very different. The fact that I neither have nor want children routinely excludes me from most people’s interpretation of family. I strive to understand all religions but worship none. I hate the taste of alcohol so the beer and wine festivals do nothing for me. However, Touch-A-Truck Day is pretty cool.

        You are appealing to an illusion of universal values that doesn’t exist. Our lives are just a constant negotiation of differences. Think of all of the ways you spend your time negotiating and compromising to facilitate your own personal progress. Think of all of things you capitulate to because it is in your long-term interest or not worth the fight. I accept and embrace that children, churches and booze are important to other members of my community even through I could thrive without them. I have previously financially supported the beer festival and volunteered at the children’s portion of the Decatur Book Festival because supporting the interest of my neighbors is necessary for a thriving community.

        I am little concerned that your appeal to a universal value ignores that community development is a continuous struggle that necessitates a never-ending series of compromises.

        1. “Touch a Truck” is among my top ten favorite things in Decatur, even though my children have totally outgrown it. The name alone is worth it.

          1. Absolutely ….Touch-A-Truck Day is in my Top 5. Name is about 90% of it for me. I just love the concept. Big kids and lil’ kids coming together to play with their big toys.

      2. I think City of Decatur does a great job of talking about what brings us together. Our city is way ahead of others in that IMHO. We’ve done such a great job with our City of Decatur home/school/place of worship brand that we are close to being victims of our success. We can afford to talk about diversity.

        Can’t say that I experienced Reagan as bringing the country together. And my father would not have agreed on Kennedy. Political persuasion can be another ism but I’m glad we’re talking about it.

  9. Hey, student intern, don’t fret over any of these comments. It all goes onto the resume or into the portfolio. File under “stimulating public debate.”

    1. And “Live and Learn”…. There is something to be learned from the comments. General concerns that need to be addressed that may not have been obvious. Deeper issues that need to be explored. Never just file away the comments. Grow by them, right?

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