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Atlanta: Problems and Promise

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As former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young prepares to take office here as mayor, this multi-faceted city abounds with signs of prosperity and promise - but also with signs of perplexing problems.

Atlanta's skyline continues to change, with a massive amount of construction under way of hotels, offices, and apartments in or near downtown. Many neighborhoods have been renovated and under the city charter have a stronger voice in both planning and budgeting than in most other big cities in the country. Cultural activities fill a hefty pull-out section of the weekend newspaper. The world's largest air passenger terminal opened here last year and another small portion of the rapid rail system is about to open.

But that rail system is hemmed in by three of the surrounding counties which have not yet approved a local sales tax to enable them to help pay for extension of the system into their areas. In these mostly white counties, the number of people, businesses, and jobs has increased rapidly, while Atlanta has steadily lost businesses and people since l970.

In the past 20 years, Atlanta has switched from about one-third black to one-third white. The school system is predominantly black. Many whites have left. White control of City Hall ended with incumbent Mayor Maynard Jackson's election eight years ago; black control continues with Mr. Young's election. Many whites are still not accustomed to being a minority here.

About one-fourth of all Atlantans, most of them black, live in persistent poverty, according to the city's own estimates. Many lack a basic education and job training.

So far, contrary to President Reagan's thesis that the private sector will step into the gap left by reduced federal help, some analysts complain that the powerful (mostly white) business community here has done more talking than acting to help hire and train the hard-core jobless.

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