Homeless in the ATL

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Homeless woman on one of Atlanta’s most known streets, Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta.

Homeless in Atlanta.  The Jewel of the South.  Black Mecca.  Home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights. How can this be? 

Atlanta is also #1 in the nation for income inequality. Lots of people with money. Lots of people without money.  Almost no one in the middle.  Affordable housing needs unmet with tens of thousands of units needed in Atlanta.  Other cities have similar needs.  But, many believe Atlanta should be doing better than other cities and should be the model . How is it that those with so much not see, care or help solve this rapidly growing social issue?

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, housing is one of humanity’s most basic needs.  So again I ask, how can this be??

It is bad to see homeless men.  It is even worse to see homeless women. Ir is even worse to know some of our homeless are veterans who have proudly served our country.  As we saw recently with a former Cosby cast member working in Trader Joe’s, almost anyone can fall on hard times.  Where is our compassion and humanity?

Across metro Atlanta, we find funds for a $23 million bridge and replace the sidewalks around it.  Meanwhile, other parts of the city have been asking for sidewalks for decades.  How can we solve this huge homeless problem??  Why not have a contest and ask for solutions from our citizens and have them present to a “Shark Tank” like panel that will get matching funds from Atlanta Housing Authority, Invest Atlanta and some local private funders??

I pray that sooner rather than later, Atlanta and cities across  our nation will find the solution to our rapidly growing homeless problem.  I pray the woman in this photo is able to get off the streets soon.

 

The Gulch – Who Do You Believe? Who Really Benefits?

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Moderator Karen Greer, Mayor Bottoms, and CIM Advocate Team.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a community forum to hear from residents due to opposition to The Gulch $5 Billion redevelopment plan proposed by California developer CIM.  The Mayor came in, took her seat and left after the Forum.  While she read an opening statement and answered a couple of the audience questions (that were read by the moderator), she was never seen engaging with residents.  No pictures. No handshakes. Nothing.

The plan which the City Council refused to vote on, until they have more time to review the 600 page document recently delivered to their homes, has residents furious.

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Discussing 600 page Gulch Proposal with another opponent at Mayor’s forum.

Most residents were not allowed in the forum because City employees and a group of folks in green t-shirts, supporters  of the CIM proposed Gulch deal, took up most of the seats.  How is that really a forum for residents?  The overflow room was filled with residents upset they could not get in.

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One of many ATL police officers after forum as GA Stand Up Exec. Dir., Deborah Scott, shares her opposing view with reporter.

In opening rules, outlined by moderator Karen Greer, attendees were told we would be removed by police officers, stationed around the room, if we got out of line (paraphrase).  I have attended many controversial forums/town halls, all across the country. Never have I heard those words.  Despite that, there were a few times when folks yelled in disagreement to what was being said.

Why are residents furious?  Well, after so many other “good deals” and promises that include:

– The original Braves Stadium & Turner Field

– Friendship Baptist Church & Mt. Vernon Baptist Church buyouts

– Falcons Stadium, Mercedes Benz (MB) Stadium & their $23 million bridge across Northside Drive

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Karl Barnes (white jacket) ATL native and GA Tech alum among few residents who got into the Mayor’s Gulch Forum.

Each of these deals were also “good deals”  for the community and now we are all on the hook for cost overruns (the original MB bridge cost was $10 million. Several months later, the cost rose to $23 million with $1million in lights.).

Each time, residents are on the hook despite their elected officials assuring them, ‘it is good for Atlanta because it will bring jobs’.  Well, from what most reports and articles reveal, the minimum wage, temporary stadium jobs are what residents can verify.  No one can verify any substantial contractor or management jobs for residents.  However, residents continue to be displaced and given empty promises.

With a severe shortage of affordable housing units in Atlanta, each “good deal” drives out current residents while paving the way for new residents in homes priced out of reach for most.  Being the number one U.S. city for income inequality, there are only two places for most ATL residents to move:

1) further from the city with no or limited access to public transportation

2)  under an I-20 bridge with other homeless people

If a portion of our tax dollars could be used, as many advocates have asked, for:

– programs to repair/update homes of current residents,

– a program to “grandfather” current residents’ from tax increases.

– more affordable housing units than Invest Atlanta and the BeltLine can currently deliver.

That would give thousands of residents access to reasonable and affordable housing units.

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Alvin Kendall, local attorney, gives the project overview as the Mayor Bottoms looks on.

Alvin Kendal, City of Atlanta liaison for the CIM Project gives a complicated presentation without a power point.  More on Kendall and his conflict of interest on this project from the AJC at:  https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/watchdogs-question-rec-authority-leader-hiring-for-gulch-legal-work/QOvTwH6RnByIyAzlXvfRfL/

Much of the information he gave failed to give the whole story of the 30 year tax consequences to residents, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Fulton County Commissioners.  Three entities, ATL City Council, APS and Fulton County have to approve the plan for it to materialize.

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Joe Beasley at podium at last week’s four hour long City Council Work Session attended by only half of the Council.

You see, I also attended last week’s City Council Work Session with “CIM Armani suit-wearing lawyers”, as former Senator Vincent Fort describes them.  Above, Internationist human rights activist, Joe Beasley, speaks against The Gulch Project.

If programs and legislation can be passed to benefit big corporations and stadium owners, why not for residents so they will not be driven out of their homes?  Is that too much to ask for while these corporate folks get to use “our” hard earned tax dollars?  Residents can make a change when they VOTE  in EVERY ELECTION.

Why is it that planners and people, including most of our elected officials, usually go into neighborhoods and tell them “what is best for them” and “how” their communities should look?  Even when Town halls are held, case in point, as with planning for MLKing Jr. Blvd, the neighborhood clearly objected to putting in medians.  This both limited left lane turning for cars and fire trucks.  Hmmm.

As WAOK Radio Host Derrick Boazman shared, ‘this Mayor’s Forum was not genuine and she is not standing up for the best interest of residents who elected her’.  Despite having a hand full of questions, Greer only read about 10-12. Most of them were not answered.  Real audience members were frustrated and began to shout out in frustration causing commotion.  Meanwhile the mayor sat with an unchanged expression.  And, to top it all off, most of us were shocked when the forum seemed to abruptly end.  Most of the time was not used to answer questions, but to give Gulch proposal rhetoric about how good this deal is for Atlanta.  If it is that good, tell the truth, answer all questions, and stop rushing.

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Registering & educating voters at GA State MARTA Station. Back of t-shirt reads, “Register to Vote”.

So how do Atlanta residents and residents across the nation get control of their neighborhoods and protect them from predatory developers?

Glad you asked.  The short answer is to unite to vote out those who do not favor the residents who elected them.  And, to vet and fund candidates. Do not wait to see who runs.

On Tuesday, November 6, residents can take their power back by not just voting.  Everyone also needs to educate themselves on the 20 plus items on Georgia ballots (use Google, discuss with friends), BEFORE Election Day, so you can vote down the entire ballot with confidence while encouraging friends and family to do the same. Print a sample ballot from:  www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

In the meantime, those who are in office may be able to be recalled when they do not represent their voters. In the words of Sean King, contributor to the Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black America Web, “When we organize, we win!.”

 

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Lots of people hanging around after Mayor’s Gulch Forum. Sign reads “Red Light The Gulch”.

So, it is obvious that Atlanta residents did not get their questions answered at the Mayor’s Forum.  So no transparency.

Who do you believe about The Gulch Plan?  The Armani suit-wearing attorneys who represent CIM, a firm with no Blacks on their executive team (according to their website http://www.cim.com)?  Who benefits?  You decide. You can make sure your voice is heard:

1) Organize a protest big or small.

2) Contact Mayor Bottoms at (404) 330-3100 or email from this link:

https://www.atlantaga.gov/government

3) Contact EVERY City Council Member, not just yours. Keep in mind, three are at-large or citywide :  Bond, Dickens, and Westmoreland.  If you do not know the name of your council member, ask when you call (404) 330-6030 or check this link for their individual contact info:

http://citycouncil.atlantaga.gov

 

(1. Also see my earlier blog on The Gulch.

2. Please let me know if you see errors. Another sets of eyes is always good!)

 

 

 

Celebrating 98 Years of Women Voting

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Wow!  Can you believe that women did not get the right to vote until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted on August 26, 1920. It was several decades later when Blacks and Black women got their right to vote.  That right has been under attack since its’ inception.

Today, women are a powerful and important voting block.  With so much at stake with the November 6, 2018 elections across the U.S., women will be the key to electing candidates who will truly represent the needs of the people instead of the needs of special interests who help regentrify our neighborhoods.  And, here in Georgia with the governor’s race, women could make history by electing the first female and first  Black governor.

Read the full article by Virginia Kase written in celebration of Women’s Equality Day:

https://www.lwv.org/blog/honoring-our-right-vote-womens-equality-day?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WomensEqualityDay

If the vote were not a powerful tool, it would not be under attack to hinder women, the poor and people of color from voting.  From the beginning, white Men wanted this privilege solely for themselves.

What is the Plan in Your Community?

 

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Want to change social and economic injustices?  Then you need a plan of action.

Shaun King’s commentary  for Black America Web this morning emphasizes how a “blind loyalty” gets people nowhere.  However, a plan of action gets you results. In case you missed this less than 10 minute audio, here is the link for you to listen, share, and move to action:

Shaun King Talks Policy Ideas

Harriett Tubman, Booker T. Washington, and President Barack Obama were successful because they all had a plan of action!!  Likewise,  Adolph Hitler, the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party also had a plan of action!  With technological advances AND boots on the ground, you can plan, educate, empower and implement a customized plan of action with best practices, for the Top 5-10 (depending on manpower/volunteers) issues that cause Blacks, Browns, Native Americans, the working poor, functionally disabled, mentally challenged and other citizens who simply want equity. This can be done in each community across the country.

Harriett Tubman, the Pullman Porters, residents of Black Wallstreet (in Tulsa), Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Maynard Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Oprah Winfrey, The Freedom Riders, and the Native American Code Talkers (to name a few) did not wait for a leader to emerge.  They knew Superman was not coming.  They all stepped up to do what they could to make a difference. So can you!!  Each of us can use our skills and talents to help a current organization, or start your own.  No cause is too small.  Jesus also had a plan. And, He trained twelve.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist, have a degree, or a title. If you can figure out how to go on vacation and navigate in a city or country that you have never visited, surely you can figure out how to make a difference in your neighborhood, church, or non-profit.  Or, start your own group.

As my dearly departed Godmother, Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow use to say, “If you are not at the table when plans are made, you are on the menu.”

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Above: Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow (Dec. 7, 1924 – March 12, 2015).

It is time to stop talking about how bad things are. It is time to do something about it!! It is time to stop saying, “they ought to” or “the church ought to”.  Who are they?  Who is the the Church?  When is the last time you volunteered or worked on a community service project (in person or online)?

Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.“

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

 

April 4 – Anniversary of MLKJr Assassination

Numerous events were held today in Atlanta to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assasination 50 years ago.  The events included:

1) A short service was held at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Churchbon Auburn Avenue.

2) Two of MLKJr.’s children, Rev. Bernice King and Martin L. King, III; his sister, Christine King Ferris, and other family members gathered at the King Center.  Together they rang a bell 39 times.  Once for each year he lived.

3) WAOK Radio Station 1380 AM broadcast the Derrick Boazman live from The King Center.

4) The IBEW Union Hall at 501 Pullman Street showed the film, “I Am Man” free to the public.

I heard one of Rose Scott’s series on NPR station, WABE 90.1FM, on MLK,Jr. It looks at April 4, the anniversary of King’s assignation, as more than the bullet that took his life.  She said, ‘We need to know more about the man and the work he did.  King positively impacted lots people of today who never met him.’  Use this link to hear this incredible story packed with incredible interviews from today’s “Closer Look”:

https://www.wabe.org/episode/closer-look-50th-anniversary-assassination-dr-martin-luther-king-jr/

Use this link to see some of today’s MLK50 events. It includes a panel in Memphis with Marian Wright Edelman, Bernard LaFayette and Rev. Jesse Jackson:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.commercialappeal.com/amp/488063002

 

Celebrate Rosa Parks Birthday During Nat’l Transit Equity Week – Feb. 4-8

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Today is Rosa Parks’ birthday.  And, it was 63 years ago that she sat down in the white section of the bus and refused to get up to protest the injustice.

Across the nation there is a National Transit Equity movement that uses Rosa’s story to raise awareness today about inequities.  So, Monday, February 5 is National Transit Equity Day of Action.  Because transit equity is a social, economic, and environmental justice issue, everyone is affected.  As reported by NPR/WABE 91.5fm, ‘In the 50 cities across the country with the worst traffic, it is $600 billion in transit projects.’

What I am reporting is that $600 billion represents a huge number of “living wage jobs”.  It also represents opportunities for us to be at the table as planning is done, and a chance to hold our elected officials accountable as they propose and enact transit legislation.

So, join the National Transit Equity Day of Action Events on Monday, February 5 and the other events for Transit Equity Week in Atlanta.

 

For more information, use the following links:

https://saportareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-PSE-Opportunity-Deferred4.pdf

https://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu/2017/02/08/new-study-examines-how-historic-racism-shaped-atlantas-transportation-network/#.WnH0bLynGUk

http://partnershipforsouthernequity.org/images/stories/PSE_MTO.pdf

With several billion dollars being projected cost of the planned expansion of MARTA heavy rail, light rail, expanded bus service, etc, we need to be at the table during these important planning stages.

For more information about these events and Transit Equity in metro Atlanta and across Georgia, contact Georgia Stand Up at:

http://www.georgiastandup.org

info@georgiastandup.org

(404) 581-0061

Kids Suffer for Life from Kool Smiles Dental Procedures

 

Kool Smiles Dental clinics pay $24 million in a lawsuit for unnecessary Dental procedures on kids in a Medicaid fraud scheme.  However, there offices are still open and no one is going to jail.  Hmmm.

This is another reason why second opinions matter.  These dentists preyed upon the poor and minorities.  Their offices seem to be strategically located throughout Minority communities have Black pictures on the walls and have toys like Chuckie Cheese.  Quite an inviting and fun environment for kids, these parents do not know enough to question the procedures recommended by the Kool Smiles dentists.

On the Tom Joyner show this morning, Sherri Shepherd said this happened to her when she was a kid.  Later when her mom took her to a different dentist, he asked, “Why did you have those procedures done?”  Her mom in disbelief responded that she had no way of knowing the procedures were not needed.  Sherri went on to describe the procedures and how it has affected her as an adult.

In Sean King’s investigation, he says this horrifying Kool Smiles investigation is akin to the Tuskegee Experiment.  How sad.  Read the entire story of Kool Smiles lawsuit in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in this link:

http://www.ajc.com/news/local/cobb-dental-company-will-pay-24m-after-accusations-medicaid-fraud/RrZG1JJ94GkXwqGiFov1TJ/amp.html

Has this happened to you, your kids, or grand kids??