Fort McPherson – 475+ Acres of South Atlanta Hope??

 

What is going on with the Fort McPherson development on Lee Street in south west Atlanta?  Strategically located between the Oakland City and Ft. McPherson/Lakewood MARTA rail stations, this former Army Base was finally beginning to show signs of development four years ago.  That is when Tyler Perry purchased the majority of the property and the remaining (approximately) 145 acres has been slowly planned for community use with community input.

It was beginning to look as if the Oakland City/Ft Mac communities, with an average household income of less than $20,000, were about to get a “good deal”.  Now, the project that includes lots of community input, has come to a halt.

In the Saporta Report, Maria Saporta weighs in and is asking City Hall some really tough questions.  I welcomed the opportunity to add my two cents.  See her article on the link below:

Questions surround future of Fort Mac redevelopment

Be sure to leave your thoughts about what could be the best project for Atlanta residents because 60% of the housing units are slated to be affordable!

 

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!)

 

 

 

Tiger Wins 80th!

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Tiger wins first major championship at East Lake Golf Club (outside Atlanta). His 80th PGA win was emotional for after back surgery, overcoming personal challenges and lots of hard work.

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This victory symbolizing why we should never give up!

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History made at East Lake Golf course today with 42 year old Tiger.  Atlantans are hysterical!

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Tearing up after an amazing win, Tiger thanked those who helped him make it back to the winners’ circle. It is one of the best come backs in golf history.

70 Atlanta Residents Say Bad Gulch Deal

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Yesterday’s Atlants City Council meeting heard over three hours of public hearing from residents on a variety of topics. However, over 80% were appealing to the Council to either slow down or scrap the Gulch Project being proposed by the “Armani suit wearing” development team, CIM Group, from California.

After receiving the 600 page proposal document, myselfnand others have more questions than answers.  As I put on my banker hat to review this complex deal with Georgia Stand Up, the nonprofit for which I am the Public Policy Coordinator, a researcher from Georgia Tech and independent attorneys; I am shocked and embarrassed that this 30 year deal gives away prime Atlanta property with no ownership or financial gain for residents other than inflated projections of jobs and benefits. It reveals $1.7 Billion in tax payer funds being diverted from our schools and desperately needed neighborhood infrastructure projects that includes sidewalks so our kids do not have to walk in the street to get to the library in places like Campbellton Road on the southwest side.

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Senator Vincent Fort warned, “Someone one is going to jail from decisions made three years ago involving the Airport contracts, the BeltLine and the Emory annexation deal so they could get a MARTA station.  And, someone will go to jail three years from now if you approve this deal…which one if you will it be?  Or do you have the guts to represent the people who elected you?

As the Work Session questions by Councilman Amir Farokhi revealed, there are 1,500 construction workers per year. The document as taken 1,500 and multiplied it by some factor of 20 (years) to derive the false number of 35,000 construction jobs. Questions by Council member Matt Westmoreland also sought to get to shed light on what is contained in these 600 pages.  I am both sadden and disappointed that our mayor is pushing a deal by a developer who has a history of bad deals.

You see, the Mayor needs eight votes to pass legislation.  Word on the street is she had six firm votes, possibly seven.  When it was confirmed that Councilman Ivory Young would not be able to attend or vote by phone in yesterday’s meeting due to his stem cell medical treatments, the vote was removed from the agenda.

The diverse group of speakers were clear in their call to not rush this deal through the legisltive process and be more transparent.  The call was so strong that yesterday’s scheduled vote on this deal was cancelled.  And, Mayor Bottoms has called a meeting on Wednesday, September 26, at City Hall at 6pm.

Georgia Stand Up Executive Director Deborah Scott reminded City Council when they ran for Office, none of them, not even the Mayor mentioned the Gulch as an area of importance at any of their debates or in their platform issues.  She went on to say all of them mentioned community development, transparency, and affordable housing and she has tapes of those forums to prove what they said.  “So why is it that this project is all of a sudden so important, …slow this process down!  Give everyone a chance to see what this is all about and be transparent.”

In the words of Sean King, “When we organize we win.”  So thanks the organizations that include Georgia Stand Up and the Housing Justice League.  Thanks also to community leaders who also came to speak against this plan that includes:  Former City Councilman & WAOK Radio Host, Derrick Boazman; Former GA State Senator Vincent Fort; Internation Human Rights Advocate, Joe Beasley; APAB Officer James “Jim” Martin, and NPU-R member Edith Ladipo.

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Joe Beasley warned that this is a volatile situation and residents are tired of their elected officials not representing their best interest.  He went on to warn that it is going to blow up if you do not change who you represent when you vote on issues harm residents.

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Despite this challenging day, City Council President Felicia Moore did a great job to move the speakers along several hours of passionate public comments.

My comments included that as the Jewel of the south, Home of Civil Rights, we have to get the Gulch deal right . Atlanta has an opportunity to set the standard across the state, region, and nation on how to do an economic development deal that is in the best interest of the residents.  If we get this right, even more people will want to move, do business and visit Atlanta. We do not have to do business with the devil, the CIM Group because there are more ethical developers.  And, we definitely do not have to give away the bank!

As Atlanta residents come together to demand that their council members represent their interests and not the interest of the developers, we/they will get a different result than had we remained silent.  This is democracy at its’ finest!!  So, start and continue conversations on your social media and within your circle of friends about The Gulch Project, More MARTA, Fort McPherson, and recent eminent domain issues.  Today’s action or inaction today has massive consequences tomorrow, next year and decades from now, so “stay woke”, stay informed and show up to shape the future.

For more details on this “bad deal”, read today’s (9/18/18) page one story in the AJC:  “Mayor Delays Council Vote on Gulch Deal” by Stephen Deere (sdeere@ajc.com) and J. Scott Trubey (strubey@ajc.com).  In this article, Deere and Trubey outline each aspect of this complicated 600 page proposal in laymen’s terms.

Mayor Bottoms At ATL Belt Line Quarterly Update

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This evening Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed a standing room only crowd as she and other local leaders gave the Quarterly Update on the ATL Belt Line.

Some estimates put the number of attendees at the Friendship Baptist Church at well over 500.

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Members of the audience were allowed to ask questions.  Many of which were tough, passionate and respectful. Questions included increasing number of affordable housing units, increasing access for seniors, actually using input from community engagement sessions, as well as equity issues and quality of the westside trails as compared to the east side trails.

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The panel facilitator was excellent!! He also asked tough questions of the panel that included City Department heads and Odetta from the Transformation Alliance, a local non profit.

 

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