MLK Medians, A Safety Hazard??

If you drive down MLKing Jr. Drive, you will see medians, that most of the community did not want, are being installed and lanes are being reduced from 4 to 2 with bike lanes.  Emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks may not be able to go around a MARTA bus, garbage truck, GA Power truck (working on power lines), etc. as MLKJr Drive between I-20 and Northside Drive.  This could be a huge public safety disaster. Yet, everyone is passing the buck.
Here are the facts:
MLKing Jr. Drive, a major thoroughfare and state highway, will now have medians that are “cute” yet dysfunctional.  They may actually impede the ability of emergency vehicles (especially fire trucks and ambulances) to navigate and will grossly impede traffic for delivery trucks (including UPS & FedEx), tractor trailers, utility service trucks (including GA Power, as power outages are on the rise), stalled vehicles, accident vehicles, police traffic stops, etc.
After I spoke to ReNew/TSPLOST spokesperson, Joshua Williams (newly appointed ATL Deputy COO) and Public Works Commissioner James Jackson, neither are not sure of the lane measurements.  Neither could assure me or the fire department if the lanes are wide enough….Are you kidding me?
Besides, there was a huge community meeting held at the Adamsville Rec Center to discuss this massive ReNew/TSPLOST expenditure about 2-3 years ago.  It was hosted by “then” City Councilman C.T. Martin.  It was jam packed with residents against the MLKJr Drive medians and reduction of lanes.  Other elected officials attended.  Outcome was: Since residents did not want the MLK medians, between I-20 (at Westview Cemetery) and Fulton Industrial Blvd, Martin said he would keep all four lanes.  Residents asked for sidewalks, street resurfacing, grass cutting & cleaning of highway entrance and exit ramps, etc.
Now it is truly evident this median project has major flaws and is WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS:
1)  Median UNDER the I-20 overpass at MLK & Bolton Road.  Why is it there??
2) Median in front of Fire Station #5 had to be cut back after being installed because the fire engine could not clear it to turn left out of the station (fire department warned before it was done).
3) Median at shopping center at Lynhurst no longer allows left turn from MLK to this popular shopping center
4) NPU-H and others were against medians for reasons including City not having funds to keep the grass cut in the medians. They were right!  Often the grass gets knee high before the City cuts it.
BEFORE more money is wasted, this project needs a public safety check.  Both ReNew and Public Works say, “It should have been done.”  However, they are not sure if it was done.
Upon speaking in public comments at the City of Atlanta Public Safety meeting on Nov. 13 and the Transportation meeting on Nov. 14, I was told to contact Public Works & ReNew (PW&R). Unfortunately, it is clear that PW&R DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!  ReNew is blaming their woes on increased construction costs. They:
1) are over budget
2) have pushed project dates on most south and southwest side projects forward by 2-4 years or they have no date at all.
In the meantime Campbellton Road between Dobson Drive and Bent Creek cannot get half a mile of sidewalks so the local kids can walk to the Adams Park Library and Young YMCA without walking in the treacherous street.
Also, Council President Moore, at the Nov. 14 Transportation Committee Meeting asked for a full accounting by District of all ReNew/TSPLOST funds spent, cost of projects currently underway, cost of projects pending on the list.
What are your thoughts??

MARTA Releases New Funding Plan

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The MARTA Board of Directors will vote on Thursday, October 4 on how the Atlanta half-penny sales tax will be used over the next 40 years.  See the full plan overview in the 9/27/18 AJC.

Here are my thoughts on this updated thoughts on MARTA’s updated funding plan:

1)  The Campbellton Rd Light Rail Transit (LRT) & Greenbriar Transit Center can be a win for transit dependent riders and will draw “choice riders” from that corridor, City of South Fulton, Camp Creek and beyond. However, it needs to be the #1 project on that list for implementation and use an accelerated schedule (remember The I-85 bridge?). Since the #83 Campbellton Rd/Greenbriar bus Route is #1, it should be prioritized as #1 in project scheduling and completion. That
would be the start of unprecedented equity in this major project.
2)  Emory will always secure funding for what it wants. Bravo MARTA for realizing they could reallocate some of their originally designated funding. Perhaps this is a move toward equity.
3)  BeltLine. I agree with Councilmen Dickens and Hillis who said in Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting that the south end of the Beltline needs to be done before other BeltLine areas to insure it gets done. They discussed how south side projects are always done last and if funding run out, those areas suffer most. That would be a real equity move!  Besides, the folks who live on the BeltLine are mostly choice riders, they won’t suffer any loss other than pride. They will get other funding including from their own financial portfolios, if they choose.
4) I still believe the Fulton Industrial Blvd. (FIB) MARTA Station should be added. The extra funding that went to the BeltLine should go here. This is a key regional job corridor as well as the gateway to Cobb County. Cobb residents overwhelmingly used the H.E.Holmes MARTA station when originally opened (as the Hightower station). Today, on Falcons and other game days, Cobb residents fill that station to capacity.
5) The FIB station would be the gateway to the future Cobb County MARTA connection and take thousands of cars off the I-20 FIB corridor daily as well as help Six Flags employees and visitors; both UPS distribution centers and more. The #73 FIB bus route, out of the Holmes station, ranks #6 in MARTA ridership.  Another reason to add this station.  Cobb County’s Planning and Division Manager, Eric Meyer, said after a recent ARC meeting that he is all for the FIB station and would be happy to work with stakeholders to make it happen.
6) If we can’t get FIB right now, “At least give us the Holmes heavy rail extension to I-285 at MLKing. That way, drivers would exit there and take MARTA into the city” says Councilman Dickens. That extension was supposed to be done about eight years ago. According to MARTA, ‘There was a glitch in funding for that project.’ Yet another prime example of why south and west side projects need to be done first!

7) The state of Georgia needs to step up their game. They benefit from everything that happens in metro Atlanta.  They use all that Metro Atlanta has to offer to sell prospective companies on why they need to expand or relocate here.  Yet, other than $100 million for a transit funding along GA 400, on the north side, no other funding has been allocated.  Shame on you!  Metro Atlantans pay state taxes.  A portion of that should go to MARTA expansion to give is any chance of decreasing our ridiculous traffic woes.

And, perhaps in 2019, our legislators will introduce and pass legislation to allow for a portion of Georgia’s fuel tax to be used for MARTA… something other than expanding our roads by adding more lanes.  We are among very few states who do not fund public transit from the fuel tax because this state was controlled by the auto industry for so long (they wanted people to buy cars, not take public transit.).  With Ford and GM assembly plants long gone, Georgia is still operating as if those plants are still here.  What’s up with that??  Being 18 years into the new millennium, what are our legislators waiting for??

Here is an updated article with thoughts from a GSU researcher, Chris Wyczalkowski on MARTA’s current funding challenges (click on the MARTA article if it does not automatically load.):

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&pubid=8e0858ee-1443-484d-9e94-f8b8a1eaaaff

 

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!)

 

 

 

Homeless Camp at Local Post Office

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As most people did today, I put on several layers before venturing out in the 29 degree Atlanta weather.  Nice and warm. I warmed up my car,  turned on the heat and drove over to the Ben Hill post office to drop off mail.

However, when I entered the door, a peculiar odor was in the air.  I discovered there was a homeless man camped out there. He startled me.  Seeing the look on my face, he said “M’am, you know it’s real cold outside.” I agreed.. Knowing he needed  transportation to the  City’s closest warming center over at the Old Adamsville Rec Center on M.L. King,Jr. Drive at DelMar Lane, I called Atlanta Police Department (APD) Zone 4 to ask if they could send an officer or someone to take him over to the warming center.  The officer said, ‘of course they would’ and she thanked me for calling.

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When the Officer Polencia arrived, he spoke politely to the homeless man who said his name is Dave.  Dave said he is an Army veteran who is waiting for his friend who lives a few houses down to get off from work who he stays with overnight.  Polencia offered to take Dave to the warming center, but he refused saying he is okay.  Polencia told him he could not stay there.  Dave assured the officer he was going to leave.

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I left and checked five hours later at 9:20pm and not only was Dave still there, but another homeless guy was also.

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This is not good!  Unfortunately, these are  not the only two homeless people in southwest Atlanta.  So, I sent an email to Councilman Andre Dickens, NPU-P Chair Reginald Rushin and CBS 46 TV.  They all responded within minutes.  Yet none of them mentioned transportation to the warming center.  With a shortage of APD officers, do we really want them to run a shuttle service?

With no one else to call, I called Zone 4 again. This time I spoke to Sgt. Bowers who said they would send someone over.

So, is Atlanta a city too busy to have a plan in place for transporting its homeless to warming centers when we experience frigid temperatures?  This is winter. Weather forecasts are pretty accurate.  Frigid temps are always in the forecasts.  Where is the plan?  Where is the compassion from our city leaders?

Tomorrow there will be an Inauguration for The new Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.  This is her district until then. Will her successor, councilwoman-elect Marci Overstreet, and the other city council members (half are new) devise a plan to help our most vulnerable citizens?

Time will tell whether Atlanta will be too busy to devise and implement a plan.  Will you hold them accountable??

98th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote

 

This is an exert from Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore’s newsletter:

As you may know, us “today represents the 98th anniversary of our country’s passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.

Because of strong women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, winning the right to vote became the centerpiece of the women’s suffrage movement.

It took 70 years to get the amendment passed.

When citizens come together in a democracy to right a wrong, it serves everyone That was true 97 years ago and it is true today.  Yes. There is strength in numbers.  With social media, it is easier to inform, educate and gather like-minded  people. With “people pressure” in the form of peaceful protests and voting the whole ballot in every election.

So are you watching what’s happening, denying what’s happening, or helping to make things happen??

Because of the internet, we can research almost everything and get information we need to make informed decisions within a few keystrokes. So, get involved in the issues you care about and it won’t take 70 years, or 70 months to effect much needed change(s) in public policy.  Today, great things can happen in 70 weeks, 70 days and 70 hours.

Read more about the women’s suffrage movement, lead by Susan B. Anthony and two rival organizations that merged to get this done:

http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/the-fight-for-womens-suffrage

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_States