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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and J. Scott Trubey (email@example.com). In this article, Deere and Trubey outline each aspect of this complicated 600 page proposal in laymen’s terms.