Urban Food Forest, Free Produce by 2021

 

As reported by WSB- TV2.  This is a “must read!

Atlanta creates first food forest in Georgia, largest in U.S.

By: Raisa Habersham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated:

ATLANTA – Atlanta residents will have greater access to fresh food thanks to a public “food forest.”

City Council, on a unanimous vote, approved the transformation of 7.1 acres of property near the Lakewood Fairgrounds and Browns Mill Golf Course into a public park and garden. The food forest is the first in Georgia and the largest in the United States, Councilwoman Carla Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill has been in the works since November 2016 when the city accepted an $86,150 grant from the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program. The federal agency has contributed a total of $164,000 to the project, which has additional support from non-profit groups Trees Atlanta and The Conservation Fund.

The green space, currently vacant property, will feature trees, shrubs and vines that produce fruit along with walking trails, a community garden and restored forest and stream-side areas by 2020, according to the legislation.

Smith said residents will be able to pick their produce from trees in the public park free of charge.

“It’s just like going into a park and picking muscadines from a bush,” she said.

Smith said the land was previously owned by Ruby and Willie Morgan, who later sold the property to a developer intending to build townhomes. The plan fell through and the property had sat in disarray until The Conservation Fund purchased it in 2016, she said.

The food forest is part of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ plan to ensure 85% of Atlanta residents are within one-half mile of accessible fresh food by 2021.

In 2017, 36 percent of Atlanta was classified as a food desert, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A quarter of Atlanta residents must travel more than a half-mile to get fresh fruits and vegetables, the USDA said.

The city will purchase the property from The Conservation Fund for $157,384, according to the legislation. The property will be managed by the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

Trees Atlanta, which is already conducting educational programs at the site, has contributed $121,500 to hire part-time staff, including a food forest ranger and community workforce educator. The city will also create a trust fund for outreach efforts related to the food forest.

This article was written by Raisa Habersham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

For more WSB TV2 amazing articles, visit:

BeltLine Group, “The Haves” Are Claiming Victory

If the BeltLine Group, “the haves”, that is well-organized wins; that means south and southwest Atlanta loses. That includes transit dependent riders, who do not own or have access to a car, lose.  We are Atlanta!  We are the home of Civil Rights!  How can this be allowed to happen??

Please read the info below and contact MARTA Board members AND all Atlanta City Council members via email, phone, social media AND snail mail. Contact them ASAP, and definitely before September 28 since the MARTA Board is scheduled to vote on October 4.  “The have nots” need a modified plan of the first proposed project list that connects 126 neighborhoods and adds the Fulton Industrial MARTA Station.

Remember:  “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings!!  So we still have time to get what we want, need, and have paid for; yet we still being denied equity…equal distribution of the $2.5 Billion available through the Atlanta half penny sales tax.

 

BeltLine Rail lands front page in the AJC

We’re heartened to see that the public’s views are being heard. The AJC articletoday states the More MARTA project list is being revised in talks between Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the MARTA board. Some remaining funding may go to to the BeltLine as a result of these discussions. BeltLine Rail Now! is optimistic about this development. However, it’s not clear how much funding would remain, or how that funding would be applied. We look forward to learning those details.

We encourage you to keep making your voices heard! Sign our petition and contact your City Council representatives, Mayor Bottoms’ office and MARTA before the board votes on October 4th. Let them know you want transit that connects all 45 neighborhoods along the BeltLine to jobs, destinations and opportunity.

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.

The Gulch Project Analyzed by AJC

The cost to Atlanta tax payers for the proposed Gulch Project initially was $1.2 Billion.  Now the number has climbed to $1.7 Billion.  As with most construction projects, the amount will grow…and be blamed on cost over runs.

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&edid=74bcedfd-ccd2-434d-84e7-fd09f032634d&pnum=1

As the City Council tries to read and comprehend the 600 page document known as:  the Atlanta City Council Legislative Package, Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and CIM (the California developer), are in a big hurry to close this “good” deal.  As I put on my former banker hat, one thing I know for sure is that when people try to rush things, mistakes are made.  If this really is a “good” deal, give City Council members a chance to review and analyze the massive 600 pages from CIM, the developers on this deal. Council members need to understand the package and be able to:

1) get their questions and concerns answered,

2) fully understand the package,

3) determine if it really is a good deal,

4) revise the affordable housing section to make it truly affordable for ATL Westside residents, and not use Sandy Springs-Marietta income numbers

5) be able to explain their vote to their constituents,

6) vote in the best interest of their constituents.

There are three entities that have to sign off on this deal: Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County.  On Monday, September 17, protesters are expected to converge on the Mitchell Street side of City Hall before the scheduled 1:00pm City Council meeting.

With the recent revealed ties that CIM has to Jared Kushner and President Trump, this deal may be in trouble.  See the link and article below.

https://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2017/05/26/57043/la-based-cim-group-ties-with-kushner-and-trump-wor/

For your convenience, I have copied the full WNYC May 2017 article.  Though somewhat long, it is an easy and jaw-dropping read!  Please leave your comments on his post.

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Meet With Business Leaders, January22 2017
Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Meet With Business Leaders, January22 2017
( Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press / Associated Press )
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The Watchtower in Brooklyn Heights is one of the most noticeable edifices in New York. It’s a complex of buildings on a bluff above the East River, with a sign on top that flashes the time and temperature. It used to be the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But today, workers are preparing to give it a makeover. Like so much else in Brooklyn, the Watchtower has been sold to developers. It changed hands last August, shortly after Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for President.

The timing is relevant, because the buyer was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At $340 million, Kushner’s purchase of the Watchtower was one of the biggest real estate transactions in Brooklyn history.

Kushner didn’t buy the Watchtower alone. He had help from a company called CIM Group, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles. Over the years, documents show, CIM has done at least seven real estate deals that have benefited Trump and the people around him, including Kushner. Those deals included stabilizing the scandal-plagued Trump SoHo hotel, a key Manhattan holding for Trump and his children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.

At the same time, records show, CIM Group, with approximately $19.7 billion under management, has pursued an array of lucrative government contracts, pension investments, lobbying interests, and a global infrastructure fund, all of whose fortunes could benefit from a Trump presidency.

While both Kushner and Trump have distanced themselves from their businesses, neither man has divested. Ethics experts including Kathleen Clark of the Washington University School of Law say that because of the two men’s ongoing business interests, the web of connections with CIM is troubling, even if no laws are broken.

“Trump gives new meaning to the idea what’s good for Donald Trump is apparently good for America,” Clark said. “He doesn’t actually seem to have a conception of the public interest outside of himself or his company or his family. That’s astounding.”

The White House declined to comment for this story, but in the past has defended Trump and Kushner’s business ties, saying they’ve been vetted and are in compliance with laws and regulations. CIM declined to comment on potential conflicts.

What is CIM?

CIM Group is certainly known at the top echelons of New York real estate. But the company itself — its character, its founders — seem to leave few traces beyond the properties in which it invests.

“CIM stands out as being very secretive,” said Konrad Putzier, a reporter for the Real Deal magazine and website who has covered the company for several years. “The fact that we don’t even know what CIM stands for says it all.”

A spokesman said in an email “CIM stands for CIM…that is all.”

CIM was founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by Shaul Kuba and Avi Shemesh, two Israelis, and Richard Ressler, a former New Yorker with private equity in his family — his brother Tony Ressler co-founded industry giant Apollo Global Management with his brother-in-law, Leon Black.

CIM’s strategy is to get good returns for investors by investing in undervalued urban real estate. The firm quickly became known in California for courting influential politicians and donating tens of thousands of dollars to a series of statewide political action committees.

In 2004, the firm acquired a package of properties that included the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards are held. They purchased the real estate at a deep discount, after the previous owner ran into financial difficulties.

A few years later, CIM persuaded the city of Los Angeles to arrange a $30 million HUD loan to reconfigure the theater to stage shows from Cirque du Soleil. The arrangement was supposed to last a decade and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity. Cirque’s show, however, fizzled after little more than a year.

CIM has plenty of friends in Los Angeles, but it also has plenty of critics. Dennis Zine, a retired police officer and former city councilman, helped the company win the right to develop the derelict Reseda Cinema, which appeared in the opening sequence of Boogie Nights. Zine said CIM promised big things, but then neglected the project, embarrassing him in the process.

“They burned their bridge with me,” Zine said.

CIM Moves into New York

Throughout the early 2000’s, CIM kept rolling up cash, in part by drawing investments from public pension funds like those in New YorkState  and California. In 2010, when CIM made its first foray into New York, the two states had more than a billion dollars with CIM. Neither pension fund would discuss the reasons for their investments.

It was a great time for investors with an appetite for risk and the potential big payouts. The financial crisis had wiped out big banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Those that were still around were barely lending, and many New York developers were struggling to pay their bills.

One of those was Harry Macklowe, who had acquired the site of the old Drake Hotel in Midtown Manhattan but lacked the money to build. Court records show Macklowe had tried to work out a deal to finance the project with Paul Manafort, who would later become Trump’s campaign manager, and a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash who had friendly relations with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But those negotiations went nowhere.

Then, in January 2010, CIM partnered with Macklowe to erect what is now known as 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere.  One unit later sold for $95 million.

Later that year, CIM saw another opportunity: the Trump SoHo.

Though the condo-hotel project had been announced on “The Apprentice” finale in 2006, it was troubled from the start. Neighbors were immediately alarmed and upset with the idea of an outsized tower in the low-rise, chic district.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, recalled that the project was plagued with problems. He said there were “deadly construction accidents, bodies being exhumed on the site from a 19th century abolitionist church, falling objects from the building.”

Just after a gala ribbon-cutting for the Trump SoHo in the fall of 2007, the New York Times reported that one of principals in the building partnership, Felix Sater, had been convicted of assault for cutting a man with a broken margarita glass in a bar fight. He’d pled guilty to a stock fraud scheme. Another principal, Kazakh-born Tevfik Arif,was arrested on child-prostitution charges in Turkey. He was later acquitted.

It was, as Berman described it, “just an endless array of scandals and connections between the financiers and Russian andCentral Asian mobs.”

Condo buyers sued Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., saying they lied about how many units had been sold. The Manhattan District Attorney began investigating whether there had been criminal fraud. The lawsuit was eventually settled, with the plaintiffs required to sign non-disclosure agreements. With few witnesses, the D.A. dropped its probe.

By 2010, the partners behind Trump SoHo, were falling behind on their construction loans, and the lenders were threatening foreclosure.

That’s when CIM stepped in with a reported$85 million lifeline.

Important Partners

The same month CIM saved Trump SoHo, December 2010, CIM bailed out the project’s  co-developer, Tamir Sapir, on two other properties he owned: 11 Madison Avenue and the William Beaver House in Lower Manhattan. In all, CIM spent more than a half-billion dollars and gained a stake in some prime New York City properties.

“There was a short window of opportunity that they just seized,” said the Real Deal’s Putzier.

CIM also soon embarked on its first venture with Kushner, an office building at 200 Lafayette Street. The New York Post reportedthat when they sold the building in 2013 — after $30 million in renovations — the new buyer paid three times as much as Kushner and CIM had initially invested. CIM and Kushner also appeared to turn a quick profit on another jointly-purchased office building, 2 Rector Street.

“The connection with Kushner, it’s very fitting,” Putzier said. He noted that the Kushner Companies own 20,000 apartments and 13 million square feet of office and industrial space, “but…they’re a family company, so when they do a lot of deals they usually need a partner with a lot of equity to help them, and that has often been CIM Group.”

Kushner Companies agrees. In a statement, President Laurent Morali — who replaced Jared Kushner as the firm’s top executive after Kushner went to work in the White House — said “CIM is a strong longstanding partner with a developer’s DNA. They can work through complicated situations, are thorough and strategic, yet also make quick decisions.”  The feeling is mutual: CIM said in a statement that it has “strong, collaborative relationship with the team at Kushner, which has proven to be a valuable local partner.”

CIM also said it “has only one business relationship with a Trump-related company” — the Trump SoHo. The Trump Organization declined to comment for this story; it manages the property under the terms of a licensing agreement.

“The headline attraction of being somehow even tacitly aligned with the President of the United States could provide an incredible fundraising opportunity if they play it right, if they spin it the right way,” said Serge Reda an adjunct professor at Fordham Business School. While the specifics of CIM’s pitch to investors are unknown, Reda said it would be expected that a private equity firm would discuss its record.

When CIM started making deals with the Trumps and the Kushners, its executives had no idea their business partners would one day occupy the Oval Office. But now they do, and ethics experts say that puts CIM’s connections to the First Family and its significant government business dealings in a new light.

The full extent of CIM’s government ties is not known; much of its business is private, though some investments are publicly traded. In public disclosures, CIM said it received annualized rent of $37.7 million from the General Services Administration and other federal agencies. The company said that losing business from a downsized government “could have a material adverse effect.”

CIM also depends on the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which provides a path for foreign investors in American real estate to obtain U.S. green cards. According to the non-partisan research group Opensecrets.org, CIM spent $430,000 on federal lobbying in 2015, putting it among the top ten real estate firms lobbying on that issue. CIM listed preserving the EB-5 program as a major lobbying priority.

This is the same program that Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer, one of his siblings who now runs the family business, was recently promoting in China.

There’s one more program CIM might benefit from, which could dwarf its profits from EB-5, rents or pensions. According to SEC disclosures, CIM has an infrastructure investment fund which it acknowledges is sensitive to “regulation” and “political events.”  If Trump gets an infrastructure bill passed, funds like this could earn many millions from projects like roads and tunnels.

Kushner is at the center of the administration’s building plans. In March, the White House announced that he would head an “Office of American Innovation” whose mandates include “creating transformational infrastructure projects.”

“Whether the parties are doing something untoward or not, the situation creates doubt, and it will follow the President throughout his term as long as he owns his business,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW. “It’s a question we shouldn’t be having to ask.” His group is suing the president for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Last December, as the president-elect was preparing to move to the White House, the firm did one more deal with Trump-world: CIM helped Kushner Companies buy 85 Jay Street, a parking lot in Brooklyn, for an eye-popping $345 million.

Watch that space.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone

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??

Atlanta Mayoral Inauguration Events On Jan. 2, 2018

Here are the details for the inauguration of Atlanta’s 60th Mayor. The events are free and open to the public.  Arrive an hour early to park (parking deck is not free) and get one of the 2,500 seats at the M.L.King Jr. Chapel. Or, take MARTA to avoid traffic congestion.

This would be a great opportunity for you to take a student or young adult.  Students can learn:
1) who are these elected officials
2) what they do
3) which one(s) represents their area
4) how to talk about it on social media
4) how policies made by elected officials  affect them now and in years to come
5) to memorialize the occasion by taking pictures at the event with these elected officials at the end of the Inauguration and all during the reception.

Inauguration Day Schedule Of Events
Tuesday January 2, 2018

Interfaith Worship Service – 8am
Impact Church
2323 Sylvan Road, Atlanta, GA 30344

Inaugural Ceremonies – 1pm
MLK Jr. International Chapel
Morehouse College
830 Westview Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30314
(doors open 11:30am)

One Atlanta – Citizen’s Reception – 5:30pm – 8:30am
Atlanta City Hall Atrium
55 Trinity Street, Atlanta, GA 30303
(Including Inaugural Community Service Project-
Please bring school supplies for APS students)

* * *

 

ATL Mayoral Transition Team

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Shortly after winning the Atlanta Mayoral runoff election, Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms put together her transition team. As I walked through City Hall earlier today I passed their office.

The transition team is being lead by Vicki Palmer, former Executive V.P. of Coca-Cola Enterprises and Larry Gellerstedt, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Cousins Properties.  Read the full story from the AJC at:

https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/atlanta-mayor-elect-keisha-lance-bottoms-names-chairs-transition-team/wcJ90DuROpR4UA0e6oTx8H/amp.html

High hopes and expectations are expected from behind this door.  May the 60th Atlanta Mayor exceed our expectations.