Moore, Maddox in Testy Dispute as Council Stalls Again on AHA

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Additional reporting by Jonathan Springston.

(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Council Members Felicia Moore and Jim Maddox engaged in a testy dispute on Tuesday, December 11, 2007, as the Community Development/Human Resources (CDHR) Committee voted to hold a resolution that would create a Task Force to study the effects of relocation on public housing residents.

It is unclear how many Members voted to hold the resolution, but could be few as three, as Council Members Ivory Lee Young and Mary Norwood had walked off the floor just prior to the vote.

About 20 public housing residents and advocates spoke against AHA’s proposed public housing demolitions, including several high school students who are current or former residents, in addition to Chioke Perry, John Timberlake, Terence Courtney, Dave Walker, Ted Brodek, APN’s Matthew Cardinale, Ben Howard, Shirley Hightower, Diane Wright, Ronnie Galvin, Carl Hartrampf, and Anita Beaty.

APN’s News Editor distributed copies of the documents forged by AHA in recent demolitions to HUD, to Council Members Young and Norwood [due to limited number of photocopies on hand]. APN reviewed the lack of consultation with residents, the Council, and the public as part of the demolition applications. APN also reviewed many problems involved with the voucher program and explained AHA has other options than demolishing all public housing.

Mayor Shirley Franklin’s Chief of Staff also made a presentation to the Committee asking that the Mayor’s name be removed from legislation to appoint a Member to a proposed Housing Relocation Task Force which would study the impacts of demolitions and evictions. Franklin does not want to participate in the Task Force.

MOORE, MADDOX DISPUTE SPEAKING PRIVILEGES

Moore, who represents the communities where Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts are located, approached the microphone to address the Committee after it bizarrely voted to hold the resolution which had already passed Committee in its last meeting.

Maddox, Chairman of the CDHR Committee, had not allowed Shirley Hightower, President of Bowen Homes, to address the Committee before the vote beyond her initial public comments.

“I do want to say something because Ms. Hightower is a… respected member of my community,” Moore said.

“We respect her here but we have to run it orderly,” Maddox replied. “We have to run the meeting orderly, Ms. Moore. We have to run it orderly.”

“When Mr. Maddox is ready to let me have the floor, I’ll go. Are you through, Mr. Maddox?” Moore asked.

“I know, but I’m saying the meeting has to be run orderly,” Maddox said.

“Then let’s have order and allow me to speak,” Moore said.

“I know but don’t, this Committee hasn’t disrespected anybody,” Maddox said.

“Mr. Maddox, are you giving me the floor to speak?” Moore asked.

“Well, not if you’re going to talk about that. We have already voted on that issue,” Maddox said.

“So you’re gonna now tell me as a Member of Council what I can talk about? If you talk about somebody getting out of order, we’re about to go way out of order in just a minute… You’re messing with the wrong person, Mr. Maddox,” Moore said. “So now I’m a Council Member elected by the citizens of the City and you’re not gonna allow me to speak and say what I choose to say?” Moore said.

“We’re going to move on with the agenda, that’s what we’re gonna do,” Maddox said.

“And then you’re going to move on the agenda and you’re not gonna let me as a Council Member… But if you were to come to any Committee as a Council Member you would be able to speak your mind and then move on,” Moore said.

“After we’ve passed the issue, you want to go back with the issue… If you wanted to speak on this issue, we could’ve spoke before we voted,” Maddox said. “Are you going to speak on the same issue?”

“I’m gonna speak on what I choose to speak on… Now if you gonna tell me… you’re not going to be allowed to speak, you say that. Is that what you’re saying?” Moore asked.

“No, I’m just saying the motion has already passed,” Maddox said.

“But you’re not gonna tell me what I can say and what I can’t say. So you just let me know, are you going to censor my comments?” Moore asked.

“No what I’m saying to you, if you wanted to speak on that issue, you’ve been around here for over an hour. You could’ve spoke on that issue. But we have voted, now you want to speak on that issue, I’m not gonna let you do it… No, I’m not gonna let you speak on that issue because that issue has already passed,” Maddox said.

“Well you’re not gonna have a rest of the meeting because I’m gonna stay here and disrupt the hell out of it,” Moore said.

“Mr. Chair, it is not uncommon, though, that we allow Council Members to come and speak even if we dispose of an issue. And I think in the interest of moving this meeting forward, I think it’s all right if Ms. Moore speaks her mind,” Councilman Ceasar Mitchell said.

“We’ll take a vote…” Maddox said.

“You need a quorum… So now as a Council Member, I need a quorum of a Committee to vote to allow me to speak… I don’t even think we need a vote. I think it’s disrespectful that I’m an elected official of this City and I require a vote in order to speak,” Moore said.

“All right you go ahead and speak. I’ll be right back,” Maddox said.

MOORE’S REMARKS

In her comments, Moore took issue with Young and Hall’s claims that there is not much the City Council can do to control what the AHA does or does not do.

“Yes, the Housing Authority is a state-ran Authority. But many things the Housing Authority does, they need local approval. They don’t operate in a vacuum. They don’t operate on another planet. We approve or disapprove of millions and millions of dollars to go to the Housing Authority. We partner with the Housing Authority on many things,” Moore said. “So we do not totally have no say… We have a heck of a lot of influence… Because if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be sitting here today… So I wish we could get away from… taking the power out of our own hands that we actually do have.”

“I think there are some very clear things that we’re gonna do. So I’m gonna roll up my sleeves and I will be coming back the first of the year with a resolve and with some legislation. And I want to see if we’re really committed as a Council to doing those things that we can do. So I’ll be working on some legislation that I think is going to address some of the issues, maybe not all of them… that concern me,” Moore said.

Moore also took the chance to call out the AHA on its communication problem while AHA’s External Affairs officer Barney Simms and contracted spokesman Rick White were in attendance.

“If I talk to you on one day, and you know you’re working on something else, don’t wait to make a decision. Then I have to hear from someone in the news media to find out that something’s going on in my own community. Or to find out you’re going to be meeting with my very people in my community… You shouldn’t step foot in District 9 without letting me know your foot’s coming. Ever. Again,” Moore said. “That’s the kind of thing that adds to the problem.”

Councilman C. T. Martin made remarks in support of Moore’s ability to have the floor.

THE HOUSING RELOCATION TASK FORCE RESOLUTION

The Committee made no further changes to the Housing Relocation Task Force resolution, coauthored by Councilmen Ivory Lee Young, Jr. and Kwanza Hall, that the Full Council voted to amend and send back to Committee on December 03, 2007.

Young said the resolution needed more work; however, in explaining his decision to hold the resolution–which already passed the last CDHR Meeting–Young did not list any specific issues which needed work.

“I heard these mixed statements, to say well Task Force but if it is it should be this, others say no Task Force, other want us to do something that’s not legislatively on the table right now. A moratorium is not before us today… The Task Force could result in that decision but it does not say that’s what the decision ought to be. I can guarantee you many of your concerns are not the desire of many of my colleagues to address. No one Council Member does anything by themselves,” Young said.

Young was referencing comments by Courtney and Hightower when he said that some members of the public spoke against the Task Force, although these comments need to be seen in context.

“We find ourselves very skeptical about where this Task Force is going. We want to say, the community, the students, the residents of public housing are the Task Force, and those are the people who need to be consulted. We don’t need to create any new bodies,” Courtney said. “Cancel the creation of a new Task Force.”

“You all said you would set up a Task Force to watch over what AHA is doing. And then you decided to put AHA on that Task Force so then whatever they’re doing, they’re going to continue to do it. We’re asking that that Task Force with AHA being on that Force is not gonna work. We are the Task Force. We’ve been watching our back for the longest,” Hightower said.

“Something is before us today… that could be morphed, could be changed, could be amended to make a meaningful impact… It’s nice to hear flowery statements by those that would call themselves advocates on the Council. We can sound real articulate. But what are we doing? What are we going to do? And that’s what this Council Member wants to know, what are we gonna do, Committee? The issue is bigger than just senior housing… We can start somewhere,” Young said.

One issue raised in the Full Council meeting was how the Task Force would be appointed and who would be a part of it. Council Members Martin and Moore took issue with Young’s amendment that would give Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) Executive Director Renee Glover and the AHA’s Board of Directors each one choice for the Task Force.

Hall introduced his own legislation proposing that the Atlanta Housing Authority work with the Old Fourth Ward Master Plan process to come up with affordable housing for seniors who would be displaced from Palmer House and Roosevelt House senior highrise communities. This bill passed the Committee unanimously.

“My colleague [Mr. Hall] has offered to introduce legislation that at first was to be a substitute to what’s before us, to deal just with seniors. And now he graciously, what I’m hearing is, you’re agreeing to introduce it independent of this legislation as a separate piece… I still say there could very well be a place for the Task Force that’s in front of us,” Young said.

“We do have a problem, we do have issues that have to be resolved,” Young said.

The CDHR Committee will not meet again this year. The Full Council will convene again on January 07, 2008.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com. Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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