Mayor Franklin Vetoes Public Housing Accountability

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(APN) ATLANTA — In a bold move, Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin vetoed a bill which passed the City Council of Atlanta 11-1 which would add some accountability that the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) must have to the City Council in their pursuit of demolitions of Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts.

The Council will likely consider the override of the Mayor’s veto, which would require at least 10 votes, at the Full Council meeting, Monday, February 4, 2008, at 1pm at Council Chambers.

As discovered by Atlanta Progressive News a couple months ago, Mayor Franklin has been sending letters of support–purporting to be on behalf of the City of Atlanta–for AHA’s applications to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), without consultation with the City Council.

HUD requires consultation by AHA with all appropriate local government officials in such applications.

Councilwoman Felicia Moore of District 9, representing those three communities, introduced the bill to ensure residents, the Council, and the public could have input regarding the demolition applications.

Meanwhile, Moore said there has been no new progress on a possible memorandum of understanding which could replace Moore’s other bill, an ordinance which would require the Council to approve on the Mayor signing off on any future demolition applications to HUD. At the last Council meeting, Moore’s ordinance was held pending a possible informal compromise. The ordinance had already passed Community Development and Human Resources Committee.

“I hereby return with my veto, Resolution #08-R-0087,” Franklin wrote in a letter dated January 30, 2008, to Council President Lisa Borders, obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

“I support a transparent process and the City Attorney has opined the City of Atlanta has legally followed HUD’s guidelines as related to me as CEO of the City of Atlanta affixing my signature to the documentation,” Franklin wrote.

“Language in the second resolved clause of Resolution 08-R-0087 directly contradicts the Law Departments [sic] legal position on this matter. The language is not accurate ‘said letter(s) have been submitted prematurely…'” [sic]

“My actions in this matter have been consistent with federal guidelines,” Franklin wrote.

“I think it’s unfortunate it was vetoed,” Moore told Atlanta Progressive News.

“The reason boils down to the last resolve clause, which spoke to whether, if the letter had already been sent [to HUD], it speaks to it being premature because there was no consultation by the Council,” Moore said.

“The bottom line of the veto goes back to the original issue we’re dealing with, the authority of the Mayor versus the Council and whether she has authority to send letters absent Council consultation, review, and input,” Moore said. “The Mayor’s Office and Law Department contend the Mayor has the sole authority, without the Council’s input. And I totally disagree with that.”

“The other part of the resolution didn’t matter to her,” Moore said of Franklin.

“I put that in there initially just to cover our bases, if by chance the Mayor had sent the letter [to HUD] before we had the opportunity to consider the resolution or the ordinance in Council,” Moore said.

However, Moore said it is her belief no demolition applications have yet been sent to HUD by AHA for the three communities.

“As far as I know, I do not believe one has been written because there has been no application completed. At the Council meeting, the letter AHA gave to me, unless they changed their mind, said they would give me a copy of the application and allow me three weeks to review it before they submitted it,” Moore said, adding she asked for a month.

“When we had our side caucus meeting [at last week’s Full Council meeting], they said they hadn’t completed the application. They were working on it but it wasn’t in a form they were ready to share with me,” Moore said.

“I think it’s an overreaction to it [the resolution],” Moore said of the veto.

“For the Mayor, it means she doesn’t want any expression on anything, whether it has legal bearing or not, that she doesn’t have the sole authority to write those letters,” Moore said.

Here, Moore is referring to the fact that a Council resolution is not legally binding, and merely expresses the intent and opinion of the Council. Moreover, the clause, and Franklin’s issue, may also be moot because the letter was not sent prematurely, seeing as how it possibly wasn’t sent yet at all, Moore said.

“Vetos are not uncommon. It’s based on a difference of opinion. The Mayor, that is her job, and she has the authority to veto things. And if the Council doesn’t agree with that, we have the right to override it. The last word is the Council’s,” Moore said.

“At the end of the day it’s going to be what I decide to do. Whether I decide to ask for it to be overridden, whether I have the ten votes to do that,” Moore said.

“The problem that I see, to the extent that the Mayor is speaking on behalf of the City and not just her personal opinion, that’s where we have run into the road block. I believe the Council should be involved in that. It indirectly encumbers the City because once we say, go ahead and demolish the properties, at some point AHA will look to us for support. The CIP total [AHA’s funding request to the City] is $250 million. If somebody’s speaking on behalf of the City, one branch can’t speak for both and it makes a stronger application to HUD if it’s one voice,” Moore said.

“I can’t say that the Mayor can’t say what she wants to say. That’s why I think it’s important the elected officials who are closest to the people, who hear the citizens’ concerns directly, will be the ones to say, if they are to be part of the process, to say there needs to be more consultation [with residents] or it needs to be in this form,” Moore said.

Diane Wright, President of the Resident Advisory Board, opined as well. “I think the Mayor is protecting herself and her best interests in seeing public housing go down,” she said.

“I think it’s awful. Because number one, she knows the issues and we’ve been coming to the Atlanta City Council since February of last year. So she knows our issues and she’s not listening to the people. We’re part of the City too,” Wright said.

“I think she should leave it in [the last clause], because that’s the original. And the Mayor didn’t write it. The City Council person wrote it. If she takes it out, it’s like the Mayor wrote it. This is not supposed to be a dictatorship. This is supposed to be a democracy. So where’d these dictators come from?”

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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Our syndicaton policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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