City Council Overrides Veto of Public Housing Oversight

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Additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale.

(APN) ATLANTA — The City Council of Atlanta voted Monday, February 4, 2008, 10-5 to override Mayor Shirley Franklin’s veto of a resolution that asks the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) to consider putting on hold the demolition of Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts, until the Council and the public have a chance to thoroughly examine demolition applications sent to US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Full Council approved the resolution on January 22, 2008, but Mayor Shirley Franklin vetoed it on January 30, 2008.

Voting yea were Council Members Ivory Lee Young, Natalyn Archibong, Howard Shook, Clair Muller, Felicia Moore, C. T. Martin, Joyce Sheperd, Caesar Mitchell, Mary Norwood, and H. Lamar Willis.

The five votes against overriding the veto were Carla Smith, Kwanza Hall, Cleta Winslow, Anne Fauver, and Jim Maddox.

Ten votes had been required to override the veto. Had Mr. Willis not rushed in late, the resolution may not have passed, Moore told Atlanta Progressive News.

Mr. Young changed his vote from nay when the resolution was originally approved by Council, to yea on the override. Young originally supported the bill in CDHR Committee.

Ms. Fauver and Ms. Smith changed their votes from yea when the resolution was originally approved to nay on the override. The resolution had initially passed 11-1, with several Members absent or abstaining. Council President Lisa Borders did not vote either time.

Members of the CDHR Committee and others were particularly well informed about the issues after months of testimony from residents, advocates, and the public.

“There is no reason for the Mayor to have vetoed this resolution,” Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9), author of the resolution, said.

Moore noted that a veto was not necessary because the resolution is not legally binding and the AHA could simply choose to ignore it.

Several members of the public spoke before the vote and urged the Council not to bow under executive pressure.

“My name was put on a document that was supposed to be signed for me not being at a January 9th meeting of the RAB Board, and… I left some literature for all Board Members to have that’s a retraction letter. My signature that was supposed to go on… it was put on something saying I said one thing when it wasn’t that,” Elaine Olsby, President of Cosby Spears senior high rise told the Council.

AHA submitted to Council at its last meeting a letter signed by Olsby and others saying they supported the demolitions. However, as exclusively reported by Atlanta Progressive News, she states that AHA misled her as to what she was signing and did not give her time to read the letter. APN obtained a retraction letter from her today; Olsby has asked APN to send the letter to HUD.

“The Council has already made its position known,” Joe Beasley, the Southeast Regional Director of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said. “I hope you will hold your ground.”

Beasley accused the AHA of using “insidious moves” to remove Atlanta’s poor population outside the City. “There’s something wrong with that,” he said.

“Every time AHA states that these residents are ready to go, that is not true,” Diane Wright, President of Hollywood Courts resident association and the RAB Board, said. “I have 112 signatures from my community alone because they’re uncertain of where they’re going.”

“All we’re asking for is a fair chance…to be able to sit down with the AHA to learn where we’re going.”

“I really hope you will override the veto. I think deciding where thousands of people are gonna go or not go is too important for one person to sign off on. I think many more people need to be involved in that process. And in fact I think the money that’s being used to tear down and rebuild for people other than low-income people, that money needs to spent to fix up what’s available and to build more because we don’t have enough housing,” Amy Hastey, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, said.

“Why wouldn’t we insist on a one-for-one replacement? That’s a local decision we can make. These are our local tax dollars, and we should at least get a one-for-one replacement, maybe a two-for one,” Carl Hartrampf, Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said.

“We spent an hour today in meetings with the Mayor’s [Commission on Homelessness], to find housing for mothers and children, and yet we’re tearing down housing right now we could place those mothers and children in,” he said.

“I want Renee Glover and Barney Simms, all them not to demolish the building, put the poor people out the community, like they did the Cheyenne, like the Ku Klux Klan was doing the Black people, running them out of the community. I want the Black folks to live in the community,” “General” Larry Platt, resident of Palmer House senior high rise said.

SECOND RESOLUTION AFFECTS ALL DEMOLITIONS

The Council also voted to file a separate City ordinance crafted by Felicia Moore that seeks to give the Council more oversight of AHA initiatives.

While the Council voted to file the ordinance for now, Members unanimously signed off on a new resolution accepting to a process outlined by the AHA in two separate letters to Council.

Council Members had voted January 22, 2008, to table the ordinance, which the AHA had spoken out loudly against. They accused Moore of crafting such an ordinance to protect her own political standing.

The AHA also argued the Council had no jurisdiction over what the agency does, even when HUD requires consultation with all appropriate local government officials in demolition applications.

Both sides spent the past several days attempting to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiating several points.

Moore had initially been unsatisfied with an offer in the form of a letter by AHA’s director Renee Glover dated February 1, 2008, to hold two public forums on housing issues annually and submit quarterly reports to Council on its initiatives.

That letter had also promised to provide Moore with copies of the demolition applications for review three weeks before submitting them to HUD.

The second, dated February 4, 2008, extended that promise to providing the CDHR Committee with copies of any demolition applications.

“AHA will provide to CD/HR Committee of city council a draft copy of any proposed demolition/disposition application, that, when implemented, would result in the permanent relocation of the majority of the affected families from an AHA development, at least three weeks before AHA submits the application to HUD,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

The letter went on to note that Moore would file her ordinance as a result of AHA’s voluntary actions.

Even though filing an ordinance essentially kills the bill, Moore told Council she would continue working on this issue until solid legislation passes.

“The Council has legal authority to set policy,” Moore maintained. “We’re not through with this issue yet,” she said in her remarks.

“I think there’s still a long way to go in dealing with the issues that surround public housing,” Moore told APN in a phone interview. “This is a small step. There’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed… To make sure we have notice and opportunity for input, at least we got that for now.”

About the author:

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

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