Councilwoman Sheperd Protects Beltline, Perpetuates Fraud

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(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Chairwoman of the Community Development/Human Resources (CD/HR) Cmte, continues to protect Beltline Inc. from oversight and scrutiny, while allowing them to use her Cmte to perpetuate an apparent fraud upon the public.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the Beltline made a false statement in an answer to questions posed in writing by APN to the Beltline at the February 01, 2011, CD/HR meeting.

The question which had been posed by APN was, “(1) Why did the Beltline oppose the original BAHAB recommendation which was to require 10 percent of affordable housing in BAHTF-funded multi-family developments at 30 percent of AMI (extremely low-income families)?”  [AMI refers to Area Median Income.]

Specifically, the Beltline made a false statement when it said, “Originally, BAHAB, did not recommend the requirement referenced in the question above.”

APN brought the false statement to the attention of CD/HR Cmte Members at the February 15, 2011, meeting.  APN provided all Cmte Members with photocopies of the Beltline’s answers with the false statement highlighted, and with photocopies of the original BAHAB recommendations with the recommendation highlighted.

“BAHAB recommends a commitment to households at 30% of AMI (households just above the minimum wage) through a requirement that 10% of the affordable units built be targeted to households at or below 30% of AMI,” BAHAB wrote in its original recommendations.

At the March 2011 Quarterly Briefing of the Beltline before the CD/HR Cmte, on March 01, 2011, the Beltline made a presentation regarding possible transportation plans; Sheperd allows the Beltline to present whatever it wishes.

After the Beltline’s presentation, Sheperd open up the meeting to public comment on the presentation.  At no point did she address the Beltline’s answers to APN’s questions, nor to the questions posed by senior advocate Ben Howard.

When asked when Sheperd would address the Beltline’s answers, “We, I have looked at those questions.  We’re satisfied, the Cmte is satisfied with the answers to those questions.  We have no other comments in reference to those questions,” Sheperd replied.

APN then stated that the Cmte should not be satisfied because evidence has been presented to the Cmte that the Beltline has made a false statement.

At no point has the Beltline directly responded to the allegation of making a false statement.  CEO Brian Leary and other staff members sat there silently and did not respond at any point.

Sonya Moste, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Development Authority, posted a comment on APN’s website, attempting to make it seem like APN was incorrect in accusing the Beltline of fraud.

“The confusion, and your false charge of deceit by ABI, stems from your use of the term ‘original recommendation.’  You reference a document dated Sept 2, 2008 as the original recommendation.  However, BAHAB’s ‘original’ recommendation was in fact made earlier than that – at a meeting on August 13th, 2008, as reflected in the meeting minutes which can be located here,” Moste wrote, including a link.

However, the BAHAB meeting referred to by Moste was in fact a meeting which occurred prior to the issuing of BAHAB’s original recommendations.  Therefore, the fact that BAHAB was at one point preparing to make recommendations which were not as strong as the original recommendations that they actually issued to the Beltline and the ADA in their report, is irrelevant.  One can not refer to something as an original recommendation when it was never a recommendation that was issued to anyone; if anything, it was a draft of a recommendation.

Also, it is not clear when Sheperd says that the Cmte is satisfied with the answers including the deceptive one, as to how the Cmte reached such a decision.  It may have been at the private Cmte briefing, which is closed to the public if there is not a quorum.  One Councilperson on the Cmte told APN they were not included in any decision and that only two Members, Sheperd and Alex Wan (District 6) were at the briefing.

Later, Sheperd explained, “We have answered all questions in reference to that, to this issue.  I know this is your opinion, that you’re not satisfied with that.  That happens.  I went, we went back and looked at documentations.  I got with the Beltline and looked at everything you asked.”

Sheperd then went on to confuse the issue.  She asserted that BAHAB concurred with the Beltline and ADA’s opposition to their initial recommendation, which is true.  She asserted that the City in fact voted to approved the legislation regarding the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund, incorporating the final changes which were made in accordance with the Beltline and ADA’s wishes.  So that is all true, but that is exactly the point.

The point of all of this has been to get the Beltline to admit to the CD/HR Cmte and the public why they opposed BAHAB’s original recommendation.

So the fact that BAHAB later changed their recommendation to accommodate the Beltline does not negate the Beltline’s opposition to the original BAHAB recommendations.

And none of this is relevant to the question of whether the Beltline was honest in their answers to APN and the Cmte.

“And BAHAB concurred with the findings, the [Atlanta Development] Authority concurred, the City actually voted through the legislation based on those findings.  So, at this point we’re done with those issues in terms of that,” Sheperd said.

It is also not clear what Sheperd means when she uses the word satisfied: that is, is she satisfied in her belief that a fraud has not taken place, or is she satisfied in that use of her Cmte to perpetuate a fraud does not bother her in any way?

Sheperd appears to imply that she is satisfied with the Beltline’s opposition to the original recommendations, but that does not speak for the Cmte, and it does not speak to the fraudulent answers the Beltline has made.

Councilman Ivory Young (District 3) also spoke to the substantive issue of BAHAB’s recommendations, as opposed to the issue of fraud, telling the public that he is opposed to “poverty housing.”

“For me personally, recommendations are exactly what they are, recommendations… Far too often in the realm of affordable housing and so-called economic development… this City has flawed and failed tremendously in creating a diverse, by every census track… We ought to be thoughtful in terms of increased household incomes within a demographic, so the lowest income households may benefit not at their expense, not at their exclusion, but as a part of revitatlization,” Young said.

“We cannot do economic development on the backs of poverty, but what we are absolutely obligated to do, is to make some provision for the whole demographic, the lowest income households and beyond,” Yound said.

“To that end, there has to be a sweet spot in there, that enables us to still maintain some meaningful economic development as we have not been able to in many of the challenged neighborhoods I represent because we are far too inundated with poverty.  Banks are not financing or investing… because we have not improved our demographic,” Young said.

“Would I hamstring the Beltline effort to do affordable housing by mandating exorbitantly high percentages of poverty housing?”

“Or would I give them the benefit of studying the market and really understanding what would work best for our lowest income households as well moderate and upper-income households to achieve a balance?  I’d rather have a scientific approach where we minimize the impact on these existing neighbhorhoods and give them the benefit of economic development.  It doesn’t matter, rich, poor, they all want grocery stores,” Young said.

(END / 2011)

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