AHA Board Slashes Alisias Contract, Chastises CEO Glover

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(APN) ATLANTA — Sparks were flying today, Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at the Atlanta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meeting, as the Board voted to slash the fiscal year 2012 budget item for the Alisias PR firm from 750,000 dollars to 84,000 dollars, or 7,000 dollars per month.

The Board of Commissioners under the Mayor Shirley Franklin administration, including current Councilman Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large) essentially served as a rubber stamp for the AHA and their agenda of tearing down all of Atlanta’s remaining family public housing and several senior highrises.

But since some new members have been appointed under the Mayor Kasim Reed administration–including developer Dan Halpern who had been a top Reed supporter and a keeper of Reed’s secrets; and James Allen, a new resident representative–it has indeed been a new day.  The tone of the Board towards CEO Renee Glover has also changed significantly.

Glover noted at the beginning of the meeting that Board Members had previously raised concerns about “whether we should [continue to] outsource the public relations aspect of our work?”

Glover insisted she was listening to Board Members “even though sometimes we come across as if we have a tin ear.”

“I want to apologize,” she added.  “I think my behavior has contributed to the contentiousness.  I’ve come in with the assumption that we’ve been doing a great job and y’all should’ve been impressed.”

Glover proposed that the Board start holding monthly strategic planning meetings in addition to their legislative meetings, to address Commissioners’ concerns, which also include minority contracts, competitive bidding, private management companies, overhead costs, and the cost of outside legal services.  The Board agreed with this idea.

When the FY 2012 budget came up, Commissioner Halpern first proposed an amendment to cap spending on the Alisias PR contract at 7,000 dollars per month, and to cap spending on outside legal work at 15,000 dollars per month.  He later substituted his amendment to limit the Alisias contract only.

Alisias had previously been budgeted for 750,000 dollars for FY 2012.  “I don’t know why we needed 750,000 dollars for PR,” Halpern said.

According to Glover, the budgeted amount for Alisias included 42,000 dollars for a report to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; 15,000 dollars to hold academic roundtables; 15,000 dollars to create newsletters; 52,000 dollars for meetings; 70,000 dollars for website management; 115,000 dollars for internal communications on a web portal; and 180,000 dollars for media relations.

“Doesn’t that seem extraordinarily high?” Halpern asked.  “You guys enjoy an extremely good relationship with the media.”  Indeed, Atlanta Progressive News has been one of the only news agencies willing to critique and investigate AHA’s public housing demolitions and mass displacement, including most recently the death of 24 seniors from Palmer House.

“I’m vehemently opposed,” Halpern said.

Allen noted that AHA still has an external affairs department.  “Our employees are doing a whole lot of that work and he’s getting credit for it.  That’s why I don’t trust them [Alisias].”

Commissioner Wayne Jones agreed.  “A woman in External Affairs was taking pictures.  She said she was working for AHA.  She was doing most of the things.  I don’t see the media company doing it.”

“750,000 dollars is a whole lot of money.  To me, it’s a sweetheart thing and it should never have been approved in the first place,” Allen said.

Allen said “it was a common sense thing” to spend money on needed repairs on AHA buildings instead of PR.

When Glover asked the Board to continue to fund Aliasias at the current level, Halpern replied, “It goes in one ear and out the other.  Once again, it’s like a disconnect.”

“I know we don’t need 1,000 hours of media relations.  It’s like we’re gonna fall for anything.  It’s not my money.  It’s the public’s money,” Halpern said.

“I’m not going to approve a budget that budgets for 1,000 hours of media relations,” Halpern said, adding that if a crisis comes up, the Board should hold an emergency meeting to address it and at the time might consider additional spending on public relations.

“You just constantly try and manage us,” Halpern told Glover.  “It’s disingenuous.  It’s disrespectful.  I’m tired of it,” Halpern said.  “You do the planning and expect us to jump in line.  If you want to tell us how to vote, send me a memo and I’ll decide if I want to vote that way.  But that’s not the type of collaborative process a Board is supposed to have.  It’s very frustrating.  It’s been almost a year of this.”

“I don’t know why we need to discuss this media business.  Some of it is gobbledygook as far as I’m concerned,” Allen said.

“There’s no way I will stand in front of the residents we serve in good conscience to support 1,000 hours of PR.  It could be spent at Cosby Spears, at Barge Road,” Halpern said.

“I don’t know why the day-to-day PR work can’t be done in-house,” Halpern said.

As previously reported by APN, Alisias is a pro-privatization PR firm and think tank.  Their client list is confidential, but includes Glenn Delk, at attorney who seeks to privatize Atlanta Public Schools.

Alisias was instrumental to the AHA and to Glover in carrying out their campaign of deception, fraud, and vicious attacks on anyone who dared to question the destruction of Atlanta public housing.

At one point in 2008, Alisias attacked Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9), saying the only reason she cared about public housing was because she worried about getting reelected if fewer Black people lived in her District.  Council Members called on Glover to fire Alisias but it did not happen.

Alisias at one time launched a news service called the Georgia Online News Service (GONSO), which failed.  Alisias also hired former journalists who had been supportive of AHA and Alisias, including John Sugg, a former editor at Creative Loafing Atlanta [who was at today’s AHA BOC meeting], and Lyle Harris, a former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

Alisias was also instrumental in the takeover of the APS Board of Education by the Gang of Five.  Alisias provided pro bono PR services for the Gang of Five, including the sending of mass emails from ficticious concerned citizens who did not exist; Alisias also provided PR services for the Gang of Five through a contract with Delk.  [Board Member Brenda Muhammad, part of the Gang of Five, declined to use Alisias’s services and warned the others not to.]

Four APS BOE Members currently face ethics charges for accepting Alisias PR services while considering Alisias for a PR contract with APS.  The Alisias issue was one of the top concerns raised by AdvancED/SACS CASI in their report stripping APS of full accreditation due to Board governance issues.

The AHA BOC will be reconsidering the Alisias contract overall, and possibly cutting it completely, during the upcoming strategic planning meetings, but the actions taken today are significant as it strips Glover of a major ally and weakens Alisias’s ability to continue to hire former Atlanta journalists for its pro-privatization PR and think tank agenda.

Meanwhile, it appears more and more clear that Glover’s days at AHA are numbered.

(END / 2011)

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