CBS Richmond Examines AHA’s Demolition Model
(APN) ATLANTA — A CBS affiliate based in Richmond, Virginia, visited Atlanta in March 2012 after Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones has said he wants the city to emulate Atlanta’s model of mass public housing demolitions and mass evictions of residents.
In the series of two news segments, each about a six minutes, reporter Sandra Jones provided contrasting views on the outcome of Atlanta Housing Authority’s public housing demolitions. The package aired on May 03 and 04, 2012.
CBS Richmond puts Atlanta’s corporate television news media to shame with the depth of CBS Richmond’s coverage and its willingness to ask critical questions of the Atlanta Housing Authority, that so many local stations failed to ask.
In the first part of the report, Jones provides an interview with AHA CEO Renee Glover.
However, in the second part of the report, it appears that Glover’s spokesman, Rick White of the controversial Alisias PR firm, stood up and attempted to interrupt the interview.
“Is that on?” White asked Jones, pointing to CBS’s camara. “Turn it off please.”
Jones told Atlanta Progressive News that CBS refused to turn off the camara. “That’s not how we roll,” Jones told APN at the time.
Jones had just asked Glover about the fact that many public housing residents were evicted without a voucher.
“Twenty percent of the people who lived in public housing were evicted without benefit of relocation,” Dr. Dwanda Farmer, who recently completed a dissertation on the HOPE VI demolitions in Atlanta, told CBS Richmond.
Glover denied that was true, saying everyone received some assistance.
As in the second part of the report, Bishop Roosevelt Kates, a former resident of the Martin Luther King Towers senior high rise of sixteen years, complained about his current residence.
“Part of me went down,” with the demolition of the highrise, Kates told CBS.
“We don’t have the activities [here… it] feel like you’re mostly in prison,” he said.
“We don’t have bathtubs in here for seniors. [There] we had our own association. We had more freedom than here. They had a social worker,” Kates said.
Kates also criticized his perceived lack of security at his new home.
“Anybody can come in here,” he said, adding firefighters have been unable to locate residents. “If I got real sick and they couldn’t find me I’d be dead.”
Sharon Collins, an activist in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville neighborhood, told CBS, “We’ve lost a lot of seniors from the community because they could go other places and get the amenities that they were promised.”
APN’s News Editor–the present writer–also participated in the report. APN produced a sixty article series during the height of the most recent round of public housing demolitions in Atlanta.
“People look at what the Atlanta Housing Authority and what Renee Glover did as if it’s some shining national example. But it’s really a national Holocaust,” APN’s Editor told CBS Richmond.
Previously, APN has reported on the disproportionate number of seniors who died within a two year period after being displaced from the Palmer House residence.
“They put a pretty picture on it and say we’re so concerned about these people… ‘we want them to get out of poverty.’ But the result is you’re just moving them from one place to another,” APN’s Editor said.
“They want to make it about the things that the public can grasp onto like crime and concentration of poverty and these things. But what it’s really about is developers wanting to develop,” APN’s Editor said.
In the first part of the report, CBS also questioned much of the empty land in Atlanta where public housing used to sit, that is currently sitting with no housing, let alone any affordable units.
CBS asked Glover about this, but she basically didn’t answer the question.
In the first part, CBS also interviewed two residents, hand-picked by AHA, who said they were happy with their move.
Richmond Mayor Jones issued the following statement in response to CBS’s report:
“The city of Atlanta was the first city in the nation to perform a complete public housing transformation and their efforts provide a baseline for other cities to review. Our visit there was extremely beneficial as we work to develop plans of revitalizing concentrations of public housing in Richmond,” Jones wrote.
“It is important to note that at this time, no final decision regarding how we revitalize and de-concentrate public housing has been reached. We visited Atlanta, along with Norfolk, in an effort to gain as much information as possible as we continue our deliberations,” he wrote.
“Transforming Richmond’s public housing communities will require a collaborative effort. We look forward to working closely with RRHA’s [Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority] new CEO Adrienne Goolsby, and utilizing her experiences in Chicago, as we work to change the face of Richmond’s public housing communities,” he wrote, also promising to seek community input.