Atlanta Council Passes Weak Resolutions on APS Surplus Property Dispute
(APN) ATLANTA — A dispute over the former George Adair Elementary School property in southwest Atlanta has been lobbed back to Mayor Kasim Reed’s office after the City Council of Atlanta passed two resolutions at the Monday, March 02, 2015 Full Council Meeting.
One of the resolutions passed by the Council seeks to evaluate all properties being used by the Atlanta Independent School System that are not currently being utilized for school purposes, for other possible uses, including as parks or green spaces. This resolution, by Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), passed 14-0, with Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) not voting.
The other, sponsored by Joyce Sheperd (District 12) and Kwanza Hall (District 2), would give permission to the Mayor to negotiate an agreement with APS for the disposition of the Adair School Property. The resolution passed, also 14-0, with Dickens not voting
The latter resolution merely authorizes talks that have already been taking place, which apparently Mayor Reed did not think he needed authorization to undertake.
Neither resolution calls upon the Mayor to quitclaim the deed to the Adair School to APS.
However, a third resolution, by Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) and Andre Dickens, would have done just that.
The Norwood and Dickens resolution was referred to Finance/Executive Committee, where it was held at the request of the authors on February 26, 2015.
“Ours is the strongest legislation to deal with the Adair School. The community came to me and asked me to file a resolution, so that’s what I did,” Councilwoman Norwood told Atlanta Progressive News.
“When you’re in a theater and the actors are talking back and forth on stage, it all of sudden gets quiet and everyone looks at the one person whose turn it is to speak. All heads turn, waiting to hear what will be said next. The Council’s action has created this moment for Mayor Reed to act. It is his turn to speak and take action. It is APS that is waiting, the community that is waiting. Everyone is waiting,” Council President Ceasar Mitchell told APN.
Earlier this year, Mayor Reed, in his usual arrogant display, took the newly appointed APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to task, after she told the Board of Education that Reed was holding the deed hostage as part of the City’s dispute with APS. The dispute is over the City’s failure to make required payments to APS as part of the Beltline Tax Allocation District.
That is, the City owes APS money, and won’t allow APS to sell its surplus property until the school system agrees to forgive some or all of the money they are owed. The school system gave up years of tax revenue, intended to fund education for schoolchildren, with the agreement that the City would make payments to APS after using the money to invest in the Beltline.
Reed said at the annual State of the City breakfast that Carstarphen that she did not know what she was talking about, and that several APS surplus property deeds were among several items of negotiation that was tied into the Atlanta Beltline.
“I thought that one, she’s new, she’s inexperienced in this city and doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Reed said.
Erroll Davis, former APS Interim Superintendent, said in a statement that his discussions with the City focused “solely on the Beltline agreement, in general, and pilot payments.”
“Other items such as quitclaim deeds for surplus properties were put on the back burner. It is also important to note that the City transferred a deed for a surplus property while I was still superintendent and the current mayor was in office,” Davis said.
A change.org petition by Randy Gibbs has gathered 421 signatures so far.
Gibbs’s petition urges “Mayor Reed, for the transfer of the deed for the George Adair Elementary School to the Atlanta Public School (APS) System such that they can continue with their process of selling the building as proposed…”
“We understand that there is a disagreement between the your office [sic] and APS over the Beltline TAD funding; however, we believe the sale of the George Adair Elementary School is a separate issue and that it should not be used as a bargaining chip in extraneous negotiations. The sale of this school would be a major step toward the continued growth, development, and revitalization of our intown southwest Atlanta neighborhood,” the petition states.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for their willingness to at very least evaluate the feasibility of converting some of these unused property to something that would be of a community benefit,” Councilman Bond said in a press release.
“We want to make sure these facilities are used in the best way possible. As I said before the evaluation will let us know the most efficient way to use these properties. Currently Atlanta has a dearth of park space, so one option may be to convert these city-owned lands into public greenspace,” Bond said.