Atlanta Council Passes Pre-arrest Diversion; Peachtree-Pine Acquisition Study
(APN) ATLANTA — At its December 07, 2015, Full Council Meeting, the City Council of Atlanta passed 15-R-3920, the Pre-Arrest Diversion (PAD) Initiative, also known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program; and passed a further amended version of an ordinance creating a feasibility study about acquiring the building at 475 Peachtree Street, currently occupied by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
The meeting was packed with individuals supporting the PAD Initiative, as well as individuals supporting the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
The Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative passed the full city council with a thirteen to zero vote. Michael Julian Bond (Post 1) and Howard Shook (District 7) were excused from voting.
As covered in depth by Atlanta Progressive News over the last few years, organizations like Solutions Not Punishment, Women on the Rise, and many other organizations and individuals have testified and lobbied for this program for years.
The PAD Initiative will move forward for a vote December 16, 2015 by the Fulton County Commissioners.
Commissioner Marvin Arrington, Jr., (District 5) as well as other officials, have already stated support of the program.
The City of Atlanta is seeking to improve public safety, health and to address the crisis of over criminalization and mass incarceration of citizens, on the local level with the PAD program.
“This program will move us away from the criminalization of mental illness, drug addiction, and poverty; and move us into high quality, health-centered services,” Xochitl Bervera, Co-Director, Racial Justice Action Center, one of the main forces behind this program, said.
As reported earlier by APN, PAD is an innovative program out of the City of Seattle, Washington, which diverts people who commit low-level drug offenses and prostitution-related crimes to health based case management services and out of the criminal justice system.
The old approach of arresting people for minor drug possession, prostitution, homelessness, and mental illness has not worked. Those individuals are better served by social service programs to help break the cycle and heal their lives.
Other cities have found that the PAD program works: it saves lives and money by redirecting people out of the criminal justice system and into life-changing social programs.
The passage of this resolution will create a design team for a pilot program in the City of Atlanta, probably in the Old Fourth Ward. Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2), whose district includes the neighborhood, introduced the resolution.
The Design Team will include key stakeholders from city government, police, legal officials, courts, neighborhood associations, victims advocacy organizations, LGB and Trans organizations, formerly incarcerated, youth groups, social service agency, medical community, addiction specialist and mental health specialists.
We can’t afford to continue to hide social problems in overcrowded jails and prisons which only makes those problems worse.
TASK FORCE FOR THE HOMELESS
Also filling the room were individuals, organizations, and elected officials to speak against an ordinance 15-O-1549, to obtain an appraisal, title report, and survey to determine the feasibility of acquiring the property at Peachtree and Pine, where the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless is located.
Anita Beaty, Executive Director of the Task Force, called upon the Atlanta City Council for “protection from the greed that precipitates this kind of movement against the building at Peachtree and Pine in such a targeted way.”
“If you are going to use your immense power to influence, can’t you use your powers to do other things than displacing men, women, and children; and gentrifying our neighborhoods?” State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said.
State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) read part of the op-ed written by former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) op-ed in APN, which blasts the City for pandering to the greedy class and hurting the homeless class.
“If you approve the ordinance as it stands, you are reinserting the City into an ongoing litigation with full knowledge of the issues in dispute, i.e. conspiracy to interfere with the Task Force and its ownership of the building that is being targeted,” Carl Hartrampf, Member of the Board of Directors of the Task Force, warned the City Council.
Others testified to the fact that women and children make up 25 percent of their residents who would be living on the street without Task Force.
Other facilities put people out and will not let them back in, but the Task Force is open 24 hours a day and takes in anyone who is homeless.
Councilmember Felicia Moore (District 9) added two amendments to the Task Force ordinance.
TASK FORCE AMENDMENT ONE
The first amendment would delete the final whereas clause which reads: “to acquire the Properties, it is necessary for the City to negotiate with Property owners and any party having legal claim to ownership of the Properties.”
Moore wanted to remove any mention of negotiating with property owners, even though that would clearly be the next step for the City to take in a condemnation process.
The Council vote on amendment one was eight yeas and two nays.
The two nay votes were Alex Wan (District 6) and Cleta Winslow (District 4).
Three Councilmembers were excused: Bond, Shook and, Joyce Sheperd (District 12). Carla Smith (District 1) and Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) did not vote.
TASK FORCE AMENDMENT TWO
The second amendment added a new section which read: “An Ordinance shall be prepared for adoption by the Atlanta City Council and for approval by the Mayor if the report of findings in Section 1 of this Ordinance it is determined by the Chief Procurement Officer that the acquisition of the properties for the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department is useful and necessary. The adoption of said Ordinance shall be required to authorize Section 2-1541(b)(2)(d), Sections 2-1541(b)(3), and Section 2-1541(b)(4), which allow for negotiation with property owners(s), condemnation or any other method provided by law, and appropriation of necessary funds for purchase.”
Moore tells Atlanta Progressive News that this amendment was also intended to make sure that if the administration wished to pursue any of the specific condemnation proceedings available in the code, that it would have to come back to the Council for approval.
Moore said that her research found there were more relevant sections in the code than were originally listed in the ordinance, and she wanted to make sure everything was covered.
The vote on this amendment was 10 yeas and zero nays.
Shook, Sheperd, and Bond were excused from voting; Norwood and Smith did not vote.
Finally, the amended ordinance was voted on with thirteen yeas and one nay vote, which was Moore. Bond was excused from voting.
Moore and Andre Dickens (Post 3) raised concerns about where the hundreds of women, children, and men would go, if the City purchased the property at Peachtree and Pine.
Moore tells APN she believes there should have been two feasibility studies, and that one of them should have addressed that very question.