Atlanta Council Moves Forward on Turner Field Sale to AFCRA
(APN) ATLANTA — Despite public opposition, on Monday, May 02, 2016, the City Council of Atlanta voted unanimously to approve the sale the two-thirds portion of Turner Field owned by the City of Atlanta to the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA), which owns the other one-third, so that the baseball stadium can be sold through AFCRA to development firms Carter and Oakwood, and Georgia State University (GSU).
Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), who is Executive Director of AFCRA, abstained; while Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) was absent.
Residents from the surrounding communities of Mechanicsville, Peopletown, and Summerhill and from organized coalitions had a lot to say during the public comment segment of the meeting. They want to make sure that a Community Benefits Agreement is a part of the final sale.
As previously reported by APN, they released their final CBA proposal on last week.
“The Recreation Authority has not allowed us to add verbiage that commits any sale of the property to a Community Benefits Agreement,” Trudy Nesbitt said during the public comment portion of Monday’s Full Council Meeting..
“After fifty years of neglect, all we are asking for is a seat at the table. What are they afraid of?” Nesbitt asked.
“It is very clear to me that people who look like the majority of this Council are suffering,” Brother Anthony Mohammad, a local activist and insurance salesman, said.
Several people yielded their time to Deborah Scott, Executive Director of Georgia Stand Up. She spoke for about ten minutes about the Turner Field issue as well as pending
“Please consider our [Benefits Coalition] recommendations, Councilwoman Bottoms; a community voice needs to be in the contract,” Scott said.
“The people on this Council say they support poor people, but the policies put in place do not always reflect that proclamation,” Scott said.
“Is development really a good thing if the least of us suffer for it?” Scott asked.
“If GSU is what it claims to be, a great urban university, they should take more interest in these issues and should show more interest in speaking with the people who live in these areas,” Jerry Jackson said.
“There is a serious corner being cut, and that corner is community input. The citizens living in the affected areas have been treated this way for fity years. We cannot afford to build Atlanta in this way any more,” Tim Franzen, of the Housing Justice League, said.
“I am concerned about Councilwoman Bottoms as head of AFCRA,” Molly Read Woo, who hosts a public access program on People TV, said.
At this point, Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1) spoke up in defense of Councilwoman Bottoms.
“They are beating up on Ms. Bottoms, and I think this is unfair, she has met with community groups on numerous occasions,” Smith said.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) also made a public comment in support of the Coalition.
After the public comments, Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) questioned Smith, whose District 1 includes some of the Turner Field neighborhoods.
“Who have you been listening to, Carla?” Moore asked.
Councilwoman Smith responded that this process has been going on since 2013, and that there have been numerous meetings, with many in attendance, to discuss these issues, including the ongoing Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) process.
However, the Turner Field sale is obviously moving forward despite the fact that the LCI process is just starting. This is part of the reason that the Coalition wanted to release their CBA before this legislation was considered.
“What about the CBA requests? Some of what they are asking for is included, but I noticed some things are not, they are not asking for anything too outrageous, I see no reason why their requests cannot be included,” Moore said.
“Well, we just received the formal CBA requests today, so any adjustments won’t be reflected at this moment,” Smith said, as if the Coalition had taken too long, when it is the Council that is moving ahead on an expeditious timeline that it controls.
“Also we are not giving the land to the developers, they are paying market rates for the land,” Smith said, as if this were a reason not to include a CBA.
“We can work something out. I am glad to sit down and work with the Coalition. I’ll sit down with anyone, but we just got the CBA info, so I can’t say too much at this moment,” Smith said.
“The Turner Field Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) held plenty of meetings, one I even remember the coalition being there,” Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) said.
“I know Ms. Bottoms is not speaking, but she has been telling me off to the side here that she can’t even remember how many meetings she has held, in regards to this issue, there have been so many,” Sheperd said.
“There will still be opportunities for community input in the future, this is not the end of the discussion, I support this resolution,” Sheperd said.
Councilwoman Cleta Winslow also made a comment.
“They have been doing a lot of reaching out. We may not all agree, but developers want to continue to communicate. They have a long history of working with inner city neighborhoods. I believe that their word is their bond. I support this resolution,” Winslow said.
“This process can be a great win for everyone. Everyone needs to stay at the table,” Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) said.
After the vote was passed, Councilwoman Moore made one last effort to assure the Coalition and the community that their voices will not be locked out of the process.
“There will be a concerted effort to reach out to the Coalition, and Ms. Smith, please put the minutes from all of these public meetings regarding Turner Field together so that we all can see them,” Moore said.
“Also, input in the LCI process is one thing, a CBA is another,” Moore said.
Councilwoman Smith responded that all minutes could be found at http://www.stadiumneighborhoodslci.org/
APN visited the website and discovered that summaries of only two meetings are posted.