CM Martin to Planning Commissioner: If he’s displeased, he should leave
Commissioner Tim Keane came to Atlanta with a stated agenda of bringing change to the Planning Department.
Keane has proposed a major reorganization of the Planning Department that would add many new positions and reorganize departments. Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) has introduced legislation to support the request.
See page 365 in FY 2017 Budget
Councilman Martin–the most senior member of the Council who was first elected in 1990 and is sharp as ever at seventy-nine–expressed concern that development would be expedited and that neighborhoods would be disempowered as a result of the changes.
Martin cited an article that appeared in Curbed Atlanta, which cited an email sent from Central Atlanta Progress.
“I would say if the gentleman is displeased with the process, you know, the option for him is to leave,” Councilman Martin said.
“I have a concern that I brought to your attention… that this publication has published an item here,” Councilman Martin said.
“Keane has had to fight with the entrenched bureaucracy and current administration he joined, and he’s now lobbying the Atlanta City Council to make sweeping changes to reorganize the entire planning department of the city,” Curbed Atlanta reported, although Keane disavowed any involvement in the article.
“I heard the sentiment before this was put forth as evidence,” Martin said.
“But before it gets to that, it’s not unusual to have comments made about bureaucracies and administrations, but I think it’s not getting off to not such a peaceful way,” Martin said.
“Granted that there may be some talent, some may be some new ideas, but primarily what I’ve seen is copying ideas from around the country,” Martin said.
“This can be an okay exercise overall, but it is going to change the direction of the City; and it has in it processes of power shifts as it relates to neighborhoods, so I just to state up front, I have some concerns. I’m sure there will be a disowning of this article, that ‘I had nothing to do with it,’” Martin said.
“But nevertheless, it’s here and it brings some concerns,” Martin said.
Commissioner Keane explained to the Community Development/Human Resources Committee of the Atlanta City Council that the restructuring was in response to the need to have a separate staff to respond to large-scale commercial customers, versus residential customers who may have a smaller request, such as a permit to install a fence.
“Central Atlanta Progress is urging Atlantans to come and voice their support, or email Atlanta City Council members about the proposal,” Curbed Atlanta reported.
Many members of CAP showed up to testify in support.
“I support planning… but as one who loves planning, I have observed it through it’s ups and downs and I’ve seen some mean-spirited activities,” Martin said.
“We had a reorganization once where we brought all the people from Fulton County Planning Department over to the City of Atlanta, and people’s careers were destroyed because they were dismissed,” Martin said.
“So I’m always weary of… reorganization,” he said.
“And my observation of what’s been happening the year this Commissioner has been here, I’ve seen very little connectivity to the Atlanta Inquirer, the Atlanta Voice, any other diverse media piece,” he said, referring to two of Atlanta’s historically Black newspapers that have a broad print circulation in south Atlanta.
“And when I look at this audience, and I have to take some responsibility, ’cause as a Councilperson I’m supposed to know how to mobilize and recruit people,” Martin said, referring to an audience of mostly White developers and business people.
“My concern is, I have not seen the Commissioner… in the Tenth Council District,” Martin said.
“And it’s evident that whatever mechanism that was used to rally people to be here today was Central Atlanta Progress – that’s on them,” Martin said.
“I take responsibility for not having some people of color in the room that balances the City,” Martin said.
“He has to take some… It’s incumbent upon him to balance this planning concept,” he said.
“I hope that everybody sees that the balance that is needed is certainly not there now,” he said.
“I don’t know who has all the responsibility for not having a more diverse audience to come hear about this and to give their input,” he said.
“That list alone of the people who came up and speak [sic], and if you’re happy with it, that’s fine, and nobody has to react to my comments,” he said.
George Chidi of Central Atlanta Progress did not immediately respond to a call and message seeking comment. (UPDATE 1: Shortly after publication, Chidi responded and said he would send a copy of the email.)
Councilman Dickens did not immediately respond to two calls seeking comment.