Woman Fighting Eminent Domain Case to Run for City Council
(APN) ATLANTA — Tanya Washington, 46, is running for Atlanta City Council District 1, after years of fighting with the City of Atlanta to keep her home in Peoplestown, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
As previously reported by APN, the City of Atlanta has been trying to take a residential block of homes in Atlanta’s Peoplestown neighborhood to create a park with a pond in it. The City says the park will prevent stormwater flooding problems in the neighborhood.
Mayor Kasim Reed allowed Mattie Jackson, who is now 95, to stay in her home on the same block, after public pressure; and the other neighbors took deals from the City that for various reasons they felt they couldn’t refuse.
Washington, who is also a law professor at Georgia State University, decided to challenge the City and she is currently in court. She notes the City failed to pursue alternatives to eminent domain, including creating a permeable surface upstream in a now-former Turner Field parking lot.
Carla Smith is the current councilperson for District 1, an area that is among the frontiers of gentrification and development, including the Turner Field redevelopment by Georgia State University and Carter and Associates.
Councilwoman Smith tells APN she is running for reelection, even though there had been speculation again this year that she might not run.
Smith introduced the legislation that led to the eminent domain action against Washington.
Meanwhile, Smith supported the Turner Field deal at every step of the way, including the move to transfer the property from the City to the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority without a community benefits agreement being required.
“I am running for City Council because I have had a really bad experience with representation,” Washington said.
“My experience with the taking of my property and my neighbors, is that we need real representation. We need a representative for my district, and not a liaison between my district and the Mayor’s office,” Washington said.
“My district is about to be the beneficiary of a great deal of resources. And I want to make sure those resources are made available to people who live in the district currently and have been long-term residents of District 1, not just those who are attracted to the district because of the development that’s planned for the area,” Washington said.
“One of the things I wish my representative had provided was transparency and honesty about what was going on. There’s no doubt there’s flooding in the neighborhood. What I wanted was responsible leadership, sit down with the residents and explore options that didn’t displace people,” Washington said.
“Engineering reports were available to show there were options to capture the water without displacing people. She should’ve prioritized the lives of the people living on the block,” Washington said.
“She wouldn’t meet with us. She wouldn’t return phone calls. She wouldn’t return emails. She avoided us,” Washington said.
Washington also participated in the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition that created a Community Benefits Agreement that they hoped would be part of the Sale Agreement; she also participated in the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) study for the Turner Field neighborhoods.
“The process that created the Turner Field Community Benefits Agreement was far more democratic and far more detailed [than the LCI study] . People would send me passages, I would provide my opinion – I focused on the infrastructure piece,” Washington said.
“I don’t think a Councilmember is supposed to be a dictator that just comes to Council meetings and tells people what they want and need,” Washington said.
“If you take time to read the CBA, it’s a beautiful document, we’re not asking for every item to be adopted, but that should be the starting point. Not how much profit can be generated, not how much housing values can go up, but how to preserve the character of the community. There’s so much that needs to be respected,” Washington said.
“A lot of what I’ve experienced has been disrespect,” she said.
“The first mistake was by the City and Carla Smith. She should have made sure the Community Benefits Agreement was part of the Request for Proposals. She wouldn’t meet with the coalition. They had to hunt her down,” Washington said.
“What I want to offer what I think responsible leadership looks like – accountability, where I understand that my loyalty and my duty is to my constituents first, not to City Hall, not to the Mayor, not to my colleagues on City Council. I’m not going to trade their interest, or leverage their interest,” Washington said.
“As hard as I’ve fought for myself, is how hard I will fight for them,” Washington said.
“Affordable housing is a priority,” she added.
“I understand some people want million dollar houses,” she said, referring to Carla Smith. “We can have some of that, but we need to have affordable housing and we need more of that.”
“I moved to Peoplestown not based on what it could be, it was based on what it was. Carla seems to be offering, instead of honoring her current constituents, she’s honoring the people she wants to come to the district,” she said.
“I don’t want to be a mediator to keep the natives restless while legislation is being passed against their interests,” she added.
Washington has not yet filed paperwork for her run.
Rontaverous Aribo and William Powell are also running for District 1, according to filed documents.
Aribo has raised approximately 9,000 dollars and has 7,500 dollars on hand. Powell has reported no contributions.
Smith raised approximately 10,000 dollars last quarter, and has 21,000 dollars on hand.