Atlanta Council Approves Trust Fund for Turner Field Communities
(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, April 17, 2017, the City Council of Atlanta approved in a vote of nine to three, an ordinance by Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) to create a Trust Fund to benefit the communities surrounding the former Turner Field, including Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and part of Grant Park.
Voting in favor were Councilmembers Carla Smith (District 1), Kwanza Hall (District 2), Ivory Lee Young (District 3), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Alex Wan (District 6), CT Martin (District 10), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Bond, and Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large).
Voting nay were Howard Shook (District 7), Yolanda Adrean (District 8), and Felicia Moore (District 9).
Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) abstained out of an abundance of caution because of her former position as Executive Director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority. Natalyn Archibong (District 5) and Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) were absent.
The Trust Fund ordinance, 17-O-1080, now proceeds to the Mayor for action.
The ordinance creates a Trust Fund to be used for the named communities “solely to fund construction and preservation of affordable housing, job training, and community development.”
Per the ordinance, the Chief Financial Officer “is authorized and directed to place into the Trust Fund some or all of the funds generated from the sale or lease of City-owned property, or the City’s portion of funds generated from the sale or lease of property that it partially owns, in the above-named neighborhoods, in accordance with the following schedule, and shall sunset January 1, 2027.”
APN’s News Editor–who provided research and legislative drafting for Councilman Bond on this ordinance–obtained a list of all 1,400 parcels owned by the City of Atlanta, and then used tools including Google Maps to narrow that list down to a list of approximately 120 parcels in the named communities.
The schedule provides that for any sale or lease proceeds up to 500,000 dollars, one hundred percent will go into the Trust Fund; that for proceeds between $500,000.01 and one million dollars the amount will be “a reasonable amount no less than 50%”; and that for proceeds above one million, the amount will be “a reasonable amount no less than 33%.”
The Trust Fund is the first legislative victory for the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, which has been fighting for years to create a Community Benefits Agreement.
The group is continuing to hold a Tent City at the former Turner Field site and is continuing to pressure Georgia State University, the City of Atlanta, and others to provide a CBA.
The Trust Fund in and of itself is not a CBA – it is a Fund to receive any monetary benefits that might be part of a CBA, and it creates one revenue stream.
“I think it’s an important first step on putting the community on a path toward community-oriented, community-controlled redevelopment and revisioning,” Councilman Bond told Atlanta Progressive News.
“This is one tool we hope out of many that can augment the already-established community efforts in that area,” Bond said.
Bond came up with the idea of establishing the Trust Fund and using surplus property proceeds after meeting with a group from the Community Benefits Coalition.
City Council Policy Analyst Theo Pace prepared the original ordinance, which Bond introduced as a personal paper.
The Coalition then held two meetings over the course of the last several weeks to prepare two rounds of amendments, which were intended to tighten up the legislation and satisfy concerns raised by the Finance/Executive Committee.
Activists who participated in the legislative drafting meetings were Jane Ridley, President of the Mechanicsville Civic Association; Columbus Ward, Vice Chair of NPU V; Sherise Brown of Housing Justice League; Avery Jackson, Morehouse College student; Alison Johnson; Asma Elhuni, Georgia State University student; Lindsay Amanda, Georgia State University student; and former State Rep. Douglas Dean (D-Atlanta).
“We want to keep it community-focused, community-driven, and community-initiated,” Bond said. “We want to continue to help facilitate what the community’s vision is for their own destiny.”
“We want to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” which he described as “the kind of top-down approach, this is what’s best for you, taking an overly broad view of what might be beneficial for some and forcing it down on the community without the community’s input,” Bond said.
“It’s a big victory. It’s a first step to getting many more benefits for the community. It’s the right thing to do,” Sherise Brown told APN.
“It’s very heroic for Councilman Bond to work with the community and other allies to bring this to light. It’s long overdue. It sets the tone for future development and community benefits agreements that’s never been done in Atlanta as far as we know,” Brown said.
“We are very excited, we are appreciative, and it was really great working together – we can work together and create a great body of work that is law,” Brown said.
“I think that we’re bold and we’re brave and we stand up for what we morally believe is correct, and we’re very passionate about our beloved community, we’ve been trampled on and disrespected, we’ve been bullied and we’ve been resistant; and we were able to work together in several sessions with city officials,” Brown said.
“This shows we can do that when we’re treated with respect,” she said.
Editor’s note: In full disclosure, APN’s News Editor is currently providing paid consulting work to the Office of Councilmember Bond, in his capacity as the CEO of a nonprofit organization that is a vendor for the City of Atlanta.