Turner Field Communities Get $1 Million from City of Atlanta, Seek $4 Million from AFCRA
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Monday, June 19, 2017 Full Council Meeting, the City Council of Atlanta approved a special allocation of one million dollars to the Trust Fund that was established earlier this year for the communities surrounding the former Turner Field: Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and part of Grant Park.
The resolution also creates a Stadium Neighborhoods Trust Fund Committee that will oversee the fund.
The vote was fourteen to zero, with Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) abstaining.
The vote followed a long weekend negotiation between Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office, Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1), and community activists including Allison Johnson, Sherise Brown, Deborah Scott of Georgia Stand Up, and Maya Dillard Smith.
Councilwoman Smith introduced the resolution, 17-R-1853, as a personal paper for immediate consideration at the beginning of the Meeting, which required a suspending of Council rules.
Activists threatened to continue to protest a 30 million dollar allocation of City proceeds from the sale of Turner Field to refurbish Phillips Arena.
They had held up the 30 million dollar allocation for over a month, after they had argued to Councilmembers that it was unfair that the surrounding communities would not benefit from the City’s portion proceeds from the sale of Turner Field. Several Councilmembers, including Council President Ceasar Mitchell, agreed with this position.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, earlier this year, community members worked with Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) and APN’s News Editor–the present writer–to draft 17-O-1080, which created the Trust Fund.
The earlier ordinance established the Trust Fund’s basic parameters–that it is to be used for affordable housing, community development, and job training–and created a revenue stream for ten years consisting of the revenue from the sale or lease of any City surplus property in those communities.
But it was unclear how much money would come from the surplus property revenue. Now, with a one million dollar infusion, the Trust Fund will be able to move forward with an initial amount certain.
As for the one million, CFO Jim Beard said he was confident there that much would be available in the fiscal year budget currently under consideration, even though no specific fund or account was identified.
“On a one time basis, the City is more than capable of doing a one time transaction,” Beard said.
As for the four million from the Recreation Authority (AFCRA), “We do know there is four million dollars available,” Beard said.
Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) noted that, in reality, the City cannot “direct” AFCRA to allocate four million dollars.
However, the legislation passed with the word “direct” included, after Mayor Kasim Reed insisted that in reality, it was highly unlikely they would fail to heed the Council’s request.
“During the presentation on Phillips Arena, a fair issue was raised. The number at that time [requested from the community] was ten million dollars,” Reed said.
“With regard to the direction from Council, that’s going to be executed from my office. I appoint the majority of the members of [AFCRA]… and that Authority has traditionally come in coordination with my office. The Council is making a direction. I will make the wishes of this body known to the members who I appoint. That’s how this is going to be effectuated,” Reed said.
“That also came out of a desire to give as much as we could right now. I’ve been listening to the comments of the community, and I want to get as close as I can with the full number,” Reed said.
Councilwoman Smith said the Housing Opportunity Bond, Stadium TAD, and Beltline TAD might be sources of additional funds, adding that she and community members had met with the City’s Office of Housing recently to discuss using Trust Fund dollars as matching funds to attract additional affordable housing dollars.
Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) said he was going to offer an amendment to change the composition of the Trust Fund’s oversight committee.
As written, the Mayor’s Office would get five appointments, and the Council would get four; all members would come from the named neighborhoods.
Dickens wanted for the Council to have five positions, and the Mayor to have four.
True to form, Mayor Reed threatened to withhold the funds from the community if the change was made.
“Make the motion and let’s kill the deal,” Reed said. “If you want to do it, make your move.”
Dickens did not offer his amendment and the legislation passed as proposed.
“I think that’s a bit heavy handed,” Councilwoman Moore said of the Mayor’s threat.
“To suggest the Council shouldn’t make any amendments or modifications to this… we’re supposed to do the work to get it passed. If there is an amendment that a Councilmember offers to change the composition of the Board, it’s in decency, it’s in order, and it’s what we’re here to do,” she said.
“I’ve been talking to the neighbors. There’s a lot of compromise going on here. But every person that’s going to be on this comes from the neighborhood,” Smith said.
“I want to thank the community, the Mayor, Ms. Smith. I want to say to the community, the five million dollars is not a cap. It’s not the end of what’s the potential to be placed in this fund,” Councilman Bond said.
“When we met in this room some months ago, we talked about what was possible to create a Community Benefits Agreement. I’ll be frank with you, when we first met, I didn’t imagine we’d get millions of dollars to seed this fund,” Bond said.
“This is not the end. There’s more economic development discussion that needs to happen. One of the things we talked about is to look at the TAD (Tax Allocation District) in the area. It it a pay as you go TAD, it should be a traditional TAD. It should include areas that will bring resources to the community,” Bond said.
“We have not talked to our County Commissioners, we have not asked them about their proceeds from the sale,” Bond added.
To encourage low-income participation the Board, the legislation includes fifty dollar compensation for Trust Fund oversight committee members for Board Meeting attendance.
Anyone who lives in the named communities should stay tuned for a call for applicants or contact Mayor Reed or Councilwoman Smith’s office for more information.