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AJC Misleads Readers on Norwood's Legislative Record

By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (November 29, 2009)

(APN) ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper misled readers regarding Mayoral candidate, Councilwoman Mary Norwood's legislative record in its Sunday edition last weekend, and has neglected to take action on a correction request for over one week.

The AJC reported on Sunday, November 22, 2009, in an article by Ernie Suggs, that "In her time on the council, Norwood has never successfully pushed through any legislation that she authored." This is a potentially harmful claim by the print daily; however, it is false and easily proven wrong.

Atlanta Progressive News utilized the City Council of Atlanta's website to search for Final Action Legislation--at http://citycouncil.atlantaga.gov/captions/default.asp--containing the word "Norwood." This produced a list of all legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Councilwoman Norwood, whether successful or unsuccessful.

APN searched through the list to identify pieces of legislation that Norwood either sponsored by herself, or where she was listed as the first of several co-sponsors, which passed Council. Through this research, APN learned that Norwood passed over 40 pieces of legislation that she either sponsored or where she served as lead co-sponsor.

After the AJC's November 22, 2009, article was published, the present writer sent a correction request to Suggs and Public Editor Shawn McIntosh. Any AJC reader can request a correction at any time. The correction request included a list of legislation--containing names and descriptions of the bills--which APN had previously obtained from the Norwood campaign.

McIntosh responded two days later on November 24. "Ernie's reporting said that Ms. Norwood has not authored and passed any piece of legislation. Is the list you have provided legislation that she wrote and built a consensus for and got passed? (If so, we will need more specifics to verify, like, perhaps, dates of passage or ordinance numbers.) If not, I don't believe a correction is in order."

Upon receiving McIntosh's response, where it became clear the AJC had not done and would not do any independent research to back up its claim, APN decided to do its own research. After a November 24 phone interview in which Norwood rattled off a list of legislation she had successfully sponsored, APN took the time to independently review the City Council's online public database.

Then on November 25, 2009, APN emailed the list of legislation--with ordinance and resolution numbers and dates of passage, as requested--to Suggs, Suggs's editor Linda Harris, and McIntosh. APN received an auto-reply from McIntosh stating she was away for Thanksgiving Break. The present writer then had telephone conversations with Suggs and Harris, emphasizing the timeliness of the correction.

Specifically, APN noted that if the AJC waited until after Thanksgiving Break to take action--which apparently the AJC did wait--the correction would run too late to influence voters before Tuesday's Run-off Election and the damage of the false claim would already be done.

Suggs stated that he believed other media outlets had already reported the same claim regarding Norwood, and asked why the Norwood campaign did not take any action to request a correction themselves.

Norwood's campaign told APN they did not request a correction because they believed it would only make the AJC angry.

To date, the AJC has not run any relevant correction in its print editions which ran Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

NORWOOD LEGISLATION

Here is a list of some of Norwood's recent legislation. A few bills which were obscure or technical were omitted from this list.

Norwood's most recent resolution was 09R1077, which passed June 01, 2009, resolving that the Bureau of Code Compliance enforce the Atlanta Zoning Ordinance regarding supportive housing. Recently, a bill to define and clarify supportive housing had been introduced, and this bill made sure that the BCC could enforce codes related to what would be a newly-defined type of housing. Norwood was the first of several co-sponsors and the bill passed 14-1.

On May 04, 2009, 08O2427, which authorized the Mayor to establish a Senior Zone Policy, passed 14-0. Norwood sponsored the original legislation, which was substituted by marked-up, or revised legislation which came through the Transportation Committee.

On September 02, 2008, 08R1695, to conduct an independent audit of the Arborist Division, passed 14-0. Norwood was the lead co-sponsor. Norwood led the charge for this audit after former Chief Arborist Tom Coffin was fired for trying to uphold the city's tree ordinance.

On July 07, 2008, 07O1905, to amend article XXIV regarding vending on private property, passed 14-0. Norwood sponsored this bill, although an amended substitute by the Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee passed through Council.

On June 02, 2008, 08R1132, to request the Mayor study eliminating Fleet Services to reduce costs, passed 14-0. Norwood sponsored this bill; it passed with an amendment by the Finance/Executive Committee.

On May 19, 2008, 08R1014, an independent audit of the city's water and sewer billing, passed Council. Norwood was the lead co-sponsor. It was vetoed by the Mayor, yet still passed on override 15-0. This became an issue after numerous customers complained of being overbilled without explanation.

On February 04, 2008, 07O2600, to rename part of Hills Avenue to Collier Road, passed 15-0. Norwood sponsored this bill, which was substituted by a marked-up revision which passed through the City Utilities Committee.

On February 04, 2008, 07O0673, to require outside storage items to be stored in the rear of properties, passed. Norwood was the lead co-sponsor on this bill, which was substituted by a marked-up version which came through the Community Development/Human Resources Committee.

On February 04, 2008, 08R0294, to create a technical review committee for the purpose of advising the City in policies for controls for budgeting, passed unanimously. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On July 16, 2007, 07O1446, to hire a firm to research existing and proposed tree ordinances, passed 14-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On March 19, 2007, 07R0608, to ask the State Senate to allow city officials to file financial disclosure reports electronically, was adopted. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On February 05, 2007, 06O2057, providing uniform standards for prohibiting litter in Atlanta, passed 15-0. Norwood sponsored this bill, which was substituted by a marked-up version which came through the City Utilities Committee.

On September 18, 2006, 06R2132, to enter into an agreement with Samaritan House to create a Litter Clean up Program, passed 12-0. Norwood sponsored this bill. This is one of several bills passed by Norwood related to a program she spearheaded to provide employment opportunities to homeless people to clean up Atlanta's streets. A related bill, 06R1327, passed on July 05, 2006.

On May 01, 2006, 06R1037, affirming the Mayor's letter to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, encouraging federal agencies to find alternative jail beds for immigrants currently being housed at the Atlanta Detention Center, passed 12-0. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On February 08, 2006, 06O0258, placing interim development controls on issuance of building permits, passed Council. This was a temporary McMansion Moratorium requested by Norwood until more permanent legislation could be worked out. Eventually, the Council did pass a permanent out-of-scale infill prohibition, although the final bill was introduced by Councilwoman Carla Smith.

Norwood used some of her own post's expense account to pay for the infill zoning research. On September 19, 2005, 05O1736, which transferred $4,500 from Norwood's Council expense account to pay for Infill zoning illustrations, passed 11-0. Also, on February 21, 2005, 05O0260, which transferred $3,000 from her Council expense account to fund the Infill Housing Analysis Report, passed 13-0.

On July 05, 2005, 05O1206, which made a no parking area on part of Stonewall Street, passed 13-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On August 15, 2005, 05O1425, prohibiting subdivision of certain lots, passed 13-0. Norwood sponsored the bill. A similar bill, 04O1376, passed 14-0, on September 07, 2004, overriding a Mayoral veto.

On June 20, 2005, 05O1087, allowing food vendors on private property to stay in same place for more than one year, passed 10-0. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On June 20, 2005, 05R1086, to establish a Tree ordinance task force, passed 13-0. Norwood sponsored the bill, which was amended by the Community Development/Human Resources Committee.

On February 21, 2005, 05O0120, to allow the City to deny liquor licenses to bars or clubs where drugs were sold and the owner or staff should've known, passed Council. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On January 18, 2008, 04O1621, to create a new residential zoning classification, R2B, passed 13-0. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On February 07, 2005, 05R0122, encouraging judges to impose banishment from Atlanta for criminals conducting the same offense twice, passed Council. The Mayor vetoed the bill, but her veto was overridden by Council. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On February 07, 2005, 05R0121, encouraging the use of camaras on known crack houses and illegal dumping sites, passed 12-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On September 07, 2004, 04R1620, entering into an agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation to accept funds for the interstate litter clean-up program, passed Council. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On June 07, 2004, 04R1061, authorizing the Mayor to accept the review of the Atlanta Clean Water Plan by the American Society of Civil Engineers, passed 13-1. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On October 20, 2003, 03R1704, authorizing the creation of a Trust Fund for the infill project, passed 10-1 on substitute from the Finance/Executive Committee. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On October 06, 2003, 03O1442, increasing fines for housing code violations, passed 13-0. Norwood sponsored the bill, which was substituted by an amended version by the Community Development/Human Resources Committee.

On October 06, 2003, 03O1470, a moratorium on new construction and zoning change permits for the Donald L Hollowell Study Area, passed 13-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On March 17, 2003, 03R0405, a temporary moratorium on demolitions of homes over 50 years old, passed. Norwood sponsored the bill.

On February 03, 2003, 03R0113, creating an of out-of-scale infill development task force, passed 12-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor; the bill was amended by the Zoning Committee.

On December 02, 2002, 02O0297, allocating funds from the Federal Aviation Administration for new runways and taxiways, passed 9-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor. This is one of several bills Norwood co-sponsored related to the airport which passed in this time period.

On November 04, 2002, 02R1885, giving budget priority to essential functions of Atlanta City government, passed 14-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor; the bill was amended by the Finance/Executive Committee.

On July 01, 2002, 02O1148, to define an unclean, vacant lot as a nuisance, passed 14-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On May 20, 2002, 02O0835, allocating funds for construction of Nancy Creek Tunnel, passed 12-0. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

On February 18, 2002, 02R0368, authorizing the Urban Design Commission to enter into a grant up to $20,000 for Atlanta's Comprehensive Historic Resource Survey passed. Norwood was lead co-sponsor.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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