Victory as Mayor Reed Declares Mattie Jackson Can Stay in her Home
(APN) ATLANTA — Community leader Mattie Jackson, 93, will not be forced out of her home. Mayor Kasim Reed made that promise to Jackson and her supporters in a meeting earlier today, on October 08, 2015.
In September 2015, Atlanta Progressive News broke the story of Jackson’s impending displacement, reporting that the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management had plans to take over an entire block of homes in Summerhill/Peoplestown and turn it into a stormwater retention pond.
APN also created a call to action for concerned citizens to attend a then-upcoming hearing of the Urban Design Commission.
Residents had told APN that the Watershed Department offered them buyouts that were too low, and threatened them with eminent domain if they didn’t accept the deals.
Jackson faced having to leave the neighborhood she’s lived in her entire life, until the Mayor promised that would not happen.
“Out of respect for you and everything that you’ve done for the city, enjoy your home and stay there as long as you want. We are going to work on a different plan,” Mayor Reed told Jackson in the meeting.
His promise came after weeks of residents organizing against the Watershed Department’s plan. They’ve had the support of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) and advocates like Joyce Dorsey, CEO of the Fulton County Community Action Authority and a close friend to Jackson.
“We worked through the roots of this community to save these homes,” Dorsey said.
“The bottom line is the Mayor didn’t want to engage in this fight any further,” Dorsey said.
“Mayor Reed offers to meet with four remaining households in the Peoplestown community,” a City press release from this afternoon states.
“Mayor Kasim Reed announced today that the City of Atlanta has reached an agreement with Mrs. Mattie Jackson, a long-time resident of the Peoplestown community,” the press release stated.
“Mayor Reed offered Mrs. Jackson the opportunity to stay in her home, rather than be relocated, while the Administration pursues an alternative design option for the stormwater detention pond,” the press release stated.
“Mrs. Jackson has expressed her strong desire to remain in the home she has occupied for many years,” the press release stated.
“I am pleased that Mrs. Jackson will be remaining in her home in Peoplestown. Mrs. Jackson has been a pillar in her community, and out of respect for her contributions to our city, we have decided to support her desire to remain in the neighborhood she has called her home for decades. I look forward to completing this important project as we address an issue that has gone unresolved for many years,” Reed said in the release.
Earlier this week, on Monday, October 05, 2015, a dozen residents and supporters delivered a petition with over 5,000 signatures to the Mayor’s office and demanded a meeting.
They were granted a meeting on October 08, 2015, but when they arrived for the meeting with community advocates, supporters, and the media, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff informed them he would only meet with Jackson and one representative.
“Mattie’s committed to keep fighting for everyone else, not just herself,” Tim Franzen, an organizer with OOHA told APN.
Jackson refused to accept the individual meeting. Instead, she and the group instead began to chant, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
Eventually the mayor came out of his office and conceded, promising Jackson she could stay in her home. The other residents, he said, would have to schedule individual meetings.
“It is definitely a victory,” Tanya Washington, a resident at risk of losing her home, said.
“Mattie is my neighbor and my friend and I love her and I am so glad she can have the immediate stress of this gone… I think the Mayor did the right thing and I applaud him for that. I hope he will extend that to the rest of us.” she said.
Washington is a law professor at Georgia State University. She said that while the Mayor has not offered a resolution to all of the residents, his concession to Jackson sets a precedent that gives her hope.
“Eminent domain is based on public necessity. And if you can modify plans to save my neighbor’s house, then it’s hard to argue that the removal of my home is a necessity. Either you need all of them or you need none of them,” she explained.
At this point, the remaining residents want to meet with City representatives as a group.
“The remaining residents still want to act as a unit,” Franzen said.
Washington said they are working to come up with a unified plan that addresses each resident’s specific issues.
Some, like Washington, have never experienced the severe flooding that prompted the Watershed Department to devise a plan to replace their homes with a pond. Those residents are adamant that they should be able to stay in their homes.
Others have experienced flooding and do want to relocate. For those residents, the issue will be negotiating buyout deals that enable them to afford homes in the same neighborhood, where speculation and gentrification have caused many home prices to skyrocket in recent years.
“It’s important for us to challenge the idea that the Department of Watershed Management has continued to put out there, that they are so far along in the plan that there is nothing else they can do… Now we know the plan is flexible. The the Mayor’s commitment today was a huge step towards us finding a solution where everybody wins,” Washington said.
Dorsey called the movement, which brought together a diverse coalition across both age and race, “a dynamic force, creating a model for dissent.”
“It’s a victory but only for Mattie for this moment. What Mattie’s situation has done has opened the eyes of the general public to what’s going on,” Dorsey said.
The residents have planned a celebration for Sunday, October 11, 2015, at 3pm at Mattie Jackson’s home. The theme is “She’s Not Leaving, We’re Not Leaving.”