Santa, Peopletown Residents Carol to Save Homes from Eminent Domain
On Friday, December 18, 2015, Peoplestown residents and their supporters gathered at Atlanta City Hall to sing re-purposed Christmas carols and delivered open records requests to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, City Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1), and Georgia Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it will be to stay in our homes – hey!”
“We’re staying in our homes, cause that’s where we belong, the offer is a joke, it makes us laugh out loud – ha! ha! ha!”
“It doesn’t make sense, for us to leave our homes, to build a park and pond, Mayor Reed, just leave us alone!”
Carolers sang at the Christmas tree in City Hall, with a special performance at Mayor Reed’s office.
“Hark all the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, we plan to stay. Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, but we are told to leave our homes,” went the Peoplestown version of “Carol of the Bells.”
Around 25 carolers participated, including residents Tanya Washington and Bertha Darden, long time advocate Columbus Washington, State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), and Greg Ames as Santa Claus.
OPEN RECORDS REQUEST
Atlanta Progressive News was able to obtain a copy of the open records request, which seeks information on 23 plans the Department of Watershed Management purportedly reviewed and rejected to manage problems with flooding in the community.
“We found out there were 23 other plans. I know that APN uncovered one, and I am not sure if that’s one of twenty-three or if that’s twenty four, but I want all of them,” resident Tanya Washington said in an interview with APN.
The open records request is seeking: “Any and all project plans, designs, drawings, project proposals, transcripts, recordings, commissioned reports, land surveys, flood maps, assessment plans, modeling, specifications, written recommendations, correspondence and documents that address flooding in Atlanta’s Peoplestown, Mechanicsville and Summerhill neighborhoods….”
Previously, on September 09, 2015, APN made a request under the Georgia Open Records Act to Lillian Govus, spokeswoman for the Department, for any and all documents Govus had relied upon when making a statement that there were no other feasible alternatives.
On September 15, 2015, Susan Ross responded there was no one document responsive to the request, but that the Department was assembling a variety of records responsive to my request.
Ross stated that the Department would get back to me when the records were ready for review, in approximately two weeks.
It is now three months later, and the Department has not yet provided the records to APN.
Washington believes that the Department has not provided the records to APN because either they do not exist, or because they do not prove what they are purported to prove.
“If their plan is to address the flooding, there are other ways to do it. If there plan is to displace people, then this is the right plan. But it’s not the basis for eminent domain,” Tanya Washington said in an interview with APN, referencing threats by Atlanta Watershed and the Mayor’s office to use eminent domain to force homeowners out of their homes.
As previously reported by APN, there has been an ongoing battle between Peoplestown residents and the City of Atlanta, over a plan to demolish their homes and build a retention pond.
93 year old resident Ms. Mattie Jackson was granted relief by Mayor Kasim Reed, and allowed to stay in her home, but it has left other residents wondering what the justification is to just allow her to stay.
The Mayor’s office did not have an immediate response when asked for comment, and instead referenced a December 14 press release.
The press release states: “On December 1, Mayor Kasim Reed met with Tanya Washington and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Darden to discuss their concerns and attempt to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”
“Following that meeting, new appraisals were conducted on each home and the homeowners have been offered the fair market value of their home, plus an additional 20 percent over the appraised value and moving expenses… The City has requested a response from the homeowners by December 31, 2015. We look forward to resolving all issues amicably.”