Atlanta’s English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods learning lessons in political efficacy

As The O’Jays once sang, people don’t care who they cheat or beat for the love of money, and according to published reports the residents of Atlanta’s Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods don’t want to be on the wrong end of the city’s stick. According to WABE FM, representatives from the neighborhoods aren’t finding credible the City’s promise to cooperate in crafting a binding agreement that spells out how community development funds spawned by the city’s financing of the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium will be distributed among the neighborhoods.

I have been told by Invest Atlanta staff that the city intends to issue $200 million in bonds sometime early next year to support its portion of the financing.  What appears to get the neighborhoods’ gourd is what they deem to be a run around by the city to pass legislation documenting the agreement without the knowledge of the neighborhoods.  The neighborhood representatives have been meeting with a number of city council members for a number of months and as the city gets closer to its bond issue it appears time for the council to do what all city councils do: draft legislation.

What sticks out is the naivete of the citizens.  Whatever agreement community members believe they arrive at with representatives from the council could not seriously looked on as what will be part of the financing package without legislation.  Since all of Atlanta’s tax payers will be on the hook for servicing the bond issue, the neighborhoods can’t expect to lock the city into an agreement resulting from some town hall meetings.  With draft legislation moving through the city council, the horns are blowing as the ship moves further away from the harbor.

Mayor Reed has invested a lot of political capital in sealing the deal for the stadium.  Two churches have sold the last two major pieces of property needed for the stadium to be built on.  There is a high probability the council will not renege on the deal and given the socio-economic status of these neighborhoods, they may not have the political muscle to tow the ship back to port.

The neighborhoods fell for one of the oldest political stalling tactics in the book: the committee, joined with its old friend, partnership. The neighborhoods believed that meeting outside of the legislative process would get them what they want.  The proper approach would have been to draft an ordinance and persuade their representative on the city council to sponsor it.  That would have saved time and avoided the media mess we are seeing now.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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