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Atlanta City Council may request ‘best practices’ reforms for NPU system

Atlanta City Hall. (Photo by David Pendered.)

By John Ruch

The Atlanta City Council is considering a call to establish “best practices” for the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) system’s input and transparency in the latest reform rumblings.

District 3 City Councilmember Byron Amos on April 18 filed a resolution “urging” the Department of City Planning to “develop a “best practices” set of guidelines… that will serve to enhance, encourage and expand community participation in the NPU system.” The resolution is now under consideration in the council’s Community Development/Human Services Committee.

Created by the City in 1974, the system consists of 25 NPUs around town — each named for a letter of the alphabet — that provide feedback to the City on virtually any issue.

Amos did not respond to questions about what prompted him to file the resolution, but NPU reform is in the air. The nonprofit Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) is studying the system and last year issued a preliminary list of suggested reforms. SaportaReport also recently spotlighted the system’s problems with open meeting requirements.

The draft resolution notes that NPU participation increased during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic due to meetings being held virtually, and says that makes a good opportunity for improvements. The resolution requests a “best practices” report to the committee within 90 days.

The draft resolution does not require any particular reforms, but suggests six it “may” include:

  • “Adopt procedures to manage virtual meetings to make them more inclusive;
  • Develop a process to engage community members and make elections fair and transparent;
  • Create a bill of rights for NPU members to ensure that all community residents understand their rights to participate in the NPU system;
  • Establish procedures to ensure all meetings are properly advertised and are open and accessible;
  • Ensure meeting minutes and/or recordings are available and easily accessible; and
  • Develop a process for sharing information and maintaining records.”

CCI was not aware of or involved in Amos’s drafting of the resolution, according to Kyle Kessler, the nonprofit’s policy and research director as well as a member of NPU-M and its delegate to the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB), an umbrella board of all NPUs. “In general, it’s a great first step to at least starting some legislation to get something put on paper” regarding various improvements, Kessler said.

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2 Comments

  1. Dana Blankenhorn April 29, 2022 7:11 am

    On the surface this seems more than reasonable. But the devil is in the details.

    I worked with NPU-O for several years before the pandemic. Our problem was getting more participation. I would have welcomed that. I could have quit sooner. I stopped going during the pandemic but, from what I understand, the current leadership is doing a good job.Report

    Reply
  2. Kay Stephenson April 29, 2022 1:19 pm

    I worry about those who are working to “fix” the NPUs. This is the second round of city council resolution or legislation offered up in the past twelve months. I will only speak for my own NPU-F. For us each of the six proposed improvements is already addressed in code, our bylaws or our policy sheet. The bylaws and policy sheet are available to all on our public website. That’s not to suggest that our NPU doesn’t have any needs, but this list doesn’t address them.Report

    Reply

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