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Atlanta grants airport vendors 5 percent price hike, gives $400,000 to city groups

Briarcliff Terrace. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council has authorized airport vendors to raise prices in an effort to boost their profits and handed out more than $400,000 to civic groups around the city.

The council approved the measures Monday, without fanfare.

In some circles, these steps taken at the end of a council term are as closely watched as pardons at the end of a presidential administration. The measures provide a glimpse into the interests and priorities of outgoing councilmembers.

For instance, a planned marker for the landmark 1986 sodomy case, Bowers v. Hardwick, is to receive a $5,000 grant from departing Councilmember Jennifer Ide. The grant continues Ide’s attention to the LGBTQ community in her Midtown district. The marker is to commemorate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case that gave Atlanta a prominent milestone in the evolution of the nation’s laws on consensual sexual relations.

At the airport, the council authorized a 5 percent price hike for many goods and services. Categories that are not to raise rates include car rental companies, Georgia Lottery, Registered Travel Program, and bank and ATM services.

The reasons for the rate hikes vary in the legislation produced by the council and supporting papers produced by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration.

The resolution attributed to the council’s Transportation Committee states the price hike is related to the pandemic. “Due to the continued economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the resulting rising costs, the Airport General Manager recommends that the Street Plus 10 clause in the Concessions Agreements be increased to Street Pricing plus fifteen percent…” the resolution reads.

In airport concessions contracts, the words “street plus” refers to the base price of a basket of goods outside the airport. Vendors now are allowed to add 15 percent to the street price, for a rate of “street plus 15.” The previous amount was 10 percent.

The administration’s paperwork cites some problems of running a business during the pandemic. Then it adds urgency to the legislation, stating that vendors need the money to build new shops.

The form asks for a response to this statement: “Please identify any financial or schedule impacts if this legislation is not approved for the current cycle? If yes, please explain…” The response is: “Tenants will not be able to move forward with the buildout of new locations.”

New buildouts notwithstanding, vendors won’t be able to pocket all the new profits. The administration’s paper notes that the rate hikes will result in concessionaires paying higher rents paid to the airport.

The $400,000-plus was authorized for distribution from spending accounts assigned to each councilmember. The city budget provides discretionary funds for use by each councilmember in the service of constituents. The primary oversight of the spending of the money is the scrutiny of colleagues who are required to vote on each spending proposal. Money can accrue over time in accounts designated as “carry-forward accounts,” in Atlanta’s municipal code.

Spending approved Monday includes:

Departing Councilmember J.P Matzigkeit provided $10,600 to Park Pride on behalf of three organizations that are to use the money to improve three parks in District 8. Friends of Ardmore Park and Friends of Channing Valley Park are to receive $5,000 each. Tanyard Creek Park is to receive $600 for an honorary plaque.

Matzigkeit also provided $9,400 from his carry-forward account to the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, where it is to fund improvement projects.

Departing Councilmember Carla Smith was authorized to disburse $30,000 for undisclosed projects: “The District 1 Councilmember has supported and continues to support various community-based activities throughout the City of Atlanta for the public good.”

Departing Councilmember Natalyn M. Archibong was authorized to spend $75,000 in order “to make charitable donations to community projects and organizations that serve the public good.”

Ide was authorized to disburse a total of $153,750, including the sum for the marker for the Bowers v. Hardwick case. Ide is to make a total of 11 disbursements. They include the lowest sum, $3,750, to help fund the restoration of Asa Griggs Candler Jr.’s historic, and decaying, Briarcliff Terrace estate. The highest sums are $25,000 each to the Lindridge Martin-Manor Neighborhood Association, to assist with Phase II of the park, and the South Fork Conservancy, to assist with the connected trail network.

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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