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Today in Georgia history … Mary Latimer McLendon, a fierce proponent of women’s rights, was born in DeKalb County on June 24, 1840. In 1894, she founded the Atlanta chapter of the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association and served as the chapter’s president for 18 years.

On to other news from the week:

DeKalb Avenue is getting a makeover 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms touted City Council’s approval this week of $5.4 million to fund safety improvements on about four miles of DeKalb Avenue.

It’s far too small a sum to do away with DeKalb Avenue’s potholes and the famously dangerous reversible “suicide lanes,” though the press release says those are all proposals.

Indeed, the city’s been promising a safe DeKalb Avenue since at least 2017. And it’s already spent $1.3 million — toward just getting a design. That’s not including construction. 

Back in 2015 and 2016, Atlanta voters were promised the repair of many road disasters across the city, contingent on city borrowing and setting up new taxes worth $510 million. 

As the state of Atlanta’s roads show, that didn’t work out. The city subsequently admitted the plans presented to the public promised almost twice as much as would be delivered. 

– Maggie Lee

Russell Hopson (Credit: Hopson’s campaign website.)

Fifth candidate joins Atlanta City Council District 1 race

A fifth candidate has joined the Atlanta City Council District 1 race. 

Russell Hopson is a medical sales account executive for Amedisys, a home health care and hospice business, and is locally known as the former chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit Y. Among his other community positions are founding member of the Carver Neighborhood Market, former neighborhood president of the Atlanta Civic League, and the Community Coalition Board of the Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center.

“If elected to represent District 1 on Atlanta City Council, I will work for a more collaborative and conscientious approach to public safety, greater access to quality food, education and green space, while managing growth and development that considers ALL our neighbors,” said in a campaign announcement on his Instagram site.

Hopson joins previously announced candidates Clarence Blalock, Nathan Clubb, Kelly-Jeanne Lee and Jason Winston. They are seeking to replace incumbent Carla Smith, who has said she will not run for reelection on the Nov. 2 ballot.

District 1 includes a large section of southeast Atlanta, including Grant Park, Chosewood Park, Lakewood Heights, Ormewood Park, Peoplestown and Summerhill, as well as several blocks of Downtown.

– John Ruch

Construction for the water-themed playscape begins this month. (Credit: Credit S&ME, Inc.)

Playscape teaches about ATL water

Life in the city can make folks feel disconnected from their daily resources, like water and food.

An “educational playscape” coming to Northside Drive and 17th Street aims to change that. The Waterworks Greenspace is a 4.5-acre park in Atlanta’s Upper Westside, featuring a skyline and plans for a community amphitheater.

Construction on the water-themed playscape starts this month and will demonstrate the treatment process at Hemphill Water Treatment Facility.

“​Very few Atlantans know how our water goes from the Chattahoochee River to our faucets,” The Waterworks’ website reads. “The Waterworks Greenspace playscape demystifies the process and empowers children and adults with the knowledge of the treatment process.”

The interactive installation is funded by a $100,000 grant from Park Pride and is organized by the Upper Westside Improvement District.

– Hannah E. Jones

Alex Barrella (Credit: Barrella’s campaign website.)

Outsider candidate left outside of first mayoral forum

While the Committee for a Better Atlanta kicked off the mayoral candidate forum season June 8, one of the outsider contenders was literally outside the private club where it was held, shouting into a bullhorn about being refused a seat at the table.

Alex Barrella is a self-described “pipe-dreamer/cartoonist” and “radical progressive status-quo-buster” who says he is running for mayor but has not filed the usual campaign-money paperwork. He made a similar write-in run in 2017 and was in the news in 2019 for complaining successfully about being blocked on Twitter by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City of Atlanta, which ran afoul of the First Amendment.

The CBA forum was virtual for the public but candidates and media attended in-person at the Gathering Spot, a club in Northwest Atlanta’s Northyards complex whose website intro video shows scenes from activist politics and declares, “We will be heard.” Barrella says he emailed the CBA about attending beforehand and never heard back, but assumed he was as welcome as any other candidate.

That was not the case, as he was not on the CBA’s list and was told he could not be added.

“I then staged a short sit-in on the stage in protest of what I saw as being inequitable access to such a public-facing forum,” Barrella said in an email. He said he went outside and began complaining into a bullhorn, attempting to be heard through the windows. Security interrupted him and made him leave.

The CBA says the reason Barrella was not on the list was simple: he didn’t file an official form declaring an intent to accept campaign contributions, a basic piece of paperwork the group used as a threshold requirement. “CBA told him he did not meet the participation requirements and was not allowed to stay in the forum room, which was only open to CBA board members, participating candidates and media,” said CBA spokesperson Cindy Miller. “The forum was publicly available via live-stream.”

Barrella acknowledged he has not filed that paperwork, saying he had trouble accessing pandemic-shuttered City Hall, can’t yet afford a notary, and has no intent to raise campaign money for his outsider run. He says he felt “the public, as per usual, were not being presented all the candidates/choices.”

– John Ruch

Three Georgia companies recognized by Points of Light

Three Georgia-based companies were recognized as some of the most community-focused companies in the U.S.

Points of Light, a nonprofit founded by former President George H. W. Bush, announced its 2021 Civic 50 honorees, including Delta, UPS and Aflac.

The honorees are companies with annual U.S. revenues of at least $1 billion. They are selected based on four criteria: investment of resources, integration across business functions, institutionalization through policies and systems and impact measurement.  

According to the nonprofit, every company on the list advocated for equity through research, using their voice to raise awareness and supporting local leaders.

The Civic 50 honorees, technically 51 companies this year due to a tie, have given a collective $2.5 billion to their communities. The recognized companies also had employees volunteer for over 7 million hours.

These numbers are stand-out as the 2021 honorees donated twice as much cash and in-kind giving than the average for U.S. companies, according to the nonprofit.

Points of Light is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps individuals and companies become civically engaged. 

“What government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no limits,” Bush said.

– Hannah E. Jones

(Left to right) Novella Noble and Ayana Gabriel

Community Foundation names two key leaders

Two veteran leaders are joining the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta who will drive a focus on racial equity.

Novella Noble has joined as vice president of people – leading human resources for the Foundation and its affiliates.

Ayana Gabriel will join the Foundation in early July as vice president of community impact.

Noble brings over 20 years of human resources experience from tenures at JenCare Senior Medic She is known for her skills in fostering a rich team culture via coaching, employee engagement, performance management, recruitment, retention, succession planning and training.

Gabriel joins the Foundation following six years at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, where she led education initiatives for children from birth through high school. She also oversaw Blank’s work around social justice, including NFL and Atlanta Falcons initiatives. She also co-led the inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council for Blank’s businesses and the Foundation

“We are very excited to have Novella and Ayana joining our team,” said Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “They bring tremendous leadership that will benefit not only the Foundation, but our broader Atlanta metro region.”

Fernandez continued: “With Novella’s appointment we elevated the HR role to our senior leadership team, recognizing the critical function talent development and culture play in our success. And Ayana’s background in building an ethos of diversity, equity and inclusion and strategy will enable her to lead the Foundation in building greater equity for a greater Atlanta.”

Also, the Community Foundation recently announced the final round of grants for its COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, an intensive, 15-month effort in partnership with United Way of Greater Atlanta that resulted in a grand total of $28.2 million mobilized to benefit 478 nonprofits across nine funding cycles.

– Maria Saporta

MARTA considers Buford Highway transit improvements

MARTA is considering some type of federally funded transit improvements in the Buford Highway corridor, but won’t say what is on the table.

Buford Highway is a road running over 25 miles between Atlanta and Buford. Much of its corridor is also home to a highly diverse community anchored by immigrants from dozens of countries, who have made the area famous to outsiders for the restaurant scene. 

MARTA currently runs the Route 39 bus — the busiest route in the system — on Buford Highway. 

The City of Brookhaven, which includes part of the Buford Highway corridor, last year formally adopted a proposal that calls on MARTA to transform the 39 bus into a bus rapid transit service running in dedicated lanes. 

At a June 10 meeting about new service coming to Southwest Atlanta’s Campbellton Corridor, officials mentioned in a question-and-answer period that MARTA is considering the potential transit improvements on Buford Highway. Stephany Fisher, a spokesperson for the transit agency, later confirmed that MARTA is in discussions on some type of project, but would not give any details, including the scope of the idea and whether it might include other modes of service.

“No scope yet. We are seeking federal support at this time,” said Fisher, later adding, “We are currently in discussions and our request is not official yet so I don’t have any other details to share right now.”

– John Ruch

The new workspace features glass walls and a view of the skyline. (Credit/Special: Transwestern and Cooper Carry)

Transwestern Real Estate wants to rethink office space

The pandemic has made us rethink how and where we work. 

What’s important to employees? How do you ensure company members are happy and efficient?

In the light of the pandemic, Transwestern Real Estate Services has been asking how employers can try and make employees happy and efficient back in offices. 

So, Transwestern announced it has worked with Cooper Carry’s Workplace Interior Design Studio to create a new kind of workspace on Peachtree Road.

The office space features an open floor plan with glass walls and an atrium offering natural light and views of the skyline.

“Embarking on this project during the pandemic allowed us to engage our people in meaningful ways to understand better how they work and how they want to work,” Transwestern East Region President Bruce Ford said in a press release. “[We’re] rethinking traditional office models to design a smart, resilient workplace that not only maximizes our business performance today but has built-in flexibility to adapt to future needs.”

– Hannah E. Jones

AIDS Healthcare Foundation to provide free HIV testing for National Testing Day 

On June 26, HOT 107.9 and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will provide free, confidential and rapid HIV testing to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status and get linked to care and treatment. 

“We are pleased to again work with the Radio One (the owner of HOT 107.9)  team and other community partners to increase access and awareness around testing,” said Regional Director for AHF Georgia Dawn Averill. 

Out of the Closet Thrift Store on Cheshire Bridge Road will kick off the Saturday event by offering free concert tickets to an upcoming concert to the first 100 people who get tested at their store from 4 PM to 7 PM June 26. The event will also provide music and free food. 

On Sunday, which is National HIV Testing Day, AHF will have mobile testing units administering testing, education and prevention information about HIV/AIDS at the following Walmart and Sam’s Clubs in the metro:

  • 9 AM – 12 Noon: Sam’s Club on Clairmont Road, Atlanta
  • 11 AM – 2 PM: Walmart Supercenter on Howell Mill Road, Atlanta
  • 1 PM – 4 PM: Walmart Neighborhood Market on Tucker Norcross Road, Tucker
  • 3 PM – 6 PM Walmart Supercenter on MLK, Atlanta

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fulton and DeKalb counties have the highest numbers and rates of people diagnosed with or living with HIV.

Averill says that the Atlanta area has continued to experience an increase in new HIV diagnoses, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She continued, “AHF has a reputation for creatively bringing awareness around HIV/AIDS and in being in the community to meet folks where they are and providing testing and other prevention resources.”

If you cannot get tested this weekend, Out of the Closet provides free HIV testing every day. To find an expert HIV care center near you, log onto the AHF website. 

– Allison Joyner

Rebecca Serna

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition merges with PEDS

Two Atlanta grassroots organizations with goals to improve safe, equitable and sustainable transportation for cyclists and pedestrians have joined forces as of June 17.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, founded in 1991, and PEDS, founded in 1996 by Sally Flocks, have advocated for safer and better transportation alternatives for decades. Over the years, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and PEDS have partnered often to achieve milestones that make the city a safer, more convenient place for people to walk, use wheelchairs, bike, scoot, skate, and ride transit throughout Atlanta.

The two organizations announced in February they were holding merger talks.

In 2019, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition expanded its mission beyond bikes to include all forms of sustainable transportation, further aligning the two organization’s advocacy efforts.

In 2020, PEDS served as a critical partner to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s successful Vision Zero campaign, which propelled the City of Atlanta’s Vision Zero legislation adoption – the resolution that reduced the default speed on Atlanta’s local streets to 25 mph with the goal of zero roadway fatalities.

In the next year, the merged organization will unveil a new name that aligns with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s new strategic direction.

“The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and PEDS thank our supporters who have worked to pave the way for all of us to walk, bike, and roll in Atlanta throughout the years,” said Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “The newly united organization remains committed to championing an Atlanta where everyone moves safely, easily, and sustainably throughout the city.”

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also held its annual Blinkie Awards on June 17:

  • Sally Flocks, retired executive director of PEDS, received its Lifetime Achievement Award;
  • Henry Slack, a co-founder of the Coalition, received the Founder’s Award: Tenacity in Advocacy;
  • Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy received the Safe Routes to School Award;
  • MARTA operators received the Essential Transportation Award; and
  • Georgia Department of Transportation received the Innovation in Safety Award.

– Maria Saporta

Meal-delivery company Freshly to open major facility in Clayton County

Freshly, the booming meal-delivery company, will open a major distribution facility in Clayton County next year.

The $52 million facility is expected to create 665 jobs, according to state and county officials. But they would not fully disclose the incentives offered to the company to locate there.

New York-based Freshly creates and ships ready-to-eat meals to customers’ homes. As part of a nationwide boom, it opened a distribution facility earlier this year in Austell in Cobb County. The new Clayton facility will be a 289,000-square-foot distribution center at 2823 Anvilblock Road in Ellenwood.

“Over the past year, Freshly has experienced substantial growth as consumer demand continues to grow for convenient and nutritious meal options,” said Mike Wystrach, Freshly’s founder and CEO, in a state-issued press release. “We’re thrilled to expand Freshly’s footprint and operations in Georgia. Tapping into Clayton County’s tremendous pool of talent, this second facility will allow us to increase capacity for efficient assembly and distribution of our chef-prepared meals.”

Georgia Department of Economic Development spokesperson Marie Gordon said she could not comment on any discretionary incentives given to Freshly due to its status as an “active project.”

Erica Rocker-Wills of the Clayton County Office of Economic Development said Freshly will receive the state’s job tax credit, which any company making a similar facility would qualify for. In Clayton, the credit is worth $4,000 per job for five years — if the jobs are created and maintained. That would total $2.66 million per year, or $13.3 million over five years. 

Rocker-Wills said the company also received assistance with the “tax abatement schedule” but did not respond to a request for details about the abatement.

The press release said a partner on the deal was “Georgia Quick Start,” a state program that provides free training to workers in specialty fields. Rocker-Wills said workforce development assistance was part of the package.

– John Ruch

(Top to bottom, left to right) Kevin Lee, Lillian Giornelli, Melissa Proctor, Daniel Boone III, Yolanda Frinks, Mark Hanson

High Museum of Art names new board members

The High Museum of Art has announced five new members are joining the board of directors. 

Yolanda Frinks, Lillian Cousins Giornelli, Mark Hanson, Kevin Lee and Melissa Proctor will serve three-year terms. 

The new members have diverse backgrounds, ranging from the co-founder of Quality Control Music, a record label that works with big-name Atlanta rappers, and the chief marketing officer for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena.

“We are thrilled to add these leaders to our board,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “They each bring a unique perspective on our community as well as the Museum’s potential to impact our city in positive ways.”

Daniel W. Boone III was also named a life trustee. Dan and his late wife Merrie donated $2.5 million in 2014 to support folk and self-taught art, and he served on the collections committee while on the board of directors.

– Hannah E. Jones

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at [email protected]


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1 Comment

  1. Dana Blankenhorn June 25, 2021 10:26 am

    The money that was promised for DeKalb Ave., the money voters supported in a transport referendum, was taken away by Bottoms to fund tax breaks for The Gulch. Don’t ever forget that.Report


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