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Reporter’s Notebook: NPU system reform ideas are ‘fair and worthy,’ says City Council Zoning chair

A view of the City of Atlanta. (Photo by Brad Huchteman, Unsplash)

This week, 132 years ago, Decatur Female Seminary was founded, and would later become Agnes Scott College. The seminary began in a three-story house with 63 students and four teachers in 1889. George Washington Scott, a primary benefactor, later named the school after his grandmother Agnes Irvine Scott. Agnes Scott now has 1,115 students and was named the top Innovative National Liberal Arts College by U.S. News & World Report in 2021.

On to other news around the city:

NPU system reform ideas are ‘fair and worthy,’ says City Council Zoning chair

A nonprofit’s 10 suggestions for reforming the Neighborhood Planning Unit system are being called “fair and worthy of consideration” by the chair of the City Council’s Zoning Committee.

Councilmember Amir Farokhi says the reforms are especially important in calling for broader input in a system dominated by single-family homeowners.

The NPU system provides input to City government via 25 local boards around town, each named for a letter of the alphabet. The NPUs address virtually any topic, but zoning and planning reviews are a core purpose. The Center for Civic Innovation on Sept. 16 announced the reform proposals after undertaking the first comprehensive review of the nearly 50-year-old system since 1979. They were praised by many NPU leaders via the chat feature in the virtual announcement meeting, and CCI is urging City officials to formally adopt them by year’s end. (The Department of City Planning, which operates the NPU system, did not comment when contacted by SaportaReport.)

The following is Farokhi’s reaction in full as provided in an email to SaportaReport:

“All of CCI’s observations and recommendations are fair and worthy of consideration. The infrastructure, processes, and technology needed for 21st century participatory engagement is lacking. 

“Yet, from a zoning perspective, the system here, and in similar frameworks around the country, remains significantly flawed for the following reason: because participation in NPUs is limited and tends to attract single-family homeowners there is often a bias toward the status quo over growth and, unintentionally or not, exclusion over inclusion. For citizen engagement to be most meaningful in the zoning process, it must include, as CCI notes, a wider array of residents, from immigrants to renters, new residents to low-income folks. 

“Moreover, in complement to NPU advice, it’s incumbent on City staff and elected officials to weigh in the economic competitiveness, affordability and environmental sustainability considerations to reach the best policy outcomes.”

For more about CCI’s recommendations, see its website.

– John Ruch

Farewell, North DeKalb Mall

North DeKalb Mall, the home of amazingly cheap movie tickets, has officially been sold. 

Real estate developer EDENS purchased the property and is the same company that owns the Toco Hills Shopping Center, according to Decaturish. The 77-acre site was sold for mixed-use development, but no further information has been provided.

Traffic to the mall has been declining for several years, with the AMC Theater and now-closed Macy’s serving as main attractions. The desolate space has been the site for T.V. and movie shoots.

The mall, which sits in unincorporated DeKalb County near Decatur, was built in 1965. 

– Hannah E. Jones

To apply for assistance, residents must be facing an eviction or received an eviction or past due rent notice within 14 days. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Rental assistance available for East Point residents facing eviction

The City of East Point is now accepting applications from residents facing eviction who need help paying their rent and utility bills.

Applications are accepted through Friday, Sept. 24, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applicants must visit the ​​East Point City Hall from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to confirm eligibility with a HOPE Atlanta Case Manager.

Click here to learn more about eligibility and required documents.

– Hannah E. Jones

MSM president and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice said in a statement that the DICR program will be “a much-needed and welcome contribution to our work.”
Photo courtesy of Morehouse School of Medicine

Historically Black medical school announce groundbreaking diversity in cancer research program

Atlanta-based Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and three HBCU medical institutions will participate in a unique research program that will create a more inclusive cancer research environment and help address health disparities in the African American community. 

ACS Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Dr. William Cance said in a statement that the organization is “committed to launching the brightest minds into cancer research and to reducing health disparities.” 

The society’s Diversity in Cancer Research (DICR) program will give grants to Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Charles Drew Medical School and MSM in a pilot program that will provide salary support to select clinical faculty who need more dedicated time for their cancer research and scholarly activities. 

Cance believes, “it is essential to invest in the minority workforce and their dedicated efforts to solve disparities and establish equity in cancer care.”

MSM president and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice also said in the statement that the DICR program will be “a much-needed and welcome contribution to our work” at their Health Equity Institute and “forever changing the field of cancer research.” 

The grants will build sustainability for clinical and scientific cancer-focused careers, launching or sustaining the jobs of 104 professionals by 2025.

– Allison Joyner

Nadine Williams, Fulton County’s elections chief

Alert worker spots $15,000 error on Atlanta school tax vote

An alert employee spotted a mistake that could have kept a proposed $15,000 property tax break off the ballot for Atlanta residents who vote in Fulton County. The problem was fixed.

The situation resulted from Atlanta Public Schools not notifying the Atlanta’s city clerk’s office of the ballot question on the proposed extension of the $15,000 homestead tax exemption, Nadine Williams, Fulton County’s elections chief, said during a Sept. 17 meeting of Fulton County’s Board of Registration.

Consequently, the clerk’s office didn’t send the ballot question to Fulton County for it to be added to ballots in the Nov. 2 election. 

Asked to explain how the situation happened, Williams said that as ballots were being prepared, an employee who works for the company that prepares ballots for Fulton and DeKalb counties noticed the question was not on Fulton ballots, but it was on DeKalb’s ballots. The company notified Fulton elections officials, who contacted the city clerk’s office, who found the root of the problem and corrected it.

“It was brought to our attention, so now we are adding it to the ballot,” Williams said. “It was not the city clerk’s fault. It was that APS did not transfer [materials].”

Fulton County’s Board of Registration and Elections voted to add the item to the ballot in a meeting called solely for the purpose of officially calling the special election.

– David Pendered

Todd Graham with the Blank Foundation

Blank Foundation’s environment program

Todd Graham, a seasoned conservation and environment expert, has been selected to lead the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s new environment program.

Graham is serving as acting managing director of the Environment program, and he will be based in Montana. He also is leading the Blank Foundation’s Montana office.

“Todd brings tremendous experience in the environmental field, with deep knowledge of the many challenges, opportunities and strategic approaches the Blank Family Foundation might bring to addressing the most pressing environmental issues of our day,” said Fay Twersky, president of the Blank Family Foundation. “His work improving the ecological and financial performance of working ranches will be instrumental as we develop an environmental strategy that leverages both philanthropy and responsible business operations.”

Graham, a Wyoming native, has more than 20 years of experience influencing the management of nine million acres of working ranch lands in the western United States. He has helped more than 25 ranches convert operations from traditional practices to conservation-oriented approaches that carried themselves financially.

– Maria Saporta

Barry Etra

Post-revenue startups may apply for up to $5 million

Emory University has issued a call to startup companies seeking from $500,000 to $5 million to fund their next stage of development – scale and efficiency. The application period closes Oct. 1.

This is the 13th semi-annual call from RAISE, for Retention and Advanced Investment for the Southeast at Emory. Selected applicants in the post-revenue stage are to present Nov. 12 at a forum to be attended by hundreds of investors, according to a statement.

RAISE was devised in 2014 as a means to bring together startups and investors. The goal is to help young companies stay in the Southeast by making money available in the region. The two co-founders are Barry Etra and Professor Charlie Goetz, of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. 

– David Pendered

Jimmy Mitchell

Skanska USA names new senior director for Georgia and South Carolina

Jimmy Mitchell has been named the senior director of business development for Skanska USA Buildings’ Georgia and South Carolina regions. Skanska USA is one of the nation’s largest construction and development companies.

In 2011, he co-founded Lifecycle Building Center, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that collects discarded building materials to be reused. Mitchell, a Georgia Tech graduate, was recognized this year as a Georgia Tech Alumni 40 Under 40.

“With 15 years of experience at our company, Jimmy has proven to be a critical asset to our teams both locally and across the country through his expertise in sustainability and project delivery which he exemplified on the award-winning Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design,” said Scott Cannon, executive vice president and general manager for Skanska USA’s Georgia and South Carolina operations, in a press release.

– Hannah E. Jones

Global Atlanta’s Trevor Williams interviews Vincent Hommeril, the French Consul General for the Southeast (Photo by Maria Saporta)

French Consul General Vincent Hommeril

Global Atlanta resumed its Consular Conversations on Sept. 22 at the Metro Atlanta Chamber to check in with French Consul General Vincent Hommeril, who has been in Atlanta since September 2019.

The timing was a bit awkward with the recent falling out between France and the United States because of a secret nuclear submarine deal the United States made with Australia, which resulted in the cancellation of a contract France had with Australia, estimated to be worth $66 million. That led to the unprecedented recall of France’s ambassadors to the United States and Austrailia.

“The French reaction was very strong,” said Hommeril, adding that it was the first time French-American relations where the French ambassador has been recalled.

When asked what the United States could do to repair the damage, Hommeril was circumspect, saying it was up to the group to negotiate an agreement to compensate France for the cancellation of its submarine contract with Australia.

“What is important is to rebuild confidence – not only words but acts,” Hommeril said.

Most of the Consular Conversation with Hommeril focused on the strong ties between France and Atlanta as well as Georgia and the Southeast. Those ties include business investment, cultural exchanges as well as the annual France-Atlanta expo, which will be happening in October and November.

– Maria Saporta

Shan Cooper

Shan Cooper and the Georgia Historical Society

The Georgia Historical Society has named Shan Cooper, executive director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, as the new vice chair of its board.

Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Society, said she will be the first Black woman to serve in that role. She is filling the unexpired term of Pete Correll, the retired CEO of Georgia Pacific who passed away in May.

Cooper was elected at the board’s fall meeting earlier this month under the leadership of Chairman Thomas Holder.

Groce said he was deeply grateful she accepted the nomination.

“Anyone who has worked with Shan knows that she is a dynamic and impressive leader who brings a wealth of corporate and nonprofit experience to the office of vice chairman,” Groce said. “She’s a perfect fit for this key leadership role.”
Cooper serves on the corporate boards of Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc., the parent company of Atlantic Capital Bank; the Georgia Power Co.; Intercontinental Exchange Inc., and Veritiv Corp.

She also serves on the following civic boards:  Grady Health System, Emory University, the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Zoo Atlanta. Cooper also is a “life member” of the Carter Center’s board of councilors.

– Maria Saporta

Winnie the Pooh is among the many memes that try to make a lighthearted comment on the weighty issue of gain during the pandemic. (Memes available on thefunnybeaver.com)

Quarantine 15 – Jeff Galloway offers a remedy on Sept. 30

Leave it to Jeff Galloway to inspire folks to take off that Quarantine 15.

Galloway and Keiser Permanente return this month with the annual 5K Corporate Run, Walk & Roll event, on Sept. 30. This year’s event is virtual. That doesn’t detract from the pep talk delivered by Galloway, a 1972 Olympian who went on to motivate generations about the value of exercise – and to serve as founding director of this race for about four decades.

“It has been a lifelong passion of mine to share the many benefits of movement with others,” Galloway said in a statement. “Exercise, alone, has the ability to boost creativity and productivity and forge greater bonds, so it’s the perfect way to improve workplace morale and build lasting connections and healthy habits for Atlanta companies.” 

For more information click here.

– David Pendered

Ann Palmer

CEO and President of Arthritis Foundation announces retirement

Ann Palmer, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation, is retiring after more than 40 years of nonprofit leadership. 

The Arthritis Foundation, which is just a few minutes from the High Museum, seeks to provide research and resources for those impacted by arthritis, America’s top cause of disability according to the nonprofit.

Under Palmer’s leadership, the Foundation increased its focus on juvenile arthritis and finding a cure for the disease. During her time with the nonprofit, the organization invested $80 million in research. 

“Each day, I have been so inspired by patients, caregivers and families who have persevered through painful daily obstacles – and in the most challenging of times,” Palmer said in a press release. “Having a career that makes a direct impact on the lives of people battling chronic disease has been the biggest gift of all.”

Her retirement will be effective at the end of January 2022.

– Hannah E. Jones

Left to right: Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands; Kevin Warren, UPS’ chief marketing officer; Chloe Barzey of Accenture; Rick Jackson of Jackson Healthcare, and Megan McCamey of goBeyondProfit (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Georgia Business Generosity Week

The network of 1,500 companies around the state – goBeyondProfit – announced the first annual Georgia Business Generosity Week at a program on Sept. 17. GoBeyondProfit was founded by Rick Jackson of Jackson Healthcare in December 2017.

Sandy Springs-based Inspire Brands hosted goBeyondProfit with 75 business leaders at its headquarters to reinforce the importance of companies’ philanthropic efforts.

“Since our founding, the expectations for business have changed,” said Megan McCamey, CEO of goBeyondProfit. “What does generosity look like now? What can you do better so our impact is always meaningful?”

Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands, said it was “incredible to be part of this organization.” He said businesses have a responsibility to be “good citizens.:

The program began with an address from Gov. Brian Kemp. “It’s an honor for me to be here with such great people who will be giving back,” Kemp said. “All these things would not be possible without a vibrant business environment.”

Despite the pandemic, Kemp said Georgia’s business sector has been doing well with 32,000 new job announcements and the state maintaining its Triple A bond rating.

“I’m just so excited Georgia is recognized as a top place for business, not just in the United States, but around the world,” Kemp added.

The event included a panel discussion moderated by Jackson with Brown; Kevin Warren, chief marketing officer for UPS; and Chloe Barzey, managing director for Accenture.

In the middle of the pandemic, Warren said UPS chose a new purpose statement: “Moving our world forward by delivering what matters.” UPS expects to have delivered 1 billion vaccines this year. “There’s a symmetry between doing good and moving goods,” he said.

The pandemic also gave companies an opportunity to reflect on how they could have the greatest impact.

“Our focus is on economic mobility and equity,” Barzey said. “It became clear people want to do good in community.”

– Maria Saporta

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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 September 24, 2021 9:46 am

    A city of renters is a city in poverty. Breaking the NPUs in order to favor renters may help people like Amir Farokhi win election, but it will make Atlanta once again the “hole in the doughnut,” maintaining the political status quo that had kept it poor for decades.

    It’s the best Christmas present Brian Kemp and the GOP could have. Stuff the poor people in the center, demonize the poor people, scare the suburbs about the poor people, wash, rinse, repeat.Report

    Reply

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