The Atlanta City Council is slated to adopt Monday some of the strongest language regarding social equity that the council has yet devised regarding the social impact of the spending of taxpayer dollars.
Expect a tour de force starting Monday from those who are ready to wrap up five months worth of talks about a community benefits deal for three neighborhoods adjacent to the future Falcons stadium.
And expect the discussion to occur in a bit of a vacuum.
Public attention has drifted to Cobb County and the county commission’s scheduled vote Tuesday over public funding for a Braves stadium. In addition, the bulk of the Atlanta communities’ work product on the Falcons deal has already been introduced in the form of a resolution now pending before the Atlanta City Council and up for a vote in committee Tuesday.
Discussions at two meetings Wednesday night should shed more light on developments with the Falcons and Braves stadiums.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed likely will discuss the Braves move to Cobb County with the Northwest Community Alliance. Just before that event, a city committee will be asked to adopt a community benefits plan related to the Falcons stadium.
Meanwhile, at a third meeting, city planning officials will discuss a new city report that confirms that Atlanta’s football and baseball stadiums have not brought prosperity to their neighborhoods. New strategies are needed to help these areas flourish, the report shows.
The stage is all but set for the Atlanta City Council to approve on Dec. 2 the community benefits deal that’s required for the city to provide its $200 million to help pay for a new Falcons stadium.
Whether that will happen remains a huge question. There likely is a good deal of political pressure mounting on one side for the council to pass the measure, and on the other to defer a vote until two newly elected citywide councilmembers take office in January – Andre Dickens and Mary Norwood. Both were opposed by Mayor Kasim Reed.
In addition, a scathing YouTube video was posted late Thursday. The two co-spokesmen are the Rev. Anthony Motley and the Rev. W.L. Cottrell, Sr. – both with deep ties to the stadium communities and both of whom have criticized the city’s process for crafting a community benefits deal.
Atlanta City Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. said Wednesday the financiers who profit from the sale of bonds for the new Falcons stadium should donate some of their profits to the nearby communities.
The proposal indicates the escalation of expectations that the future stadium should transform one of the poorest sections of Atlanta. A $30 million urban renewal fund is proving to be far from adequate to address reported community needs.
Young said it’s only fair that bond counsel and underwriters return to the communities some of the significant profits they stand to reap when they handle more than $1 billion in construction funding for the stadium. Young faces two challengers in the Nov. 5 city election.
No public urination. No open containers of alcoholic beverage. No loud noises. No open grilling and no tailgating.
These requests are on the wish list for the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, a list its residents hope will be included in a pending community benefits deal for the future Falcons stadium. Quality-of-life matters are joined by bigger items, such as a community center with a museum and repairs to bridges and sidewalks.
The list is to be presented Wednesday at Atlanta City Hall, where city officials and civic leaders are to continue discussing how to allocate $30 million through a community benefits deal. Two other stadium neighborhoods can’t agree on a project list and don’t have one to present for Vine City and English Avenue.
Discussions over a community benefits deal for neighborhoods near the new Falcons stadium are heading toward a conclusion but aren’t expected to be finalized at a meeting Wednesday evening.
One of three neighborhoods has voted on its wish list from the benefits deal, which includes a total of $30 million in public and private money. Castleberry Hill residents are ready to advance their final proposal, but plans for English Avenue and Vine City still are up in the air because of disagreements among civic leaders in those two communities – where millions of dollars were distributed to various groups as the Georgia Dome was established.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has indicated he’d like a final deal to be signed Wednesday night. But the amount of work still to be done indicates additional negotiations will be necessary, which seems to push a final deal after the Nov. 5 city elections.
The issue of how to harness the economic power of the future Falcons stadium in order to create jobs for lower income residents of nearby neighborhoods has received scant attention in the discussion to date.
Now the jobs forecast is in: 1,300 new jobs are predicted in the city’s redevelopment plan that covers English Avenue and Vine City, but not Castleberry Hill – which is supposed to be part of the deal. Of these jobs, 47 appear to be temporary construction-related jobs; 891 appear to be permanent jobs in retail shops and a hotel; and the tasks associated with 362 jobs are not specified in the plan.
There has yet to be a significant discussion of the creation of local hiring program to give nearby residents a first crack at these jobs – let alone jobs building the stadium. Yet such a program is not new ground, because Atlanta has established provisions relating to jobs in previous community benefits deals.
To get a sense of the complexity of providing assistance to neighborhoods near the future Falcons stadium, consider the case of just one house built under a benefits program created when the Georgia Dome was built.
The house at 221 Maple St. was built with a $79,000 construction loan from the $8 million Vine City Trust Fund. Vine City Housing Ministry, Inc. sold the house in 2002 for $118,000. Today the house is valued by Fulton County at $28,900 and the trust fund is owed just over $59,000 of the $76,100 in mortgage financing it provided the buyer, according to records of Invest Atlanta and Fulton County’s tax assessor.
Multiply this type of dynamic across multiple issues – job creation, environmental mitigation, public health and safety, historic preservation, and green space – and the task of finalizing a community benefits deal in the next four weeks of September takes on a whole new perspective.
Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell applied the brakes Wednesday to efforts to hurry the city into providing $200 million in construction financing for the new Falcons stadium.
Mitchell’s action seems to bolster Atlanta’s bargaining position in the negotiations to have the stadium built on the south site – the location preferred by the city. The Falcons organization said July 30 it is focusing on the north site because the south site was not on track by Aug. 1 to be acquired from two churches.
Mitchell’s action makes it unlikely that Atlanta will be in a position to provide any of the $200 million anytime soon, and certainly not during the November timeframe that seemed possible just last month. It’s not clear when the Falcons need the money from Atlanta to continue with design and development.
Atlanta’s role in funding the proposed Falcons stadium provides Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council with their biggest opportunity since the airport concessions contracts to shape social objectives through public investments.
With the city’s airport contracts, the city strongly encouraged joint ventures and required a minimum of 36 percent of contracts be awarded to disadvantaged businesses. In another example of tightly drawn requirements, a group of restaurant contracts required specific types of food to be served – food unique to the American South.