Reporter’s Notebook: BeltLine’s Northwest Trail, lantern parade, $100,000 to Morris Brown College
Attention, Georgia voters: The statewide primaries are just a few days away. If you haven’t voted already, be sure to visit the My Voter Page to find your polling place for Tuesday, May 24. Early voting runs through Friday, May 20.
So far, Georgians are submitting their ballots early in record numbers, with over 380,000 by May 16, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, a 155 percent increase compared to the same period during the 2020 election cycle.
Click here for a guide that breaks down your ballot in metro Atlanta’s counties, created by Atlanta Civic Circle.
On to other news from the week:
Atlanta BeltLine, PATH Foundation make headway on Northwest Trail
Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and PATH Foundation last week presented the Northwest Trail Feasibility Study findings — a 4.5-mile stretch of the overall 22-mile loop. The BeltLine team aims to complete the entire loop by 2030, with Vice President of Design and Construction Kim Wilson calling the Northwest corridor the “final frontier.”
The report offers an in-depth look at options for trail alignment along the Northwest quadrant, separating the area into western and eastern subsections.
This study is instrumental in laying the foundation for the corridor because, unlike the other three-quarters of the BeltLine, the Northwest section doesn’t have abandoned rail corridors available for acquisition.
The study identified potential corridors and highlighted preferred opportunities along most of the trail, called the “prioritized alignments,” within the Western Corridor. Notably, the two organizations need more time to identify the best options for the Eastern section.
The feasibility of each corridor was assessed using four criteria categories: constructability, cost/finance, trail experience and community.
For example, Corridor Six has the highest percentage of challenging acquisitions in the Eastern section — 76 percent — and Corridor Seven at the lowest with 52.6 percent.
On the other hand, Corridor Four would offer access to the highest number of residents in the Western section — nearly 4,000 folks within a half-mile radius — and Corridor Two would reach the least people at 2,580.
Along the Western Corridor, the team has opted to prioritize Corridor Two, followed by Corridor One, Four, then Three. Next steps for Corridor Two include a focus on concept design and engineering.
When it comes to the Eastern Corridor, the team needs more time for assessment. The team will take a few months to analyze Corridors Five, Six and Seven further.
If you want to learn more from the Northwest Trail Feasibility Study, click here to check out the full report.
— Hannah E. Jones
NPU-A wants more transparency on police staffing
Atlanta Police Department (APD) understaffing is a big political issue, with Mayor Andre Dickens pledging to add 250 officers a year. But the exact numbers of the force can be hard to come by, a frustration recently voiced by the chair of Buckhead’s Neighborhood Planning Unit A.
APD Maj. Ailen Mitchell, the new commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct, told NPU-A at its May 3 meeting that staffing is still an issue. “Obviously, manpower’s an issue as it was last year,” he said, adding that APD is “creative” in working on task forces and joint patrols with other departments in border areas.
But the exact number of officers on patrol is fuzzy and always has been, with rare exceptions like District 7 City Councilmember Howard Shook’s revelation in 2020 that a typical shift had about 14 patrol officers for a zone that covers roughly 30 square miles.
Mitchell and NPU-A chair Brink Dickerson lightly debated security versus transparency in releasing the real numbers. Dickerson said he is always “disappointed” that officials won’t reveal the numbers. “Anything you can do to help us get transparent numbers enables us to press the politics that we’re able to pursue that you probably aren’t,” he said.
Mitchell said commanders are “timid” about revealing lower staffing levels due to crime concerns. “The thing is, the reason why you probably don’t get the level of candidness you would like is, criminals watch the news,” he said.
Dickerson countered that “bad guys know what our staffing is. … There’s a joke in Chastain Park that if you see a cop car, you should stop and give them directions because they’re probably lost.”
Mitchell then gave some staffing numbers related to a new APD mini-precinct in Buckhead scheduled to open this month. He said APD brass originally told him he would get 12 officers for that mini-precinct. “I’m short seven and I’m supposed to get an additional seven here soon,” he said. But, Mitchell said, Zone 2 also lost four officers in the previous week to other departments. “So as we gain, we lose,” he said of the retention issue.
Issues of the quantity and quality of policing have been nowhere bigger than in Buckhead, where they were drivers of the now-stalled cityhood movement. Dickerson praised APD’s work as “superhuman at times” and said Dickens is “more receptive” than former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and may be the “real deal” on improved policing. “I wish the City [leaders] were just candid” so that residents could agitate for specific improvements, he said.
– John Ruch
Meet new Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield president and CEO
In January, Robert Bunch was named as the new president and CEO of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Georgia.
Bunch has been with the company for 22 years, holding leadership positions supporting product implementation, growth strategies and marketing initiatives on the local and national levels. In his new role, Bunch will oversee operations throughout Georgia’s 159 counties.
“We’re cradle-to-grave. Hopefully, you’re born a Blue cross member, we can age you all the way through your life and keep you healthy and well,” Bunch said. “I see Anthem Blue Cross as being critical to this great state of Georgia continuing to grow and thrive like it has. I’m from Columbus, and it’s important that we have that presence in every market, not just Atlanta. That’s the thing I’m really proud of with Blue, that we’re in all 159 counties. It matters to us.”
For Bunch, ensuring that all Georgia residents can access quality, affordable healthcare is a top priority. He added that Anthem aims to provide care covering the “three P’s” — predictive, proactive and personalized.
“[We use] data to predict what health scenarios could happen. What is your trajectory? We’re also proactive with outreach, whether that’s through care alerts that go to the provider directly or messages that come in through our digital engagement app,” Bunch said. “That’s also part of the personalization because blanket statements don’t really get what we need. So personalizing those interactions for the member will really help us drive those better outcomes.”
The team is also approaching wellness from a holistic perspective by helping folks make healthy choices in their daily lives, rather than just waiting until a medical issue arises.
The company recently awarded a $150,000 grant to Everyone Eats Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization aiming to create stronger communities through youth development and food sustainability initiatives.
The funds will allow the organization to secure a facility in the city’s Westside, featuring a soup kitchen, food pantry and community garden.
Thirteen percent of Georgians are food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making food access a pressing issue in our state.
“The data supports that food, in some ways, is a medicine and nutrition is so important to our long term health,” Bunch said. “We realize that sometimes people are treated, and they’re given a prescription, but they’re not even sure where they’re going to get their next meal. I think you have to solve both of those things.”
He added that the team is also focused on behavioral health, especially in light of the long-stretching COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coming out of COVID, people are stressed,” he said. “Part of that stress can turn into substance abuse, and substance abuse disorders manifest into a lot of things. So we’re definitely focused on [behavioral health factors].”
Click here for more on recent developments with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Georgia.
— Hannah E. Jones
Slutty Vegan founder helps Clark Atlanta grads to start entrepreneurship journey
Business owner and philanthropist Pinky Cole gave graduates from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) access to start their own businesses with limited liability corporation (LLC) registrations.
Cole, the founder of the Slutty Vegan restaurants, said during a commencement address last week that she partnered with Varo Bank to provide the registrations to the 800 students in the Class of 2022.
“Some of you will own businesses, become supervisors and lead teams,” Cole said. “You will be called on to push people to realize greatness that they might not see in themselves. And even as you hold people to the highest standards possible, you will still have to lead with grace.”
Cole, 34, is now the youngest speaker in CAU’s history to deliver the address.
— Allison Joyner
Fulton Development Authority approves $2M grant for Cisco
The Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) has approved a $2 million state grant for technology giant Cisco Systems to move into the new CODA Midtown office tower.
Cisco says it is investing $41.5 million in the new offices and that they will be occupied by 700 net-new full-time jobs with an average wage of $117,962.
The Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) grant is intended “to offset the costs of furniture, fixtures and equipment,” according to a DAFC resolution.
REBA grants are offered to “close the deal” when a company is considering a move here, as the Georgia Department of Economic Development puts it. The DAFC resolution says the grant in this case “is critical to inducing the Company [Cisco] to undertake the development of the facilities.”
Cisco real estate executive Larry Russell told the DAFC at its May 17 meeting that the company is already establishing roots here by working with Georgia Tech and Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
DAFC board member Brandon Beach asked whether the jobs will be “homegrown” or simply moved to Atlanta from elsewhere. Russell said the “majority will be homegrown.”
CODA Midtown is a tech-centric office tower at 756 West Peachtree St. that opened in 2019. The tower project received about $15 million in City tax breaks, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
– John Ruch
City of Atlanta holds tech job fair
The City of Atlanta will be hosting a technology job and resource fair May 24 to fill open positions in its Atlanta Information Management (AIM) department.
Job seekers will have the opportunity to apply for full-time positions like airport IT security manager, business system analyst and server administrator. Internships for departments in AIM and the Telecommunications/Network Department will also be available.
The event will be at the Dalney Building on Georgia Tech’s campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information visit the City of Atlanta’s website.
— Allison Joyner
Atlanta BeltLine’s 12th annual Lantern Parade coming this weekend
The Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade will return to the Westside Trail on Saturday, May 21. Everyone is invited to join in on the fun by bringing their own lantern and joining the parade.
The colorful and whimsical event is created and presented by Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons.
Lineup for the parade begins at 8 p.m. at Adair Park I on Catherine Street.
Four marching bands will provide the soundtrack for the night, including Sabor! Brass Band, Black Sheep Ensemble, Seed & Feed Marching Abominables and Wasted Potential Brass Band.
The festival was created in 2010 by Rytter and Krewe, bringing in 400 participants. By 2019, that number soared to 70,000 participants.
If you’d like to join a night of art, community and fun, click here for more details about Saturday’s event.
— Hannah E. Jones
Clayton County receives ARC grant to improve pedestrian walkways
The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) recently awarded Clayton County a $400,000 Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) Grant to fund and support the development of pedestrian friendly walkways alongside Tara Boulevard and Upper Riverdale Road.
Created as a way to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve air quality, the LCI gives incentives to the local jurisdictions to reenvision their communities as vibrant, walkable places that offer increased mobility options, encouraging healthy lifestyles and providing improved access to jobs and services.
“With these grant funds from the ARC and LCI, Clayton County is one step closer to safer, more pedestrian-friendly communities that encourage outside activities safely,” said District 3 County Commissioner Felicia Franklin.
There is no word on when the project will begin.
— Allison Joyner
HOPE Atlanta announces new CEO
HOPE Atlanta, an Atlanta-based nonprofit working to end homelessness and hunger in the metro area, has recently named Julio Carrillo as its next CEO.
Carrillo joins the team after serving as chief operating officer for Families First, an Atlanta nonprofit providing services to local youth and families. He will step into his new role with HOPE Atlanta on June 20.
Carrillo will lead the nonprofit through a period of growth. The organization initially assisted those experiencing homelessness, but last year, HOPE Atlanta joined forces with Action Ministries to offer a comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness and hunger.
“This is a pivotal moment, both in HOPE Atlanta’s 120-year history and Georgia’s history,” he said in a press release. “I’m honored to lead this organization as it ushers in a new chapter. Together with our supporters and partners, we will find innovative ways to break the cycle of homelessness and hunger. We will help build a more equitable future for our communities and the clients we serve.”
Carrillo was twice named one of Atlanta Magazine’s “Most Powerful Leaders.”
Click here to learn more about HOPE Atlanta and its services.
— Hannah E. Jones
Ribbon-cutting for King Memorial transit-oriented development
A ribbon-cutting for a transit-oriented development (TOD) at the King Memorial MARTA Station will be held May 20.
Called Marchon, the $65.3 million TOD at 240 Grant St. has 305 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments and 11,000 square feet of office and retail space. A third of the units are affordable workforce housing.
Partners on the project include H. J. Russell & Company, MARTA and Invest Atlanta, which provided $6 million in tax allocation district (TAD) funding.
— Allison Joyner
Southface Institute welcomes new president
As of this week, the Southface Institute has a new leader at the helm.
James Marlow was most recently the CEO of Clean Energy Advisors and also served as co-founder and CEO of Radiance Solar, installing over 150 megawatts of solar capacity across commercial, residential and utility settings.
He recently told WABE that housing is a top priority, studying the energy burden in low-income neighborhoods with the help of a Georgia Tech research study where Southface serves as a collaborator.
The Southface Institute is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that focuses on the intersection between the built and natural environment, finding ways to improve communities through sustainable development.
The nonprofit works with a group of partners to implement sustainable and high-performance solutions within homes, workplaces and communal spaces.
Click here to learn more about the Southface Institute.
— Hannah E. Jones
Alpha Kappa Alpha gifts Morris Brown $100,000 for endowment
Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Incorporated presented a $100,000 donation to Morris Brown College May 18 to go towards their endowment.
“Our gift to this historic institution will be used to assist President Kevin James with scholarships, academic support and programmatic activities that we believe will increase the sustainability of Morris Brown for years to come,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, International President and CEO of AKA.
“I want to thank AKA for their dedication to HBCUs and especially for the sorority’s commitment to strengthening our endowment, which could not have come at a better time,” said James.
Last month, Morris Brown received full accreditation after a 20-year absence.
– Allison Joyner
Open Hand Atlanta announces additions to board of directors
Open Hand Atlanta, a team with community-based providers of home-delivered meals and nutrition services offered across the U.S., recently announced the 2022-2023 officers and five new members of its board of directors.
The board voted on the following local folks to serve as the officers:
- President Shirley Powell, senior vice president of communications & industry relations at Cox Automotive.
- Secretary Carmen Titelman, senior director of coding & compliance at Piedmont Healthcare.
- Treasurer Cromwell Baun, first vice president of wealth management at UBS Financial Services, Inc.
- Dr. Alex Garcias continues his service as immediate past president.
The five new members of the board include:
- Debra Carlton served 30 years at Kaiser Permanente in many clinical and administrative leadership positions before retiring at the end of 2020.
- Alec Frisch, vice president and general manager of the Foodservice Division at Georgia-Pacific Professional.
- Bernard R. Wedge Jr., a financial and technology management executive with a background in cyber security and as a CPA and qualified technology expert.
- Dennis White, president and CEO of Alliant Health Solutions.
- Katherine Williams, in-house counsel and executive vice president of human resources at Diaz Foods.
They join board members Thomas Abrams, Louisa Basarrate, Kameron Besson, Johanna Ellis Reisinger, Sudevi Ghosh, Rodrick Glass, Julie Hagedorn, Sandra Harris and Robert Joseph Jr.
Open Hand Atlanta is dedicated to creating a healthier community through access to nutritious food and health education. In 2021, the organization cooked and distributed nearly 1.5 million meals.
“We are thrilled about the passion and scope of knowledge our new board members bring to our mission of delivering delicious, nourishing meals and nutrition education to thousands of seniors, children and families, and our neighbors who are at risk for or have a disability or medical illness,” Executive Director Matthew Pieper said in a press release. “We are proud to make a difference in the lives of so many individuals and families made possible by the contributions of leaders like these.”
— Hannah E. Jones
East Point’s concert series returns with R&B lineup
The City of East Point’s “Wednesday Wind Down in the Point” summer concert series returns May 25 with R&B stars Lyfe Jennings, Bobby V and Jacquees.
V-103’s The Big Tigger Morning Show will serve as hosts in the Downtown Commons on East Point Street. The free event includes food trucks. The East Point Farmers Market will be open.
Concertgoers can bring blankets and lawn chairs but no weapons, smoking, tents, pets or outside food are allowed.
Masks are recommended and social distancing is encouraged. For more information visit the city’s website.
— Allison Joyner
Council for Quality Growth gives UPS CEO ‘Four Pillars’ award
Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS, has been selected by the Council for Quality Growth for its 33rd annual Four Pillar Award. The award symbolizes the group’s “pillars of leadership” — quality, responsibility, vision and integrity.
Tomé chose this year’s Four Pillar Tribute theme: “Lead to Inspire, Serve to Create, Give to Remain.” The Tribute will be held on Oct. 20 at the Georgia World Congress Center, where Tomé will be presented with the award.
“We are incredibly proud to honor such an outstanding leader to receive the Four Pillar Award,” CEO Michael Paris said in a press release. “Carol’s influence surpasses our region and state and is a true testament to corporate responsibility and visionary leadership.”
Tomé added, “I’m honored to receive the 2022 Four Pillar Tribute and accept it on behalf of 534,000 UPSers, who move our world forward by delivering what matters.”
Tomé has a lengthy list of achievements, including becoming the first female CEO at UPS in 2020. She previously worked with The Home Depot for 24 years and was recognized by Forbes not once but twice — selected as No. 12 on Forbes’ List of “The World’s Most Powerful Women” of 2021 and its “50 Over 50” list of 2021.
— Hannah E. Jones