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Reporter’s Notebook: Home Depot Backyard lifts weapons ban, Chattahoochee River tourism brings $160 million to local communities, pilot housing project for homeless single mothers

A week in news.

The Fourth of July is right around the corner and no matter which pocket of the city you live in, fun is sure to be right around the corner. Click on each neighborhood to find a nearby celebration with fireworks, parades and music: Downtown Atlanta, Decatur, Avondale Estates, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Stone Mountain.

If you’d rather celebrate from home, check out the City of East Point’s virtual augmented reality fireworks show. 

On to other recent news:

Home Depot Backyard lifts guns and weapons ban

A firearms and weapons ban at the Home Depot Backyard park at Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been lifted following complaints from a gun-rights activist.

Evans in May complained that the ban, a policy stated on the Backyard’s website, was illegal because weapons are allowed in publicly owned parks. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), a state-created government body, owns the stadium and the surrounding land. A response to Evans from a GWCCA attorney at that time indicated that the body and the Atlanta Falcons football team, which uses the Backyard for tailgating events, would remove the ban.

As of June 27, that language was indeed gone from the website’s list of prohibited items and activities. The sentence that once contained the reference to firearms and “weapons of any kind” has been shortened to prohibit only: “Pyrotechnics or any other item or action deemed dangerous or inappropriate.”

“The [GWCCA] folks are good people, and it’s good to see the Home Depot [Backyard] willing to follow state law,” said Evans.

The GWCCA and the Falcons did not respond to comment requests.

Firearms and other weapons remain banned within the stadium.

State law allows the carrying of weapons on public property with some exceptions. Evans earlier this year lost a legal battle about carrying guns at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is within the City of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park but can ban guns because it has some private property rights as a long-term tenant. That exception does not apply to short-term tenants of public parks like festivals or to park property in general, according to the gun-rights group GA2A.

Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law allowing the toting of concealed firearms without a permit — so-called Constitutional carry.

— John Ruch

Over three million folks visited the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area last year. (Photo by Tammy Brooks, Unsplash.)

Recent report shows Chattahoochee River’s role in state eco-tourism

Not only is the Chattahoochee River one of Atlanta’s most famous waterways, but it’s also a big driver of ecotourism in the state. 

Last year, according to the National Park Service (NPS), over three million folks visited the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, spending $160 million in communities around the park — primarily on restaurants, lodging and gas. 

That tourism supported over 2,100 jobs, offering $136 million in value added to the local economy. The recent nationwide report was conducted by NPS and the US Geological Survey.

“National parks are a vital part of our nation’s economy. Every dollar invested in national parks by American taxpayers is returned tenfold to the American economy” Chattahoochee River NRA Superintendent Ann Honious said in a press release. “Here at Chattahoochee River NRA, I am pleased to see the positive economic impact that recreation in our park has on the local Atlanta-area community. Whether you’re looking to float the river or hike on our more than 65 miles of trail, our rangers are excited to share the natural and cultural history of the Chattahoochee River corridor and all the recreational opportunities it provides.”

Visitors spent $362 million last year while visiting Georgia’s parks, supporting 5,200 jobs. 

If you’re interested in learning more from the recent report about the role of ecotourism nationwide, by state or park, click here.

— Hannah E. Jones

The “Glover Project” house in Washington Park serves as permanent housing for longtime resident Deborah Glover and transitional housing for up to two single mothers and their children who are homeless. (Photo by CHRIS 180.)

A grand opening for pilot project in housing for single mothers who are homeless

A pilot project in transitional housing for single mothers who are homeless had a grand opening on June 28 in the Washington Park neighborhood.

The “Glover Project” is a new house at 981 Ashby Terrace created in a program from the nonprofit CHRIS 180. In part, it serves as permanent housing for Deborah Glover, a senior resident who spent decades living in the area in a shed without water or electricity. It also will serve as temporary, transitional housing for up to two single mothers and their children, who will receive wraparound services from CHRIS 180 and “grandmotherly guidance” from Glover.

“Our hope is that this community project is the first and can be replicated to help address the problem of homelessness across metro Atlanta,” said Kathy Colbenson, CHRIS 180’s president and CEO, in a press release. “It can be one of many necessary solutions.”

CHRIS 180 partnered on the project with MicroLife Institute, a nonprofit developer that last year opened the Cottages on Vaughan “tiny house” community in Clarkston. 

Other funders included Atlanta Women’s Health Group, Amerigroup Community Care, the Georgia Power Company and “loved ones of the late Lisa Galm,” according to CHRIS 180.

— John Ruch

Public input extended for MARTA bus route 

MARTA is seeking input from residents on their bus network redesign project. The online survey recently reopened to allow Atlantans to give their input on a new city bus network. 

The transit authority has conceptualized two options — one that increases ridership and another that expands its service areas. Planning for ridership means high-frequency service, more convenient stops and decreased pollution and congestion. On the other hand, designing for expanded coverage means the bus network will cover more area but will offer less frequent rides.

Click here for more information on MARTA’s bus network redesign project, and visit their survey to submit your feedback.

— Hannah E. Jones

The Peachtree Road Race is a classic in Atlanta. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Prep for Peachtree Road Race on the 4th

It’s nearly the Fourth of July, which means it’s time for a classic Atlanta event — The AJC Peachtree Road Race. For the 52nd year, Atlantans will grab their running shoes for the famous 10K that winds through Buckhead and Midtown, wrapping up in Piedmont Park.

The time to beat is an astounding 27:01, set by Rhonex Kipruto in 2019. Not only is this the Peachtree record, but it’s also the fastest 10K ever run in the U.S.

The race is like one big party with 60,000 of your closest friends, so parking spaces will be far and few between. Folks will be better off using MARTA, getting off at the Buckhead or Lenox MARTA stations, and leaving the race via the Midtown station. Click here for more information on getting to the 10K using MARTA.

To get the low-down on training tips or a behind-the-scenes look at the race, tune into The Peachtree Podcast. Click here for more information before race day.

— Hannah E. Jones

Eytan Davidson.

ADL-Southeast picks Eytan Davidson as new director

Eytan Davidson, a longtime strategic communications professional in Atlanta, has been named the new regional director of the Atlanta Defamation League’s Southeast Regional Office.

Davidson will begin his new role on July 18 at ADL’s agency-wide Growth Retreat in New York City.

Most recently, Davidson has served as vice president for communications and policy at Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works to revitalize neighborhoods across the country. Before joining Purpose Built, Davidson worked as communications director for the Atlanta BeltLine.

Davidson, a native of New York, has lived in Atlanta since 2008. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. In addition to his professional career, Davidson has held several volunteer positions in the Jewish community advocating for social justice and fighting against hate, bigotry, and antisemitism. 

Davidson served as the first vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta. He was a Frank Fellow with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs from 2019 to 2020. Previously, he has served on the boards of Jewish Kids Groups, the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival and Limmud Atlanta + Southeast. Davidson also participated in ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute in 2013-2014.

Before moving to Atlanta, Davidson started his career in New York as a campaign staffer for then-mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg. After the election, Davidson served for nearly five years in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration in several high-impact roles, including deputy press secretary for the New York City Host Committee for the 2004 Republican National Convention and chief of staff and communications director for the Department of Small Business Services.

Davidson is married and is the father of two children. He also is a professional musician and music producer. He graduated from New York’s Columbia University with a B.A. in History and earned a Certificate of Business Excellence for Senior Nonprofit Managers from Columbia Business School.

“We are really looking forward to working with Eytan, and we know that all of you will too,” Joel Neuman, ADL-Southeast board chair, and Allison Padilla-Goodman wrote in an emailed newsletter. “Thank you to the board interview committee, and please look forward to meeting Eytan as he gets settled into the role later this summer.”

Padilla-Goodman has been the regional director for ADL-Southeast, which serves Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as part of the national anti-hate organization founded in 1913 in response to a rise in antisemitism.

— Maria Saporta

Fulton Development Authority is not seeking fee increase

The Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) is not moving ahead on an idea of boosting the fees it charges for granting tax breaks to developers, despite budget concerns.

The DAFC board at its June 28 meeting approved cutting the authority’s budget by 15 percent, or approximately $280,000, in anticipation of fewer transactions coming through. The budget concerns were raised at an April meeting, where board members also discussed hiking the current transaction fee of 1.5 percent. But that is not on the table at this point, according to DAFC chairman Michel “Marty” Turpeau.

“DAFC is not currently discussing any fee increases,” Turpeau told SaportaReport this week.

Instead, the DAFC is focused on boosting the number of projects seeking property tax abatement deals. It is also awaiting approval from the County Board of Assessors for a new schedule of longer and deeper tax breaks aimed at mixed-use projects that contain a significant amount of affordable housing.

The DAFC grants tax breaks through what is essentially a legal fiction of issuing tax-exempt bonds on behalf of developers. The current tax breaks start at 50 percent and phase out over time, usually a 10-year period. The DAFC technically owns the property for that period but the developers are free to do as they wish and control all aspects of the development.

— John Ruch

(Courtesy of The Alliance Theatre.)

Alliance Theatre announces annual Palefsky Collision Project Performances

Performances from high school students from around metro Atlanta will take place at the Alliance Theatre as part of their summer workshop. 

The Palefsky Collision Project is a three-week intensive program that gives students a platform to tackle important social issues through Improvisation exercises, oral history, choreography and writing.

The theatre company selected applicants for Dekalb School of the Arts, The New School, Duluth High School, South Atlanta High School and others to learn from their director “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” by American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The piece shines a light on her uniquely American experience as a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation and illustrates her individual journeys through the prism that art can provide. 

“Our mission is to open the hearts and minds of these young citizen artists as they create a wholly original script, inspired by a classic text and based on their collective experiences,” said Pearl Cleage, the Alliance’s Distinguished Playwright in Residence and the lead instructor of the program. 

The students will showcase their hard work with free performances at the Rich Auditorium at the Woodruff Arts Center on July 9 at 7 p.m. and July 10 at 2:30 p.m.

For tickets, log onto their website.

— Allison Joyner

Ruth DeYoung Kohler painting in Canada, 1960. (Courtesy of Kohler Co. Archives.)

Ruth Foundation for the Arts debuts, $1.25 million during first grant cycle

A new organization has made its way to the world of arts philanthropy — the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. As part of its debut, Ruth Arts has announced its inaugural grantmaking cycle, which includes one grantee from the City of Atlanta.

Atlanta-based nonprofit Alternate Roots was selected for a $10,000 grant, which will support their work in promoting art as a way to fight injustice and strengthen community.

“As a 45-year-old arts organization based in the south, and in one of the most disinvested regions in the country, Alternate ROOTS is thrilled and humbled to receive news of our $10k gift from the Ruth Foundation for the Arts,” Executive Director Michelle Ramos told SaportaReport. “This resource will help to support the numerous artists across our 14-state southern region, many of whom are still recovering from the pandemic, racial uprisings and climate impacts of 2021 in our region.”

The nomination process was driven by a group of nearly 50 artists around the country who were asked to propose organizations that deeply influenced their creative process.

The new foundation is supported by the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, and anticipates distributing $17 million each year in grants. The first round of Ruth Arts grantees includes 78 nonprofit arts organizations receiving a combined $1.25 million, with each grant ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

“I am honored to continue Ruth’s exceptional legacy in such an impactful way,” Ruth Arts Executive Director Karen Patterson said in a press release. “She has shown us that a thriving art community requires support for the entire ecosystem — from exhibition spaces to festivals, to archives, to art environments, to residencies, and to school programs. We are truly a multidimensional field. We rely on one another. And none of these things would be possible without artists.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Stephanie Blank (left) takes the gavel as 2022-2023 Rotary Club of Atlanta president as Katharine Kelley, 2021-2022 president; and Cannon Carr, 2021-2022 board chair listen (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Women in leadership roles at Atlanta’s Rotary Club

The Rotary Club of Atlanta had a formal passing of the gavel on June 27 when 2021-2022 President Katharine Kelley, welcomed 2022/2023 President Stephanie Blank.

The leadership succession was significant because it’s the first time in Atlanta Rotary’s 109-year history that a woman has succeeded another woman as president of the organization, which began as a men-only club.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia), the keynote speaker at Kelley’s last meeting as president, acknowledged the significance.

“I do want to note this will be the first time, I’ve learned, in the club’s history that two women have served consecutively as president, which is a major milestone,” Ossoff said. “To Stephanie, good luck. I know you will do this job with extraordinary determination and focus… I hope you won’t mind because you gave me a perfect segue. You noted when we sat down, that your theme for your leadership next year will be common ground for the common good. And that is exactly what we need in the city in the state in this country in this world right now.”

Kelley had her family present for her final meeting as president, including her father and fellow Rotarian Blaine Kelley and her mother Sylvia Kelley.

“My family is my rock,” she said, adding that Atlanta is at a historic place in history as the capital city of the No. 1 state to do business and as a city that ranks No. 1 for income inequality. “Our club leaders have worked hard this year. We are focused on early childhood education and literacy.”

Then with pride, Kelley said: “We are the fifth-largest Rotary Club in the world and the second-largest club in the United States.”

By the way, Atlanta Rotary’s women leaders include Gina Simpson, executive director of the club.

— Maria Saporta

(Courtesy of St. Benedict Espiscopal School.)

St. Benedict’s launches social media series to introduce Spanish to early learners

Every Tuesday in July, St. Benedict’s Episcopal School will host a social media series that will introduce Spanish to families with early learners.

“Acorn to Trees with St. B’s,” is an original four-part series that uses music with interactive lessons to help children develop a second language. 

St. Benedict’s Spanish teacher, Marta Caamano (aka Señora Marta), will give lessons in her native language on numbers, weather and time of the days and week.

A new episode of “Acorn to Trees with St. B’s” will air on the school’s, Instagram Reel, Facebook and Tik Tok.  

— Allison Joyner

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, 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 can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


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